Two Poems

2 minute read

1947

Punjab wails
borders turn red
a storyteller collects letters
left behind
no stamps. no addresses.
she hides them in bloodstained wells
nostalgia becomes an antidote for amnesia.
at night, the well overflows with tales
flooding the city with memory.
the radio comes alive
asking
are you listening?
are you breathing?



origin

my father
a man of
Awadhi, Bangla, Urdu and Hindavi
smiles when his firstborn
whispers in a foreigner’s tongue
it is not the language of the colonizer.
it is not the language of our ancestors when they left Nepal.
it’s syllables arranged by a Latin god somewhere in Europe, spreading through South America.
leaving morphemes in the Mediterranean.
a simple sentence on my lips
makes a man of many tongues smile
“She is turning into a pardesi!” He exclaims
i want to tell him
that I am a foreigner
in my own land
a native
in the enemy’s land
my birth certificate
holds no proof
of my tryst with identities
i struggle to pronounce my own name
Victorious.
Goddess of victory.
a goddess bereft of identity.
a goddess relying on vernacular memory.
the devnagirī flowing from my parent’s fingers
is incomprehensible to me
my tongue sits behind my
front two teeth
when I talk
rolling itself naturally, yet unusually
when I talk.
rolling R’s strangely
when I talk.
i want to ask him
do passport stamps and lease papers
know where you truly belong?
i want to tell him
i find homes in-between borders,
my mother tongue a stutter in my mouth.
the only proof of my innocence
are the words that linger
on the nape of my neck,
in the lump in my throat,
in the crevices of my fingers
in the curve of my spine
words
in different scripts
with coordinates attached
memories strung in every syllable
pulling me closer
and letting me go

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