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 devnagiri 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
Jaishree Kumar is a poet, a failed musician and a student journalist. She’s usually found at protests, curled up in between the barricades.