Flumes Vol. 5: Issue 1, Summer 2020 - Page 55

Mere hakh hai, ma boli nu farhhun

It is my right to grab hold of my mother tongue

For the longest time, I was comfortable bending over for English. In my bending, I lost my chance at knowing my asali ma. Here’s the dilemma, a bilingual writer will either lose or choose to abandon their mother tongue, and the details of this crucial decision are reserved for the ears of the writer and her mother tongue. Above the concerns of readers and critics, a bilingual writer has the authority to grant herself permission to migrate into another language as she sees fit. If she chooses to invite the world in, then the world can exist on the sideline, but not between the writer and her language

On the sideline, the world can watch as the writer creates a dialogue between herself and the language. However, the world does not have permission to exist between the writer and her ma boli, mother tongue. Language is private and intimate. In an ideal world, the decision to migrate into a new language should be a matter of privacy in which the writer is given space to exist in whichever language she chooses. Yet, it seems a bilingual writer needs permission to abandon her mother tongue, to migrate into another language, and to beg for solitude while doing so.

But I am not the kind of woman that begs. If language is a skin, as Roland Barthes puts it then my skin is Punjabi. And, I do not like it when others touch my skin.

Punjabi Di Nishani Mere Vich St.

(The Nishani of Punjabi Was Inside of Me.)

O’ Bullah Shah, where have you felt her?

The night she came to you---

she came for me too.

Has she gone to Kashmir, Lahore, Punjab?

They say wherever she goes, she leaves

her nishani.

O’Bullah, tell them to stop.

She showed herself to me,

I will not return, her.

I lost track of her once,

I am not her enemy,

do you trust me, Bullah?

Can I have her--

in this lifetime?

I will not return her until I see you.

I will not abandon her.

I felt the altar form--

her heavy body