Tomorrow’s Joy

huda
The division of labor in our household is wildly disproportionate whenever we are trying to get out the door. I get everything and everyone ready. If we’re traveling, I pack. Picnics, I pack. Dinner invitations, I pick out everyone’s clothes and prepare a dish to share. Birthday parties, I buy the gift and wrap it. And, maybe I’ll throw in a load of laundry, take out the trash, and clean the kitchen. My husband, Hadi, has his list, too: He gets himself ready and loads up the car if I haven’t gotten to it first.

We’ve been married for seventeen years, but these moments can still fill my mind with the words always and never. Hadi is always late. He never helps us get ready.  I always have to do everything all by myself. I never get to take my time getting ready so I always look like a harried mess.

Most of the time, Hadi knows what I am thinking. “I’m in trouble, aren’t I?” he’ll say as we’re getting into the car.  Sometimes I say, “Yes,” and spew every frustration that comes with doing too much for too many people. Sometimes, I fume wordlessly, a quiet grump in the front seat. But on better days, I remember this truth: The very thing I hate about my spouse in one context is the same thing I love in another.

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The Single Girl’s Survival Guide for Desi Weddings

 

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

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.

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Bridging the Gap

Cha'yya

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.

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What’s Your Name

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Order Irene’s new collection, the galaxy of origins. Scroll down for audio. 


what’s your name

the heavy chimes
clot the hours
in the air and

my blood asks, do bones
carry future memories
in their marrows?

waiting for a face
that is a mirror, I
turn the page of

a tome that lists
only my name
my name my name.

tonight each cicada sings
its name, the only
one it knows,

and when I stepped out
the door this morning
and a chipmunk

slammed into my shoe, it
couldn’t remember
its name for a moment.

our eyes met – I blurted
sorry, sweetie! its name
I did not know

an emptiness arching
around my tongue
as if to know and say it

could undo our small
collision.


____

IMG_0575Irène Mathieu is a writer and medical student at Vanderbilt University. Before medical school she studied International Relations at the College of William and Mary and completed a Fulbright Fellowship in the Dominican Republic. Irène’s poetry, prose, and photography have been published or are forthcoming in The Caribbean Writer, the Lindenwood Review, Muzzle Magazine, qarrtsiluni, Extract(s), So to Speak, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Love Insha’Allah, Los Angeles Review, Callaloo Journal, HEArt Journal, and elsewhere. She has been a Pushcart Prize nominee and a Callaloo fellow. Her poetry chapbook the galaxy of origins was published in 2014 by Dancing Girl Press. You can read her blog and follow her on Twitter.


Asian Parents React to “I Love You”

What would happen if you said “I love you” to your parents? These people did and the reactions are beautiful and heartwarming.

Filmmaker Steven Lim is calling for you to video your parents reacting to hearing the words come from you. Post your videos using the hashtag #iloveyouchallenge.


Mom’s Christmas, Our Ramadan

CloseUpNepalZee
I grew up in Chicago, the daughter of a conservative Pakistani Pathan Muslim and a small-town American Mormon. Theirs was a marriage founded on somewhat foolish optimism.  Both of my parents assumed they would have the other converted to their own faith within months. My childhood memories of mom’s Christmases, our Eids, mom’s Easters and our Ramadans, serve as a testament to the contrary. This recollection comes from the strange serendipitous period where two of those major religious events – the Muslim month of Ramadan and the Christmas season – overlapped.

My mother would start baking Christmas cookies sometime around Thanksgiving and the cookie she’d always start with was gingerbread – cut into small man and woman shapes. There was something about the bite of Chicago’s autumn that would trigger some Midwestern American programming and right away my mother would begin to warm the house with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla. The colder it got, the more one needed a strong gingerbreadman to keep them going, so at any given time from November till early January, you could find huge bowls of gingerbread cookie dough in our fridge, ready and waiting to fill the next gingerbreadman-shaped hole in our lives.

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