A poem: Representation
by Shubra Shahare
They ask about the silk and the spices and the jewels and the colours and the festivals. When they ask about the elephant headed god and the monkey god and the ganja smoking dread locked god. When they ask about saris and turbans and bindis and ayurvedic massage. When they ask about gandhi-be-the change-you-wish-to-see. When they ask about cricket and royal dynasties and sometimes the British Raj and very rarely the parti tion. When they ask about om and Slumdog Millionaire and cows.
When they ask: you laugh, you frown in concentration, you explain.
When they ask about bollywood and ghee and Priyanka Chopra Jonas and samosas and chai. When chai is not chai anymore but chai latte. When they ask about y- they don’t ask about yoga anymore. When they ask about gurus and ashrams and Eat, Pray, Love. Now they also ask about Wild Wild Country on Netflix. When they ask about meditation and the sitar and curry. When they ask about the taj mahal and naan bread when it is just naan.
When they ask: you are patient, you are understanding, you are in control of your emotions.
When they ask about hindu but mean hindi and vice versa. When they ask about The God of Small Things and Salman Rushdie and Hasan Minhaj. When they ask about Apu and Hadji and Mowgli and reincarnation. When namaste is not just something you say to your aunts and uncles and grandparents and neighbours and the vegetable seller and the Uber driver but the divine in me honours the divine in you.
When they ask: you nod, look at the time on your phone and say oh-is-that-the-time?
When they ask about big fat weddings and arranged marriage and the Netflix show Indian Matchmaking. When they ask about Never Have I Ever on Netflix and Mindy Kaling and Kamala Harris. When they ask about poverty and corruption and the caste system. When they ask about open defecation and illiteracy and rapes and dowry and female foeticide and rapes and poverty and emigration and rapes and poverty and poverty and poverty.
When they ask: you answer as a sole entity. Particular. And think about all the stuff
They Don’t Ask About (Among Other Things):
coffee, any religion other than Hinduism, developing world woke ness, any language other than Hindi, Thums Up & Maggi, caste based oppression, the proper way to pronounce Taj Mahal, Sik kim, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, the difference between Hindu and Hindi, what you consider exotic, Ghoul on Netflix, Sairat on Netflix, Bulbbul on Netflix, how it really feels to live in their country, your opinion on Hip Hop, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
Shubhra Shahare is a mental health counsellor from India, currently based in Nieuw-Vennep in The Netherlands.