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Confessions of a Second-Generation Immigrant

Ria Chakraborty

I.

At fourteen, I peered at my parents clasping the dog-eared letters
from the homeland with a searing yearning, grieving for a bustling town,
the threadbare memory of the country fleetingly flailing in the rearview:
a loss I never quiet learnt how to mourn.
A colossal continent undone from my caramel skin; despite their mindless presumptions,
I hadn’t inherited a throbbing, reminiscent ache for the motherland.

II.

At fifteen, I exasperatedly attempted to stifle
the idiosyncrasies of my culture: abashedly concealing my upturned palm,
tinted yellow from the turmeric which gloriously gleamed in the
recipes of homemade delicacies scrawled on a wrinkled, milk-hued sheet of paper
in my grandmother’s handwriting: her legacy, inked in a language
that was deemed my mother-tongue and yet, remained a taciturn stranger to me.
Wresting the crevices of my soul that were uniquely mine with a
desire to become more palatable, I hurled the sundried, succulent gooseberry pickles
out of my lunchbox: I traded the piquant food of the Tupperware brimming with the pungent aroma
of lentil chowder, sautéed spinach, luscious curries and savoury chickpeas
for an innocuous brown paper-bag of peanut, butter and jelly sandwiches at recess,
I stripped myself of my heritage and carried the poignant souvenirs of guilt in my ribcage.

III.

At sixteen, I watched the unwieldy-seeming syllables of my name
crumble on foreign tongues and be twisted until their familiar ring waned,
making it sound nothing like the name my mother had wistfully
christened me with: after an eloquent poet residing in the country that she had left behind.
The language that I chose to articulate myself in, over my native tongue
couldn’t even bear the bulk of my name.

IV.

At seventeen, I unearthed an aureate, priceless relic from the heartland:
voice-tapes unspooling with svelte voices of my grandparents
narrating folktales, peppered with anecdotes fragrant with the scent of home,
I finally experienced the homesickness for a faraway, transatlantic country.
The velvet allure of an intricately folded sari lustrously unveiled as I draped it around myself
and I dreamily seeped into the essence of belonging.

V.

At eighteen, my fingertips skimmed over a thumbtack pinned
on the landmass of a nation marked on the map outstretched in my hands
as I meticulously perused the glorious realms of history,
the arched alcoves of geography and delved into the profound depths
of the expressive literature of the dreamland halfway across the globe that
my parents craved for.
As the cobwebs of my own visceral ignorance fell away,
I uncovered the latent yet, vibrant contours of my demeanour.
As I pieced the fragments of myself, my prismatic identity glistened radiantly;
exuding with the grandeur of my heritage and
my newly flowered, resilient sense of self shimmered with faith.

 


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