Echoes of Identity: 'Dua' Shines in the India Writing Project : The Tribune India

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Echoes of Identity: 'Dua' Shines in the India Writing Project

Echoes of Identity: 'Dua' Shines in the India Writing Project


  1. A birdsong filling the air with music where there had been noise. The constant clamour of my parents yelling at each other into the wee hours of the day, rising and falling like the background score of a blockbuster movie. I remembered I had been thankful for the The music fell on my ears like cool water falling softly on a fresh wound that stung.
  2. The suffocation I muffled when both Pa and Ma hugged me tight at the same Like a silly attempt at a game of 'tug of war'. I recalled the strange feeling. A mix of love that ached, and a despair that turned quickly to a meaningless rage. The game was over when I pushed them both away. Maybe a bit harder than I meant to.
  3. A classroom, vacant except for my teacher and myself. And the pretty pictures and quotes on the wall, if you counted them as attendees worth Both my parents had failed to remember the parent-teacher meeting. The teacher looked like she didn't know what to do.
  4. A candlelight dinner. Pizza from Domino's, brownie and icecream from the Baskin Robbins outlet down the street. All of my favourites because it was my birthday after all. Ma had lit up the rose-scented candles and left the balcony open just a little to let the breeze flow But even in the darkness I could see the lump in her throat. Just as easily as I could see the hollowness in my father's eyes. How futile celebrations could be.
  5. I have a faint memory of long ago, when I was maybe nine years old - waking up on a holiday, slowly giving in to the warmth of the merciless Indian sun burning straight into my eyes. Through the white mosquito net that covered my bed, I could see my parents A slow, easy, imperfectly perfect dance. His eyes were fixed on hers, and I'll never forget that face. Maybe because that's the only time I've seen his face like that. Devoid of the slightest hint of a scorn. As for my mother, I couldn't really remember much other than her eyes that were only a tiny bit open. And a smile so full that her eyes were forced to remain shut. It was easily the most heartwarming memory in my storehouse of memories that you might call scant.

And those, in no particular order, are the building blocks of my identity. The blood that flows through my flesh and soul. Hardly a handful, but there they were.

My name is Dua. No, I am not a Muslim. I was named Dua, because that was the name of my mother’s best friend, who had tragically passed away in an unfortunate event. My father abhorred my name. He called me Shona instead. I am 15, female and not particularly striking for my age. I am what you’d call skinny, with a heap of stubborn curls for my hair and bunny teeth that I sometimes am embarrassed of. Besides memories, I collect marbles and second-hand books. I have very few friends because I don’t particularly enjoy answering people’s private questions about my family or myself.

More than once I've felt that I'm a crack in the wall for Ma. In a world surrounding her with the darkness of joylessness, I often sensed that she sought me for the hope of filling that vacuum. Even the slimmest ray of light seeping through that darkness was enough to keep her alive.

Afloat. She was a warrior. A worn-out warrior, navigating through the obstacles so meticulously placed in her path. Obstacles that I thought Pa created, though I am not sure why. Ma never told me so. In fact, no one told me so. But you know what they say. No one teaches the birds to fly. Or the fish to swim. Maybe all creatures have an inbuilt navigator - something that tells them wrong from right. It's always the eyes, Ma used to say at times. It always made me wonder what she saw in Pa's eyes. Did it make her run to a secret place inside her mind? Or did it haunt her dreams, like an uncomfortable lie? I might never know. Or so I thought.

Until I saw it the other day. A worn-out photograph of a young lady with my father. My father was clearly a lot younger. He had the light of youthfulness. The wild carefree laugh that fades with age. The lady was not beautiful. Not in my opinion anyway. She had a sly gaze, piercing eyes and a bony athletic demeanor. Wearing a blue t-shirt and black jeans, she still eluded an unmistakable aura of dominance. The words "With Dua, at Nainital, 1995" were written in my father's handwriting, which clearly hadn't changed since then. I rummaged for any more meaningless remnants from the past. I found another - a photograph of a younger Ma with Dua. They were giggling and holding hands - the kind of friends who stayed up all night talking about boys, unreciprocated love and life's many mysteries. Ma was nothing like her friend. She had a plump physique, and soft brown curls outlining her perfectly round face. Funnily, I seemed to resemble Dua more than I did Ma. I felt dizzy as this thread of thought spun crazy stories like a loom gone astray in my head. I gasped inaudibly as I felt a sudden strange kinship with Dua.

When I later confronted Pa with the old photographs, I saw an outburst of emotions on his face. Like a fast-paced slide deck that professors used for lectures in school. The only difference was, I was clueless about what my father's face was telling me. World War II was easier to understand.

That day, I had only begun to realize why my father hated my name so much. And why my mother sometimes stared into space when she uttered my name. Dua. It meant plea. So ironic. -Priya Velayudhan

For more information on the India Writing Project please visit the India Writing Project website.

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer : The above is a sponsored article and the views expressed are those of the sponsor/author and do not represent the stand and views of The Tribune editorial in any manner.


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