Talk Dirty to Me

Suryatapa Mukherjee writes about the falsity of purity in our largely saffron country.

When I was in class 2,

I wrote ‘I love you’

And sent it to a girl.

She called it dirty.

She said ‘eww’.

And into the bin, it flew.

In boarding school,

Some of my girl friends

Slept in the same bed

For far too long.

And the warden

Striped them with her cane.

A student called an intervention.

They both talked about diseases.

They all called it dirty.

Tell me, baby,

When they ask about your first crush,

Do you think about legality?

Baby, you see,

I’m dirty.

Courts agree.

Put those handcuffs on me.

377 is the safe word

Of our colonised society.

My father hangs paintings

Of Hanuman and Mecca

On the walls of his Church.

I mean, his place of

Business.

His biggest Muslim client

Comes to our house.

And we serve him

Like everyone else.

We went to his son’s wedding.

But my father ran out

Before the Muslim crowd

Could suffocate his Brahmin skin.

And the biryani that night

Stank so bad,

I told my Muslim boyfriend

That it must have been beef.

You see, to wear that white thread

Around your torso,

You must practice

Bigotry.

It’s all about purity.

But I’ve been a bad girl, baby.
I’ve loved Muslims 
And tasted that forbidden meat.

Lynch me like I’m filthy.

Beef is the unsafe word

Of our saffron society.

Oh, purity

Reminds me of

Untouchability:

A fun little game.

The Savarna shouldn’t even step

In the shadow of the casteless.

That earns you a trip to the Ganges.

So, don’t touch the man

Who cleans your toilet.

My Brahmin friends

Complain about reservation.

They say Brahmin

is the new beggar

On the block.

But they’re here,

Working abroad

Or getting a second degree.

And every Indian here

Is upper caste.

How does that work?

And they still flaunt it -

The B-word.

But the C-word

Is dirty.

The news reports Dalit deaths and rapes

Like we’re grinding them for a national game.

But it has nothing to do with caste.

And it doesn’t happen where I live.

Deny, deny, deny.

But not my name, baby.

Say my name, baby.

I know you like my surname, baby.

Let’s play master and servant.

Think before you touch me.

Reverse-casteism is the safe word

Of our Savarna society.

Every time they talk ‘dirty’,

Listen and look closely.

You might catch them

Stripping someone

Of humanity.


When Suryatapa Mukherjee is not trying to get people to call her Shurjotopa, she is reporting news, writing fiction, performing poetry or acting. Her bucket list of problems to solve include sexism, LGBT+phobia, racism, communalism, casteism, classism, and it continues to grow. Once, she was interviewed as part of a series on bisexuality in India. As a result of that series, the UN included bisexual content in their global charter on LGBT rights. Journalistically, she has covered pressing issues such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Syrian refugee crisis, LGBT+ rights in Jordan and student immigration in the UK.

Read more pieces from our publication, Allies for the Uncertain Futures looking at intersectionality and everyday resistance through prose and poetry.

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