Chromosomal Matter(s)

I am made of

i. A cabinet of broken glass bangles, iridescent in their trauma
ii. A courtyard littered with bright green mango peels and rotting flesh
iii. A gunshot wound to the rump of an otherwise spotless goat
iv. A collection of forgotten marbles under the kitchen sink
v. Fireworks (“those are gunshots, lie flat on the ground, don’t you dare move!”)

vi. My grandfather’s nightmares, the ones where he trips over bodies trapped in landslides, bones crunching with every footfall
vii. The coal-laden train from Lahore to Delhi, compartments full of children with hides roasted by the sun
viii. A five rupee recipe notebook with lentil stains on both covers; a legacy easy enough to forget
ix. The look on my grandfather’s face when he sends his son to the best school he knows with the money he earned—
x. —and when he understands that his son will now forever speak his coloniser’s tongue more lovingly than his mother’s

xi. New mango trees in new courtyards; fruits that taste more bitter than sweet
xii. A punctured football on the wet dirt road outside my father’s house
xiii. Young girls with glittering jhumkas and eyes half-lined with kohl; bruises under their collars and wedding finery jangling on their wrists
xiv. Politicians on the radio with serpentine lies clawing at their throats
xv. Loudspeakers that blare patriotic music down the streets where the poor die in squalor

xvi. The lump in my grandmother’s breast
xvii. The blood-red saffron in her spice rack
xviii. The way she cannot help but dream about blood stained pulao for weeks
xix. I am made of the will in my father’s heart as he set aside his footballs for starched lab-coats
xx. “You’re too young to see death,” “So were you,” “That was different,” “Was it?”
xxi. Memories of sticky mango juice smiles that tear their way through cold hospital floors and sweaty nightmares
xxii. Gold jewelry stashed away for a rainy day, now wet under the clouds
xxiii. A thread to hang on by, a thread too weak to hold its own weight

I am made of

i. The rusty shade of my mother’s mother’s henna on her wedding day, crawling like poison ivy across palms still childishly pale
ii. The cobbled streets where she once played soccer with the city boys, saree bunched up to her knees
iii. Married to a Hesse collection, a Tagore bust and a dissertation
iv. The plane-ticket stubs my grandfather threw away
v. Plane-ticket stubs carefully dusted off and stored in a Brittannia Butter Biscuit tin under my grandmother’s bed

vi. A tear-soaked pillowcase hung out to dry
vii. Stray hairs on a broken comb used to brush my mother’s hair
viii. The scotch-addled conversations on solid state physics and revolutionary poetry
ix. The thinly veiled kitchen door through which my grandmother heard these voices, as though worlds away
x. My mother’s sallow-faced rag-doll, dragged along all the streets of Calcutta

xi. The streets of Calcutta, flooded with tomato juice and fish scales and covers torn from second-hand books
xii. Brash women with jute bags under their armpits bargaining for their price
xiii. Bangla words mistakenly spilling from my mother’s mouth in a Nebraska farmers’ market (they don’t bargain the way she was taught)
xiv. The plane-ticket stubs in her salwar pockets
xv. The only Indian on a snow covered street, the neighbours complaining of a foreign stench

xvi. My parents’ wedding day, sticky mango juice smiles dripping from sallow rag-doll faces
xvii. All the lives my mother learned to live
xviii. Daughter, wife, mother, daughter, wife, mother, daught-
xix. My grandfather, who no longer remembers his plane tickets or Hesse collection, let alone his daughter
xx. My grandmother’s tears on my jacket sleeves
xxi. The gallery on my mother’s phone, full of unblinking smiles lest she forget herself like her father did
xxii. My ink, which never forgets the nightmares and mangoes and Bangla words I am made of

xxiii. Forty-six chromosomes (but somehow, a lot more)