Remapping Home:
Dislocation, Exile and the Self


Reshmi Dutt

Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas

Copyright © 2001 by Reshmi Dutt, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

  1. The old red house is hunching back like a fish just caught, gasping to breathe. The house has been red for many years now, red like blood -- dry in the air. The color fades every three years. Bricks hang like old skin. Shrubs droop from the edges of the balcony, and under the thick iron curved railings crows have begun to build their nests again. Green paint is stripping from the large wooden door, but my father says we'll have to wait until next summer. So, we wait. And watch the colors fade like denim. Early morning, when the sun slants across the ceiling, forming thin lines like the strings of a guitar, and the heavy breeze coming through the large wooden windows moves the fan in a light motion, sparrows chirp from the nests they have made on the fan blades. They are afraid to fall. They are hungry and cold and it's winter. The rays of the sun make them shiver and as they flutter, white and brown feathers shaped like commas descend on my unmade bed.

  2. Our house is not very far from the main road. The humming has begun. My mother is still asleep, her arms crossed on one side, her hair all sprawled on the pillow, and perhaps her eyes closely shut, forming thin marks of wrinkles on her eyes. She looks as if she'll wake up any minute, but she doesn't. As the sun tries to penetrate through the little aperture in the window, my mother lifts her arms to cover her eyes. And I can already hear the morning trams dragging their wheels across the tracks. I can already hear a few shops lifting their steel shutters to start the day. I can hear my father turning the crispy pages of the morning newspaper. His fingers have smudges of black print by now.

  3. My father has placed his one hand under his head, as he balances the newspaper on his stomach. His glasses have become loose -- he uses his nose to keep his glasses from falling. He keeps his feet exposed to the sun, rubbing them against each other to keep the sun from heating the skin. I hate the sun. It makes me tired, like dry leaves that collapse after the monsoons are over. That's why I have all the shades down in my room. I like the darkness. I like to dream, and I like the clouds. I like to walk on cement as the rain splashes on my feet. I like the smell of wet clay, when the cold wind begins to blow across my breasts right before the thunderstorm. I like the clashing sounds and then the lightning like arrows that spread across the sky. I like to walk on grass as drops of cold dew settle on my toes; I shiver. And I like the starched collar and the blue, striped tie my father wears to work. I can hear my mother in her room. She is awake now. My father is getting ready to put the newspaper aside and rush to the bathroom to take a cold shower. And I'm watching the thin row of ants making their way to my closet. Like an army wearing red coats.

  4. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, dead faces blur my vision. I don't want my people to die. Then I think of my father. What would it be like if my father were dead? My mother called the other day and said that my father is not well, but didn't name his sickness. Just said he is going to be seventy soon. I was not at all concerned about his sickness, but kept thinking about the horoscope my grandma specially got made for my father, on a large yellow paper with thin red horizontal lines indicating month, years and significant events. My father's horoscope ended at age seventy-four, and I kept counting how many more years he can still live -- live for me, with me -- before he disappears and I completely break down.

  5. A thought paused and then sat in a clustered corner. It's not him I would miss, but his large shadow over me would linger like the summer breeze that caresses my shoulder and circles me with its large arms. The force of his breath, the tightening of his eyebrows, the heat of his palms and the hidden few tears when I left cannot be captured by a photograph. Who would keep his glasses? Me or my elder sister? It's true I never liked them, but I wanted to see men and women and my ancestors sitting coiled in their own branches through my father's dusty glasses.

  6. I asked my mother, once, I think I was just eight then, what would it be like if Father were dead? She pretended not to hear me, but I knew she couldn't have missed those words. Words I had uttered like two swords hanging crossed on the wall -- their shadows pointing towards my mother's heart. That evening, as I rested my back against the kitchen wall, stiff like a teacher's new chalk, I heard my mother scream, "I have a crazy child!" Her voice lashed against the window, bursting and cracking like a delicate china cup. Then the echoes dissolved completely in the cold night air, except my mother's cold stares everytime I crossed her path. I felt a block of wood being shoved down my throat.

