There is no garden there. A year from now, my father says he will look at the roses, think of me, see me, and feel me there next to him. Wherever I have gone, I have taken the souvenir of his presence with me. His nishani has made me cautious of what true luxuries are. A conversation where you can physically feel your nishani leaving your body in-between the long pauses, their laughter, and their thoughts is the kind of luxury that has kept my father alive. It has protected him from my mother’s curses, her evil thoughts, and hypocrisy. To her, my sister and I are burdens. Over the years, she would often tell my father, she wishes she would have never brought us into the world --a daughter is a curse. In front of us, she would speak her curses to him. She wanted him to see us as curses. She wanted him to see their son was the only good thing that has ever happened to them. He never made me feel like a curse, he loved me. He loved my sister too. He still loves us.
When I use the word, Nishani, there is a visible air between me and the word, the word forms a presence when it is said. It proves to me that languages have borders and bridges. In English, the essence of the word seemed impossible to capture until my father told me —the roses in his garden are my nishani, my presence. The word itself transformed, and the meaning of the word moved past the borders of Punjabi. Nishani migrated into English, the way my parents migrated to America in the 90s. Nishani can be directly translated to mean keepsake or souvenir. I still see the nishani of things to be keepsakes or souvenirs. But now, in English, nishani means the presence of something, someplace, or someone. The word “presence” captures the essence of this Punjabi word perfectly. When I witnessed this transformation, I kept seeing it out loud. I had to make sense of the word’s migration.
The souvenir of my presence, meri nishani can be found in my father’s garden.
I can be found in my father’s garden.
The souvenir of my presence, my presence can be found.
My nishani is in my father’s garden.
I am in my father’s garden.