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Poem: Motherland

(Artwork by Anya Thakur)

“Motherland” is a poem written by 14-year-old poet and women’s advocate Anya Thakur. She works to empower and uplift communities as founder of GirlUp Dallas, a UN Women organization, and a MetoWe partner with ArtRising, which provides arts enrichment to underprivileged communities and creates diverse programming for South and East Asian women. Hosting education, self-defense, and language and literature classes to empower rural women in Delhi, Mumbai, and Munipur, and humanitarian efforts with Myna Mahila, which empowers women in rural India through health education, her women’s advocacy promotes UN Women’s mission to ensure a fair and equitable future, and she has traveled throughout the United States and India to speak for girl’s education and empowerment.


when I think of my origin story, maybe I was rivers in the mountains flowing in deep gorges, slabs of stone pushed down into canyons, and water stained red with mud as if the mountains bled.

or molten stalactite and gathered sunlight kneaded and shaped into female features, angles smoothed into roundness, straight from craters and stars.

now. I see. my motherland shows me the womb I exited and I can feel our shared pulse thrum through me, fissions of electricity and a pounding rhythm reverberating through me.

I am from people dipped in dark chocolate, or carved from coconut shells, in warm hues of earth, and every tone in between. baked naan breads and romali rotis stuffed with steamed vegetables and dipped in rich curries. rose milk laasis and streets graffitied in languages that look like calligraphy but have fallen into disuse, and the artlessly discarded plumes from peacocks coming to rest on our terrace. hundreds of people flooding the rivers that are streets by the hour and surging forward in the sea of humanity.

and made up of memories.

of getting lost in the city and finding myself, capturing the arches and domes of the taj mahal in oils and 23k gold paints in my aunt’s studio, feeling pomegranate arils burst in my mouth as i dig into a bowl of crunchy chat papdi, and dancing with my grandmother in the streets as the monsoon rains begin to swirl around us.

the maid who learns to ride a motorcycle to work once she is free of an abusive husband and who we gift with a helmet and a home in our hearts,

the shopkeeper who fills a paper bag with scoops of salty-sweet banana chips as stories spill from his lips and laughter ripples across his face,

and the woman whose heart expands to fill the hotel room as she hands slices of her birthday cake to strangers as we all sing to her, words laced with as much warmth as we would for family

are all inside me.

as i dissolve golden swirls of honey and unexpected melancholy into my porridge, caramellized cranberries of yearning and goodbyes, i prepare for the next chapter.

my origin story stretches across half the world, finding new roots in a motherland as alive and breathless as it is teeming with life.

it’s chaotic, but it’s beautiful. and it’s ours.

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