It’s simple, really; I love you.
We speak in foreign tongues to deaf ears; forge our signatures in each others’ skin, etching secrets and promises for tomorrow. We know the crevasses, and we light them up and watch the shadows dance.
I know I am incredibly difficult to love sometimes, but please, love me. Baby, love me as I am, and what I could be.
I’m tired of crying; I’m tired of hurting.
You watched fire fill my eyes and venom spit from my lips. That is not who I am. Truth is, I was threatened.
I don’t think I have a place in your home. I don’t know what I want.
Don’t let people pronounce your name wrong -
don’t let them see you walking home.
Don’t let them see your mother in the playground,
smelling of spices.
Bite your lip when you see a white woman in the street
wearing a shalwar kameez.
‘I’m on the way to a wedding,’ she drawls.
‘A friend got me this s-…this thing. Isn’t it pretty?’
I don’t know, lady. Tell me,
how much do you care about the merchants
who jumped to their feet and dove
through reams of fabric
to find the right one? Are you
trying to tell me that I shouldn’t be angry that
you’re wearing a garment I can’t wear
without eye rolls and insults and, ‘fucking
back to India,
go back to where you came from.’
I was born here, and I’ve earned my place here.
More so than you. I’ve had to work for it.
I’ve had to know my shit countless times,
be able to list off members of the government
on both hands,
talk this way, eat this way -
my parents stopped sending me to school with rice so early
because the other kids couldn’t fathom
lunches that weren’t sandwiches.
Can you even pronounce ‘shalwar kameez’?
Let me hear it, I’m not convinced.
I don’t know, my teacher had to ask me
how to say my name
three times this morning -
and each time I said it she would repeat it
slowly, squinting, as though it were made
from a different alphabet.
So I guess you could say I’m a sceptic.
Wait. Is that a bindi on your forehead?
Where’s your temple?
More importantly, where were you yesterday
when my Religious Education teacher was telling me
how the whites helped educate the poor little Indians
and that 1947 was a bad year for ‘us’?
My country’s independence was the Empire’s downfall,
and the Empire gave us nothing but pain.
My grandparents were driven off the border of Pakistan
and forced into poverty, and here was a person
trying to tell me that the colonies that terrorised my family away,
away from their homes and their cities and their loves,
did a good thing.
Where were you then?
I see the henna on your hands,
and I am here to say that my culture is not
a trend for you to love this season
and throw away -
is not your excuse to be ‘exotic’.
You are not welcome to pick and choose
the attractive parts of being me.
Take my mother’s bindi spot, take the unwanted
advances of old white men that come along with it -
they think we should be honoured to be hit upon by
a white man.
Take the henna off my hands, and take the sweat and blood
of Indian workers trying to make an honest day’s work
charging fifty rupees in the street to ice patterns on flesh.
Take my sari, take my shalwar, take my lengha
and take the low self esteem that growing up
in a white society has given me.
take it all.
I am so incredibly grateful for the life I have and the people in it. I’m a happy Doz.