Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 - Page 52

out in public with my mother. I hated having to translate our existence to every white face. I saw my mother’s Punjabiness as a threat. In my American eyes, my mother’s punjabiness was a loaded gun, waiting to be used against her by white faces. But, I used my mother’s punjabiness against her. In my shame, I too became one of the white faces that she feared. The faces that I feared. I pulled the trigger on my mother more than once, because I lost track of Punjabi. I, the American child forced my mother to swallow her words so that my words became her voice. For my teenage years, I spoke for my mother. I did not let her bring her Punjabiness with us into public. I did not want my mother to be gawked at. I did not want to be gawked at. My impatience for Punjabi turned me into the perfect enemy. It hurts to know what I did to my mother. I forgave myself in those moments because of my mother’s curses. I kept her curses on top of my heart. The curse that I would use to forgive myself always had to do with my brother. My mother would tell me and my sister that my brother is the only thing that matters to her. It was easy to be mean to her.

Now, I try to conjure up double memories. When I look back at these years where I lost track of Punjabi, I re-create the memories into Punjabi versions. If my parents did not choose to come to America then my tongue would bend and curve to create poetry. Punjabi is poetry. And in these Punjabi versions of my memories, my mother shows me mercy. She gives me a chance to practice my Punjabiness with patience. In these Punjabi versions, I never pull the trigger on my mother.

Mein kamali ni hai, ma teri Ma hai.

Menu kamali naiyee sumjh.

Mein teri Ma hai.

Menu sakah dai kush.

Ma naiyee ida kar di

(I am not crazy, I am your mother.

Do not think of me as being crazy.

Please teach me how.

I won’t act this way.)

Nishanies control us, shape us, and they show us the things we’re meant to see, in time. However, nishanies are not trauma or bad memories. Instead, they bring us to our utmost happiness, and this kind of happiness opens up the spirit —-it guides us to the altars. In a way, a nishani is like a premonition of what is coming next, of what we need next, and what has always been inside of us waiting to be next. Nisahnies over time create invisible hands, and over time, they present themselves to us through people, places and language. An invisible hand drew me to Arabic, then Persian, then Punjabi, then Urdu, and then the nishani of language.

In 2017, I started with poetry. I did not wish to start anywhere else. If I attempted to start anywhere else then I would not find myself on the page. And, I would not find my way back to Punjabi. I sensed the nishani of language when I needed to find Punjabi texts at my university’s library. I was pukhi, hungry. At the time, I did not know what I was creating for myself or what I was opening up. Now, I am beginning to see it.

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