I think I forgot to mention, I was at a Roscoe’s last night and Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt walked in. They were pretty obnoxious.
there is a joke among
indians that our families never
seem to smile in photographs.
this seems to be a strategy
that we are losing in the diaspora
growing up i remember learning the names
like the ways we are taught to identify
constellations in the night sky:
always looking from a
trying to determine lines and
shapes to recall should we be
so fortunate enough to meet in person
i come from
a family of shitty digital photographs
of old people not smiling — with hearts
made out of thousands of phone cords
hugging tightly – attached to
emails from across the ocean inundated
with so many prayers and blessings that
sometimes i think i could break
all the rules and still be okay
(cause grandma’s got me covered
you see this is what it means to be
to embrace half of your family as low quality photos
of wrinkles and frowns
is to become
intimately familiar with the dust of
a family album, the static of a phone
receiver, the stories of a time and
country always on the other side
of your palm
where the brownest
parts of you reside
so family is never really about the kiss,
the hug, the touch. it is more of a feeling
that we learn how to carry deep inside our chests
more of a type of connection that no
border can swallow
it is about hearing the news across the receiver
that one of those stars thousands of miles away flickered out
and maybe you only saw it once or twice but
you are still weeping because
you remember the aluminum of a voice
remember the grayest of eyes
remember that scowl and how deeply and defiantly it loved you
amidst it all
but to be of the diaspora
you are growing accustomed to
this perpetual feeling of loss
how much sense it makes to experience it in this country where they have tried their best to rid you of your ancestors (so they can
call you their own) and all of the other ways of being before the smile they forced on your face that moment they took your photo after granting you a college degree and stealing your native tongue
after giving you a pay raise and sending a bomb across the ocean
after reminding you american and reminding ‘them’ terrorist
you see this is what it means to be
of diaspora: to not be able to isolate
the grief of one passing from another
sort of passage, to become so familiar
of losing that we become comfortable with
mispronouncing our names and our faces
with features that were
never meant for us
and we do not have a language to explain
to the constellations that we were already lonely before they left us
so maybe i am terrified of my own smile because it reveals the vastness of an ocean
and just how much we are capable of losing
and how much we have already
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this is an original poem by alok vaid-menon. please consider supporting the artist.
Captures the pain of diasporic family so perfectly.
I forgot to tell you all, I’m finally moved into an apartment closer to school! Moving in has been a pain in the ass but we’ve been making major headway and this place is finally starting to feel like home. (I think getting wifi definitely helped.) I’m currently blogging from my brand new bed with late afternoon sunshine pouring through the window and a cup of cha beside me. Besides the 2 finals looming in my immediate future and my complete lack of interest in attending my last few classes of the quarter, things are going pretty well.
so one thing that bothers me about Janani Balasubramanian’s writings (i’ve only read like 3 of their articles so bear with me) is this sort of essentializing of the south asian diaspora as only indian. which i get is their experience as an indian in diaspora, but it’s not the experience of every indian and especially not of every non-indian south asian. especially when it comes to things like the model minority myth.
south asian americans aren’t universally successful. actually, any disaggregated data of asian americans will show you that indian americans as a group tend to have higher incomes, lower poverty levels, higher education levels, etc. but the same doesn’t apply to other south asian nationalities. for example, pakistani americans are one of the subgroups within asian american who have the highest poverty levels.
and i think it’s valuable to have the types of discussions i feel like janani wants us to have, but one of their articles had this line: Basically, let’s talk about race and class. Let’s stop buying into this narrative that our families all got here because we ‘worked hard and made it to the America’. Especially since those of us who came to the US in that first wave of professional South Asian (largely Indian) immigrants largely benefited from our caste and class positions in South Asia.
well, that wasn’t the experience of my family, and it’s not the experience of every south asian. i think there’s a lot of minority communities in the south asian diaspora that are ignored when you lump us all in with the indian model minority myth.
even in regards to that line janani said in their POC article (i think that was the article) about how they found it natural to identify with white people. so i literally have never identified with white people in that scenario. i didn’t know any muslims or south asians besides family until college, so i didn’t identify with anyone. i was just kind of an other.
this is not meant to be one of those “but all [so and so] aren’t like that!!!!” type of things because i totally get that other south asians might get what janani is saying, and it’s an important conversation to have. but idk other south asians tbh. idk how they deal with whiteness or don’t. i just started having south asian friends like 4 years ago, and i know how some of them deal with whiteness but not sure how others do or if that’s enough to make any statements?
idk maybe i’m so divorced from the south asian diasporic experience (having grown up as the only one in all my schools until college) that i just don’t get it. i’m not sure.
These are some really solid points. As a Bangladeshi-American, I am constantly frustrated by the belief that all South Asian immigrants have had the same experiences and come from the same background. It’s important to speak to the Indian-American experience, but you can’t blanket every other South Asian community with those same ideas. Sorry folks, but it’s really not that simple.