the women of green valley

Aishah Ali



She cradles a two-year-old in the arch of her hip,

holds rooti cut into small bite-sized pieces in the other,

looks over nonchalantly at the four pots

on the stove behind her and then pivots

her small brown body towards me, she says hands outstretched,


‘Betta Tom cub Saade karega’,


‘child when will you get married’

I look at her but before I can answer Aunty Sairun comes,

Says ‘I have a son you know, very good boy’,

suffocates me with detailed information about his flossing habits,

says hands on hips ‘he’ll keep you happy’,

I say I’ll eat him alive.



Men are my merchandise.’

she says she knows, curls her lips

and says ‘he needs a tough woman like you.’

I say—I am stampede,

your son will be lamb to my slaughter.


Aunty Sairun is not pleased

that this is the fourth time I have said no to her son,

Aunty Sairun calls me a ‘sondar goori’

meaning a ‘pretty white girl’,


I explain to her internalised racism

and she says annoyed

that I do not know how to take compliments.

the women huddle together

an ancient gathering of gossip, fake concern

about someone’s daughter running away,

scoff at Khalas who do not take off their crying children at dawaats,

complain about their husbands having

little backbones and large egos,

hold their bellnas, their rolling pins

like baseball bats ready to strike men down,

the women hate that they love me;


I am their brown rebellion.


Sit me in the middle of their circle,

ask me to narrate poetry

and tell them again how many years I want to study.

most of them finished school at 17

at the precipice of scholarships and degrees in science,

tell me convincingly how smart they were

before they were married

off to have kids.


They tell me ‘paaro, bhoot bhoot paaro’

‘study, study a lot alot until your heart is content betta’,

the women of green valley sit around me

a village volatile,

cradle my dreams

like they are their own,

give me their sons like sacred offerings

knowing I will make martyrs of them.


the women of green valley

are Vikings and viper,

can hold down three tongues

three children with one life,

say they pray for me daily

that I’ll be happy one day,

that I’ll probably be with a goora in Vaucluse.

they ask me to never forget them

because they saw me on the news once


They say never forget us

I say to the women of Green Valley

How could I,

that like valley—they’ll always surround me;

for aren’t I their mountain.