Vol. 1, Issue 2, to ammi jaan

by Zoha Batool Khan

I came to the world from my mother, and to my mother from the world, womb within a womb, phoenix-birth on a loop even as I cried water and she cried blood and amniotic. Now you know I came in fire, now you know why the rage in my voice burns everything I turn its torch on.

She beheld her face in mine, the blue world in my red squalling mouth, my voice a shrill scream, baby omen heralding all the would-be abuse to be hurled at her by the world for all I would become, the too-much I would become, everyone screaming at her-from within me, at her-for me. The world berated my mother for not raising me right and she agreed and hung her head, meri ma, the sunflower, weighed down by her own glory, the halo of her sun-daughter once her crown, now her curse.

She swallowed their vitriol and behind closed doors, and then spat it back at me, praying mantis ablaze with the fury of the self-righteous, begging me and God so I would open my surly teenaged mouth and eat up all the poison she saw as ambrosia. Behind the closed doors, in the mouth of the room, she berated the world right back for what it had done to her prized child, while her daughter of the dawn turned sunset-red, colored in by her anger. And then there were storms every day and my mother, Umm-e-Zoha, rained grief and I raged in lightning. The world was Hera-cruel; I was Echo-broken, Narcissus-struck but I still yelled right back, Eris to the core. And my madre tried to save me the only way she knew how but it wasn’t the way I knew how to be saved and now the world’s and her screams burned into one seal to brand me all over, to be forced down my throat, to cinch my genie-mad spirit into a straitjacket.

When the world gave me to my mother, she saw a little doll to stay pretty on a shelf, protected, everybody’s envy as cause to love me. When my mother gave me to the world, they wanted a demure tease to amuse their little lost boys with, an uncomplaining muse to cry to, a guddi, dulhan-doll, wide-eyed puppet-bride to dance to their dhol, tambourine-laughter. But I have never had Wendy’s patience and never wanted it either, and if I am to be a muse, I will be as Vita to Virginia, a force to be reckoned with in my own right, inspiring in how I am inspired. Today, my voice is my own, unowned by either my mother or the world and today, I can turn right round to hurl a full-throated warcry at anyone who dares their voice at me.

Ammi jaan, world, I came to both of you, from both of you, through both of you. I belong with
both of you, but NOT to both of you. Your fires have forged me, but even that could not melt the steel in my spine so I could bow to you and you and You. Ma, let me go; ma, stop fearing what you don’t understand; ma, you caged your mynah bird but you couldn’t keep her safe.
So let me go.

Let me bring you the world to place at your feet; you already walk on size 9 heavens. Let me make them bleed for what they did to you, for what you did to me. Ma, let me go so I can learn

to forgive your weaknesses, all those times your voice should have carried mine higher but only broke it down, until my sobs were soundless too.

Would you I rather I sing of grief, than flight, like you?


Zoha is essentially a desi intersectional cat with opposable thumbs so she can write as her brand of therapy. She is a contributor at Feminism in India, while updating her own blog (spitgreenfire.wordpress.com) and tweeting at @nightwitchling. You can check out more of her work at Thought Catalog, Rising Phoenix Press and The Shade Journal. She sends love your way and hopes you get two good hair days for every time you sneer in the face of patriarch.