Sonali Pattnaik


She could dance she said.
Her head cocked in defiance
resting on the tense audition air.
Swinging on her "magical" chair
And some sniggered
Some let a few comments slide
My friend and I
We thought we must find
A politically correct speech.
She liked us the least.

We took such joy
In our shifting feet.
'We live for movement'
we chimed
were sure she couldn't know
how that felt at all.

She said movement didn't care for feet.

She spun wildly,
To a music
We could not hear.
And she threw her hands into
the air,
slipping out of line.
Her feet tucked in,
Her speech babel
She was not our kind.

And soon enough
my tryst with my feet begun
like a curse uttered just once.

I tripped and tripped
trying to catch up
to the dancer in someone else's mind,
I went down crashing,
once the swan
soon to be duckling,
I fell behind
as the fleet went marching.

The harder I tried
to educate my feet,
once beautiful,
they seemed to grind
at the corners of my soul.

A "teacher's" flattering words
transformed into a predatory eye.
His snaky equivocation
froze my will.
My dance now completely still;
It didn't matter
If I moved well or not
I wasn't sure if I danced
at all.

And my feet
clumsy feet
When I was
dancing alone
watching myself
through motley eyes
as the moon shone
on my lithe reflection
'boy, can you dance he said',
catching me unawares,
turned renegade
under old eyes.

I watched her
spin that day
from the aisle.
She spun
as I had done
when I danced not
Jazz or Free Style
counting numbers in my head
placing guarded step on step
but as a child;
or animal;

moving to my own endless time.

My legs now melting
through watching
smelt their escape.
I couldn't stay.
I walked off the maudlin stage.

Years after
I danced alone.
The blood rushed back.
My feet grew light.
As I picked up words
tossed them about
under the sky
consumed by their
primal shout
swinging like a beast
from viscous line to line,

s p I n n I n g

from the fixity
of my magical chair
I saw indeed, movement didn't care for feet.


Sonali Pattnaik completed her MPhil in Literature in English from Delhi University in 2005 and has been teaching and writing since. Her areas of interest and publication include gender studies and visual cultures such as cinema. An essay on the cinematic representation of the hijra (trans-gender) community of India may be found at She is most curious about 'the body' and the way we think about it socially and politically. She has taught Literature at the under-graduate and post-graduate levels in Delhi and Mumbai University, and is currently exploring the structures and construction of deviance in the human body within public culture in her independent research work.