What’s in a name?

Donoghue, how do you pronounce that?

The ‘g’ is silent.

 

A tiny patch of blonde hair

on my younger brother’s head

Was a celebrated validation of identity.

Sharp features of my older brother

always marked how he was different from

other Mizos,

Legitimation of claims to being “Donoghue”.

 

I have always been Donoghue,

With some reservation

with some apology

for my thick, black hair

and small, dark eyes

My short stature

and broad, snub nose.

 

Donoghue, where are you from?

My father is from Tamil Nadu.

Do you speak Tamil then?

No, but my nana can give

a piece of her mind in perfect Tamil.

And my father can

draw out words in Tamil

Can I claim Tamil-ness on their quota?

 

Then I remember,

Apu on his dying bed

and his attempts to teach me

how to read Mizo

and be Mizo.

I think of how I have trained

my anglo tongue and manner

to be Mizo.

 

I am as much my mother’s daughter

as I am my father’s.

In trying to reconcile identities

and hoping to belong

I realize,

I cannot fit into neat categories

rigidly perpetuated

for convenience.

My family tree remains obscure

like a lovely mystery

I may never want to solve.

 

But if I am Donoghue,

then my legacy is laughter and family

the warm hugs of my grandpa

and the morning conversations

his gentle mouth articulated

despite his Parkinsons.

And if I am Pachuau,

then my legacy is kindness,

Safely wrapped in Api’s scarf

the only thing I inherited from her.

 

I am a minority among minorities

I am also a walking evidence of love

I am Donoghue and Pachuau

Simultaneously, unapologetically.

* nana- My father’s mother
apu- My mother’s father
grandpa- My father’s father
api- My mother’s mother

Framed

Framed- This isn’t a post about my father. This is about the white frame behind him.

Growing up, these “frames” were a very common sight in houses that belonged to Mizo folk. The point of these being that even though there may be two separate rooms, e.g.. a kitchen and a drawing room, the frames hold wooden panels which come off, effectively converting the two rooms into one large room. Purpose? Community or family events of any kind. Deaths, marriages, feasts, birthdays, new year eves, services…anything really! On a normal day, the panels would be up and on an occasion, down came the panels allowing many, many people to fit into an otherwise, rather limited space.

As housing becomes yet another socio-economic marker among the Mizos (along with everyone else I suppose), these lovely frames, once signifying the wonderful spirit of community within the home, are also disappearing slowly.

Tinned roofs give way to concrete. And I remain a nostalgic fool.

My father just happened to be there, when this thought crossed my mind.

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Childhood

The humble home I spent much of my childhood in. I would wake up at the crack of dawn, light the Sikri with grandfather, have milk and “butter biscoot” fresh from the shop at the end of the lane then run out to play with other kids.

Life was simple back then, 50 paise was a lot and our toys were empty cigarette packets, wrestling cards, marbles and cheap rubber balls with which we would play “step-ball” (bouncing the ball off steps and catching it). We also played with rubber bands strung together and had competitions to see who could jump the highest. It was noisy, but a lovely sort of noisy.

Running noses, dirty clothes, chapped cheeks and hands, we played till respective parents/grandparents summoned us home for food. Only to run away again right after. Ah, childhood. 

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Emails.

I read the emails you sent me
and the replies I gave.
I read how you loved me,
and how I loved you back.

And i wept.

where does love go when
there is no longer room
in my heart or yours.

did love take sides
and leave with you.
Or did it remain
when I chose to stay.

Time is a fickle drunk
who first heals,
then stabs with
pithy reminders of
everything ever loved,
and lost.

And the pain of loss
is far worse than longing.
it bears no hope
only the heavy grief of life.

Cigarette butts thrown in bins
are precious
when you run out.
And these renascent
emails are all
I have left of you.

 

Nighttime Ritual

Wild, changed, depressed, joyous
extremist, indulgent, selective
Intense, hard, soft, “shifty eyed’
feminist, pacifist, creative, dull.

People.

I have outlived
and outloved
my heart has outrun
my mind so many times
I lose count
like i once did
with cigarette butts
carelessly tossed
into the bin.

fragmented thoughts
are postmodern
A kind diagnosis.

And my bleeding gums
remind me
I shouldn’t brush so hard.