On Growing Up Malayali in Maharashtra

Every morning,

I wake to my father’s voice
telling me to get my dirty clothes into the washing machine,
asking if I want some coffee.
Every morning,
I sip filter kaapi from a ceramic Starbucks cup,
and on Sunday
when mum and I eat uttapa and rava dosa out in a restaurant
I am clumsy-handed with the steaming steel cups,
afraid of the heat rising from the foam
so mum pours it out for me.
When I was six,
my grandparents would joke about how my father looked like a Malayali movie star,
with his round glasses and moustache
and when I asked what they meant,
a patient translation always followed.
I often speak of how my roots do not lie in where I am from,
but where I grew up.
How Malayalam and Marathi are both awkward and difficult to fathom
rough around the edges of my teeth,
but the former is a three hour plane ride to homes of relatives
with surnames I can’t summon
from the tangle of language in my throat,
and the latter, a mere cab ride across the city,
forty five minutes of afternoon traffic to a best friend’s house.
I often joke about how I like aamras so much more than aviyal,
but on Sunday afternoons,
I eat thayir saadam with upperi
and my hands smell like coconut oil.
I have straightened my hair for most of the milestones of my life
but I lose blue Parachutes bottles in my curls every month.
I poke fun at the hyper-dramatic Malayalam films my achamma watches,
laugh at the women in gold-lined saris making sweeping declarations.
I often talk about how long it’s been since I last visited Kerala,
cite the humidity a good enough reason,
frizzy hair an excuse to stay away from what I never really knew.
I exclaim about how I cannot keep up with relatives and their fast conversations,
their language a maze around my foreign ears.
Their language
my language
a possession I can never find.
I do not know when my culture turned into my dirty laundry,
peeking out of plastic baskets in the bathroom
hidden from sight
something to be washed clean.
Every morning,
I wake in a haze,
saunter half asleep to the dining table.
Every morning,
I sip filter kaapi from a ceramic Starbucks cup,
and then empty out my hamper.

Yamini Krishnan is a 17-year-old from Pune, who writes poetry and will be pursuing a liberal arts degree come August. You can find her on Instagram at yaminikrishnan_