Posts Tagged ‘pooja nansi’

It is seven a.m. on a damp London morning
And I am caffeine- and jet-lagged,
Waiting to get to the front of the line.

“One ticket to Waterloo.”
His eyes take in my appearance.
“You mean one ticket to Waterloo, please.”
He turns to his computer and mutters,
“Don’t they teach these Pakis anything?”

I am Indian.

He turns back to me and asks again,
“Don’t they teach you how to say
please wherever it is you come from?”

They taught me how to say please.
Please rape and plunder my land.
Come into three thousand years of religion
and look at it like it is mystical voodoo.
Turn it into books and Hollywood movies like
“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”,
which portray most accurately your powerful
and keen sense of colonial observation
that all Indians eat monkey brains.

Please tell me I need to speak this
strange tongue more fluently
than I speak in the words
my great-grandmother used when she sold her jewellery
to Gandhi’s cause to ask you
to please leave.

Please bottle what you call chicken tikka
to eat on your sandwiches and tell me I am wrong
when I wrinkle my nose
at the peculiar concoction of chicken bits
in tomato and cream sauce when I was expecting
something else.
I mean, who am I to judge:
chicken tikka has always been
an English delicacy.

Please can I give up my freedom to strangers
who conveniently change the names of
Our cities to suit
their incapacitated tongues:
Bengaluru to Bangalore
Chennai to Madras
Thiruvanandapuram to Trivandrum.

when it becomes fashionable
to embrace cultural diversity,
do hatha yoga
in hundred-dollar Adidas track pants
in artificially-heated rooms.

Please appropriate me.
Take it all.
Culture, wealth, ideas, food.
Can’t you see?
We have plenty to spare.
One quick thing, White Boyd,
wherever you came from,
didn’t they teach you how to play fair?

I think all these thoughts, but cannot answer him.
“What’s the matter? Can’t you hear me?
We’re both speaking English, right?
Didn’t they teach you how to say please?”

I never did answer his question
about whether I was taught to say please.
He could not have understood my reply.
We never were on the same page.

See, we both speak English, he and I,
But not
the same language.

This is a pretty long poem but the tone is very distinct. Identify the tone of the poem and try to articulate how that contributes to the overall message. Pick out evidence that show the tone to help with your answer.

Do check out Nansi’s book, Stiletto Scars. If you’d like to borrow my copy, let me know.