When A Woman Laughs

renuka chowdhury

There are hundreds of ways to silence a woman
stare her down if she happens to laugh out loud
in public space especially in the presence of men
where she should be whispering at side lines
make your dismay quite apparent
if it fails to mortify her
try growling under your breath in a threatening way
tell her in no uncertain terms that it is highly unfeminine
rebuke her for her unruly behaviour
show your outrage by labeling her bad, wicked, vamp
(Take your pick out of endless possibilities)
ask her if she is unwell and needs a doctor
scoff at her in most derisive terms
cite scriptures, if possible, to put her down
failing that, mention decades old tele-serial to jeer at her
remind her how Ram and Laxman helped rishis and munis
clear forests with their mastery over bows and arrows
and how lucky she is that India has changed
where laughing is now controlled by mere insults
quote your great grandmother prophesying
fall of the house where loud laughter of women resonate
take a handkerchief and stuff it in her mouth
encourage her to wrap herself in tiny bundle
that occupies no extra space,
seen perhaps but not heard
better still, she should merge into furniture
or disappear into kitchen
never to be heard again
for nothing sends patriarchy scuttling
under covers of propriety
faster than rambunctious peals of laughter
emanating from rubicund lips

Nalini Priyadarshni has been writing poetry and other stuff for almost a decade and published worldwide in literary magazines and journals. Her eclectic tastes reflect in her poems widely anthologized and collected in Doppelganger in My House and Lines Across Oceans which she co-authored with late D. Russel Micnhimer. She was nominated for The Best of the Net 2017.


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