Lopa Banerjee’s humble dedication to the beautiful, emancipated young soul, Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel peace prize winner in October 2014, and the battles she has fought and won as a crusader of women’s rights to education.

“One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
–Malala Yousafzai

In the sunken rays of the setting sun, she trudges past
The wind that blows away her head-scarf.
She picks it up, resolute, rustling in brisk feet,
Walking her familiar paths, lonely, ethereal.
In her shoulders, her schoolbag dances in cozy warmth.
She has chortled on the streets with friends in a visible glee,
Her hands splattered in ink and crayon, washing away the dirt,
Licking away the succulent home-made mid-day meal in school.
In her loving home, her verdant dreams
Of knowledge, of love and acceptance have sprouted.
In the night, staring at the starry firmament, she has nurtured
Thoughts of Mingora, her hometown, a little dot resting under
The mammoth body of the galaxies.
In her daily walk, the dancing ripples of her footprints
Are watched by armed men masking their faces and heads
In unwavering brutality.
Amma feared, the Talibaan could nip her little jaan
In the bud, while kneading the dough for dinner.
Abba nodded in the silvery darkness of the room.
In the hidden flow of his tears, a silent and eternal promise,
“Nobody or nothing can deter you from the path of knowledge, Beta.”

A thud in the head, she floated, in splattered blotches
Of fresh, untainted blood, motionless,
In the nameless abyss of darkness.
They wanted the glittering atoms of her brain,
Her hands, gripping her schoolbooks
The lingering waft of her fragrance, diminish
In dust and dirt, her dainty feet adorning the school premises,
An obstinate guilt, a sacrilege to the holy Shariyat.
In the hospital, beneath her silken tresses, the bullet
Traversed unseen domains of her skull,
While Abba clasped her frail hands.
In the hospital room, miles and miles away from
Her volatile hometown, a pregnant cloud of hope hung
In the foggy Birmingham sky.
She floated, in oblivion, in her virgin dream
Of drip-drop learning, camaraderie and liberty,
Her brain, her skull, her facial tissues and nerves,
A restoration project in the opaque stillness of the surgery room.

Abba has held her hand tight, his head steadfast and high
As he escorts her to school again.
Under the looming, barren winter sky of the unknown city,
He looks at the glint of hope in his daughter’s eyes again,
A primordial thirst for learning. He sees her fluttering
In mirth and freedom, while the world calls out her name.
He knows, in the maze of unknown, cheering voices
And clapping hands, while she flashes her winsome smile,
The Swat valley has borne the most enduring of flowers.


About the author
Lopa Banerjee has completed her masters’ in Creative Nonfiction Writing and a graduate certificate in Advanced Writing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She also has a background in literature and journalism while in India. She has written a book-length memoir and also a poetry collection. She is a regular contributor to 'Cafe Dissensus' and B’ Her poetry, essays, stories and book reviews have also appeared at 'Fine Lines', 'About Place' journal', ‘Prairie Fire’, 'Northeast Review', ‘Indian Review’, ‘River Poets Journal’, ’13th Floor Magazine’, ‘The Mind Creative’ and 'Incredible Women of India'.

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