Achi (Grandmother)

IMG_1762
When I first entered
I folded my hands
As a gesture of respect
And she did the same.
As I was leaving, I gave in
To natural instinct
And leaned in for a hug
She took my face in her
Wrinkled hands
And kissed me on my cheek
Grandmothers everywhere
Are the same I suppose
Always smothering you
With too much love
And ineffable affection.
.
~MZU trip 2017~

Advertisements

(e)state of Terror

The headlines read, “5 killed in suspected terror attacks.”

And I’m really upset

Because this terror feels like an addition

To normal terrors I carry

Everyday, everywhere

the terror of being fat

and of poverty

the terror of failure

and of mediocrity

the terror of ugliness

and skininess

and imperfect hair

small eyes and short legs.

What’s more

these are terrors I’m sold

terrors I buy and pet and keep

and grow

the terror of being single,

of having no job,

of growing old.

And so on

Facebook and Instagram

I do what i can

to matter

and quell these terrors

for a while

Tweeting like I know

the world,

posting selfies

because now the mirror lies.

I am sold youth,

and beauty, and freedom and liberty

and pop and stars and celebrity

and shoes and clothes

and cars and body parts.

I am dissatisfied

and I am terrorised.

What greater terror everyday

than to be alienated

from friends and family

to be where you don’t want to be

and do what you don’t want to

“oh that’s life, grow up’

the terror of not being grateful enough.

So when I read a headline like that

I’m reminded of terrors

pointed at me

not in bullets and bombs

but in polite talk

and mind-numbing pleasures.

Terror , whichever kind

is created and administered

usually from plush ivory towers

with incredibly long arms

and irresistible powers

I live in

a state of terror.

Tears for Rohingya

Just beyond the boundary

of my comfort

mother cries

her child dies.

father robbed

of reason and hope.

humanity is gutted

and ripped apart

from bodies

where absence of choice

makes suicide a luxury.

 

I sit here and type

words and more words

To forget my own smallness.

Words to reshape

my guilt into pain.

It is more acceptable.

 

The pen is mightier…

I have never felt less powerful

than i do now

alphabets and words

in my arsenal

and nothing else.

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.

18485693_471942856482415_133245031251710208_n

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. 

18424996_470718959938138_292684237177854903_n.jpg

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.