Archives for the month of: March, 2013

My grandfather Motiram left far northern India when he was a very young man. He came from a poor family and was seeking a better life. He was a Hindu, and the part of India where his family lived later became Pakistan. Many in my family have told the story of his travels to Thailand, looking for a new home. It sounds like an epic journey, one that defined who my grandfather would be for the rest of his life. What he did not know was that the journey also defined his children and grandchildren and how we see ourselves in the world — as people who came from somewhere, even if we are still seeking a place to call home.

Motiram had travelled far,

and he was tired.

He had carried his pack –

everything that was his –

over mountains, across

salty ocean, farther and

farther away with each step

from what he knew.  Would

he see India or his family

again?  He met whole

worlds of people along

the way.  They had their own

language and food and

laughter.  They were kind.

But in the black night, he

listened to the rustle

of bats and the hum

of mosquitoes, and felt

the empty pit of loneliness.

What Motiram did not know

was that the next morning

the sun would rise and he

would set out again.  That just

over the next mountain

was a place he would someday

call home, people he

would call his community.

Looking back, he would not

be able to point to a day

when this happened. It did

happen.  And though he

could remember the lonely

night before, it was the many

happy days at home that

slipped so quickly by.

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Last spring, my cousin in this story came to Minneapolis with his wife and two adult children to visit. I have only seen him a handful of times as an adult, and it always seems surprising that he is now a grown man. My memories of visiting Thailand as a child include him — a lanky, laughing boy with a buzz cut and the school uniform of navy blue shorts, white shirt — and our adventures together. 

 

Light streams through curtains of dust.

With my cousin I climb, each step waking more dust.

Hooked on our fingers like elaborate rings

are several small straw cages,

tiny birds cheeping inside.

We come into a room, wooden beams, wooden floors,

empty, but for sunlight from the windows at front.

Dust, wood, light – these muffle the busy sounds below.

At the windows, we lean out to the sunshine.

And then we begin:  taking one cage at a time,

we open it, sending each bird into the light.