Forgive Me

Forgive me if my guard is up.

Every day before leaving my room I drape I dupata (scarf) over my chest.

It is my shield. My defense.

It is a symbol of the way life is here.

It’s not just me. Other women have mentioned it.

When you go outside you must be ready.

Offense or defense, you may take either position.

But you must not take the position of the vulnerable.

Amidst jostling crowds and chaotic car noise, my eyes are often on the ground.

It would not do to look them in the eye, those who would get the wrong message. Those who would take advantage of me. Of my seemingly weaker position, that of a woman.

I clothe my chest with my dupata. And then I shield my heart with a hardened outer layer.

I do not look. I do not respond.

That beggar.

That child.

That woman sleeping on the ground.

I step past them and around them as I do the feces on the street.

I am not alone. Others have mentioned this.

You cannot fix it. It is overwhelming.

I walk by, and my dupata touches them with its shadow.

This is what you do in Kolkata.

You wear your dupata.

You keep your heart hidden underneath.

You don’t look, you don’t engage.

It is safer this way.

Forgive me if my guard is up.

This is how I was taught to live.

I was taught to wear a dupata.


God, grant me the grace to clothe myself in Your culture, to walk among the broken vulnerable as one who is the same. Remove the wall of separation my self-preservation has constructed, and give me an open heart to love those I am among, even though it’s dangerous, even though it will hurt.


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