  7. I don't want my father to die. I don't want my mother to think that she held an evil child in her womb for nine months. It's a fear that chokes me now and then. I don't want to lift my hands any more to cover my ears. I don't want my mother to scream that I'm crazy. I don't want to hear her voice vibrating against my thin, pale skin. I don't want to talk any more. I just want to dream alone. In silence. I want my silence to tell my story. Stories of my father cooking stew without salt, stories of my mother knitting over-sized sweaters for us all winter long, sweatersthat we couldn't wear that winter; they itched against my skin, leaving dark oval marks like over-ripe tomatoes. Stories of my crazy dreams counting ants all night as they made their way to my grandma's closet, stories of me dancing in circles in the dark, falling and bleeding until blood dried on my knees like faint lines on a map. And I danced all night until morning broke and I fell asleep as the first rays of the sun hit my eyes. This time my father appears in my morning dream. I always dream of my father in the morning. Mother said that morning dreams are never fake. They are very real, like a hungry child who anxiously waits for warm milk to moisten his throat.

  8. But I still thought about my father. Dead. Cold. Blue.

  9. When I was young, I always thought my father was brown. But brown didn't last too long on him. It was too dull and lifeless, like a hot summer night when leaves didn't sway. But one day I saw him coming back from work -- his black leather bag hanging from his shoulders, his shoes brushing against the ground making the dust swirl around him until dust had covered his body and almost made him invisible. Invisible like the blue, the color of the sky on a cold, cold morning before frost can settle on grass. The blue that was see-through, the blue that my mother used on white clothes to make them whiter, and the blue through which I could see very far, where the roads curved until I saw the dimly lit lamp-post standing alone.

  10. Later, when I told my mother how I thought father was blue, she seemed puzzled, but anxious. Then she said, "Do not let your imaginations run wild. Imaginations are like weeds. They grow and spread too fast; like conversations. They end, yet they don't." I couldn't understand what she meant. I was just twelve. Young, pale and thin with big bushy hair, round lips, perfect teeth, and large brown eyes. Nothing like the way my mother looked. And then my mother abruptly left to see my grandma. She didn't come back for almost a month. But I still wondered about what she said long after she caught the last train and left us for days. I wondered how she knew that imaginations can run wild. Did she ever imagine? Did she ever dream?

  11. Mother says that I'll have to grow up one day, soon. Mother also says that my father will have to sell the house one day, before it collapses. Repainting the house is becoming a routine. They want to break all routines. They want to build a new house. They want to paint the house blue. They want to forget the red. They want to forget the past. I don't know why. I remember everything from my past. The past clings to me like a feather caught in my skirt by the wind that suddenly stopped. I remember the smell of hot oatmeal on winter mornings; I remember the white-washed walls, the odor of lime before the house was painted red; I remember my first hand-painted bicycle that belonged to my sister; I remember the English coin my father gave me after I polished his black shoes for many hours. Then I remember seeing the reflection of my face on his shoes shining just like the English coin; I remember the smell of starch on my blue school skirt every Monday morning, and I remember the dog that cried all night before grandma died. But then, memories become too heavy, not like a burden, but more like an old piece of furniture, essential and lonely. That's when I want to get rid of my old memories and move on to see new countries, new faces, collect fresh new memories like souvenirs.

  12. And then I stop remembering and keep staring at the white walls. It has become a routine. Staring at these walls, I fall asleep sometimes. As soon as I fall asleep -- memories start rewinding again. And then I dream. Real dreams. Dreams of me growing up, my dark hair curling at the edges, my mother screaming, her voice screeching like an early morning crow, and me holding a cold red apple between my teeth, standing still against a freshly-painted wall, watching thick smoke rising from the chimneys. I tilt my head and watch the smoke dancing in the air, until they all disappear. And then I see my mother once more, standing in the middle of the courtyard, surrounded by her plants, adjusting her sari, as my dad carries her suitcase out into the taxi. This time she is leaving with her old brown leather suitcase to see her mother again. I want to go with her, but it's too late. My suitcase is still unpacked. I somehow never get to leave.

  13. I always see my mother in my dreams, seldom my father, my many past lovers, my sister. I always see these mothers -- my grandmother, my great grandmother, my great great grandmother. With large bulging eyes, they are all watching me from above. They all want me to leave the house, teach me how to pack. But nobody wants to give me a map or a destination. They want me to trace my own map, my own destiny.

  14. I don't want to remember anything, any more. I don't want to dream. Dreams of my father selling our house, dreams of summer mornings and walking on heated bricks that burned my feet, and winter nights when I want to cover my toes with thick cotton sheets because I can't bear the cold, and dreams of me leaving home for a long time. I always thought dreams to be thick like the roots of trees -- with a history. Mother said, though, dreams are like fine glass. They crack too fast.

