May. 20th, 2017




by Shailja Pate

*Shailja Patel

I loved this so much I went to look for the rest of it:

“Dreaming in Gujarati”

by Shailja Patel

The children in my dreams
speak in Gujarati
turn their trusting faces to the sun
say to me
care for us nurture us
in my dreams I shudder and I run.

I am six
in a playground of white children
Darkie, sing us an Indian song!
in a roomful of elders
all mock my broken Gujarati
English girl!

Twelve, I tunnel into books
forge an armor of English words.
Eighteen, shaved head
combat boots -
shamed by masis
in white saris
neon judgments
singe my western head.
Mother tongue.
tongue of the mother
I murder in myself.

Through the years I watch Gujarati
swell the swaggering egos of men
mirror them over and over
at twice their natural size.
Through the years
I watch Gujarati dissolve
bones and teeth of women, break them
on anvils of duty and service, burn them
to skeletal ash.
Words that don’t exist in Gujarati :

English rises in my throat
rapier flashed at yuppie boys
who claim their people “civilized” mine.
Thunderbolt hurled
at cab drivers yelling
Dirty black bastard!
Force-field against teenage hoods
F****ing Paki bitch!
Their tongue - or mine?
Have I become the enemy?

my father speaks Urdu
language of dancing peacocks
rosewater fountains
even its curses are beautiful.
He speaks Hindi
suave and melodic
earthy Punjabi
salty rich as saag paneer
coastal Kiswahili
laced with Arabic,
he speaks Gujarati
solid ancestral pride.
Five languages
five different worlds
yet English
before white men
who think their flat cold spiky words
make the only reality.

Words that don’t exist in English:

If we cannot name it
does it exist?
When we lose language
does culture die? What happens
to a tongue of milk-heavy
cows, earthen pots
jingling anklets, temple bells,
when its children
grow up in Silicon Valley
to become

Then there’s American:
Kin'uh get some service?
Dontcha have ice?
May I have please?
Ben, mane madhath karso?
Tafadhali nipe rafiki
Donnez-moi, s'il vous plait
Puedo tener…..
Hello, I said can I get some service?!
Like, where’s the line for Ay-mericans
in this goddamn airport?
Words that atomized two hundred thousand Iraqis:
Didja see how we kicked some major ass in the Gulf?
Lit up Bagdad like the fourth a’ July!
Whupped those sand-niggers into a parking lot!

The children in my dreams speak in Gujarati
bright as butter
succulent cherries
sounds I can paint on the air with my breath
dance through like a Sufi mystic
words I can weep and howl and devour
words I can kiss and taste and dream
this tongue
I take back.
akaniffer reblogged your post and added:

I I think this is my favorite story of yours yet. Why? Maybe because I like bagpipes, maybe because I’m well on my way to an age of Very Few Fucks Left to Give. But also, how cool that you live in a Yurt at appropriate times of the yearend Farmbaby, at age 3 is already lauded for her “keen eye and clear sense of things”Heck, my 5 sons were well-educated in “The Way of The Sword”, but I bet they could make do with a tomahawk…..

Dad like, never had any fucks in the first place, though, so. I don’t know if it’s a function of age in his case. He’s always relied on unnervingness and speed to avoid repercussions from lack of conformity, and my mother, fortunately for him, has mostly found it endearing. (Mom also has never had a surfeit of fucks to give in her life; she remains legendary among her grad school compatriots for knitting instead of taking notes in lectures that didn’t contain anything she felt needed to be written down. Today she’s on her way to a historians’ conference, and was this morning deciding which knitting project to bring. “There’s a chance of up to two hours’ knitting time, here,” she said seriously, debating between a sock and a sweater with a horsie on it that she’s knitting for the southern niece. “She wanted a sweater that was pink and had a horse on it, and I debated making the horse pink, but decided instead to make the sky pink. I almost wish I’d gone with the horse, though.” She had the whole front of the sweater done, and I wanted to take a picture but she wouldn’t let me because she hadn’t outlined it yet, “it doesn’t look that good,” which is patently untrue. The real request was for a sweater with a sea turtle on the back, but Mom vetoed this because the child cannot see the back of her own sweater; it will be a separate sweater, and she’s still finding the perfect sea turtle pattern for it. This mania for sweaters with pictures on them is something I wish I could exploit– Mom, can you knit *me* a sweater with a pony on it?– but I haven’t the heart to horn in on the pink-horse-sweater production like that. Hell, though, I’d wear a sweater with a pink horse on it daily, are you kidding?)

Re: yurt: A couple years back it wasn’t sure my sister and her husband were going to be able to get the current farm which they’d been trying to buy for a couple of years, and I’d been coming to help out and staying at our parents’ house (since they and Farmbaby were living in a 2-room shack) but it was 10 miles distant, and I was spending a lot of time and gas driving back and forth, and if they had to move to a different farm it might be even more distant, and I decided that no matter what, I was going to have my own guest-bedroom wherever they went as long as they had a yard. So I had a friend who does that sort of thing a lot build me a yurt. (He was already building a smallish one for his teenage daughter to use while camping, so I asked him if he’d make one like it for me, and so he did them both at once and saved on effort that way.) 

Mine’s a twelve-footer, all-canvas, plywood center ring, hollow 2x4 door frame with a canvas flap door and lath lattice, with a steel cable top band and polypro ropes otherwise (belly band and roof-holding-down band) – so, more “natural” than a lot of the plastic-and-metal kits on the market, and undeniably handmade, but not really a traditional ger by any means. 

Mostly, though, I’ve just really wanted a yurt for a long time, and it was a good excuse to get one. My sister and her husband did get the farm after all (with help from numerous state and private agencies, a whole lot of paperwork, and a lot of hustle and angst), and they have a perfectly serviceable guest bedroom, as well as several spaces that could fairly easily be renovated into serviceable additional guest quarters. But I got my yurt that I wanted, and I’m going to set it up today, Dad has time to help me and has already cut me a bunch of new, better lath to replace the cracked ones from last season. I won’t have time to paint the lath like I wanted to, but I’m not all that fussed about it. Maybe this year I can get a real door, but I’m also not fussed about that.

After all, now I’ll have a hatchet to deter intruders. Last year, all I had was a baseball bat. Moving up in the world. 

Hey y’all so @senator-organa is the bestest person in the whole wide universe and she let me read an epub of the book and there’s SO MUCH GOOD STUFF I WANNA SHARE/POINT OUT. Spoilers ho below the cut!

Keep reading
sister making dinner. uninspired and tired, she finally managed to come up with the idea of mac and cheese with leeks. she looked at her assembled ingredients, and said, “that’s a lot of carbs and fat…” and I thought what she said next was, “Guess I’ll have to go hard on the salad greens.” 

I liked the phrasing and laughed at her uncharacteristic use of jargon, and she eventually poked her head around the kitchen doorway and said “… what?”

“Go hard on the salad greens,” I said.

Bewildered, she finally said, “I said, go harvest some salad greens”… because of course that’s where she gets them, not from the store, and I was like, ok, that makes more sense, but it is also a much less colorful way of putting it.



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