Whitewashing

Published: March 30, 2014
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And my own name in my mouth feels like a dry, flavourless biscuit. And they laugh when I can’t recognise myself being announced at banquets. When I cannot recognise my placard on the table; when they demand I leave by the backdoor.

Our names will never roll around their tongues,

With the delicacy and finesse,

Of the mothers who named us.

After 14 hours of birth,

Sweaty, sticky, spicy, sweet, tangy names with stories and secrets.

Our names in foreign mouths

Are like spices with unexpected

Sharp thorny flavours,

Spat out in discomfort,

Pronounced with pain,

And anglicised quickly like a cool drink of water.

 

So that Dureshawar becomes Rey,

And my own name

In my mouth

Feels like a dry, flavourless biscuit.

And they laugh when I can’t recognise

Myself being announced at banquets.

When I cannot recognise my placard

On the table;

When they demand I leave by the backdoor.

It is always by my father’s name.

 

Our names will never

Roll around their tongues,

With the strength and durability

Of the fathers who sired us.

Sweaty, sticky, spicy, sweet, tangy,

Names with stories and secrets.

When they pronounce those hidden musical notes,

Without the lilt and the tone and the timbre

It falls in a heap in front of us

With a dead thud;

Like a bird shot down midair.

This is the corpse of our stillborn hyphenated-Australian identity,

And my new name is white

Cold and silent – a mausoleum filled with the stories of people

We will never allow ourselves to be.

Dureshawar Khan

Dureshawar Khan

A proud Pukhtana writer and social justice activist from Perth, Western Australia. Her works attempt to explore the post colonial concepts of identity, otherness and belonging through the lens of an ethnic woman in a foreign country. She tweets as @shahzadgai (twitter.com/Shahzadgai)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Arooj Ahmed

    The same happens to their names here. ;)Recommend

  • Sami

    It is written in the profile of the writer. “A proud Pukhtana writer”. What is meant by it.?.Recommend

  • Sarita Talwai

    Stellar.Recommend

  • RalfSid

    It means she is proud to be a Pakhtun and admires writing..quite simple to comprehend..Recommend

  • RalfSid

    It means she is proud to be a Pakhtun and admires writing..quite simple to comprehend..Recommend

  • Dan

    Thank you captain obvious…I am sure Sami can comprehend the English language that is why they may have asked a much deeper question.!Recommend

  • Dan

    So Ms. Khan this begs the question are we ever truly integrated into these societies or are we always nomads looking for the next oasis?Recommend

  • Sami

    Well thanks for Sarcasm. Actually i was pondering that how someone could be Humble and Proud at the same time. Could Humility and Pride coexist? Also i was brainstorming that if some White Guy would state that he is proud to be a White or some Muhajir in Karachi will state that he is Proud to be a Muhajir or some Punjabi or Sindhi will state proud to be a Punjabi or a Sindhi then what would be the implications?.
    Also I dont know that how to define Racist and EthnoCentric?.Recommend

  • Akmal Ahmed Khan

    you should’ve commented on her poem rather than her bio.Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Err . madam before writing such one sided articles, can you tell me how many ‘outsiders’ care to integrate in the mainstream of societies where they are presently living . I am living ‘abroad’ since more than 15 years and I see truckloads of people of my race still trying to follow their old customs in an ‘alien land ‘ and refusing to soak in what the present society offers and then they complain saying they are not treated ‘equally’ . Everything is two sided.Recommend

  • Sami

    Well actually I was alluring to that as well. Somehow i like Humble poets. Those who believe in Universality and Humility are more appealing to me…:)Recommend