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An Indian's American Dream

Shailee Rajak

 

On my 20th birthday

I started coveting

Those store-bought dreams

Sold in monthly packs.

The trial month was free.

So, I pulled away

From the dining-table chat

To indulge my romantic, Indian fancy-

The 'Hollywood-Boulevard fantasy'.

"Are you still watching?"

I never shut my eyes

To dream my own dreams.

On my 30th birthday, I stuff

A glorious, Prada knockoff

(A cheapskate's shopping spree.)

Inside Mom's prickly, knit bag.

In her last courier it came

Carrying a letter and a will-

Bequeathed a few bricks

And a dozen words of love

She had to die to give.





That night, I lie awake, listening.

The sound of the artificial waves-

Ocean mode on the sleep machine,

Can only lull me to a broken sleep.

Maybe, it's too soothing for ears

Used to the shrill whistle of the train

Passing through my ancestral village.

In welcome, hungry dogs barked, chased.

The owls hooted, 2 am silences disrupted.

Or perhaps, I lie uneasy and restless

‘Cause out of 560 dollars I was cheated.

The fucking Spa. The fucking massage.

Their promises of peaceful sleep burnt out

Like their cloying mix of potpourri and sage.

Fidgety and restless, anaestheticized dreams-

Of strong fingers kneading my scalp,

A sticky, coconutty fragrance in my hair.

Wishing for chutki's famous oil-champi.





The next day, at my themed party,

Multiple stalls of continental cuisine.

I line the hard shell of the taco with

The last smidge of home-made 'chilli'.

Grandma's mouth-watering speciality-

The spicy mango-acchaar.

High on pharmaceutical strains,

I realise that sour liquorice

Is just a candied version

Of mausi's sun-dried Imli.

Drunk, I side-step the green Amrood

That fell in grandpa's elysian backyard.

Childhood feet haltingly pick their way

Through the ripened, juicy memories

Strewn among the hollow beer cans-

Empty, discarded on the leather backseat.

Nostalgia rots in my brand new Ford.




On my wedding day,

Isolated, I walk down the aisle

Clad in the ghosts of virginal white.

I trimmed it with a Banarasi lace

2 meters re-used from the kurta

I never wore to mom's funeral.

Distracted, 3-inch stilettos wobble-

I slip on the tears father had wept

While cremating mom's corpse, alone.

Scarlet splashes, a gash on my head.

My bride cleans it with her veil.

Fingers erase the bloody sindoor.

An apt tribute to my cultural roots?


2 comments

  • Wow, this poem is so touching.

    Saumya
  • Wow, this poem is so touching.

    Saumya

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