  15. Mother said dreams are useless and time-consuming, like crossword puzzles. Unconnected. Every time I shared my dreams with her, she seemed disturbed; her face changed colors -- the color of the sky, first like almond clay, then like muddy waters -- before a long-waiting thunderstorm was about to begin. A thunderstorm that would momentarily shake her, bite her, crush her like hard ice into pieces. And I sat alone consoling myself, humming John Lennon's Woman -- woman I can hardly express, my mixed emotions at your thoughtlessness, or was it thoughtfulness? I can't remember. Maybe she was afraid of my dreams. She said there were no cure for my dreams. My mother wanted to believe I was a normal child with an extraordinary imagination -- or did she think I was just crazy? One day, while frying eggs, she did tell me that she was tired of my crazy dreams. I was a crazy child with a crazy imagination. This needs to stop! I believed every word she uttered. I was a crazy child. My mother was damn right. Every time our eyes met, I knew she was crazy too -- crazy after all these years of feeding us, walking by our shadows, tall shadows, little shadows that blocked her way. Shadows of our strawberry-patterned dresses that brushed on her smooth face, shadows of us, me and my sister holding her hands, desperately wanting to be free -- like birds. Weightless. And then my father's very large shadow shaped like a sky that she could never cross. She called it love, intense love, burning love, love that never vaporized.

  16. I remember my mother sometimes kissing me at night, hugging me until I could feel her heartbeat racing with mine, and whispering in my ears, "You are my mad child. You are me. You are my madness." I saw my reflection in my mother's eyes as she held me close in her arms. Reflections of my fears swelling, and then releasing white fumes that enlarged my guilt. And my mother silently watched the contours of my face as she rocked me, humming to herself a tune I had often heard her whistle as she brushed the fine dust off the furniture in our living room. Her humming slowly dissolved as I fell asleep in her tender arms.

  17. I think of my mother often as I sit by my kitchen table, watching Minnesota welcome another season of Fall. Crimson-colored leaves covering the grass in the backyard. Mother is probably making tea for my father. Or maybe she is sitting by the window waiting for my father to come home from work. Sometimes, when the summers became hot, and sweat driped down my cheeks, mother would buy me mango popsicles. I licked and licked until my tongue completely changed color. It would become so orange that people thought I had painted my tongue. Then I would show my tongue to the girls. Some would call me Kali, while others would run away.

  18. Today, as I sit by the window, I can still feel the chill of the mango popsicles on my tongue, but I cannot remember the faces of those girls. I remember the names, but not the faces. Does distance kill memory? I try to remember the colors they wore when we climbed trees and picked apples; colors on their faces when my mother caught us all naked, touching each other's bodies to feel the difference. I only remember the color of my name. It was red, very red, the red with a thin black border that hung from the mango tree shaped like the sign of always.

  19. But I get all lost when I can't seem to find a color that fits my sister. My sister had long, dark, curly hair that always shone. Sometimes I thought she was a mixture of blue and green, the kind of candy wrapper you would see inside the glass case of Lalu's shop, the candies that taste sweet, so sweet that you have to close your eyes like a prayer to stop your teeth from crashing. But then the color of her name turned orange for a while, not exactly the color of fresh carrots, but close to our flag that had saffron on it. But the colors of her name changed so many times after that, that I lost track, I lost track of her, her clothes, her smell, her electric blue-black hair, her polished shoes. But we always wanted the same things: the same furniture, the same plate, the same pillow, the same fabric. When grandma died, we both wanted her chair shaped like a bassoon.

  20. Then my thoughts get disconnected. My sister disappears from my thoughts.

  21. It's already mid-afternoon and I can hear many voices coming from the main street. Children are coming back home from school, holding hands and feeding birds bread crumbs from their lunch boxes. Young lovers removing the thin red shells of peanuts as they walk hand in hand, dressed in bright clothes, perhaps going to the movies. My mother is in the kitchen, transferring fish from the frying pan to a closed stainless steel container for my father. She is singing to herself -- I can't hear the words; only the tune strikes my ears. It is a song of love, my father loving her, she loving my father, they loving us. She is happy, her face shines like new salt. I watch her fingers dance in rhythms as she bends forward in the sink scrubbing the burnt stains in the frying pan. Her hands are moving in circles, gently across the surface, and I imagine my mother making love to my father. Or maybe it's the other way around. My father making love to my mother. What does it take to love so much for so many years, I wonder. And then my thoughts overlap, like a hopeless cross-connection on a telephone. Hawkers outside are screaming. They insist that the fruits are fresh, the mangoes in their carts are so sweet, the best in town. Then their voices become faint. Their carts are still full. They choke thinking about their wives and children waiting for them to return home so that they can buy some rice. Their voices slowly dissolve in the air with the humming of the buses and trams passing by. Dozens of people rush past the hawkers, missing their faces scared with pain.

