Brown on the outside.
White on the inside.
Sarsee Akal! (‘Hello’ Punjabi)
Said the Coconut Girl.
Jewelled doll in a salwar kameez (Indian Suit)
Gemstone bindiya targeted on the forehead.
Kiddha! (‘How are you?’ Panjabi)
Said the Coconut Girl.
All cinnamon legs in a profusion of glittered mini skirts.
Gin chaser, Whiskey Sour, chippy butty.
Fondled by the ‘Gaura’ boyfriend. (Gaura- White)
Meera Tika. (‘I am good,’ in Panjabi)
Said the Coconut Girl.
Spangled head scarf gagging her.
‘You are so dark, lah,’ ‘You must loose weight lah,’
‘Tusee Karli’ ‘Tu see Muthi’
‘Did you see her niece? She got into Medicine.’
Chirps from the harpies, the banshees…the aunti jee, the mummy jee…
The Dadima, the Nanima….
‘Meera Naam…….’ (‘My name is…’ is Panjabi)
Said the Coconut Girl.
Bejewelled Lengai, crystallized, hot pink and burnt gold.
Frenzied diamonds adorn her hair.
The perfect bride.
‘Nahin! Nahin!,’ (‘No, No,’ in Panjabi’)
Said the Coconut Girl.
Mac cosmetic façade, mangled rhinestone embellished hot pants,
Holographic, stiletto boots…
Her dad saw her with that white guy.
Mute was the Coconut Girl.
Manacled to her Chura.
Her bedazzled bangles.
Terraformed to her Tika. (Jewelled head piece-Indian)
Feasting on a banquet of curries.
A Panjabi paradox was our sad little Coconut Girl.
Pectoral fin pirated.
Yearning in a mermaid kingdom.
Cold glory of science.
Sanctified in a puddle.
Water smooth, silver.
Whitening and watered.
Beluga in a bathtub
Moon sad, no squeaky, shiny cry.
Once mythological and mating.
Pale porpoise gestures
Dangled on a hook, fish glittering.
You should glisten with shocks of water.
Mineral white, light bulb bright.
‘Sonni Gauri’ (fair and lovely in Punjabi).
Trampling on this so-called dusky rose.
‘Tusee karli!’ (You are so dark in Punjabi).
‘Selena bought sonni’ Selena is very fair.
‘Tu see Karli’ squawks my tawny, rotund uncle!
‘Stay out of the sun!’ his wife parrots in Punjabi.
Shall we join the illustrious ranks of the brightening and whitening brides.
Lets have a bonfire of this avalanche of skin whitening products.
Perhaps mercury induced and lethal…
These skin tones are considered grotesque if too tawny, too rusty brown or too onyx black.
This processed paleness of the sequined skeletons on glam mags.
Is this dusky darkness devilish?
Are we itemized by the colour of our skin?
Family members met you with the obligatory scorn.
Wilting under an Indian red giant.
Scorched and blackening on a Malaysian beach.
I am the shade of fragrant tea that my Dadi-ma and Nani-ma slurp while
nonchalantly remarking that skin colour dictates aesthetic appeal.
Why should I disown this swarthy skin?
Revolt against my own reflection?
My puha-ji proclaims my mixed heritage niece ‘Has these gray eyes, pale skin, light hair and looks positively European!’
She is a dazzling furore.
What about the dusky daughters?
With the cinnamon doe eyes and endless limbs.
Should I have slathered on the sun screen and appear joyfully porcelain.
Not a golden and caliginous exterior.
To believe that a chocolate brown complexion is heinous, hideous and low caste?!
Why not fifty shades of the diverse foundations?
Pearlised and pale….is not the only ideal.
Not the only beauteous ideology.
Mami-Ji would say lather yourself in saffron and ‘haldi’ paste to make yourself bride fair with smooth skin.
Spurned and spurred to this bleaching?
Until we are all bone white and shiny bones.
Caucasian, calcified clones.
Assimilate out of this brownish burden- it is not inferiority.
Perhaps I am ingrained to with this bigotry.
This bleaching syndrome.
‘Gori hai sundar’ (white is beautiful-in Punjabi).
I was once forbade for going out in the sun.
You cannot camouflage who you are.
Lamenting female relations.
Validation for this blanched, tinged cadaverous form.
They want us to be milky and mute.
A spectral ghost.
Do men have an acute, sexual preference for it.
Misconstrued is this baking, bronze goddess
THE BARGING BUDDHI
Buddhi- elderly lady-affectionate name I gave my Punjabi -Indian Grandma.
I used to sink into my Buddhi’s cinnamon and homely bosom.
This barging Buddhi permitted some unwitting pedestrian to past on the way to the shops.
‘Meera dhaal kaani’ she would utter.
‘I want to eat lentil curry’ in Punjabi.
I toyed with bright yellow Indian gold chain. This fattening and gilded snake.
