this piece was​ ​originally commissioned by Apples and Snakes, October 2018
 

they ask me where i am from / and i do not know how to answer / because how do i tell them the story of my truths / when the all the sentences attached to them / have been conveniently buried / before they could reach the mouths of those we cherish before they could trickle down our senses / fall between our lips / find a home within our tongues / settle into our taste buds / so we could breathe them into new lives

 

in 1947 one of the world’s largest mass migrations occurred / the colonial British began dismantling / their carefully curated empire in South Asia / splitting a nation enriched by a myriad of cultures languages and religions into two / carving borders / where there were none / fourteen million people were displaced / acts of mass violence took place / where once people lived in harmony / now there was rage

 

my ancestors came from a province called Sindh you see / back then it was a part of all of India / now it is only in Pakistan / and i say i am Indian / but i am no more Indian than i am Pakistani

 

they ask me where i am from / and i still do not know how to answer

 

i am from the ridges between mountains that don’t fit / the in betweens of catastrophes / the stories lying underneath sand that dwindled / between breaking oceans / i am from the suitcases that were lost in silence / the blood between soil / found in fruits that grew / despite the fires that brewed / i am from the photographs that burned / through golden frames carefully kept / cautiously tucked aside / buried with seeds from mango trees that once grew /  i am from the undivided land / my ancestors regrets

 

they ask me where i am from / and i still do not know how to answer

 

they ask me again / like there is no knowledge of the fact that the lines that were carved displaced millions of their homes / and the lines since then have only grown

 

they ask not because they want to understand / but because they need to justify their actions for the word no

 

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968

The Immigration Act 1971

The British Nationality Act 1981

The Immigration Act 1986

The Immigration Act 1988

The British Nationality Act 1990

The Asylum and Immigration Act 1996

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002

The Asylum and Immigration Act 2004

The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009

The Immigration Act 2014

The Immigration Act 2016

 

they expect us to then / piece the puzzles of the histories they’ve carefully curated / without ever acknowledging the lack of it in their textbooks

 

Who is Queen Elizabeth 2 married to?

What is the capital of England?

 

How many women were victims of sexual assault during the partition of India?

 

Which flag has a white cross on a blue background?

What was the population of the UK in 1901?

 

How many people were displaced during the partition of India?


What is the monarch's ceremonial role?

How old is the Big Ben?

How many families had to break during the partition of India?

 

you see each of the acts have caused more borders / and the borders have only caused more barriers / and the barriers more hostility

 

and now we have people in uniforms screaming the words no / but its often already known that’s the answer / because the media swims under headlines normalising hate

 

humans are labelled ‘swarms’ / ‘cockroaches’ / and ‘illegal’

 

so they sit there in their uniforms / once again puppets of an empire that has not stopped / politely saying in their ‘british’ ways

 

I know you want to step in

but I am here to tell you

You are not allowed

 

You cannot step into this border

With your filthy hands dipped in chicken curry

Cut in your motherland

Because we don’t eat like that here

 

We knife our roasted meat with pride

and have pints with salted chips for dinner

 

I know you want to step in

but I am here to tell you that

You are not allowed

 

Your sarees and burqas don’t fit into our wardrobes

Because we don’t dress like that here

We drape ourselves in the Union Jack

Built on the backs of half of this world's people

 

I know you want to come in

But I am here to tell you

You are not allowed

 

Your bindis and mehendi

Are too customary

Because we are so unorthodox here

We go to festivals and relish in accesoring our bodies

With everything you Hindus hold dear

 

I know you want to come in

But I am here to tell you

You are not allowed

 

Your languages don’t roll of our tongues easily

Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi doesn’t fit in our dictionaries

We expect you to learn our phonetics

Because your accent just sounds lame

 

I know you want to come in

But I am here to tell you

You are not allowed

You can view the video of my performance of this piece at What You Saying? Poetry Night here