Nani

This Independence day, I wanna give a special shout-out to my Nani (maternal grandma), Raj Chawla (centre). In 1947, when she was just 8-years-old, she was displaced along with millions of others in the Partition. She was separated from her family coming from northwest frontier in Pakistan, had to spend time in an orphanage for a few months, before she was finally reunited with her parents in a refugee colony in Faridabad. Millions died in the senseless violence and the journey in 1947-48, but at least she survived, and her family got the chance to rebuild their lived in an independent India. 

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She had four children - including my mother on the right of her, and my mama and mausis - and had to raise them alone when my Nana passed away in his early 40s. 

This year, she turned 80, and continues to be amazing! She has no shortage of "nani advice" (solicited & unsolicited!) on everything from dental care to the national economy. 


My father's side migrated during Partition, too, from Gujranwala in Pakistan to Shimla in India. Like my nani's family, my Dada (paternal grandpa) and Par-Dada-Dadi (great-grandparents) lost almost everything they were worth and had to start a new life in India from scratch. 


I'm proud both these sides converged for both my parents and for me to be born in India. Our ancestors went through a lot, and so many of us are fortunate enough to be living comfortably thanks to what they suffered & survived. Their stories are a reminder that, somewhere along the line, we are all drifters, refugees, immigrants.

transit

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July 2017

i dont remember being pushed
in a stroller around manhattan,
or getting lost in transit
at the atlanta airport,
when my parents faced the worst
dread
for fifteen agonising minutes.
 
but i remember returning from america
with a best friend:
a cotton mickey mouse from disneyland
in a red vest and red shorts, and arms
that could embrace me almost
as warmly as my mother. 
i have kept him for twenty-three years.

i will give him to the girl I will marry.
i will give her my mother’s old ring, too. 
i will embrace her
and continue in transit together
in a different america,

while twelve thousand five hundred and eighty kilometres away
i will leave behind
the ones
who pushed me.