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Poem: Conversations with Parents

When I was eighteen, Amma said
it’s ok if you find a wife on your own
just make sure you find someone
from Our Community
[you know, a nice Tamil girl
preferably someone comely,
with waist-length hair
who sings like MS Subbulakshmi]

By the time I was twenty one, Vibha
Had come into our lives
And endeared herself to all,
Before deciding she wanted space and time
And moved back home to Pune
Appa said, well, at least she was Hindu
And showed respect to elders, not like
Some of these other Modern Girls

When I turned twenty three, they said
Now that you’re going abroad
Just make sure you find a girl
Who is Indian, don’t go with those
Foreign women:
their ways are different

But I came back for my first
Christmas Break
with photos of Wendy and me
from our trip to the Smokies
They thought for a while,
and said, good that she is vegetarian
And you know, Jewish culture
Is a lot like ours, really

Twenty sixth birthday, I celebrated
in Chennai, with Appa, Amma
and Ahmed, French-Algerian
condensed-matter physicist
who made dosas for them
in perfectly concentric
circles of batter, and lit up
the room with his gentle smile
And they sighed, and said
Nothing you do
surprises us
any more
Happy birthday, son.


(c) L Ramakrishnan, from Trikone Magazine March 2006, Vol. 20/21 No. 4/1, with permission

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