Of Hypocrisy and Cheekbones

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"Of Hypocrisy and Cheekbones" is a very popular award winning Indian poem by the Indian English poet, writer and film maker Shahnaz Habib. The poem won First Prize in the Ninth All India Poetry Competition conducted by The Poetry Society (India) in 2000.[1] This was the first major literary award for Shahnaz, who subsequently switched over to film making.

Excerpts from the poem[edit]

Sometimes you see a man
With such irresistible cheekbones
You feel an urge to raise your hand
And touch them
Simply to know how they feel
To your skin.
And then he looks full in your face
And dazzles you with a reckless, innocent smile,
Not of invitation, merely inviting.
And then,
All those years of prudent upbringing,
Your religion, your values,
The stern concern of your father
The hushed chiding of your mother,
The sour wisdom of generations
The hardened core of civilisations
Rise in indignation within you
And quash the cave-woman
So that you give him
A grim, ladylike glare
And turn your face away in disgust.
And then,
The next day you take care
Without really thinking why,
Not to get into the same bus.

Comments and criticism[edit]

The poem has received rave reviews since its first publication in 2000 in the book Emerging Voices[2] and has since been widely anthologised.[3] The poem has been frequently quoted in scholarly analysis of contemporary Indian English Poetry.[4]

Online references[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Award Winning Poems - AIPC 2000". 
  2. ^ Poetry India - Emerging Voices by H K Kaul, Virgo Publications, 1998
  3. ^ Contemporary Indian Poets by Jeet Thayil, Fulcrum, Bloodaxe Books, 1996
  4. ^ "Fourteen Contemporary Indian Poets – Rana Nayar in The Tribune".