Land of Five Rivers

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,

My motherland,

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

This man,

He is not from the land of the Five Rivers

He will never understand.

– Nisha Kaushal

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