This barging Buddhi cuts down a five year old cherub on a bike on her way to her daughters house.
‘Tu see history khidi’ she would squawk at me.
‘You will do some ironing’ in Punjabi
Slathering greasy coconut hair in my inky black plait, that swishes from side to side.
This barging Buddhism railroads a gawkish teenage off her skateboard while sweeping the front pavement.
Languishing in in a silky salwar kameez (Indian woman’s suit).
Tattooed with vermillion forehead.
This barging Buddhi shoved a mishap pen shopper.
‘Meera panic peen’ she mouthed.
‘I want to drink water’ in Punjabi.
This barging Buddhi laden an embellished chuni (headscarf) on my head before we both proceed to the Tarawa (Sikh temple).
‘Waveguide Jo Key Sakhalin, Waveguide Jo Kr Fates’ she prays.
A Sikh prayer.
This barging Buddha-is not so barging sew much. This grandma of mine.
Saintly soldiers soliloquy- a Sikh warriors guidance.
Some school kids might think that Sikhs are genies.
This hefty head gear.
Not all are just hell bent on commandeering public buses and occupying corner shops.
Brother took off his turban once before Mama made him wear if for school and kicked it around like a football. It resembled a decapitated head.
Sometimes school kids would bait him.
Sowing the seeds if doubt not to adorn is head with a turban.
Home coming is spiritual, he is not just in a minority.
How many styles of turban…Dastar….are there?
The rounded turban is seen as more holy, the more pointed is colonial and militaristic.
Door of the guru is the Gurdwara.
To stride into the Langar hall for a free vegetarian lunch of daal (lentil curry) and roti (chapattis).
It is mandatory this headdress for Sikh men in the prayer hall.
My brother once attended a turban tying class-this twisting of cloth in this perplexing fashion.
Hair remains uncut so that the body remains as the Sikh god intended.
I was forced to keep my onyx hair waist length till I was 17.
A curtain over oppression snaking down my back.
I did not wear a turban as a girl or lapsed Sikh with unplaited faith.
Hair must be clean and unblemished and entwined in cloth.
Grandmother said only the Indian elite were garnished in turbans.
Sikhs wore them in defiance, occasionally scalped by the obligatory Mughal ruler.
Caste system abolished-surnames Singh-Lion for a male.
Kaur-Princess for a female.
All indistinguishable- no untouchables residing here.
I do not possess this holy aptitude.
My cousin sister chose a Dastar.
She announced she was a feminist, honoured to wear a turban.
She didn’t want to be a hairless, shiny woman.
Tying the turban with purpose,
They are not rag heads, it is not a hat.
It does not conceal anything.
They turban fortress, part of the Sikh army-the Sikh Marshall Order.
Decorated with glittering, circular throwing rings.
They were weaponised, hurled at enemies.
Sikh warrior- baring down on the opponent, two feet tail.
Stature is magnificent.
My Grandfather said he smelled the pride on himself.
That 80,000 of his Dastar compatriots were slaughtered in both World Wars.
For the British.
He said when he tided the layers of material, there were neat edges, not rough.
My Na, Na (Grandfather in Punjabi ) dignified with his luxuriant beard.
Am I strongly over the notion of god?
This idea of my brother’s black blue braid remaining uncut, coiled in a saffron orange Dastar.
Part of the gang colours, this iconography of the noble Dastar.
My head will remained unadorned.
Where Fairies Are Extinct
Axis of evil.
Shimmering towers of fire.
Funeral sounds, graves uncovered in fairyland.
Where fairies are extinct.
Demolished of sparkle.
Instilled with revulsion.
Bones grafted on adolescent faces.
Shining, whole and bleached.
Knotted in molecules of guilt.
Follicles of regret growing on their scalps.
These pixies with their uterus shaped guilt.
Pre-Christian Goddesses stare with facial palsy.
There is no notion of sparkling contentment.
In a place where fairies are extinct.
The best interests of the corporal few are just fanciful.
The bizarre charm of this congregation of sprites.
Raving, ravishing and repressed.
Now impishly trampling on the gifts of imagination.
Mayiya (Pre-wedding Punjabi Bridal Ritual)
The pre-wedding ritual of glittered henna tattooed up bridal arms, legs and feet.
These eastern, secret maps indelible on the skin.
The fanatical aunties, sisters, cousin sisters, elderly and surplus female relatives cooing in congregation.
Their lumpy bells, jowls and blobby Nani Ji ( Maternal Grandma) and Dadi ma ( Paternal Grandma in Punjabi).
The Punjabi bride shuddering under turmeric and yogurt paste to beautify the complexion and make it bone pale.
These Caucasian beauty standards.
The West is now fornicating with the cloistered East.
These pompous uncles trying to navigate the hot, sweet, salty and spiced South Asian dishes.
Lips hotly smacking, ritual panting at the food tent, metal trays stacked high with tori, various curries and Indian sweets like Ladoga, Jalebi, Barifi (Indian fudge).
