Silence

Guest blogged by a Kaur

A note from the author: Thank you Gurlene Kaur for starting the conversation.
ਚੁਪੈ ਚੁਪ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜੇ ਲਾਇ ਰਹਾ ਲਿਵ ਤਾਰ ॥
By remaining silent, inner silence is not obtained, even by remaining lovingly absorbed deep within.

1
19 years later
I still hear his cry tugging at my heart
In the middle of the night
Glistening red blood fills my consciousness

I sit up, breathless
My apartment
New York City
I see something familiar
Then drift back to sleep.

2
Sleep still in my eyes
I pull on a purple pajami and wrap myself in a chunni
One by one we pile into the car
Kirtan playing in the background

My 4 year old cousin sits next to me expectantly
Long black curls sneak out from underneath her pink hat
Betraying her age, revealing her true spirit
A kid-sized computer and backpack grace my lap
I follow the lilt of her voice as we pass by field after field.

3
A shoemaker’s blackened hands
I study his handiwork
Shuffling pads of leather and long strings together
Then hammering hard
His son begins to cry
Like one of the nails in his shoes

I study the gush of his blood
It doesn’t travel fast or long or heavy like mine
Instead it is slow and thick and dry
Leaving a stain of purple and red
Betraying his black hair

His eyes follow mine
I reach out my hand to touch his
My mother pulls me away into her
I grip the width of her hips and wail a loud cry
Her chunni muffles my tears

I take notes
Measurements
Studying violence
Like a good and loyal seamstress
Watching, sensing, predicting
I do not use a measuring tape

I know brutality and indecency
A young girl child
My legs split apart
Soreness gripping my insides
A stain of red my only witness

I compare my blood to his blood
My expert conclusion: no two bloods are the same.

4
Yuba City
My heart set ablaze

I remember
Long lines
The best kadi chawal I’ve ever had
Wafts of makhi ki roti and saag
Heaps of cholae bhaturae
Bemused locals sample free food

Swarms of people and questioning eyes
I clutch my cousin’s fingers in my hand
Oversized floats parade women behind men
Loud voices, cacophonous music
Speakerphones resound a call to prayer
I enter a state of silence

I close my eyes so I can see
Two teenage girls
A pregnant woman
I hear their voices
Pleading, begging
Stop

Deafening silence
Calm follows the storm.

5
A national geographic photographer meets my mother
She purchases his photograph
4 half naked beggar girls
Hold out their hands to greet mine

The frame sits outside Baba Ji’s room
When I look up I can’t forget
the mangos and the orphan boy
I wonder if his sweater was borrowed or new
And what a sponsorship really means

My mother smiles in the pictures
Embracing swarms of children.

6
A feast lines my table
I sprinkle clusters of pomegranate seeds
Tiny red studs punctuate a field of luscious greens
Just the way I remember
Ludhiana, Punjab
1993

A servant places a salad on the kitchen table
Sitting there again
I write this letter to you

Dear Nanak:
I wonder when honor disappeared
And when it might return
How important is a nagar kirtan
When I still hear their cries?


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