“Who Are You?” No One Ever Asked Before the Razor of "Amber Fort, India"

Click here to read “Amber Fort, India” by Alessandra Narváez-Varela.

As an emerging poet with more of a scientific background, and some regret surrounding my decision to not pursue a career in medicine, ekphrastic poetry has always helped to focus my efforts when I’ve wrongfully attempted to use words to share pitiful ramblings about my choices. It has helped me communicate, in a much more earnest and clear way than I do verbally, that I’m very much touched by lives outside my own, especially women’s. Thus, “Amber Fort, India”— part of a five-poem sequence inspired by photos I took during a trip to India for medical school in May 2012, which I recently realized had unintentionally exoticized Indian women because I was, for lack of a better word or defense, starstruck.

Due to my mental state when I visited India that summer—for I was sure I had failed a test that would force me to return to the U.S. in the middle of my trip (though I inexplicably passed)—India, an explosion of everything I never thought I’d get to see as a Mexican-American woman from the Ciudad Juárez/El Paso border region, still feels like a dream. Yet reality strikes when my fingers remember the constant fumbling through my backpack to find my camera, or being stuck to it in order to capture women and their all in photographs. By all, I refer mainly, and in slightly clichéd form, to their eyes and saris, and how their expressions and body language were richer than the grand fortresses or mausoleums that served as their inert background. By capture, a word that implies possession, especially in the case of who I was then—a joyless, Red-Bull energized, fact-regurgitating—I honestly saw these women as everything that was beautiful and mysteriously certain, something I had forgotten about for a year in my life.

Therefore, “Amber Fort, India” is a tripartite, humble effort to honor Indian women, thank them for their colors, and apologize for an affront I was not aware of until four years had passed by.

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