To Be or Not To Belong

A single strand
Amongst the sea of hairs on my head
Is an unapologetic red.
I discover this quite by accident
(How else)
One afternoon when
Usually muted-golden sunshine alights,
Upon a – bronze thread?
I meditate vaguely
On the surprises that a twenty-year-old body
Whose secrets you thought you were the keeper of –
“It doesn’t belong. I’ll cut it off?”
Whose secrets you thought you were the keeper of,
Can so easily spring on y–
I register, I turn, but my mother’s gone
In that purposive manner of hers.

A thin line of red interrupts,
The sea of black.
(If you look closely,
Nay – obsessively.)
On the globe of my skull,
It is an oddness.
And yet, it cannot help but belong.

Has it not –
Drawn on the same soil as its dark peers to shoot up?
Softened under the same shampoo-soaked fingers?
Cowed under the pushy teeth of the same comb?
What a regressive question to ask –
Whether it was indigenous to my head!
This, when the genes of its genesis
Trace back to the same nameless ancestor.
What a perversion this is,
Of belongingness and its meaning.

Let Red have it,
A belonging,
With all the meanings of it –
My favorite being,
A fulfilled longing-to-be Home.
Let the reds and the blacks of the place be;
I know the shearing off wasn’t done right once,
And the saffron-green-whites never made it up
With the green-whites.

Belong, young Red.
Be long and prosper.
And if someone prods, I will be sure to tell them,
I do not have a hair out of place.

Written by Swathi Gangadharan

Image by Kanishka



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