Valimai

By | 1 February 2021

Sometimes I wear huge sweaters like my Amama (grandma)
The mix of itchy wool and polyester wraps around me
Her presence engulfs me as I sit on our rickety front porch
Sipping her famous masala chai, I reminisce
The flavors of the sweet cardamom and zesty ginger take me back to a place I’ve only been
in my head

In this place, I try to imagine what her life would have been
What battle scars she has been forced to carry

Why is strength always portrayed in destruction?
The weight of the sun must be heavy
But yet, every day, twice a day, God is able to carry its weight
Does that not take strength? Does that not take munificence?
I have learned strength is not only what you did but why you tried
This is why silence has become my new mother tongue

There is strength is silence
There is strength in vulnerability
I fight fear when my hair is being braided and oiled in the laps of women
Women who have fought fear to survive
Fear I won’t ever have to experience because of their strength

I think of my Amama, cooking in the tiresome kitchen
Melted ghee making golden sizzling lakes
Her callused hands working a million miles a minute
What made her who she is?
Who forced her to grow up?
Was is the fact she had to walk hours in the blistering sun to get a single bucket of water for
her family?
Or maybe it was the fact she taught to hate her rich brown skin because of colonizing British
beauty that caged her mind and spirit

Behind her hard exterior there is mountains of pain
Pain she could never show
Pain she feels because the proclamation of being a woman was stolen from her

When she tells me these stories, I hear the throbbing dejection echo from her voice
But I admire her for it
Not only because she went through it, but because she lived to tell it
She is my only definition of valimai

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