Posted on: March 24th 2020

Creative Showcase: Know Your Worth

There is so much to life at LAE beyond the classroom, and we want to take this opportunity to share and celebrate some of the powerful creative work that our students have been creating alongside their A-Levels. Thank you to Imaan for this first piece.

Know Your Worth

By Imaan Bhaiji

“Try it. One won’t hurt”

One class, one mistake, one act of rebellion never hurt anyone.

If only you knew.

If only you knew,
The distance from where my flock flew,
How my origin story doesn't have a sky of blue,
Or the blood that a history of hatred drew,
Or perhaps the rotten left behind of the crop
That filled stomachs because blisters and burns aren't legal tender
At the local vendor’s
Or would it help if you had a thumbnail of our empires of mudbricks and broken backs?
It doesn’t stop.

We aren't like the Maharajas and the tsars
We come from a long line of innocents behind bars
We come from the tears of debtors
And side street beggars
From cowpat fires
And extinguished desires
From corruption
And national consumption.
My home is where goats bleat at the sight
Of skyscrapers and election papers
Papers? We can't read the papers
Illiteracy is a ritual
And poverty is residual
I know you don't think this plight is trivial
But I beg you act civil
Not like those wars that separate the rich from poor
But you don't know we were the fortunate one
Pebbles weren't plunged into the acid pools
Of our gut
To extinguish an aching hunger; A repetitive rut
Fathers, the farmers wearing pendulums of rope
As the clock ticks, this is the mechanism to cope
Simple indecisions silence the unpaid interest of their loans
When the landlord seth evicts the remaining from their homes.

So they're on the street
Larka, better be smart
Not with books
But with fruit bearing carts.
I am safe, I am valued.
I am not the one with my parents
With pitchforks of cardboard ignorance
And corrugated roofs
And school books that tear away with leaking skies
I am not the children that sleep under stars
And listen to cars
With ears of never-to-be engineers
And hear crying and collapsing they wish to numb
But to poverty their school days succumb.

It's dumb
It's stupid
That's what factory owners told them
That's what the mothers of girls reaching age of menstruation said.
Dream your dowry away.
Otherwise dreaming is nonsensical.

They sent my brothers
To Gujarat to plough farms and build matchboxes
And my sisters trapped in Bihar where girls are 7 parts bride and 3 parts waiting to be
"I was a college dropout." Sounds pretty edgy up here.
But there it's just another birthmark
A commodity for those who are lucky enough to possess
When fast cash rules and rotates India,
The length of years scribbling at a desk
Seems... pointless

If you're 15, a free education
Is a lost sensation
And hopes leave behind fears.
And the vast expanse of possibility
Seems narrow and silly

These children were born to be cheated out of a system
where the quarter of private school places
Should've made way for the cardboard box children
The slum sleepers, the untouchables,
The potential car-jackers and mutilated child beggars
But the rich weed their way with little incentive from their wallets
"Ek hazaar, maybe two?
Another to ensure no one ever knew"

Right to Education, is a right to an uncertainty
Where children stumble into the band of latency
Existing but not quite big enough to see yet
Maybe in a generation or two when pensions aren't paid
The owners of the hierarchy, the patriarchy, the inequality
Will raise a hand and acknowledge.
Maybe it's time... Maybe our children should learn their worth.
Because their skill exists, they can design and transform
And build and create.
They should know their worth.

So, I'm one of the lucky ones, who's always told I should only expect the best.

So, maybe, If I knew all these things,
Maybe if you'd stop with that grin,
And start seeing me as I am at the beginning,
Maybe you'd understand why I can't be this photocopy of you.

Maybe you'd see
Why this life just isn't for me.

A little bit of context:

So the concept for the poem was inspired by my Indian heritage. My family generally grew up in a very rural part of Gujarat, with farms and chickens and goats but also poverty and illiteracy. I’ve tried to embody the inequality and difficulties in educating young people in India having known the sacrifices so many before me must’ve made to get me to a position where I can explore so many academic paths.  The poem begins with people trying to pressure me to rebel and to skip a class or just do something that would distract me from my focus to succeed in my education. I gradually proceed to argue that if these people who are trying to pressure me knew how I got to where I am (through a history of sacrifice, discrimination, deprivation etc.) then they couldn’t possibly ask me to give that all up for a little bit of ‘harmless’ temporary fun.

 I want to do well. Not just for myself, but because I respect that my parents and my family have given up so much and endured hate and hardship to get me here. I think we can all relate to that. So, I pray, nothing gets in the way of dreaming, for ourselves, and for all the people who sacrificed for us.