Scherezade Siobhan is an Indo Rroma Jungian scarab moonlighting as a clinical psychologist. Her writing has been translated into multiple languages as well as featured in various digital and physical spaces and can be found in literary magazines, anthologies, international galleries, rehab centers, and in the bios of okcupid users.
Her digital collection of poems “Bone Tongue” was published by Thought Catalog Books and her full length poetry book “Father, Husband” was recently released by Salopress UK. A pamphlet of her sufi poems are forthcoming via Pyramid editions.
She is the creator/curator of a global dialogue on gendered violence and neurodivergence at www.thwmiraproject.tumblr.com and can be found squeeing about militant bunnies at www.viperslang.tumblr.com or @zaharaesque on twitter
You are sitting in the portico making hedgehogs out of alphonso mangoes. The Younger One is breaking out her first pair of 6-inches heels for a party themed gangsters & flappers. You always wondered how the word flapper sounds less like a mob boss’s moll and more like a beluga whale. Oh well, you mumble as she tumbles and then collapses onto your grandmother’s rickety rocking-chair like a tree-tangled parachute.
This is hard, she says.
Being a girl is hard, you say.
She looks at you with a mix of panic and hope.
You toss her a slice of mango. Sweetsourtangy. She giggles and gets back to the pirate’s walk.
During another summer, not so long ago, she was 12 and you had to go to her school filling in for your workaholic, academician mother struggling with two jobs so she could buy the two of you the biggest birthday cakes every year without concocting fake scientific trivia about how an excess of vanilla and chocolate would turn your skin into a zebra imprint.
Her pudgy, rodentesque principal welcomed you with a lecture about the epidemic of undisciplined girls threatening the spiritual health of the very pious country. “NO SHAME ONLY!” he grimaced. “THESE GIRLS OF TODAY ARE TOTAL SHAMELESS!” His words amplified the unbearable fetor of tobacco wafting through the room. The sentences slugged about haphazardly in that dust-thickened Delhi air like local laborers drunk on desi liquor.
You did what somewhat shameful Big Sisters of TOTAL SHAMELESS! Little Sisters are expected to do. You nodded profusely with a hint of apologetic pathos even as the ghost of a grin knocked on the doorknob of your teeth. Gently but with persistence.
What did she do? you asked.
Bit a boy, the principal hectored.
Then she scratched him till tiny cicatrices of blood roses bloomed all across his forearm.
You slowly felt the grin shape-shift into a giggle. But why, you asked. He pulled up her skirt, it seems. You can’t bite people just because they try to pull up your skirt. Not in this country at least. This is RESPECTABLE INDIAN SOCIETY, MADAME! (Here you let men undress women in peace as has been clearly denoted by the rich mythological tradition no? Exhibit A: Mahabharta.)
Anyway, what kind of a woman would she grow up to be? he queried.
A sharp one, you almost blurted out.
Instead, you contemplated that homemade technique of pinching the fleshiest part of your leg to control both -- a desire to laugh and the need to pee.
The principal paused to gaze at his counterfeit Quartz watch. The rhododendron of his moustache quivered as if a pudgy prairie dog was hiding in its shrubbery. “THESE DAYS GIRLS BEHAVE LIKE ANIMALS!” he barked and a thin trickle of spit leaked from his lips. You could almost feel his Pavlovian brain awaiting the appropriate break in the conversation so he could deftly insert his sympathies about how being raised by a single mother without any positive FATHER FIGURES! had ruined us two formerly shameful but now TOTAL SHAMELESS! Indian girls.
Right at that moment the bell blatted its war-cry. School was over.
Tch Tch, he croaked in his finest imitation of a bullfrog’s mating call. Only animals likely display such feral behavior, he sighed.
Or Wolverine, you mused.
WHAT? his sigh went to a snigger in less than 0 to 30.
His eyes nearly popped out like two soft-boiled eggs peeled out of their shells. You quickly tucked your words back into the dimly lit recesses of your mouth.
You pause. You suddenly realize that your hands are now sticky from all the mango juice. A caravan of black ants is inching toward you in an eager march. Why do ants have a queen but no king??? she’d asked when she was 8, still learning the fine art of stealing bits of omelet from your plate without being caught. Because queens can have babies and kings can’t. That is a stupid reason, she declared with the confidence of a seasoned conspiracy theorist. Queens should be queens because they can beat kings at thumb wrestling. When I become a queen, I will ban all babies, especially boy babies. She munched calmly while gesturing in the air as if she was slaying imaginary, tiny demon ant kings with a swish of her fork.
You should teach her some manners, the principal eventually part sneered, part spat out his closing statement so as to indicate that his profound monologue was finally over and he was quite eager to proceed toward the frolicking squadron of young, female basketball players gathering in the schoolyard for practice. The principle doubled up as a coach for the girl’s team. Illustrious multi-tasking manly man FATHER FIGURE!!
From the half-blinking window in his office, you could see the group jump around in a typical pre-teen glee that remained undaunted even when placed right under the blasted furnace of that afternoon sun. Their tiny skirts swayed and swished as they jumped up and down failing to make a single basket.
The principal looked satisfied with their skirts. Their collective skirts didn’t add up to a TOTAL SHAMELESS! in his calculations. As long as he got be in the vicinity of those skirts.
You thanked him for his time and advice as you clasped her hand into yours as tightly as you could manage. She kept staring at her shoes as she had been doing the whole time you both were sweating like broken pressure cookers in the stuffy office heat. You sped out of that pigpen and went straight to the local sports center to enroll her for a beginners’ class in karate.
Biting is unhygienic and dirty, you told her. There are better & cleaner ways to fight.
You paid for her lessons with your first salary.
You decided your new bag could wait another month.