Tag Archives: homesick

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our migration and settlement here

The occasion appropriated my wardrobe

headband earrings red-neck cut off

to travel back through the city for the cake

infinite-in-one what now?

Where the oxen forded not the river but the highway


And the rickshaw interior was fated for the day.

Patriotic Padding

At the bakery they wondered if every American dressed for their pastry.

This was confusing as is so why a picture? they thought

but we soon assimilated them to our spirit

good riddance, he says

It must be the only one in the city of its kind.

Sweet freedom!
We didn’t have a mit or a pigskin, so we played cards instead. Get those redcoats out of here! Kelly proclaimed.


6 lungs inflated 70 balloons; a mosquito held them; a tailor’s string shared with all.

my bed is America for scale P1080028

We requested a special dinner themed America.


3/4 of it required salt so we knew they had succeeded.

Cake realized

When I said Americans weren’t louder than us I was lying, Norwegian Ann admitted over her green beans when we sang the anthem. It’s manifest destiny, I replied. We had so much more space than you to fill.


But as soon as we shouted at everyone for fireworks, rain threatened to deflate us

what now?

but we paused with the clouds to scare the neighborhood.

lungis and fireworks

That’s not supposed to look like that! she said in this moment. Neither was the messy white ground flame that followed, but it glowed better and brighter.


Is it a war? the ghostly congregation at the boy’s hostel wanted to know.


Still the rain pixeled the air in white dots all around us, the callous sky collapsing in downward arrows as we fixed to send the biggest sparks higher.

damper P1080072

In the end, two managed an opposing current.

finally P1080067

When they burst low and fast, we danced and danced and danced in the sand turned mud.


It wasn’t the explosion we loved, but the lighting of it. We saluted the floating ashes and shouted freedom! as the monsoon fell into our open, wild mouths.


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Articles of Confectionation

“What country?” The question always interjects from the madness. It catches me off guard and I look for the face of the inquirer – people passing by on the train platform, school children crammed in the adjacent auto, the auto driver.

“America!” we chirp. Reaction prize goes to the young boy in the auto who repeated “America?” with wide wondrous eyes as if the word itself surprised his mouth with delicious enunciation. Most people just grin and then walk away, apparently edified that they’d discovered the whole of us.

This simplicity precisely explains my intense admiration for the 4th of July. I don’t especially enjoy lighting fireworks or grilling or Old Navy shirts, but I do appreciate the holiday’s theory. It celebrates a premature victory. Thomas Jefferson stood up and  said, “Okay, guys, we decided are free. Now, corroborate that.”  We don’t mark the end of the war, when all the great minds argued in Paris and then in Philadelphia and then until they formed the Constitution which formed SCOTUS, and they could properly continue the arguing in D.C. We celebrate our imminent victory over everything.

Our celebration, too, will precede action. We are 10.5 hours  in the future here. By the time the tailgates pop in parks all over the homeland, the guards will have swept up the remnants of the ten fireworks we can scrape together. The barbeque paneer, the closest analog to meat we could find, will have been long devoured. We’ll become those people who set off their poppers too early at party and start eating their cake before everyone’s received a piece.

Still, we had an obligation to spit watermelon seeds and nearly light someone’s hair on fire with a sparkler, I said to the group. And being beyond America’s borders, I had found quite a bit to appreciate about it. I valued paved roads, tall men, and jumbo-sized Doritos bags. If we couldn’t eat them, we could at least celebrate their memory.

At breakfast, I made my own declaration: I would find us a flag cake. I set myself to it – our dutiful but ultimately deflated celebration required one. The task required all the fibers comprising my American spirit – enterprise, navigation, neurotic time-sensitivity and forcefulness covered with a Midwestern smile. I didn’t even know where to find a bakery or how I planned to carry this dumb thing back in a rickshaw, but God bless America when I did.

So, I made a black-and-white print out of a flag, in turn using that to flag down a rickshaw at the front gate. After ten minutes, we stopped in a promising area on the busy highway. Anna, Isabelle, and I bummed around until we found KS Bakery. KS for the Wheat State. Perfect.

The bakery pleasantly displayed rows of trays of Indian sweets. Sweet shops are the nail salons of India – every corner, basement, and chat stand sells gulab and ice cream. Coinci(dental)ly, the city owns nearly equal numbers of dental clinics.

I tracked down someone behind the counter and showed them the print-out with my best “Howdy!” manners.

He shook his head. “It’s not possible.”

“Why not?” I inquired, deflated. I wasn’t about to admit defeat on the day America swore itself against the idea. “No American flag?”

He shook his head again, and walked through the swinging door to the kitchen. The customer at the counter was looking at my print-out and snickering. Then the employee returned hanging onto the arm of his coworker, laughing even harder than Guy 1.

I repeated the request, unfolding the print-out. “Can you put this on top of a cake?” I mimed icing with my hands like an umpire making a safe call on a base. The lethal, flailing arms seemed to hack off words from their matching sentences. We spoke in a parsed-down pigeon English.

“Cake?”  he said.

“Yes, yes. American flag.” I looked up, doe-eyed and eager.

“No stars,” he said when scrutinizing the black-and-white design.

“Five at most?” I said, smiling.

“No stars.”

“Not all,” Anna helped. “We don’t even need stars, really.”

“Little dots okay,” I said trying to strike a compromise with him.


