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Poem: Sona Mahal – सोना महल

(Photo illustration by Anya Thakur)

“Sona Mahal – सोना महल” 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.

Sona Mahal – सोना महल

it’s her ivory tower of recluse and gold-lacquered incense trays resting atop time-worn tomes.

she doesn’t want to ride away with a red riding hood when she has Mowgli and wolves that don’t bite,

flaming chariots and fearless queens with crowns of crescent moons charging into battle atop tigers and elephants with spear-sharp ivory tusks,

mornings of singing birds and vases of peacock plumes and plates of silver-leafed pistachio sweets cut into flowers and diamonds,

and pots of butter purified to crystal clear ghee and baked poori breads stuffed with sweet halwa and sun-softened raisins spread along slender palm leaves, curling and stretching out like snakes sunning themselves.

even a windowsill by which to weave marigold malas that can only be translated as Desi daisy chains.

after she’s ground henna leaves and sketched the faces of warrior women and intricate cityscapes that must be the work of starchitects on her arms in mehndi,

arranged silvery bindis in spiraling constellation patterns adorning the windows and the walls,

and mixed saffron into an amber tinted brittle of peanuts and dried rose petals,

it becomes a home of stories she brings to life, hands tracing letters and dancing across pages when the books finally run out.

and the long stretches of silence shift from sad to encouraging, time measured only in her heartbeat, the thrumming of her pulse, and elusive streaks of sunset,

punctuated by the rasp of pencil on paper and the flapping of butterfly wings,

and finally,

ivory towers melt to a swirling puddle of molten metal, revealing how…

it’s a gold palace for a dragon to luxuriate, sunbeam-soaked iridescent scales and the scent of sandalwood and paper permeating the air,

for she would indeed be the dragon, and not it’s captive.

she would be the one that captivates.

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