Winter 2011 Poetry Winner
"Non-Resident Indian" -Christopher Sweet
Memories of home displace your present
situation of life. Hardly any time is lent you
to adjust to the absence of food from
your mother’s hands.
Aalu gobi replaced with salads,
Daal and roti replaced with cheap, plastic pizza.
Your flat sings with the smuggled joy of Kishore Kumar
while outside rock ‘n’ roll screeches its presence, unwilling
to be ignored. Your mind fumbles with the new-found English, syllables
awkwardly clanging on your tongue, unlike the umbilical familiarity
of Hindi. America was different to you as a bachcha.
But you are here now, brown, desi man from Delhi,
with childhood still slightly here, and only one question
remains written over your thoughts:
What to do?
Though there are more smiles and frowns here
(Not like home at all, you think), the
clattering traffic reminds you of Chandni Chowk.
All your needs met in a roadside dhaba,
and an after-meal paan from a paanwallah,
the rattlings of thick traffic mixing with the mélange of mutters of Panjabi and Hindi.
But now the only sounds you hear are
the results of your mistake in this foreign land:
The heckle at your hesitance from behind:
“Bastard Dothead, just GO!”
Your moment of nostalgia is wadded, shredded
by a raised middle finger and snarling eyes.
You cannot say anything; the languages
rattle in your mind:
English—a lazy guitar strum
Hindi—a throbbing table thrum
And you wonder when you will go back.