  22. Slowly the afternoon ends and the sky looks clear and white like cellophane paper. I see birds retracing home in a big bunch. Sometimes they look like a dark woolen blanket with tiny holes across the sky. I wait for my father to come back. I wait for my mother to wash her face and tidy her hair before she starts knitting again, I wait for the night to begin so that I can go up to the terrace and spot some constellations. I wait for the clouds to blanket my views like thick milk. I like to wait and never get tired of waiting.

  23. Why do I feel ashamed when I see my own people? The same people I saw everywhere, in the municipal buses, black-stained railway trains, rickshaws, in front of the corporation house, electricity office, post-office.

  24. My madness has taken a new shape. I've finally escaped from familiar surroundings. I'm a stranger here. Nobody knows that I'm crazy. I somehow don't seem to fit anywhere and nobody seems to find the missing puzzle piece. They all tell me to go home. Where is home? I ask them. Why do I feel ashamed when I see my own people? I ask them. That's when they seem to get uptight. That's when I begin to sense that they all think I am completely mad. That's when I know they have no answer. I tell them, I've grown fond of my madness over the years. They seem to stare at me for a while, frozen. When I leave their rooms, they rush to open the windows to breathe some fresh air.

  25. I tell them that sometimes I dream of being back on the over-crowded streets of Chowringee, people rushing from all sides, pushing me, stepping on me, knocking my brown leather side-bag to walk by me. I feel the elbows, but I never see the faces. I watch the hawkers on the streets sprawled with plastic toys, smuggled perfumes, foreign jackets, fake Nike shoes. People bargaining like mad cats, bursting into fights. And then the skinny khaki police running to the scenes to stop the howling. And I just watch, as I circle my way around the mob to go past them to the man who sits in front of the Calcutta Museum. He has been sitting there for years now, wearing his dusty dhoti, torn rubber chappals and a green parrot with a red hunched beak picking cards for our future. I get tempted, tempted to know my future, and ask the man,

  26. "Can you tell my future?"

  27. "Yes! Yes! Give one rupee and fifty paisa to the bird and she 'll pick up the card that holds your future."

  28. I shove my hands deep inside my purse and count coins, one by one, leaving just fifty paisa for my bus ride home. As soon as I drop the money on the cloth spread in front of me, the parrot forces himself out of the cage, picks the coins one by one, gripping them tightly in his beak, and brings them to his master. And then, I feel my heart collapse. I watch the bird make noises, like eggs cracking, crushing. Almost cursing me, warning me as if the long waiting storm were about to begin. The parrot flaps his wings rapidly. He picks up an old cardboard card from the pile of about a thousand cards stacked in front of him.

  29. A somber look, and then a lean smile breaks at the corner of his mouth, as the man holds the card in his hands, reading every scribbled line on the card. And I wait, the longest wait in my life. "You'll cross oceans, seas, and will never come back," he says as he rips the thin cardboard piece in half, and then another half before he tosses it in a pile with others. I knew he was lying. They always lie. That's what my mother said. But this time I was afraid of his terrible lies. I felt every muscle in my stomach contract, then release energy like water from a cracked pipe in full force, that gushes from all sides.

  30. I haven't seen my mother for years now. I talk to her in my sleep. I tell my mother now that nobody understands my unsettled emotions. She asks me why? I've no answer to her question. I tell my mother that I make people crazy around me. I've no past, no present, no future. I have no home. That's when I begin to think of my escape -- my migration to America, an escape from my past, an escape to start a new life. And I want to start all fresh, all transformed.

