Lehazz and takalafu do not have English equivalents and that is when my tongue trips to accommodate myself and the one I’m addressing.
But this is no longer a question of adaab. I am writing an academic paper for an American audience so I footnote everything. Footnote kalar while I fight down the nausea that rises in my throat, footnote purdah while desperately writing and rewriting definitions so that I am sure my American audience, my academic audience, can understand, footnote izzat with a sense of apprehension because what if the men of my culture are chalked down simply as “strict patriarchs”?
It is 3am and I am desperately claustrophobic, but I keep myself from taking off on a long walk. I am a woman. I cannot afford recklessness.
Until I started translating my everyday life for an academic audience, I did not realize how much a language can hold - how much love, how much meaning, how much burden, how much misunderstood ethics … One of my professors described himself as critical on the first day of class except he made it clear that he was vicious in his words and he enjoyed being vicious for the sake of being vicious. Nine people in his class, three girls, and I’m the only person of color. Their response is laughter, some nervous, but most of them affirming him, joining him. I hold my gaze level, don’t crack a smile. Ethics. I feel disgust at his lack of humility and I think of adaab, of lehaaz. and how he expects it of us, but would not afford it to us.
I grit my teeth and position my fingers on the keyboard again. I idly wonder if my fingers would tremble at this point of exhaustion were I holding a pen and I hear my mother’s voice in my mind: “Concentrate”. And I am thankful for the years of discipline taught in her proud voice. So far from home, my mother and my mother tongue envelope me in a warm embrace to provide me a sturdy home.
The reason I love Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands so much is that she writes without apology. Language provides a home and she refuses to step out of her home to bare herself to an imperialistic audience and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do that. If I will have the chance, or the courage, or both. bell hooks once said that there is no real place for black and brown women in this world, much less in academia so we must make spaces for ourselves. So I push and dodge and elbow people in the ribs and I fiercely wear my shalwar kamees and I attempt at standing, at taking up space without apology. Those are the key words: Without Apology. And I remain cautious and defensive and I practice being. Even if I must accommodate in my writing, I will (practice at) not accommodate(ing) in my physical presence. For now, this is where I’ll begin.