Tomorrow Will Be Better by Nikala Asante is an intimate conversation, a history primer, a discussion of current events, a Spoken Word Collection, and an invitation to engagement in social justice – all in one. While appropriate for any mature reader, it is especially pertinent to high school and college students seeking to better understand themselves and their role in the world.
When her aunt returned her for the evening,
Rani pointed to the photo and said,
“Yellow. Pink. Green. Blue!”
Babu smiled because 8 was not too old to learn colors
When one was not supposed to learn at all.
He took Rani in his arms and served dal
From one brass pot
Rice from another,
He could not get flour for roti today,
Maybe he would sell the brass pots tomorrow,
And buy the thin kind shipped from America,
But would they burn on an open fire?
He thought about these things and smiled
As he watched Rani talking on and on
About a lizard she had seen today, and given a name,
Poori, like the bread that rose fat as the fold of the lizard’s neck,
And Babu thought about the power to name
And how Rani may never have to know what a
“Servant of God” means here,
A servant by body to the upper caste,
If only he can find
More latrines to clean, or a second job,
Or somehow, get to America.
But that was just a dream, in a world
Where he was not clutching prayer beads
Nights when he heard footsteps
Moving too fast, or gunshots,
Tearing the air like fists in revolution
Because they might come for Rani
Like they did her mother, who did march,
And demand to be human, not “untouchable”,
Demanded rights from those who knew only wrong
Who followed her home, before she could fetch
Rani from Sita, before she could catch
Her breath, or set her body down, they pulled her
Into the dusty street in an outrage,
Ripped the jeans, the ruffled blouse
From her body, “You try to be American!”
“You whore!” and they touched her, this untouchable,
Intimately, violently, publicly,
Until she cried and bled and begged
Her body was burned
After being paraded down the path in example
To others who thought about rights.
That was when Rani was only a baby,
He taught her now, from the 7 years of schooling he had,
All that he knew.
And rebelled in a quiet way,
With education, with brass pots,
Which Dalits were not meant to own.
With the photograph of Buddha on the wall,
Which was forbidden,
And with his undying love for this girl child.
But most of all,
With the meat knife he kept near as they slept
In case smoke crept in through the open door
And he heard the sounds of chaos
Then he would recite the Buddhist prayer
“May all beings be free from suffering,”
And end hers quickly
Before they could make her body