He was captivated by my swearing in a different language, foreign to the ears of many,
But after a moment, he would question my respect towards those rude, older men
Who told me to not talk back after they had spoken to me
He asks me why I act this way, what is my culture?
If I tell him where I am from
What my culture is,
Will he understand me?
Will he understand me, when I tell him
About the phulkariyan flying away
In the harsh winds
During a warm spring day?
Or when I explain to him
The art of falling asleep after a long day in the wheat fields,
While a jaago procession, filled with girls as young as newly-bloomed flowers
And aunties aged like wine
Sing at the top of their lungs in the distant background?
Or even having to fight with the stingy bazaar-wale,
Trying to sell simple jhootiyan for prices exceeding their worth?
What if I told that him, where I’m from,
My identity is constantly questioned,
Because my religion is different from that of the majority?
If I told him about Punjab,
Will he know about the time
When the Indian government stormed the holiest place in the state,
Causing the rancid smell of blood spilled
Of those who fell victims to the proceeding riots
To fill the air for years after?
Or maybe when
They gave pesticides to the farmers
Killing their livelihood?
Will he know what it’s like
To attempt to avoid the demons
Lurking after nightfall
On the hunt to fulfill their lustful desires
By taking away the innocence of women, the same age as their sisters?
Will he know the struggle
Of trying to not put your family to shame
As you try to be your own person?
Will he ever know the struggle of my people, my women?
A man, as white as the creams women like me are forced to rub into our dark ashy skin
To match the Eurocentric standards of beauty,
The pale skin, the bleach-colored body hair,
Different from the reality of
Skin colors ranging from caramel to dark chocolate,
Body hair, as thick as grains of the basmati rice grown in our fields,
Covering the entirety of our bodies
He is not from the land of the Five Rivers
He will never understand.
– Nisha Kaushal