Ambica Uppal is a Toronto based Indian-Canadian writer and Poet who shares her poems on Instagram with the dream to help create a world of hope. A world that that can celebrate differences with peace and love.
She grew up across various cities in India, her father was in the Indian Army and many of her influences in her writing come from those experiences.
“Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have lived in different cities of India, the more cosmopolitan ones like New Delhi and Mumbai to the ones that aren’t as cosmopolitan like Kanpur.
It was in Kanpur that I was asked for the first time what caste I belonged to. Even though caste system was abolished in 1950, enquiring about a person’s caste can be a common practise in some cities even now! It’s just one question that can embed the seed of discrimination.
Whenever I as a girl ventured alone outside the protected cantonment areas my parents asked me to dress modestly to avoid the glares of men.
India is a country with a female to male ratio of 933 to 1000. A girl child being born isn’t always celebrated. Girls are asked to behave a ‘certain way’ to avoid getting raped. The disparity between a man and woman is huge. Even if I or some of my friends sitting inside a cushy bubble and coming from the educated, privileged families that we were lucky to be born in, try to deny this fact. It still is a fact.
The world over we face these issues. It is largely a male oriented society. And in India the disparity between men and women is even more prominent! Girls are asked to give up on their dreams far too early in life ! Giving-up something for a man is considered to be a great character virtue!
There are a lot of cultural taboos that exist. It’s not legal to be gay in India and being a transgender can be tough. There are young girls, boys and people who identify with other genders who follow my work on Instagram and if I can through my work make them feel even a bit of sense of self belief that would make me very happy!”
– Are there any poems of yours that you would like to share with us, that touch upon these issues and carry with them a message to create a world of hope?
“Yes, the poems ‘You too are the Kite‘ and ‘Classify me not’ carry a message of hope. Of not being judgemental and accepting and loving people for who they are.”
Classify me not
You look at me with puzzled eyes,
Trying to understand what beneath my skirt lies.
Is it because your chosen identity for me is what my body defies?
Why is it so important for you to classify me?
Is it so key to you that I be only a him or a she?
The air and a fleeting look is all we have shared!
Spiky turn of the head after the glance!
I don’t need your validation,
Whether I am a his a hers or its
but most of all I am only one of life’s creation!
You don’t get to define what conventional is and what’s not,
In fact, try to question what you have been taught!
I don’t want much from you,
Just some beliefs for you to review,
Acceptance towards decisions that others take,
In Harmony of the choices that others make.
I want to feel I belong,
I want to feel there’s nothing in me wrong,
I want to be expressively strong!
I have what it takes for me to feel this way,
But please don’t shatter my strength with mindless things you say.
Let me live like any other,
Without being judged, harassed or smothered,
Next time you see someone like me,
See beyond and look at what lies within,
Not at the make up, not at the clothes,
And trash all your judgements in the bin !
~ Ambica Uppal
Ambica’s book of poetry, Malhaar, is published on 18th April 2018.