  31. I saw my mother in my dreams the other night. Age has made her beautiful, shiny like polished brass. Her dark curly hair, all pulled back in a neat bunch, a red dot in the middle of her forehead glowing. She was sitting on the bassoon chair my grandma left, that both my sister and I desperately wanted. Now the chair is hers. We are gone. But she asked me in my dreams when am I coming back. Her voice echoed a few times and I woke up. I don't remember anything after that. I never told my mother that part of the story, of never coming back. I could never keep secrets, and my mother said, "never tell all your secrets." I wanted to claim just one story for my own: the story of never coming back. That's when I ask myself if I have really transformed. It's a fearful suspicion that haunts now and then. But I still wait to find out.

  32. As I walk around the city, as I walk around the university campus, I see my fellow Indians. By their looks, I can tell that some have metamorphosed, and I smile at them. Others I watch as I pass them on the sidewalks, hesitant to talk since the freshness on their faces is so soft, so raw. I'm afraid to touch them. They are still wearing their Mafatlal tailored pants, short collar shirts, Bata shoes -- all stiff and new. I pretend not to know them. Afraid to talk in case they utter their heavily accented English in public. I'm not afraid of them. Why should I be? They are the only ones who still pronounce my name right. I'm afraid of myself. I keep thinking of my accent, my thick Indian accent coming back if I talk to them. I keep thinking of home. I keep thinking of veiling my pain. Pain of not knowing who I am, not knowing what I want any more. Pain that has left me stiff like a cane with fear of not being wanted when I return home. I keep thinking of Britanina biscuits, the sweet round ones smelling like coconut, and I ache. I keep thinking of trains and my overnight journeys, rocking and sleeping. I don't talk to the freshly-arrived Indians because I don't want to think any more of my past, and they are my only connection to my past. I just want to pretend not to know them. I wait for them to become addicted to America and change. I want them all to become crazy, so that I can share my bruises with them.

  33. How do I explain I have no home. I've always been crazy in search of a home -- a place where I belong. Chinua Achebe once said: "The world is like a mask dancing; if you want to see it well, you do not stand in one place." Haven't I seen enough of the world yet? I wonder. Where should I go next?

  34. America is sticky like superglue, and I am suspended in the middle. When the breeze is heavy, I swing. I feel dizzy. Sometimes I swing back to the old brick red house, cold walls, cold floor, my mother knitting, my father resting on the recliner with his glasses on his stomach. Birds dropping twigs everywhere. I want to stay a little longer, but I swing back again. Back in my apartment where the walls are too white, too fragile. They vibrate.

  35. I can't see the other side anymore. I wait for the breeze to swing me again. Until then, I dream. I wonder what my mother dreams? Does she dream of love? Or does she dream of me -- her crazy baby -- never coming back.

  36. Mother always said, "Imaginations can grow wild like weeds." I never quite understood what it meant. Then. Has America transformed me, or is this a dream like my mother's fast-growing weeds? I lie through my teeth when I say, "I'm so Indian." And then my grandfather's husky voice strikes my ear -- "Child, we can teach you how to pack, but cannot tell you where to go or how to trace a map." Even in my dreams these words send back haunting echoes. I have forgotten to trace the map of my home. Home has become an obscure, unfamiliar word to my ear. Home sounds more foreign to me than the foreign land in which I now reside.

  37. Every time I go back home, I see new children in the family. My sister's daughter, my cousin's son, new-born twins in the neighborhood. Then there are others -- all grown up and squinting at me to find shades of familiarity. They all hide behind their mother's sarees and peep reluctantly to see this stranger. These same children, when I left home for the first time, wouldn't leave my side. Cried until their eyes bulged out like red tulips. As I give each of them their presents I have brought for them from America, they are still shy to take their gifts from me. They are afraid to come close to me. I'm not one of them. Any more. They don't cry for me -- any more. I don't smell like them -- any more. And then I think of having my own children some day. American by birth. Indian by origin. How would I explain to them what it means to be an Indian, when I would have lost everything by then? Every essence of the culture -- the smell, the clothes, the accent. Will they ever bond with their cousins? Will they speak in Bengali as fluently as my sister's daughter? Will they really feel ashamed to speak Bengali with American accents? If people mock them, how will I ever forgive myself? Maybe then I will be forced to confront my mass of faults -- for willingly dislocating myself from my own people in search of a new home.

