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.  

dalit

Untouchable

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

For life.

 

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

An object.

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