Priya was from some village in Nepal.
They told her she would be a Deva Dassi,
tied a pretty red cord around her neck
and shipped her off in a covered wagon
filled with little Deva Dassis.
Now she is old and scrawny.

Ma Hla is from a town in Myanmar.
There, they don’t bother with the Deva Dassi
story, not now. Besides, they’re Buddhists.
They just buy them, load them on a lorry
and take them to the airport.
She has grown tall and slender, a dancer.

Lali is from here, Sonagachi.
Which means that unlike Priya and Ma Hla
she is not officially a victim.
(As nor am I, for though I am not local
I came willingly, stay happily.)
Still, Lali is leaving soon. Poor thing, Priya says.
She’s getting married.

I’ll be leaving soon, too, I say.
I wiggle and twirl to the blaring radio.
Ma Hla starts crying.
Alright, I won’t go – decide to stay
another year, another couple of years,
see Ma Hla married too. If any man
will have her. They don’t like an ex-whore
to be beautiful. Priya says any mother-in-law
worth her salt will very soon
do something drastic about Ma Hla’s
Burmese beauty. Lali is lucky,
she is plain and a local girl.

I am luckier. I can leave.
But shall I, ever?

© James Munro

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