The first time grandma wore a blouse,

she felt she had tarnished her brown skin.

All the men folk knew of the thin bare shoulders.

She ran to the temple and confessed

that she had merely obeyed the Maharani’s orders.


Sure she had lost her native natural gloss

when she carried rice pots on her head

(the anthapura boasted a female barber

who shaved off armpits and whatever).


The Maharani bade her women wear blouses

even to the temple. What my grandma missed

was the breeze on her skin. What she acquired

was a certain coy feeling and a sense of hiding


which was akin to sin.


The anthapura was the harem of an Indian palace.


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