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Bordia, Ritvik, The Unholy Soul


Ritvik Bordia
Age: 15, Grade: 10

School Name: Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, NY
Educator: Gregory Grene

Category: Poetry

The Unholy Soul

At the age of six, the peak of my childhood,
With freedom blossoming from every bone,
I was compressed in a box full of false words from false books
All covered in musty smells placed to evoke ancient knowledge.
I was a child, meant to be free,
Meant to speak my mind.
But my mind was oppressed, shoved down by those I love
And my individualistic thoughts were viewed as horrid
For just as accepting religion kept most trapped, 
Locking them in a box of adherence to some holy ethereal being,
Denying religion resulted in rejecting my freedom.
It was during the season of Diwali
When my grandmother came to visit,
When my very freedom, the ability to speak up,
Part of my basic rights as a human being 
Were revoked,
Replaced with countless hours sitting around false idols,
Hours upon hours of praying to nothing,
Of uselessly sitting, facing East, and trying to achieve nirvana.

My grandma was misguided,
Free to make her own thoughts, but conforming to that of books,
Following the idea that ‘gods’ existed and had celestial piousness, 
That they were wholesome and untarnished,
And even when the ‘gods’ had taken her husband, dead before his hair greyed,
The man who died from a heart attack on the phone with my dad,
With her grandchild watching his father crumple to the floor,
Dropping the phone with an eerie clatter,
The ‘gods’ still went untarnished. 

Many may admonish,
And criticize, and chastise, and castigate
My innermost thoughts about my grandmother,
But they are my thoughts, my holy truth,
And try as I may, to display my feelings towards my grandma
Which fluctuate between love and hate, 
No form of expressionism can convey both the angel and the devil
In one piece, without contradicting itself. 
But when it came to religion,
My feelings were always hateful, 
Spitting fire and ashes in the direction of idols,
Mimicking the stygian scenarios where the devil is shown to reside. 
And the angel has no place in the devil’s homeland. 

So it was Diwali,
A celebration of the return of Rama,
A king exiled for fourteen years thought to be a deity,
The avatar of a four-handed blue god,
A god who sat on a nine-headed serpent that floated on a lake.
In other words, a story full of bull,
But the festival, filled with fire and music and pastries
Appealed to me, and so I celebrated, full of joy,

Until my grandmother came and ripped it all away,
Ripped the enthusiasm, the effervescence, the excitement, right from my soul,
And replaced it with mundane, forced acceptance of her beliefs,
And as we sat down to pray, 
To mutter piffling words towards hallucinatory gods, 
A thought struck me.

It was one of autonomy, a blade of blinding light splitting my cage in two,
A fracture in the oblique darkness that had surrounded me for too long,
A thought so ridiculous, so ludicrous
That I just had to act upon it. 
I had to speak my mind instead of parroting it away,
Imitating my familial ideals rather than imitating myself.
Living in chains was no way to live,
In captivity, in incarceration, in slavery,
I was bound by the will of my grandmother, travailing to hide from my thoughts.
Emerson says “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”
And I was ready to speak my mind.
And so I confronted my grandmother,
I readied my soul, and calmed my nerves.
I had to speak my mind, to be free of my ridiculing thoughts,
And I tried and tried, but the words just wouldn’t come.
My tongue became dry and crispy, like sandpaper
And my jaws felt nailed together;
The cat had truly got my tongue, stolen it from the depths of my mouth,
And my voice, my voice, retracted from my throat
As I conformed to my grandma’s will.

And due to that inability,
The inexplicable effort of speaking my mind,
Of putting my thoughts, my very essence, into words, 
I pushed back my inner child and became a man.
“The Child is the Father of the Man,”
But I would never be the father, shaping the future
Never the nonconformist, the repeller of societal norms.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”
And I was just another man in society’s midst.

Bibliography (MLA):

Ralph W. Emerson, The Norton Anthology American Literature: Beginnings to 1865, (United
States of America: W.W. Norton & Co., 2017). 

Henry D. Thoreau, The Norton Anthology American Literature: Beginnings to 1865, (United
States of America: W.W. Norton & Co., 2017). 

Williams Wordsworth, My Heart Leaps Up, (United Kingdom: 1802).