Hello Hello

953 notes

turn their trusting faces to the sun
say to me
care for us nurture us
in my dreams I shudder and I run.

I am six
in a playground of white children
Darkie, sing us an Indian song!

Eight
in a roomful of elders
all mock my broken Gujurati
English girl!
Twelve, I tunnel into books
forge an armor of English words.

Eighteen, shaved head
combat boots -
shamed by masis
in white saris
neon judgments
singe my western head.

Mother tongue.
Matrubhasha
tongue of the mother
I murder in myself.

Through the years I watch Gujurati
swell the swaggering egos of men
mirror them over and over
at twice their natural size.

Through the years
I watch Gujurati dissolve
bones and teeth of women, break them
on anvils of duty and service, burn them
to skeletal ash.

Words that don’t exist in Gujurati:
Self-expression.
Individual.
Lesbian.

English rises in my throat
rapier flashed at yuppie boys
who claim their people “civilized” mine.
Thunderbolt hurled
at cab drivers yelling
Dirty black bastard!
Force-field against teenage hoods
hissing
Fucking Paki bitch!
Their tongue - or mine?
Have I become the enemy?

Listen:
my father speaks Urdu
language of dancing peacocks
rosewater fountains
even its curses are beautiful.
He speaks Hindi
suave and melodic
earthy Punjabi
salty rich as saag paneer
coastal Kiswahili
laced with Arabic,
he speaks Gujurati
solid ancestral pride.

Five languages
five different worlds
yet English
shrinks
him
down
before white men
who think their flat cold spiky words
make the only reality.

Words that don’t exist in English:
Najjar
Garba
Arati.

If we cannot name it
does it exist?
When we lose language
does culture die? What happens
to a tongue of milk-heavy
cows, earthen pots
jingling anklets, temple bells,
when its children
grow up in Silicon Valley
to become
programmers?

Then there’s American:
Kin’uh get some service?
Dontcha have ice?
Not:
May I have please?
Ben, mane madhath karso?
Tafadhali nipe rafiki
Donnez-moi, s’il vous plait
Puedo tener…..

Hello, I said can I get some service?!
Like, where’s the line for Ay-mericans
in this goddamn airport?

Words that atomized two hundred thousand Iraqis:
Didja see how we kicked some major ass in the Gulf?
Lit up Bagdad like the fourth a’ July!
Whupped those sand-niggers into a parking lot!

The children in my dreams speak in Gujurati
bright as butter
succulent cherries
sounds I can paint on the air with my breath
dance through like a Sufi mystic
words I can weep and howl and devour
words I can kiss and taste and dream
this tongue
I take
back.

“The children in my dreams speak in Gujurati” by Shailja Patel from Migritude (via decolonizegujarat)

(Source: , via fadedhues)

Filed under poetry yo linguistics

47,208 notes

http://legalmoretz.tumblr.com/post/82885787141

jeanpaulfarte:

in stories featuring aliens, they’re always like “on my planet this never happens!” or “in my culture, this differs from your human culture.” and that’s neat and all because i like worldbuilding and all that jazz but wouldn’t it be fun if they just. couldn’t do that?

jeanpaulfarte:

in stories featuring aliens, they’re always like “on my planet this never happens!” or “in my culture, this differs from your human culture.” and that’s neat and all because i like worldbuilding and all that jazz but wouldn’t it be fun if they just. couldn’t do that?

i want a story where humans encounter an alien who frustrates them because they don’t know enough to tell them anything concrete

like humans will ask “tell us about politics in your planet!” and the alien’s all “uh… hold on it’s been a while since i took gov. um….”

"what sorts of plants grow on your planet?"

"i dunno i grew up in the suburbs. they’re like… purple? idk what you want me to say"

"tell us about the culture on your planet!"

"do you have any idea how many fucking countries are back home, i don’t even know where to begin"

"your planet is obviously much more scientifically and technologically advanced than ours. is it possible for you to enlighten us on certain matters concerning space travel, or would that be a form of interference you must avoid?"

"naw it’s cool, it’s just that, um, i’m a philosophy major"

Filed under h world building