‘Mi hija’

I was waiting for my bus to Quiroga, the town I live in.
It hadn’t arrived yet.
I took a chance and asked the bus conductor.
‘A Quiroga?’
‘No, mi hija…’
I don’t know what he said after that.
I stopped listening after mi hija.

Mi hija.
My daughter.

My father says it.
My mother says it.
My abuela says it.
My abuelo says it.

When a man says “mi hija”
I hope that he,
of all men,
won’t abuse the meaning of the word,
won’t exert his masculinity over me,
over women around him.

A naive hope,
I should know by now,
I should know better.

“All Indians are my brothers and sisters.”
This is a pledge every Indian knows by heart.

Nirbhaya (n.): fearless; one without fear
Nirbhaya aka Jyoti Singh: Raped and tortured with an iron bar,
thrown on the street;
died 13 days later.
All Indians are my brothers and sisters.
4-month-old baby raped in Indore.
All Indians are my brothers and sisters.
11-year-old girl gang raped in Chennai and blamed for it.
All Indians are my brothers and sisters.
Asifa Bano: 8-year-old raped and murdered in Kashmir.
All Indians are my brothers and sisters.

How am I supposed to trust the men who call me their daughter,
to actually keep that promise?

Yet, two months in,
after listening to stories that break my heart every time,
I still naively go out into this world
hoping that when a man says ‘mi hija’,
he means it.