Little India

©L.M. Quraishi, 2013

Don’t ask if I have been to this temple-lah
	or that garden-lah
		or that grand building.

Don’t ask if I have tasted roti prata
	or nasi lemak
		or durian.

Don’t ask if I saw the Christmas lights on Orchard Road,
	or shopped at Ion
		or took high tea at the Fullerton.

Ask me instead how it felt to fold the slippery, 
       creamy fruit flesh into my mouth, to taste 
		its smokiness as I rolled the seed along my tongue
how I felt the roughness of his fingers on mine,
        all around me: people of the heartlands cracking fruit, 
               tasting, deliberating, accepting and rejecting, 
and me—
       standing there,
               included.

Ask me how I felt when the Hindu grandfather
	rubbed white chalk onto my brow,
		how the priest flung holy water in cooling drops
from fanned banana leaves,
	and some landed on me,
		too.
How the sweet milk tasted
	as I lapped it from my palm,
               How I could still breathe—
that air so redolent of incense and blossoms and faith
	that air so thick with grandmothers.
                 How the patience of a daughter waiting in
mother’s arms comforted me. 
      How the flickering lime-rind cups of burning ghee
		gave me breath again.
How each person paused in front of her god,
	and with her own unique gesture—
		here hands uplifted, there face down on the tile—
How before he spoke to his god, he gave
	three sharp, respectful claps in front of the statue’s face,
		the echoing snap of his hands imploring:
Listen! Here I am!

©L. M. Quraishi, 2013

L. M. Quraishi (a.k.a. Michelle Hackel) is a poet and children’s book writer who completed her Summer Institute with BAWP in 2001. She writes weekly with Temescal Writers in Oakland, and spends the rest of the time chasing her unruly and inspiring children.

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4 Responses to “Tourist by L.M. Quraishi”

  1. Deborah Lustig Says:

    beautiful
    thanks for sharing your experiences of sharing their experiences…

  2. Cheah Says:

    Michelle, you bring to life the familiar and the everyday events here and I see them again, a little differently though, through your lenses. Thanks for sharing. I have enjoyed reading your blog too. Reading your descriptions about our urban landscape made me reflect on what Singaporeans do to take a breather. Next time, we must venture beyond the city into the deepest parts of Singapore. We will find those secret places!

  3. Joel Says:

    Reading your post has opened new vistas for me about my home country that I would never think possible since I’ve been here my whole life. Absolutely refreshing!

  4. rdvanhorn Says:

    I have only been on Singapore Airlines and have not had the pleasure of seeing Singapore with my own eyes. Your writing creates a visual picture of a place I would now like to visit.

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