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My Heart in India This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The people all around us
dictate our places
based on the colors of our faces.

When you look at me, you look at the henna on my hand.
At my long, thick, black hair, dark skin, and brown eyes.
You see the figure-eight nod
and hear the up and down intonation of foreign American words
coming out of lips unaccustomed to the harsh tones of the English language.
“Na-mas-te,” you Americans say, butchering our pronunciation.

Is that all you see?
I am Indian, India-Indian.
The dot, not the feather.

But if you looked closer

In my heart, you'd see.
I'm from a place called India,
where the mountains kiss the heavens and the desert stretches wide.

The smell of fresh daal and chaval creeps under my bedroom door.
With my stomach rumbling like thunder, I roll out of bed and follow the scent downstairs.

Dias, candles, are all over the house. It's Diwali.
So we put out little beacons to attract the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
I have many gods and goddesses watching over me.
(How many do you have?)

We feast. By feast, I mean
a thali of Indian cooking.
My favorite are samosas, little fried triangles stuffed with vegetables.
(I hear my dad say, “They are not triangles. They are ­triangular prisms!”)
I am one of his prisms
with many faces.
An American face and
an Indian face.
I am one of his reflections.
I believe that
my actions reflect me.

What we do now creates paths for us later.
Even though I really want to slap that prattling girl with the long curly hair
and obnoxiously high-pitched voice,
I stop and think.
This will come back to bite me.
I ignore her instead.
You may call this karma.
I see this as a way of life, a way of being.
(And a way of surviving middle school.)

Survival is no stranger to my family.
To survive for me, my parents sacrificed India.
To survive in America, they kept India in their hearts.
I keep India close as well.
My India is rich in memories earned from our trips,
the trips we take every other year.

India is
my mommy crying tears of joy
at the sight of her home,
racing up the porch steps to see her family.

India is
my daddy embracing his brothers
at the train station
with the kind of bear hug that engulfs your whole body
and slows
down
time.

India is
a cow waiting patiently
in front of our gate.
My sister, my Indian cousins, and I touch
her soft fur.
She moos real slow.
She smiles
as we feed her lunch.
My Dadi says, “She is, what do you say? Just a little hungry.”

So I would never be even a little hungry,
India is
what my parents gave up.

My heart is from a place called India,
where the soft hum of my Nani's prayers
send me to sleep at night.

My feet are in America,
grounding me
in the land of the free
and the home of the brave.

But, I will always be connected to
my mother country
(or my mother's country)
by an umbilical cord
which sometimes looks like
a telephone wire
with people calling
in the middle of the night
as the wind blows out the last dia,
signaling the end of Diwali.

“Namaste,” I hear from Indian lips much like my own.
And,
I am home,
With my feet on American ground
And my heart in India.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 20 comments. Post your own!

WriterGirl08 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 4, 2011 at 7:31 am:
This is brilliant! :)
 
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Sunita aunty said...
Nov. 1, 2011 at 12:15 am:
Love to read your writing! It feels so good when you express these emotions, makes us parents believe in ourselves even more.
 
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Roma Aunty said...
Jul. 24, 2010 at 12:31 am:
What a beautiful and touching poem, Richa! I was choked up reading it. I didn't know you were such a talented writer....looking forward to reading many more of your thoughts on paper...Congratulations!
 
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Chetan mama said...
Jul. 17, 2010 at 5:54 am:
Pretty neat... ! impressed!!
 
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sam from bombay said...
Jul. 17, 2010 at 5:51 am:

awesome!!!!!!

dot or feather! ha ha! good one!

 
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Swarna said...
Jul. 13, 2010 at 3:37 am:

Richa,

Your father and I studied at college together. I always admired his intelligence (not that I would  ever tell him so?!!!).

I am so PROUD of you, little one....your  words brought tears to my eyes. You hv done yr parents proud.....they hv brought you and yr sis up so , so well. Love all that is so Indian in us all and yet keep yr feet firmly on the ground, as you scale newer heights. Kudos,

Luv and luck,

Swarna Aunty

 
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Arti said...
Jul. 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm:
Awesome, amazing, fantastic.  this poem brought tears to my eyes...a true sign of good writing. Look forward to reading more
 
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Ranjana Auntie said...
Jul. 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm:
Richa, it is a moving poem that makes the point about being an Indian American very well.  It is emotional, yet witty.  It unlocks a part of our heart which we rarely get in touch with.  Bravo!
 
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Kiran said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 11:48 pm:
When a poem speaks to me it is more than the sum of its parts. It takes me to a place in my mind where what is spoken means much, what is not spoken means more, and the combination of both creates color, sound, and feeling. You just created music, sculpture, tears and pride with words. Thank you Richa!!
 
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Gauri said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 9:09 pm:

Fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Very well written. The sentiment is beautifully expressed. Keep it up.

 
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Alok Mama said...
Jul. 11, 2010 at 11:16 am:
Richa, this is a very well written piece. Brings together the raw emotions of an expatriate with great finesse. Keep it up!! Would love to read more from you in the times to come.
 
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Bharat Uncle said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm:
Very Nice and very Impressive Richa.  You have a real talent.  Continue and Keep up with your beautiful writing and love for India.
 
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Lokesh Baba said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 8:15 pm:
Dear Richa,

OMG you are a poet! Poetess? As your friends might say this is like totally
awesome, except I mean every word of it except "like". You have arrived Richa! Go seek out the best in life and all the best to you in that pursuit!

Lokesh Baba
 
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Miriam said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm:
You paint beautiful pictures with your poetry.  Keep at it with your colorful words!
 
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Sona Bua said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 4:23 pm:
Richa, you even made me emotional.  Well done.  :)
 
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Sunil Uncle said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 12:48 pm:

What a wonderful post Richa - you write really well! Congratulations, and keep it up.

Five Stars, and two thumbs up!

 
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Pankaj said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 11:27 am:
Awesome, Richa. You touch upon so many factes of life that all of us face each day. Thanks for providing an expression to our feelings.
 
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Geeta Dadi said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 11:03 am:
Richa...you touched my heart. I cried tears of joy. Good job.
 
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Anucseth said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 3:05 am:
Aww beautiful, Absolutly fantastic!!! :-) Richa is so talented for one so young.
 
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Lokesh mama said...
Jul. 9, 2010 at 1:19 am:

Very good verse by ayoung Indian American girl for her age!!

She deserves full marks encuragement to further devlop thsi skill

 
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