The curry and cardamon fumes.
The phalanxes of Eastern Gold.
The sinus, sweetly slender sixteen year sister slathers on some oil.
This not so practicing Sikh bride.
This so to be hell fire missile of glittered gilt and scarlet.
Jewels furnishing the necks sagging and taunt.
Slumping caramel breasts of the voluptuous train of plutonium bright saris, lenghai’s and salwar kameez.
Hands cavort on unblemished toffee skin. Lathering and smacking on the beauty potion, to cement
the beautous glow, to purify, exfoliate, cleanse the skin and protect against negativity.
The Oriental trundle of the elderly and their crumpled crepe, sugar paper and pale chuni’s (Punjabi head cover).
Banging bangles welded to dainty brown wrists.
Rainbow powder patterns painted onto brick walls.
Pasted in culture.
Her menhdi is oiled and glittered, now crusted and crumbling brown markings, reddening her.
The bride now gleaming in small explosions of sparkle. The grooms initials secreted in the intricate henna.
The cackle of the banshees, the harpies as they dance, gesticulate and sing archaic Punjabi bridal songs to celebrate.
Sangeet-sung together in Sanskrit.
This pre-wedding bridal ceremony
Ivory and red choora (bridal bangles in Punjabi) in sets or multiples of four.
These adornments of the almost wedded arms.
Supposedly worn for a year on until the shatter into candy cane pieces.
The ceremony the night before the eldest maternal uncle sits for the ritual.
Choora soaked and purified in milk and rose petals.
Placed on the bride by the uncle with the ego of a king.
His smile is fat and he scrapes her skin.
The choora is touched by relatives and blessings, money and sweets are stuffed into her mouth and hands.
Choking on angry sugar, her Dadima (Paternal Grandma in Punjabi) thumping her hard on the back so that she won’t gag.
The chunni I(bridal head scarf in Punjabi) ceremony-the head dress is regal in spider thread gold, encrusted with crystals and stained a ruby hue. It is heavily decadent and weighs her down.
Her face is veiled.
This crushed vermillion red silk, is raw and drops substantially around her like a firework fizzy gold super hero cape.
A nocturnal party, a copper khanda (brass/ copper container in Punjabi) decorated with clay lamps called diveh and mustard oil is lifted my a maternal aunt and carried, this special vessel.
Dholak drums are played, female relatives dress up as a bride and groom and regal us with Punjabi wedding songs.
A gaggle of female relatives jostle and jingle around a stick stuck with bells, gesticulate and writhe to the music these old wedding Punjabi folk songs.
Indian sweets are devoured, fireworks fizz up into the sky like neon highlighters smeared in the midnight blue skyline.
Bio-luminescent Creatures Of The Deep
I wish I was a bio-luminescent creature of the deep.
Welded to lightening, conversing in sparkle.
Noxious in the dark.
Optic nerves splattering like fireflies.
This weakening broth of fire and flame.
Cavorting in an indigo sea.
These astral jellyfish glutenous from their latest neon feast.
Flippantly playful is the octopus.
Corpses of the sea.
Contemporary glamour of the synthesizing colours.
Craters of watery moon beams.
Fermenting are these sea soaked elementals.
Water gods disfiguring their oceans.
These deranged, sparkling fish with their minuet brains- melancholically wired.
See their despondent jellied eyeballs and droopy mouths.
A congregation of twinkling fish scales.
Like dress code diamonds.
Embryonic and heavenly, these fish bones.
These dreamy textures and mermaids meandering.
Prismatic light in the howling water.
I wish to be a bio-luminescent creature of the deep.
The embittered old whales.
Sonic flash lights, sonic clicks of porpoises.
Narrow beams and bio sonar.
This whale song.
Marine life habituated to incandescence, pale blue and crystallized.
Deveined in gold.
Dystopian Cleopatra keen on jewels.
Dazzled with apocalyptic bronze form.
Her nest of lovers elder or fresh.
Prowess to emulate a goddess.
Cavorting along a ruinous road.
Doomed diamonds languish on collarbone.
Keen agility with glittered guns and scalpel ling hairlines.
She wears a face harness of platinum to cover scars of sexual mutilations of a once pretty adolescent.
Once intact hymen.
Disciples licking up her kills.
She wears a cape of textured skin, flayed from live victims, drizzled in honeyed gilt.
Gold leaf for maximum effect.
A new species with holographic hair.
Growing appetites for human organs.
Grisly in her gusto to carve cheeks and suck juices and bodily fluids form their pouches.
Her nervous system is in a constant state of alert.
In hot pursuit of her next human meal.
Unflinching jackal laughs.
Inscribed in her bones with the words of her ancestors before her.
These violent planets above her.
Unabolished in her her hedonism.
Once a utopian ghost.
Sunita Thind’s debut poetry collection The Barging Buddha was recently published by Black Pear Press.