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.