“Yes. If that is easier?” Okay, he shook his head.

“What size?” I inquired.

“1 kg 2 kg?”

“One cage?”


“How big is a cage?”  I thought “cage” might be a nuanced baking unit of measure. I am always willing to concede I know less than an expert when any misunderstanding occurs, bakers included. This time, cage sounded about as accurate as the rest of our conversation.

“1 kg,” he said writing it down. “Oh no, no. I said.”  I still didn’t know how to judge this cage.  I pointed to a square cake of an appropriate size in the display case. “That size?”

“Rectangle,” he insisted. “3 kg”

“Kg!” I realized finally. “Kilograms!” I said with laughing with Anna.

“Only rectangle,” he insisted. “3 kg”

“Oh no, it doesn’t have to be a rectangle. We aren’t that patriotic.”



This reciprocal geometry lasted at least five minutes. We couldn’t find the straightest path to understanding. Finally when Anna physically folded the print-out into a square did we calculate a hypotenuse together. We wrote down the colors on the black-and-white print out, and he wrote down our order on a receipt. He dashed into the back. “Saturday morning?” I suggested. Stale cake might indicate our mood, but I wasn’t paying 400 rupees for us to chuck it. If you’re forbidden to drop a flag on the ground, I’m pretty sure you can’t throw its more delicious forms into the trash. Another head wag, and I paid the advance.

On July 4th 1776, the conglomerate colonies awoke to find themselves suddenly lumped together by freedom because some guys spit, shook on it, and whipped out their quills.  The new nation waited for the new patriots to open fire with their arms against the British. Come July 4th, 2009, I will awake to find a cake decked out in stars ‘n stripes, smelling of fresh butterscotch and patriotism, waiting for my open arms.

I think.


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The first metaphor lesson I received discussed houses. They come to represent their inhabitants, I learned, their architecture and mood reflections of the individual, internal dramas of the characters. At this time I was reading a lot of Dark Romantics ,though, so there were a lot of internal dramas and excessive number of people to be prone to them. These things just tend to happen when you marry your cousin and you are a bastard child and you also contract TB.

But if I myself was ever suffering the torment of buildings, it was upon my arrival in Hyderabad. I experienced a very negative, visceral reaction to this place once we slept off the fatigues. We are cloistered here in this university, away from main campus and even further from the city. I hadn’t come to like this city yet because I hadn’t had the opportunity to hate it. I am not fond of it in the way I am fond of Delhi, and I am only fond of Delhi because I survived it. I hated the raw sores of human suffering that it exposed to me, but I don’t regret my time there.  Hyderabad, however, felt like a wasteland for new reasons, and just like camp.

Our hostel is the newest building in a future student housing complex. It contains all the passivity of a place not taken in any memories. The road in front is unpaved.  Outside no foliage yet adorns the natural red rock and dirt, except one median of electric green grass. In the middle a small sapling reigns with its diminutive shadow. I imagine this is maintained with a kind of insane maintenance.


Inside, generic thin-framed drawings slouch on the wall. The recreation room has the charm of a dentist’s waiting room – full of singular chairs and an end table I use as a footrest. I pad down the slate grey concrete tiles in the middle of the night to use the restroom, where I wash with usually cold bucket water in the mornings.

P1060795 P1060797

There are only 16 of us in the whole big marrow of this place. When it rains, the roof leaks near the staircase, and the locks of doors rattle when you walk past. “It is like a mental hospital!” Anne said the first evening right before we turned out the light to go to bed.

We put up mosquito nets the second night after a rainstorm ushered in insects of every shape, size, color, and crunch into the hostel. They covered the walls and floor of the lobby. In the morning, thousands of insect corpses littered the floor having died from their brief lifespans or in a blazing glory encounter with the Pest-o-Matic in the corner.

We saw one lone mosquito in our room the whole night, but we have kept the nets up anyway. The gauzy divide provides false fortification. Siphoning off personal space in a building full of it seems foolish, reclusive. Yet, it etches relief out of the biting solitude of this huge building – this space is mine, my retreat, a self-imposed confine.


On my provided bulletin board I have tacked the only three reminders of home I managed to shove in my backpack that weren’t prevention for tropical diseases. They’re all short notes, one placed surreptitiously in my journal by my mom, two given to me by my friends Brenna and Paul. My computer troubles cut me off regularly form the people who could give me the most reassurance in my homesickness. The monsoon rains cut us all off completely with the power. In the still nights without A/C I sweat sleeping fitfully, pushing off the covers, tangling myself in the mosquito net.

In the first days, I took bike-rides to quell the restless deracination. I rented a bike from the hostel for 1000 rupees. Mine is a brambling oleo of parts attempting to hide it behind an absurdly cursive script on the side that says Miss India Emerald. It has no gears, barely brakes, and the tires are bound to blow before I leave. But, it gets me to and from campus with a little breeze and little effort.


Eventually, my indirection transformed from distraction to a deflated false solitude. As punctuation, when I rode back up the desreted hill in the pregnant twilight on evening, I saw bats as huge as a hawk twirling through the sky as if tethered to steady pendulums. C’mon metaphor, I thought. Really, now? The giant terrors swooped so low I seriously thought one might carry me off, which is premium motivation to pedal faster, even if it is back to an empty, dark concrete block resisting attachment.


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