We know you, your skin, those shoes.
Flip flops in winter.
The Coles bags, filled to the brim.
Them microwaved lunches that smell so very foreign.
Kitchen King is it? Or was it the dhana jeera?
In the accents that push to say, “mate” like you’re already there, already besties.
You might wonder, how can they tell?
How do they know?
Let me tell you a secret, your body tells us.
The shy, paused gestures.
The way you hold back your uniqueness.
The manners, the politeness. It’s not there.
Because where you’re from, there was never a need for it.
What was politeness other than a form of artifice.
Politeness is pretending to you.
It would be better blunt.
I will not apologise for my fragranced basmati rice.
For speaking to my children in a language you can’t understand.
For wearing a salwaar kameez and a cardigan.
For the Indian God pictures on my dashboard.
For everything that is unfamiliar to you.
I won’t apologise for my culture.
For the differences.
And one day.
Your children will speak the same slang that back flipped and fell awkwardly from your tongue – as if it was all they’ve ever known.
With slashed jeans, turbulent hair and Havaiana flip flops.
They’ll put their headphones on and it’ll crank to cues of Justin Bieber, Coldplay or Kiiara – but always, an artist unknown. To you.
The curry smell is something they shed before they leave home.
Eyebrows did. Stockings and silks, styled to perfection.
At an early age, they knew what set them apart.
And they sought to erode it.
There are no signs.
These kids are local.
They’re as Aussie as can be.
Were it not for their skin.
Because there are some things life can’t erode, no amount of bleach, no amount of fairness creams. Nothing.
Those almond eyes and that distinctive nose.
Oh so Indian.
And now, all grown up.
I feel like we aren’t all different enough.
We’re too similar with our scandi homes, our stainless steel appliances, our striped tees.
Or Nike sneakers, our Longchamp bags, our chopsticks and our “hey, how was your weekend?”.
We are local. From here.
I pull out a Tiffin, buried in a cupboard.
And I share “Bhaji, khichadi, kadhi” with my adoring neighbour.
She’s not Indian.
In fact, she’s Jewish. Originally from Poland.
We came full circle in the end. She loved the tiffin. She loved it Maa.
Because you never stopped the “Bhaji, khichadi, kadhi” on Saturdays. Every Saturday.
We came full circle.
I am Indian and that is more than okay, it’s fricking brilliant.
Your veins, red, deep red veins. Upon brown, olive skin carved me Indian.
Your bindis, your garba, your love. Carved me Indian.
It burns alive in me.
And there will be no ashes, no erosion, no end to this Indian-ness.
Till I am nothing but ash. For real.