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Musings by Ruma - "The soul of a marionette"

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The soul of a marionette

When she first came to her new home

Things were so different from where she had been.

At every step, she was reminded by someone 

That she was somehow greatly privileged to be part

Of this strange new world.

And yet she felt just the same

As she had always been, in those days when 

She had just been Putul from the neighbourhood

The girl with the long, long hair and the enormous eyes

The one that was always in the thick of things

More tomboy than forest nymph.

Then she grew up, something in the air

That had seeped into her limbs and her skin

Something that took up and made a nest in her heart.

The strange elusive something that people call names

Because they never understand; sex appeal, the X Factor, many others.

Of course she did not know any of these words then, sex to her

Was that forbidden thing that men and women did in bed

Her face reddened simply to see the word. How naïve was that!

Then came the attention; from boys her age and from men older than her father.

From ones on the street and ones that began hanging around their home.

Soon, people were blaming her; talking about how she was driving their sons wild

How her parents did not know how to control their own child

People looked on and said it under their breath, people felt her up

Wanting to touch and own that wild bird whose wings beat

Just where her heart should have been, had she been

A girl like all the rest of us. But that she was not, never.

Then someone came and said, she needs to be married off.

This was after a boy had tried to kill himself, for her as he said.

The fool had thought of himself as a partner for her just because 

They played a few games of badminton late at night, on the same side of nets

Strung across the empty street. He was barely able to focus, leaving her to help them to a win.

Later that night, when they walked home, he tried to hold her hand

Raised it to his eyes, inhaling the scent of her skin and the leather binding of the racquet

But she pulled away, annoyed, suddenly in angry tears.

Why must everything end up in this? I used to be a person once.

He turned away in shame, seeing the anguish of a trapped bird.

Then turned back and crushed her lips in bruising kisses, her arms

Fluttering by her side before she raised them and beat him on his back.

He let go, his disgust making him push her harder than he intended.

She now had a mark forever on her face, if you saw her in the sun.

Her parents were worried too; where would they find a match, how much would it cost

But they need not have worried for there were other men who were waiting for her hand

Soon they were overwhelmed. Who knew there would be so many matches?

For the girl with the long, long hair and the enormous eyes, the forest nymph

She would say nothing, staring at her parents; wondering what she had done

To deserve being sent away. First there was sadness, then anger as she thought

Why did people ask her to change, why not raise their sons to learn not to lust?

One day she entered the room to see photos spread over the table

Her father reading out from letters, of men who were presented by their families

As men of learning, men of virtue, men of means, men who would do anything 

To make the world a better place and still have time to be good husbands and better sons.

She listened to  two letters and found they were the same; then walked slowly to where her mother sat

Do any of them live in America? Her mother pointed to one, indistinguishable from the others

A pair of eyes, one nose, a cleft chin, an intent if cruel gaze, a broad forehead, waves of hair.

She said, that is the one I will marry. Her parents looked at each other, surprised at the ease

With which they were able to send her away, still a girl, no fault of hers.

Two years on, they would not have recognised her

Her hair was shorter, her speech bold, her eyes flashed with a kind of cold anger

She was no forest nymph any more, she was the whole forest.

At parties she drew the men like moths to a flame, their wives standing near by 

Trying to ensure the husbands did not make complete fools of themselves

On the street, her walk encased in the tightest of clothes and the tallest heels

Drew attention from eyes of all shades; so some things had not changed.

Only this time, she knew what she was doing and she did it knowingly.

Her husband? Did he have a say in any of this? Well of course he did.

He was the one that had brought her to this world, he was the one who paid for the hair

He was the one who taught her to dress, to match attitude to the length of her legs

To learn where her powers lay. Doesn’t everyone like showing off their new toys?

He thought he would put her back in the box once everyone had seen

But he was wrong. Women are live things, which can be put back in boxes no more

Once they have seen the sky and spread their wings, tasted the fruit on forbidden trees

He watched now, torn between pride, lust and the knowledge of just how the other men felt.

He tore into her at home, raining words on her, words that would once have been unknown

Bitch, whore, nymphomaniac, _ tease! In public they were the kind of couple people talked about

Not one person said anything that was good about her; so some things had not changed.

Her husband, the man with the cleft chin, the intent gaze, the wavy hair, always about him:

How much patience he had, how much freedom he allowed her, how did he put up with her?

While she thought, raging a little each time she overheard, of the girl with the bird in her heart

Who had once lived under her skin, the girl with the long, long hair and the enormous eyes.

Now she could find her nowhere in the mirrors that reflected her back.

The eyes had lost something; they looked back, dramatic and smoky, but dead too.

Like a pair of butterfly wings ripped in flight to plummet in a spiral down to earth.

The bird was now silenced by all the words she had to learn in her new world.

Words like fishnet and flirt a little, cleavage and show some leg. Words that would once

Have turned her face red; the forest nymph was dead, in her place was a heart of wood

The soul of a marionette, still being danced on puppet strings.




About the Author : Ruma Chakravarti was born in Africa, had her schooling in India and has lived most of her life in Australia. A high school mathematics teacher in her other life, Ruma is an avid blogger, writer and people watcher. Her interests include Rabindranath Tagore, reading, folklore and music, crafts, gardening and films. She lives in Adelaide, Australia with her family which includes three children, two dogs and two rabbits. 

Her blogs include: Translations of Tagore Translations of other Bengali writers.

Your rating: None

Love this ...

For reasons I cannot completely articulate. Blatant beautiful and bold at a level
beyond all superlatives.

Thank u


Thank you!

Thank you!

How easy to violate something

How easy to violate something that you do not understand ! Putul could be any one of us... and violated she was, in other's eyes, words and deeds. Such a graphic and mind blowing piece, where it is all about Putul.

Thank you so much! I am

Thank you so much! I am always struck by how we see others so differently. Four women who think of themselves as great friends can still often each have a completely different view of the same person. Where one sees independence, another sees bad upbringing; where one sees friendliness, another sees quite the opposite. I think we end up shaping others with our judgment of them.

Welcome back, Ruma!

Ruby Sahay's picture

Welcome back, Ruma!

I have always enjoyed your poetry and this one again is a breath of fresh air. Loved the way you have bared the marionette's soul.


Thanks Ruby! I am glad you

Thanks Ruby! I am glad you liked reading the piece..:)

The soul of a marionette

Wow, what a deep and thoughtful, thought provoking piece? Is there a true freedom for women, at all it made cry for that poor Putul! Thanks for a wonderful and heart rending piece, Ruma!

Thanks Amirtha, so glad this

Thanks Amirtha, so glad this touched you.

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