This South Asian childhood is bad grades getting crumpled in the trash under rotting onion skin and a feign an illness to read skip P.E. to read Mao Zedong Thought on the bench at seven am. It’s the pollution of a freezing temple basement air by voices in intonation with their caste and the odor of garam masala. It’s the Dental Hygienist placing the gurgling rod suctioning my saliva into my mouth when my jaw is too busy running through the same prayer before shloka practice. It’s being a single cell in tissue of bruised skin. It’s the knee-jerk of the Oedipal Reaction, the frantic defense of the motherland from the fatherland, and the humorous attempt of assimilation under dehumanization. It’s the sting of toothpaste while shlokas are playing as your mother cooks downstairs. It’s the mock of the woman across the street who looks everything like you, who looks nothing like you. It’s their pain; it’s knowing nothing about their pain. It’s the hemorrhaged afterbirth of the drug war. It’s flipping back between calling yourself Desi from Dravida from Kannadiga from Tamilian from Desi back to Dravida again. It’s watching Amy Dunne slit Desi’s throat in awe. It’s both the feminine and the masculine. It’s stating statelessness. It’s being the mother, the father, the infant, all at once. It’s being raised by everything and everyone.
ಯಾ ತೆರ ವಿಮೋಚನೆ ಇದು
Yā thara vimōcane idhu?
What kind of liberation is this?
(Alternative Translation, same base sentence: This is a liberation.)
In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (PDF copy, a place of white space on my hard drive), Vardaman states, “My mother is a fish” (Faulkner 28). My mother is a sword.
A benign mass blooms from one of my mother’s abdominal cavities. It is a raging clot of tissue, kicking and swelling into a dome. It feeds off its host’s energy, stretches lightning rippled across her stomach. Soon, it robs its host of almost 500 calories a day. When my mother birthed the mass, it was too parasitic to be pushed, so my mother’s trunk was split and dug free of an infant. What kind of liberation is this? Seventeen years later, it is the size of a grown human. It looks like a grown human. My mother never cut her cord; it cut her. It wonders if it pained because the umbilical latched, like a swollen hose, to a thief or because of the memories that would be robbed. This is a liberation. My mother never forgot. She never stopped loving the mass. She never bent. She was “so metal”. She was a machete on a sticky fruit-cart. She was a sword.
Right-Wing Oppressive Regimes Supported by the U.S.:
Erdogan (2010 - Present) - Turkey
House of Saud (1945 - Present) - Saudi Arabia
Operation Cyclone/Afghan Mujahideen (1979 - 1989) - Afghanistan
Erdogan (2010 - Present) - Turkey
Batista (1952 - 1959) - Cuba
Trujillo (1930 - 1961) - Dominican Republic
South African Apartheid (1948 - 1994) - South Africa
Pahlavi (1953 - 1979) - Iran
Pinochet (1973-1990) - Chile
Zia-al-Haq (1978-1988) - Pakistan
Yahya Khan (1969-1971) - Pakistan
Somozas (1936-1979) - Nicaragua
Figueres Ferrer (1948-1949) - Costa Rica
Last Military Dictatorship (1976-1983) - Argentina
Military Dictatorship (1964-1985) - Brazil
- Is that it?
- What else?
“Her-cu-les, Her-cu-les! You don’t want to be on the receiving end of this gunship, aka the Angel of Death.” - U.S. Department of Defense on February 28th, 2018 via their Twitter / “The Oriental doesn’t put the same price on life as does a westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient… Life is not important.” - General William Westmoreland / "I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place.” - Winston Churchill / “I hate Indians. They’re a beastly people with a beastly religion.” - Churchill / “They are our brothers, these freedom fighters, and we owe them our help.” - Ronald Reagan talking about his contras / “When an army unit returns from service in Iraq or Afghanistan, it barely gets a breather before it begins training for its next deployment.” - Hillary Clinton / “It is not the creation of wealth that is wrong, but the love of money for its own sake.” - Margaret Thatcher / (in a redneck drawl) “To the Ayatollahs of Iran and every terrorist you enable, listen up. You might have met our fresh-faced, flower-child president and his weak-kneed, Ivy League friends, but you haven’t met America… you don’t know the mountain men who live off the land or the brave cops who fight in the urban war zones. No, you’ve never met America, and you better pray you never do.” - Charlie Daniels in an NRA Advertisement / “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions; he had money as well.” - Margaret Thatcher / “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m president, we will attack Iran. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.” - Hillary Clinton /
Who is on the receiving end of a gunship? One recipient is just a face, two are a possible threat, three is just a band of militants, more are just a statistic. One is a target. When the U. S. put a tag on the lives of colonized people, prices fluctuating on a Keynesian level, the more lives spent, the more blood a military machine thirsts. The U. S. drew forward and lapped the shells of a nation like an ocean.
When the U.S. poured money into the hands of another vampiric dictator and sent its sons out, in boots and bazookas, to soak our soul with blood, who asked? Who’s bastards son is this bloodlust?
Whose hips crack under the weight of a nation. Who is the mother, the father, and the orphan? Who’s home is being wrecked; who is the homewrecker? My mother slumps into the couch while she watches the news. She, too, is grounded not on land.
When I was ninety, I peeled back my skin at the raised seam and drew out a limp person. Their bones still locked the same. Their energy still sank the same. In the temple hall, during the night of Shivaratri, a night of fasts and dousing a stone idol in butter and a slop of bananas to mark the lunar switch, an old woman told me that the way I sat was only for old women dealing with joint pains. I wonder how many taxi drivers and janitors she shared more than just language and pigment with. I wonder how what it felt like for “partition” to mean more than split of leathered ski, than the bar on the highway that bent towards and took her son. I wonder how many dictators she’d fanned and then spat away, how many times she’d been colonized and de-colonized and neo-colonized like the sway of the tides and what kind of liberation she’d swam and drowned towards.
Vriddhi Vinay is a poet and student of economics based in Philadelphia. She spends her time experimenting with cross-genre poetry and analyzing South Asian identity. Her work can be found online at Entropy Magazine, The Inklette Magazine, and Cosmonauts Avenue.