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First Carriage : By Sakshi Arora

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Clutching the railing in the metro station

and zipping my jacket up to my chin,

hugging my bag in front of my body

lest someone sees a glimpse of skin. Pushing against the rush hour crowds

and feeling my back slick with sweat, scrambling from one platform to the other

lest I reach home after the sunset. Keeping my hands crossed across my chest

and using the stairs to avoid the lift,

changing my route if I see someone

who looks like they might persist. I look for space in the first carriage; the place where I won't be scared to death.

The first carriage where I won't be touched;

the safe space where I can let out my breath. I lean against the wall and look at the harmony of girls talking, and girls laughing, just letting each other be. If only our society could mirror the miracles

of the first carriage where we feel so free. Smiling at the scene I behold I thank all the heavens and the stars

that nothing has ever happened to me,

that I haven’t been scarred.

But then I wonder,

is it really something to be grateful about?

Rather than an expectation, a normal life

where we live without fear or doubt.

Wearing the baggiest clothes.

Taking the most well-lit street.

Is this a competition for our safety

or a reflection on how girls are seen as nothing more than a piece of meat?

“Only females” a big sign reads,

“Only females” I clamber to find a seat,

“Only females” the rule that everyone heeds,

“Only females” says the announcement sheet.

As we stand together forming an unbreakable alliance

in our first carriage where we gather strength and defiance.

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