A first generation's lullaby of loss

Monday, February 10, 2020 - 8:07pm

“Ruchi, how do you live like this? How will you get married?” my mother shook her head, sifting through the ruins of my room. A dissonant pitch filled the air. Being young, messy rooms, disheveled hair and an outspoken voice were the products of my outright opposition. I sat in the only cleared portion of my room, shoulders firm, head high, basking in the glory of my rebellion. 

Growing up in a South-Asian household posed a life long ultimatum, as concepts of independence and traditional notions of womanhood often felt mutually exclusive. Every invitation from my mother to cook had to be accompanied by an elaborate scheme to shape me into a domestic role. My mother’s requests of tabling out chai and chaat to guests were indirect requests to jeopardize my autonomy. The song of my dissent climaxed, with me, the melodist, stringing together an anthem of independence. 

 In college, I stand now, softer, more resolute in my self-determination. I go home for the holidays and see the lines in my mother’s face. Older, tired, she no longer invites me to harmonize. My shoulders hunch. I lean forward with the weight of loss shrouding me. I sit with a solemn understanding of my “choice,” as generations of tradition have now been drowned out by my stanzas. Now, I sit, in messy rooms, empty kitchens, a delicate dirge sinking into my skin.