‘What do women owe men, anyway?’ : Five poems by Carol D’Souza


This curious habit
of treating you like a lotus as if
the muck you keep company of
is somehow
strategic rather than



Biting into a cold samosa,
he asks,
Do you narrativise?
Half expecting,
a rueful assent.

The unasked questions
buzz around us like mosquitoes.
(Is your mind an unreliable narrator?
Does it tell itself stories?
Does it turn on itself?)

I tell him, sipping my tea,
my cannibal mind is on a diet.


Sober packaging

Bumping past
awkward silences yesterday
in company
The kind that make
a loose talker of me
I remembered a long ago
evening during
our early acquaintance
You sitting
to my right, on your phone
Sparsely conversing
Evening spread out before us
like a giant
impressionist painting
Companionable our silence

Hours we spent subsequently
idling, flitting
from topic to topic
Hours as leisurely
and warm as tea

Only now
with you gone
and with me bumping
into awkward silences
in company
I think
of asymmetry
of want and need
of the sometimes sober packaging
life chooses
for valuable things


Goodbye in the first instance

Hazy headache of oversleep
that envelops
without penetrating
Bitter rind
of sweet lemon
Two tragedies
to not
but also
to get what you want
Distance is geometry
Some lines longer than others
some angles sharper
Parallel lines leading away
never meeting
as the age
this discontent
Never piercing


A week late comeback or Meditations on the anger of women and the defensiveness of men


Our next topic will be
the professor says,
to a class of about sixty,
engineering boys, mostly;

I take a fortifying breath.


A single woman,
the older she gets,
more of a fortress,
I had read
in an interview
of a poet
you do not think much of.
(As much as
you think of poetry,
at all.)
Are the words
‘passive aggressiveness’ flashing in your head?

The words
constitutive and
aesthetic distance
keep echoing in mine.


Is my ideological inclination
(values, principles, believes)
constitutive of me?
like a handbag,
can I keep it aside
while I listen to you
its tenets
with a smile?


SB is of the opinion
intractableness of principle
(even a noble principle
especially a noble principle)
is not praiseworthy.
On the contrary,
it could be
rather detrimental to
the intended beneficiaries.
(These activist types,
he says,
doing damage,


You are curious,
you say,
open to
good arguments;
aesthetically distant
from ideology.

If civilised distance is clarity
or a marker of
certain objective receptivity,
what does blinding passion
say about me?


women say,
at men’s rights,
you had said.
at the mere mentioning
of the fact
men also
get the brunt end.
(Unemployed men,
incompetent men;
not forgiven of
what is forgiven
to women)
Why aren’t these men
in the same bracket
of helplessness?

At least,
it is fashionable
to speak up
for women.
is all men get,
you had said.


What occurred to me
– as in the way of
good comebacks –
quite late
was all women got
for decades and decades,
centuries, rather.
when they said,
they wanted to participate.
when they said,
they were competent.
at every turn,
at every stage.
even now,
at almost every step.


That night
(because that’s the tone we have set)
we acknowledged
the same system
was ruining
the happiness
of both the sexes.

Why are then
only women
calling out
its injustices?

Men are
personally affected
by it
you admit
but not enough
to do something
irrespective of the pfft
thrown at their face?


What do you think
would happen
if men refused
to bear
financial burdens,
that are unfairly
their obligation,
Take up nursing
instead of
engineering maybe,
if they were so swayed.
What do you think
would happen
if men stood up
for themselves?


Among many things
Freire got right,
he said,
it is the oppressed
that have to do it,
nobody else
can save them.
Women already have
too much on their plates,
without having to
handhold men,
as well.
What do women owe men, anyway?


I see you,
young and sharp,
thankfully kind too,
in many ways.
I see you
and I don’t know
how to articulate
(even to myself,
for that matter)
the conflict between
affection and
differing ideological tastes;
very much present.


SB will be happy to know,
however convoluted,
the existence of
the spaces for


I wonder,
what do you think about


Photo : Aparna Mohindra

Carol D’Souza is a research scholar and an avid reader.

Read more poetry on Bengaluru Review :

‘And we smelt like guavas’ : Five poems by Nilim Kumar

‘I am a footstep on the slippery road’ : Five poems by Sameer Tanti

‘You may see the city slowing down’ : Five poems by Malcolm Carvalho



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