The Pills are the Only Proof

if a crime continues to occur regardless of the enormous evidence available then is the crime invisible or the evidence invisible or are both visible but not seen?

I remember. Baba said:

“Quit your job and I will start a business for you.”

“I was at work, woman, I am tired. Be rational.”

“I am not going out with you wearing those rags.”

“Always on the phone but it’s never about money. Should we get you a job as a telephone operator?”

“I see your daughter has decided to become a prostitute now.”

“I tested negative.”

“Why do you always cry when I have done nothing to you?”

“Your whole family is retarded.”

“I keep helping your family, I never complain.”

“You are good for nothing.”

“Why would you give your school things to your mother? What does she know?” 

“You look so old.”

“Why weren’t you more welcoming?”

“I never have peace in this house.”

“I didn’t beat her, she fell.”

“I didn’t beat her, she fell.”

“How are other men so lucky with finding good wives?”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

 “It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

 “It was one-time thing; she meant nothing. It won’t happen again.”

“I tested negative.”

If every moment contains the possibility of being alive and being dead, then could an acute awareness of every moment also create an acute consciousness of living and dying?

“It’s been a while Alpha, you look healthy. How is your mother?”

xxxxxxx“I don’t know, I haven’t seen her.”

“Is this what she told you to say? Speak up boy.”

xxxxxxx“I don’t know.”

“Everyone back home is shocked about why she would run away; all I have ever done is love your mother.”

xxxxxxx“Baba stop!”

“Don’t take that tone with me, I still pay for all of this. You seem to forget.”

xxxxxxx“She is sick now…you made her sick. Mama is dying. How could you?”

“Crying like your mother again. I swear it’s like I had all daughters.”

xxxxxxx“She is safe. She is not going back Baba, we won’t let her go back.”

“Be careful boy, remember who I am. Remember you all would have been and will be nothing without me.”

xxxxxxx“Baba!”

“Your mother is a laughingstock; tell me one bad thing I have ever done to her.”

xxxxxxx“Get out!” 

If we could separate every glance from the next, then could we separate our perception of what each consecutive glance is seeing?

“Mama, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

xxxxxxx“I wanted to be free, Alpha. To be free.”

Italic text sourced from Amar Kanwar’s exhibition The Sovereign Forest, courtesy of Ishara art foundation

Photo by Dalvin Mwamakula

Amma, Acha & Malayalam ft. english

അമ്മ (Amma)
My Amma’s Malayalam is Trivandrum slang,
shifting between simple
churidar and formal sari in a blink.
trishurpooram cacaphony is her laugh,
words the speed of onam boat races
on slow crashing waves of kovalam beach.
It is every spice bubbling
in my Ammuma’s cheenachatti,
both sweet sharkara and sour achar
Chutni podi with chilli podi by her hand.
Her Malayalam hits hard
Ammuma’s soft palms, Appupa’s rare playfulness;
Her Malayalam is a 22-year-old recipe, came along to flavour a desert.

My Amma’s english is accented
with Malayalam, from ancestral
beef fry to salmon grill
Other worlds and words with a twist of her own
Kovalam softened by corniche calm,
chilli podi, sounds of two cities, date syrup
and desert sand filling
the gaps in her english
“Yalla pogam!” She yells “Mafi Mushkil, Aathma!”
Sharkara lacing her laugh,
it echoes loudly in between
the buildings of Hamdan St.

Appupa said my laugh is like hers,
I carry it safe in my voice box.
My Malayalam is a mirror  
of her slang, her lullaby my tongue
Trishupooram still resounding in them.

They complain they can’t understand her,
her laugh too loud, her accent too strong for their weak ears
They demand us altered for their palate
demand silence, compliance
for their tongues to handle.

Amma did not move
for me to be silent;
our laughs are trapped ancestral joy, they died
for the spices you came to our shores for,
they died. Our laughs are eulogy
folded into our voice boxes.

Does your tongue burn?
Here, have the water–
our laughter will not drown again

അച്ഛാ (Acha)
My Acha’s malayalam drips
on the page, fountain pen sprouting
rhymes, rhythms, words
of a Love, land,
loss, gain,
home, no home, new home, old home,
dreams to come, dreams left behind,
shore he came to, shore he left,
a sea, a kadal that watched him come
and go over and over and over–
the second half of his life,
the first half he refuses to forget.

He polishes an english accent
with experience, age, command
and Malayalam slips in, a jewel found:
film comes filim, his english crashes
under Malayalam exclamation,
the language of his soul sees no barrier.

An architect of words, an architect of worlds
an architect on two shores, he built
poems, he built places,
built a love for words in his Molu,
built a home, a city for his daughter.

This new city gentrifies her tongue;
he wonders if he can build
a bridge, a boat for his daughter lost in the kadal
between the poems of his soul and
this new city she speaks of.

Artwork by Dayanita Singh “go away closer”