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.
I was creating a dialogue between me (the American child of Punjabi immigrants) and the woman (who happens to be Punjabi.) I wanted to call myself Punjabi, I wanted to belong to Punjab, but I was born in another country, to another country. I will never be a true Punjabi woman. This is the truth. I have not suffered alongside the Punjabi people during 1947, 1984, and even now, as Punjab watches her modern day Bhagat Singhs’ run through her guallian, alleyways. I am an American born woman who writes about Punjab, through her elders. I have the privilege to say the unsaid things that true Punjabi women keep tucked inside. I can say anything about Punjab without worrying about being touched. I can say it because my Americanness can protect me. I can say that some Punjabi parents deserve slow deaths and pain of a thousand bellyaches for not treating their daughters and sons equally. I can tell the world that my older brother is a piece of shit with unforgiving hands. I can say these things because I am an American woman who happens to be from a Punjabi family. I can say it.
During my teenage years, my mother would also tell me, listen to your elders. By listening to my elders, I started to see how the Punjabi people live and breathe poetry. I started writing down every word that my elders spoke to me. I stole their words as keepsakes. I needed a souvenir from the conversations which compelled me to question my relationship with language. I kept their words in journals and voice memos on my iphone. I needed to come back to their words, and to unknowingly get closer to the nishani of language. To this day, my old iphones are filled with recordings of words and voices that do not belong to me. These words and voices will never meet the page. I cannot write these stories, they do not belong to me. I can only write about how these stories transformed me. How my elders transform me. How language transformed me. How language continues to transform me. Of all my mothers curses, I am glad that I finally understood the meaning of “listening to your elders.” By listening to my elders, I was able to open myself up. I can now see the invisible hand drawing me towards the nishani of language. I can see the invisible hands, everywhere.
As for what I was opening myself upfor was the truth. I was opening myself up to see that my first language did not abandon me. I was the one that did the abandoning. I cut myself from Punjabi in American schools, I did not wish to see the poetry in her. I did not wish to show the others my tongue tricks. I did not give myself permission to make others sweat with my poetic mother tongue. But I cut myself deeper when I ignored my mother’s curses about what it means to remain loyal to your first language. And to see your mother for who she is. My mother has been and still is the type of woman to show you where her loyalties lay. My mother has caused me to bring myself to my knees, the way Punjabi has brought me to my knees in