My father carves with a pen with the patience inherited from his father, sculpting scissors-over-comb in a sweltering barber shop. He backstitches turns of phrase with the precision inherited from his mother paddling the sewing machine, and the persistence inherited from his brother paddling a bicycle to reach ஆள் அரவமற்ற குறிச்சி1 within அரவக்குறிச்சி2, carrying letters to sun-crumpled, half-remembered people. This, too, is generational wealth. when i write letters to people i half-remember, they crumple with the absence of conviction. i suffer the throes of labor, yet miscarry the redemption. My father dabbles in poetry, i dabble in pain. His footsteps sprout into முருங்கை தோப்பு3 of childhood in கரூர்4. Even in grief, his eyes hardly well up, mirroring the well from which he scooped water by quarter-portions of a bucket, because water doesn’t cascade effortlessly in his world. His tongue craves மொச்சை கத்திரிக்காய் குழம்பு5 made in மண் சட்டி6, his mother blowing into the fire, smoke billowing, as he dances a r o u n d her. My father now sways to the same rhythm in the kitchen, the scents and spices forbidden but never forgotten, like the சேவல் சண்டை7 of his youth. He teaches me to savor, i only (s)wallow. He drifts between both worlds, the old dance of balance. Continents and countries are, to him, nothing but dust storms and rivers and hide-and-seek. They are what you arrive at and inevitably leave. This, too, is generational wealth, he says. I gift you two worlds: this dance, this arrival to yourself regardless of the thousand inevitable little leavings you are forced to live through. Remember, home is the ocean within, endless is the swimming. Home is the ocean... endless— He bids me to swim i sink anyway.
1Aal aravamattre kurichi – a desolate village 2Aravakkurichi – a village in Karur, Tamil Nadu 3Murunggai thoppu – Moringa orchard 4Karur – a city in Tamil Nadu, India 5Mocchai katthirikai kuzhambu – a broth made with black eyed peas and eggplant 6Mann chatti – clay cooking pot 7Sevval sandai – cock-fighting