It was exactly five years to the day since the wedding I wrote about in my story for the Love, Inshallah anthology, “Punk Drunk Love.” Here I was again for another Desi wedding in the same suburban Indian restaurant. Heck, I’m pretty sure I was even sitting at the very same table.
The couple was different and I was wearing a different sari, but the celebration of love was the same. It was impossible not to think of him – the leading man of that romantic narrative years ago, who had attended that wedding with me. My mind replayed moments from that night: his hand on my knee, the look in his eyes, how he had made my heart race.
I no longer missed him, but the memories reminded me of how I had once loved like that. Five years later, he was long gone, but I was still in the shadow of that memory, still single and still unable to find that permanent kind of love.
My grandmother’s name is Raj Kumari, which means “princess” in English. She has always been in my life and is part of my earliest memories. As a child, I had a habit of stealing butter and ghee from the kitchen, hiding under the table and eating it. My grandmother would walk in; see me eating butter out of the container, smile and say: “You look like Lord Krishna!”
Hands down, she’s the best cook in my entire family, and because of her we grew up eating great Punjabi food. Saag, muttar paneer, kheer, aloo paratha, gajjar ka halwa – ask for it, and my grandma can make it.
I’m now “of age”, so she is teaching me to cook and training me to become “a good Punjabi wife.” I use that phrase jokingly, but if I’m honest, it fills me with a sense of dread. I’ve grown up with an unusual family dynamic: my mother abandoned us eight years ago and my grandma stepped in to help bring up my younger brother and me. Many South Asians don’t understand our family set up and have often judged us quite harshly. I remember being told: “You’ll end up on welfare because your family is broken.” I never felt like my family was broken. My grandma was the glue that kept us all together.
Watch the PBS documentary on Noor Inayat Khan – Indian, Muslim, author, musician & WWII spy & heroine, available here until 9/30.
‘Breaking Silence’ is the first documentary highlighting American Muslim women’s experiences with sexual assault. Support this important film at Kickstarter today!
What was it like in your household?
“You want to kill us? No? Then don’t do the secks!”
And just like that, I remember it all.
At the age of 25, after 6.5 years of marriage, my best friend died with my hand in his. Cancer transported his vitality too quickly into a realm better than life, facilitated by a roomful of angels whose countenances I couldn’t see, but whose warm wings and nur soothed my sore, bloodshot eyes.
He used to call me his “heat seeker,” borrowed from a Talib Kweli Reflection Eternal verse. Ha! Funny. I was anemic, occasionally. I’m cooler blooded anyways, it’s in my chi. When we slept together I hated wearing socks, but my toes were always cold. From my side of the bed I placed my feet on his back for as long as it took for my toes to became warm. He (almost) never minded. He always shared his warmth, his love radiating from within.
Read the rest of this entry »
Poetry as dhikr.
- Warsan Shire
This past Ramadan I threw myself head over heels into poetry.
I struggled this Ramadan, with my health, with my temper, with my solitude. But the one thing that kept me grounded as I moved forward with the month was words. Writing isn’t just a form of expression – writing is how I process my spirituality, it is how I calm my chaotic thoughts, it is my way of connecting not just with other people, but with myself.
I challenged myself to writing a poem a day during Ramadan, and invited friends to join me. I created a secret online group where the only rules were that you had to introduce yourself and you had to create something daily, though sharing wasn’t compulsory. Though most people identified as Muslim, it wasn’t mandatory. Within a couple of days my group of five had turned into fifty, as friends invited friends and the connections spread. I was amazed. What had been intended as a small project for a few friends had turned into an online community space of Ramadan connection and poetic love.
When Ramadan began, the poems flowed easily, simply. They were short pieces about hunger or cravings. But as the assault on Gaza began in the first week of Ramadan, the poems began to take a turn. They became emotive and intense. People who had been hesitant to share poems out of shyness began sharing poems because they couldn’t keep silent when atrocities in the world were happening. How can you stay silent when kids are dying?