‘In the Eyes of a Stranger’ is a poem written by 14-year-old poet and women’s advocate Anya Thakur. She works to empower and uplift communities as founder of GirlUp Dallas, a UN Women organization, and a MetoWe partner with ArtRising, which provides arts enrichment to underprivileged communities and creates diverse programming for South and East Asian women. Hosting education, self-defense, and language and literature classes to empower rural women in Delhi, Mumbai, and Munipur, and humanitarian efforts with Myna Mahila, which empowers women in rural India through health education, her women’s advocacy promotes UN Women’s mission to ensure a fair and equitable future, and she has traveled throughout the United States and India to speak for girl’s education and empowerment.
India is bustling and bursting at the seams with color and vibrancy and life – the smells of spices like chili powder and turmeric, the honking of horns as cars inch forward along crowded streets, and the people, in spangled saris and shawls and kurtas, who shriek in glee, scream in frustration, and children who laugh in unabated joy.
A woman draped in bright fabrics pushes a cart overflowing with strings of marigolds and flower malas, a man hawks mango kulfi and fruity ice creams melting in the sunlight and dripping onto the pavement in sugary syrups while another pops fresh corn, and dozens of auto rickshaws painted in bands of green and yellow clamor for way.
Cows and oxen pass along the roads, halting traffic as people give them way, as my mom alongside my dad and my grandpa guide me through, and I am a small Indian girl taking it all in with the eyes of a stranger, drinking it up like nectar and honey. The city rushes through me, it washes over me, it absorbs and consumes and claims and embraces me until I’m a part of it.
This is where I’m from – the stalls of street markets and the burning incense of sandalwood and turmeric-speckled cubes of paneer and my grandpa’s warm, callused handhold.