Yamini Pathak:
“Manifesto for the Indian Widow Who Wishes to Live”


Manifesto for the Indian Widow Who Wishes to Live

from A History of The Care & Treatment of Unnatural Beasts


1. You are hereby awarded the honorary title of Khasma-nu-khaani. Husband-Eater.

2. Your late husband’s family may employ this salutation as a form of address/taunt/curse at their pleasure.

3. You belong to that rare order of cannibals who devour their destined mates as an essential source of protein [ref. Praying-Mantis].

4. The women of your husband’s household shall bleach all evidence of matrimony from your body. This dictates that you:

4.1. molt the plumage of all colored garments: become the un-feathered beast / best flightless.

4.2  sheath yourself in white attire for the rest of your days.

4.3. nevermore jangle glass bangles / silver toe-rings / or hands sunset with henna.

5.  Your hair shall be shorn to the skin of your skull.

6.  The red sun in the center of your forehead obliterated.

7.  Maternal status:

7.1. If you are a mother: You may be allowed to mate with a male member of your husband’s family, but this is not   guaranteed.

7.2  If you are childless: your ill-Omen score is doubled, you may be abandoned on the shores of the river Ganga to bargain body for life.

8.  Submerge your sins in the holy river.

9.  All who die in the city by the sacred waters are guaranteed a free pass to heaven.

10.  Unite with river dolphin / freshwater shark / corpse-eating crocodile: make yourself into a new breed of monster.


First published in Kweli. Reprinted with permission of the poet.
Hear the poem read by the poet here.
Read more work by Yamini Pathak here and here.


Yamini Pathak is a former software engineer-turned-poet and freelance writer. She was born and raised in India and now lives in New Jersey with her family. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Waxwing, Anomaly, The Kenyon Reviewblog, Rattle, The Hindu newspaper, and elsewhere. Her poems are forthcoming in Rise Like a Wave: Anthology of poems by Asian American Women Poets, edited by Alycia Pirmohamed and Christine Kitano, and Fried Eggs and Rice: An Anthology of Food-related Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, and Recipes by Writers of Color, edited by Angelique Imani Rodriguez. A Geraldine Dodge Foundation Poet in the Schools, she reads poetry for The Nashville Review. Yamini is an alumnus of VONA/Voices (Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation) and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.


Poet’s Note:

I was inspired to write this poem by the widows in my family and my husband’s family. My grandmother was widowed very young, and although she was cared for by her family, she experienced many macro- and micro-aggressions. For instance, as a child, I never questioned that my grandmother did not wear bright colors or wear the sacred mark (bindi) on her forehead. If a rule book for the traditional treatment of widows in Indian society existed, I imagine it would look like this poem.


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