This is your museum of life, assembled in broken photographs and lost faces, collected from your mother’s drawers. The little girl plays in green grass, plucking jasmines and braiding them into her long hair. She wears a crown of stems and white petals in a orange sari, flowing in the absent wind. A man wears a white turban posing against the dusty street, adorned with a grinning smile. He holds a red clay cup filled with chai. There are lonely days where I recite your names and memorize your faces. I sit and lay with the photographs across my lap. I look at the woman and the man in the black and white photo. The edges are faded and cut. The woman wears a long braid and embroidered scarf across her head. The man wears a perfectfully wrapped turban. They sit facing with empty eyes. I am haunted by the ghosts of my ancestors. I spend my days speaking to the strangers of the photographs.
For years I have opened my eyes and not known where I was. On the photograph, the voice of a dead woman sits there. Staring. And in my dream, she speaks to me. My whole life, she tells me that I ate my skin. My tongue. My country away. You will be asked who you are,
and when I look for myself in her, I see the same skin.
In between my fingertips is when I spend my nights dreaming of the streets of India. It is under the restless moon, when I think of my lost country. I hold the vibrancy of my mother’s home careful in my possession. I trace the outline of what I could feel and what I could not hold. I am living by the artificial lines that divide humanity. It is within my mother’s reflection, in between dots and lines, wars and sacrifice weaved into her long black hair that she carries in her deep brown eyes. She spent her days in colorful clothing laughing with her cousins in her busy house of constantly moving bodies of light and wisdom. Living on land that stretched for miles and miles, land that held the palms of her brothers and uncles who colored the soil with their iron, sweat and tears. My mother tells me that India is in her veins, when she dances and hums the rhythmic beats of dreamy drums and honey gold vocals, there is an undying glow in her big heavy eyes.
When my mother is covered in villages, and my father covered in gardens, beneath my fingers, on top of my lost skin, this is all I know to do, is to how to hold photographs of memories of absent lands and homes. I feel the way it stains existences of a whole movement of people that once belonged to me. It is a gift of time and an unlivable curse. I try to resemble. I try to live each village. I try to live each garden, so I can hold their world well.
I imagine myself in the same photograph that would be held by my ancestors. It is an image that has been pulled, dragged, dipped every inch of my body blended together by synthetic lines and whitewashed palms. I am a silhouette forced into shapes. I am ambiguous and invisible. I was never aware of so much that has been lost until I saw myself in the photographs. My mother has said that we lived our lives in sacrifice. I never heard its pounding. I am a color that lost its light. It is an indefinite process of being absent and a search to be found. I will find myself in the landscape of photographs. It is where my mother’s stories come alive and I can dream of being with my ancestors on the streets of my country.