  38. I imagine my children to be like Mrs. Mustafi's daughters, Anwesa and Tantushri. "Beautiful names," I said. Mrs. Mustafi quickly replied, "Their names were given by my mother. These names are too complicated for here. So we call them Ann and Tina instead. They are easier to pronounce, you know." And I wanted to shake her until she heard the echoes of her voice. I wanted to cry on her face, but I was too embarrassed. I knew she was working from a different logic, a logic that seperated us vastly. So I kept thinking of my sister's child Bushka and aching. My children will never be their siblings. Foreign cousins, maybe, who will be visiting for the summers.

  39. Like my foreign cousins did from London, who visited once every two years with large suitcases full of glamorous toys and clothes. They were given the best rooms in our house, while Sahana, Tutu, Mithu and all my other cousins who lived in India left their spacious rooms, and made large beds on the floor for themselves. While we drank water from the tap, my grandma boiled water for them in large stainless steel containers to kill the germs. We were immune to germs, while they were weak and tender like violets that grew in my mother's garden. They needed to be protected from impurities.

  40. Now, when I go home my mother feeds me water from an expensive filter. She doesn't want me to fall sick, and I don't have the words to explain to her how sick I am already. "Mother, treat me like everybody else, stop treating me special -- I want to feel at home." She doesn't understand my pain because I never say these words out loud. How do I explain to her that by feeding me pure distilled water she is distancing me from her -- from who I am, and giving birth to a deformed gap.

  41. Over time, this large gap will grow larger -- so large that my children will have to choose one side of the gap to hang onto. And they will quickly lose sight of the other side. I, too, will have to make a choice, a choice full of compromises, a clenching pain to remain in the land where I was born, and a haunted wanting to spend my youth in a foreign country -- where I will always be a foreigner, a second-class citizen. But I still have to be here to guard my children, and tell them stories of who they really are, so that they can begin to make sense of their history, their past, their mother, their grandmother and great grand mother, and see what I see -- my ancestors are all sitting coiled around large branches of a hundred-year-old banyan tree.

  42. And I want to tell my mother now that all this is not a wild dream any more. Her grandchildren will always be extra members in the family, and she will have to provide for them distilled water -- for they will be as weak and brittle as china. But I will not let my mother make special beds for them. They will sleep with all their other siblings, as their bodies would brush against each other, and they will all scream to fit into the large blanket with tiny dark holes. Giggling -- they will all fall asleep.

  43. And as my children sleep, I would think of my foreign cousins who never felt a part of our family. They were always visitors who spoke laughable Bengali, and English with such a strong British accent that we stumbled to understand. But I longed to speak like them; I would eat half my words so that people would think I'm foreign. The word foreign was a longing. Then. I wanted to come to America. On the television screen and the glossy pages of the magazines, America looked like cubes of diamond with golden borders. Tall buildings, colorful people -- all smiling. Little did I know then that I would not be smiling for too long; I would quickly see the black and white shades of my new-found home. And then would arise a desire, an ache turning into numbness to reclaim a lost identity. Perhaps lost while trying to pick up the thick American accent, so that I could fit in. Belong somewhere. Feel a part of the culture that I had only seen in the late-night Friday movies from Hollywood where a million lights dazzled, and made nighttime look like an extraordinary day, and everybody spoke with an enviable accent -- thick, slanted and nasal.

  44. I didn't pick up much of the American accent, but that summer, as I talked to my cousins in India, they laughed hysterically. I was speaking differently. I had lost my Indian accent. But I hadn't picked the American yet. I never have. I just kept losing and losing and becoming all scrambled and tossed, like my first room-mate's clothes in her drawers where blues and reds and greens hung out together to form patterns of a flag, shapeless, and belonging to no country. I somehow could not comprehend how all my longing could come to such a sudden stop -- a halt that I hadn't anticipated this quick. What I called home for so long was only in my wild imagination -- and I let it grow like wild weeds, as my mother said many years ago.

  45. The day I left, a feeling of strangeness pulverized me. I was starting a new life, with a brand-new suitcase, new clothes, new shoes, a new leather handbag that my parents had bought for me from New Market on Lindsey Street. Along with all the new clothes in my suitcase, my mother stuffed some of my favorite salwars. "In the summers, when it is warm in Minnesota, you can wear these, Reshmi," she said. The only essence of Indian clothing in my suitcase was these few pieces of Salwar Kameez. I stayed in London for two weeks before I came to America. In London, I left the last layer of my Indianness -- my Indian clothes.

Back to Table of Contents, Vol. 6 Issues 1 - 2
Back to Jouvert Main Page