We Do As We Are Told

A knock on the door.
‘Put on a dupatta!’ my mother says.
‘We do as we are told.’
The door opens.
‘Don’t come out of your room.’ My mother says.
‘We do as we are told.’
It’s been three hours.
Those men are still here.
They are men, I know,
By their evil laughter.
I tell this to my mother.
‘Don’t ever say that.’ My mother says.
‘We do as we are told.’

The next day I go to school.
My brother gets into a fight.
He calls her a slut.
She keeps quiet.
I tell this to mother.
‘You should do the same if someone says that to you.’ my mother says.
‘We do as we are told.’

My mother and I go to the shop.
We take the auto-rickshaw.
It’s burning hot outside.
‘Cover your face completely with that scarf.’ my mother says.
‘We do as we are told.’

My cousin goes to a party.
I ask if I can come.
‘You cannot go to late night parties.’ my aunt says.
‘We do as we are told.’

I see a spider in my room that night.
I shout as I am terrified
‘We do not shout at this time of the day.’ My mother says.
‘We do as we are told.’

Today I got my period.
I tell my mother.
‘Do not pray or look at a boy.’ My mother says.
‘We do as we are told.’

I sit in my room.
I have a dupatta on.
Because we do as we are told.
The door opens.
A man comes in,
A man, I know, by that laughter.
Then I smack myself mentally.
Because we do as we are told.
He looks at me hungrily.
My mother is sleeping in the next room.
He calls me a slut.
I keep quiet.
Because we do as we are told.
He comes closer, I can feel it.
He touches my hand.
My face is covered in that scarf.
Because we do as we are told.
My aunt once warned me,
That men use you when you go to parties.
I am not in a party.
But we do as we are told.
He starts touching me.
Here, there and everywhere.
He takes off my dupatta and scarf.
I want to shout, but I do not.
Because we do as we are told.
His hands travel under my shirt,
On my skin, the touch is wrong.
I am on my period.
I want to pray and look at his face,
And spit on it.
But I do not.
Because we do as we are told.
I let him do whatever he wants,
As tears cover my vision.
Not once do I look at him,
Or shout or pray.
Because we do as we are told.

The next morning, I am terrified.
I tell my mother.
‘Why didn’t you shout out to me?’ my mother says.
‘Because, ma, we do as we are told.’

-Abhilasha Dey