Espresso over ice. A shoulder baring tank top. Echoing strings, mournful voice in my earbuds. And also. Arre, chup! Big eyes with a smile and scolding a tiny one for making a mistake. Telling him where lambu is.
And also. Hugging. Eating Prateek’s matki chi usal and licking fingers. Sitting with the office boys at lunch. Sitting without them.
Walking down the street holding hands. Staring at those walking down the street holding hands. Staring at girls with bared shoulders, bared knees, bared clavicles on the train. Being one. Trying to tease in lilting Hindi. PJs (Poor Jokes). Dividing a table veg / nonveg, and sitting in the middle.
Talking about UX decisions in Hindi. Switching between aap (formal) and tum (informal) repetitively with a single person. Turning up my American to speak on the phone with a British airline agent. Wonderful, thank you so much for your help. Hope you have a lovely rest of your day.
Measuring love with a language yardstick. Measuring love with food. Measuring love at all.
Using a minimizing, all-encompassing waha (over there) for the entire US and summarizing it in sentences. Waha pe toh log aise hi hain… // over there people are just like… Softening spoken English, na’s and kya’s.
I don’t belong. I do belong. I am here. I am there. I am both. Where do I come home? Where do I come back to?
There isn’t Indian. There isn’t American. There isn’t person of color. There isn’t straight. There is a person. With experiences. There is walking down the street and being stepped aside for, because of the cost of this backpack and these pants and this lighter dark skin. There is walking down the street and being stared at. There is walking down the street and fearing stares. There is walking down the street and buying an expensive noodle salad. There is walking down the darkened street and fearing a car that follows. There is walking down the street and smiling at the guard who before was staring at your clothing and now is nodding like an uncle with recognition, because in the daytime he sits at the school next door and in the nighttime he sleeps on the building grounds. There is thank you. There is a smile. There is nodding sideways. There is nodding vertically.
Go further. There is no stitching it all together to make a culture pixel quilt of a personality. There is what exists, with each combination of people. Laughing, crying, being, hugging. There is no chameleon. There is one. There is me.