— Bilal Tanweer, “The Scatter Here is Too Great”
— Clarice Lispector, A Breath of Life, trans. by Johnny Lorenz (via mythologyofblue)
How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.
Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?
Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our Fathers what is left?
* This poem is read during the last scene in Smoke Signals. It was
originally published in a longer version titled “Forgiving Our
Fathers” in a book of poems titled Ghost Radio published by Hanging
Loose Press in 1998
One such example of the huge wall conventional literary history has erected between related linguistic traditions – or rather within one linguistic tradition – is that of Hindi and Urdu. What was once a shared common language of people of India stretching from Peshawar to the borders of Bengal split into two languages, Urdu and Hindi, towards the end of the 19th century. As a result, there arose two artificially separated literary cultures, each harking back to a different literary past due to the chauvinistic attitudes both of Hindus and Muslims. This cultural chauvinism was to subsequently embroil them in a practice of divisive politics, and each language became a marker of religious identity. With the passage of time the differences between the two sides became so irreconcilable that it led to the creation of a separate homeland for Muslims.
In order to understand this contested history, we need to trace the genealogies of these two terms, Urdu, the Persianised Khari Boli in Persian script, and Hindi, the Sanskritised Khari Boli in Devanagari script. The term Urdu is of fairly recent provenance. We find it being used for the first time in 1780 in the first Diwan of Mushafi, but not in the sense of a language different from Hindi. In fact, the terms Urdu and Hindi continued to be used interchangeably until the first half of the 19th century and, in some instances, even later up to the early decades of the 20th century. Initially, Urdu, or Urdu-e-Muallah, used to refer to the city of Shahjehanabad (rather than a military encampment or bazaar attached to the Mughal court as some historians suggest) and not to a language. The term used for the language practiced in the city was “Zuban-e-Urdu-e-Muallah” (speech of the exalted city). With the passage of time Zuban-e-Urdu-e-Muallah was first shortened to Urdu-e-Muallah and finally to Urdu. Until the third quarter of the 18th century Urdu-e-Muallah usually referred to Persian.
Through the colonial language policy, it was the British who officially differentiated between Urdu and Hindi. As is well known, they began with the idea that Hindus and Muslims were two separate “races”, each with its own history, culture and language. They attempted to categorise the languages of Hindustan on the basis of religion and culture. It was John Borthwick Gilchrist who first identified language with script and religion. He identified three different styles of Hindustani: first, a highly Persianised and urbane variety of Hindustani in Persian script practised in the courtly centres with a large concentration of Muslims, which he associated with Muslims; second, a rustic and rural Hindi/Hindavi largely free of the influence of Persian and Arabic words, spoken largely in the countryside with a predominantly Hindu population, which he identified with Hindus; and a third, a middle style between the two which was neither heavily Persianised nor rustic, but was close to the polite speech with an admixture of Persian and Arabic words assimilated into it. He called this middle style Hindustanee and advocated its promotion as the standard language that would cater to both the Muslim and Hindu populations. However, during his stint at the Fort William College as Professor of Hindustanee, he actively promoted two different styles as two different languages – Hindustanee in Persian script, which came to be associated with Urdu and Hindavi/Hindui in Nagari script, from which all foreign (Arabic/Persian) words were purged. This differentiation and dichotomy were to prove providential and to influence and shape subsequent colonial language policies."
Attempts were made to carve out monolithic literatures in terms of singular and exclusive literary traditions. The result has been production of insular literary canons and histories with wide gaps, discontinuities and often distortions through gross simplification, which prevent a genuine understanding of our literary past. These literary histories refuse to take into account the deeply plural and heterogeneous nature of pre-colonial Indian society, marked as it was by a wide variety of linguistic, literary and cultural traditions and practices at local, regional and supra-regional/cosmopolitan levels. Together, they were constituted into multiple interacting layers of Indian culture/society; each layer, though distinct and autonomous to some extent, was shaped and influenced by other layers in this formation. The boundaries between these layers were fluid and porous, each flowing seamlessly into others.
I want my body to be admired on my own terms, and not on patriarchal times. I think I struggle with this everyday to the point that it consumes me. I am so conscious of the way I present myself. The colors I wear. What helps me decide if I’m wearing a shalwar kamees or a dress etc depending on the people I’m interacting with. My hijab style. I dress with a lot of consciousness and yet. And yet.
The fact that it consumes me annoys me. These things should not be on my radar, these things should not be consuming my energy.
And yet, here I am.
There was a question about threading eyebrows on an Afghani girl’s blog this morning and I realized how tired I am of trimming myself down to be pleasing to look at.
Would people leave me alone if I was ugly to look at? But I am ugly and people still don’t leave me alone.
I want to be left alone
All my life, I have been an inconvenience. A troublesome thing. A girl that made people uncomfortable by being.
This is not unique to me. This is true of many women and girls I know regardless of where they were born and what they look like. So many women are tagged as Inconvenient and yet they carry on. They carry on.
The other day, my (male) gender studies professor was talking about watching his daughters transition from girlhood to womanhood. He said that he could physically see when his daughters started feeling the gaze of the world upon them, and how that made them fold into themselves.
The world’s gaze is a burden. And it is because of this gaze, this burden that is unceremoniously thrown at my body everyday that I turn vicious against my body. Buzzfeed and tumblr dot com and every other publication likes to cut and paste sociology and feminist work and tell women that they “should love their body as they are”. I want to laugh at this. Voila! Thank you for providing a magical solution.
Except it is not a solution. How can one love a burden? The well intentioned publications forget to tell us.
But tonight is a love letter to my body. Because no matter how burdensome my body is with its memories of trauma, and its ways of spilling and reclaiming that attracts violent gaze and behavior, it is still mine and I love it like one loves a mangy cat.
My body is too hairy to be a mangy cat.
But the hair ripples and tumbles and falls. From the roots of my scalp to the way they grow on my foot and toes. They grow on this beautiful skin that smoothly, seamlessly, keeps me together. My skin. I love my skin.
This skin that has color. This skin that has character. I remember my reaction of violent surprise when someone caressed it and loved it tenderly for the first time. This skins that darkens and lightens and reacts however it likes to a change of air. This skin that is defiantly inconvenient.
I love this skin that is defiant and inconvenient. This brown skin that ripples smoothly on my body.
Defiant. My eyes and my tongue. My eyes with their intense silent way of gazing. My tongue that refuses to stay caged and silent.
My feet which don’t know how to step on the ground lightly no matter how hard I have tried all my life. Here I am, and you will acknowledge my presence, my feet have always announced my before I walked into a room.
An inconvenience. Why could I not quietly fold myself up in a quiet box.
And I have tried. God, I have tried. Tried to tame my tongue but it would not stay tamed. It knows how to cut people who cross me.
This well of fierceness buried deep within me that gives me the strength to stand tall. To gaze with an intensity that has reduced men into looking away. To stand tall. To take up space.
I am inconvenient. And I love everything that is inconvenient about me.