When I was little, my home had one wall- my grandfather, my thatha. I thought that of all the people who ever breathed, and of all the stars in the sky, he was the oldest ever. My footsteps went pitter-patter as I followed him. His visage was lined with wrinkles. I could feel them cover his hands as he held mine and we traced Telugu letters on a big, blue slate. Each Saturday we would meet my parents on a screen. Amma held a tiny baby whose hair wound in circles like mine. One morning, my grandfather didn’t wake up. My parents came home and took me to the place inside the screen.

Every day when I woke up in my new house, I would peep through the window and see snow as white as my grandfather’s hair, and tree trunks big and brown like his eyes. White and brown belonged outside the window, and on our skins, but did not belong to thatha anymore.



Each Saturday, we drive to a pier that overlooks the ocean

The ocean that stands between my ‘then’ and my ‘now’

Now I look at the Big Blue and think I have a house on one side, but on the other, my home is alone

Alone, I yearn for a world where I’m not embarrassed

I’m not embarrassed that I speak their language in my tongue; my eyes aren’t forever glued to my feet

My feet long to dance on the stone tiles that built home and to hear friendly voices

Voices I struggle to understand; I break down sy-lla-bles and di-ctio-na-ry

A dictionary that I pack in my bag which brings meaning to your words, but not to my feelings

My feelings are crushed when you run away at the smell of my lunch or the hair on my hands

Hands I raise politely when my teacher is unable to say my name.

I tell myself this is a nightmare I will wake up from. 

I seek solace in words like ‘shy’ and ‘wallflower’. I hide in layers of normalcy- in gymnastics class thrice a week, at science club twice a week, inside my room all week. 

My Mondays are jam-packed, but on Tuesdays, I have no friends. The blue walls of my room are audience to tears, torn books, and tantrums.  

I pretend to understand what ‘quarterback’ and ‘touchdown’ mean but make a mental note to look them up, along with words of all the songs I don’t know.



Yesterday my brother asked me,

“What was it like before you came here?”

so I regale him with tales

of the neem tree that

stood in the centre

tall, proud, unabashed

feelings stranger to me

I danced around it

twist / twirl / turn / crash.


I tell him tales

that would light up my eyes

glow / glitter / gleam / poof

of magic and monsters and mountains,

of dinosaurs and dragons and dancers,

of the worlds in which I was

a princess / a ninja / a warrior / a dreamer.


I tell stories in a language he

battles to understand;

I begin to grapple too.

I tell him tales of thatha’s

grey face- when it reflected the moon’s,

laughter- that roared / rolled / rumbled / stilled,

voice- that painted stories in lands to which 

I belonged.


I tell him tales,

weave words,

pass down what was given to me.

Stories are my only family heirloom.


Sometimes I fumble / flounder / flail / despair

I can’t remember the

pitch black of ṭhe gate 

it’s rusting (in my mind).

Did we lock it up? We locked up

my home, and my

memories like

forgotten souvenirs in the attic

and threw the key away.



are my only companion

so I reach out my hands and

grip them tight

like the handle on a rollercoaster

that’s going down.

I tell him

everything I lived

everything I loved

before they wane / wilt / wither / die.


One bright star

others crumble to dust

memories are stardust.


This piece was inspired by ‘Pachinko’ by Min Jin Lee.




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