Growing up, my sisters and I had gold coins for toys.
When there’s that much money around, being beautiful isn’t such a big deal.
Somehow, we all were.
All my suitors started off talking about beauty, and ended up talking about money.
One prince told my father,
Give me your daughter’s hand,and I will give you eight times her weight in gold.
That night my father kept passing me the rice and ordered extra dessert for the entire table.
For some reason, I was remembering those gold coins and how we sometimes put them in our mouths. The taste of gold is something you never forget.
When my thoughts drifted back to the table, my father was staring at my half-eaten pudding. I could see in his eyes that he was doing the math.
That night I cut off my hair, climbed out the window, and walked away.
I knew it would be a long journey. At least I was starting out on a full stomach.
That was many years ago.
Looking now at this old hand, I can’t help thinking the prince’s offer was a little silly.
Any day now, the crows and dogs will get all this for nothing.
Know your price, my sisters. Don’t accept less.
This verse is from the Therigatha, a Buddhist text consisting of a collection of 73 short poems of women who were senior nuns. The poems date from a three hundred year period, starting in the late 6th century BCE. It is the companion text to the Theragatha, verses attributed to senior monks. It is the earliest known collection of women’s literature composed in India.