The Guerilla Girls and I
Where is home for children of dissent? Nationhood in our time breeds margins and refugees and oftentimes I wonder where it is that I fit. Because this nation makes space for me. There is a key in my name and the floors are hardwood and the sofas reupholstered. The air smells of newness, but there, through the kitchen window, is a field with tall grass and dying crop.
Through the blades, if you look close enough, is a lawn dotted with green tents and white porcelain. It is quiet, not a banner in sight or a slogan within earshot. The people beyond the grass look back at me. I wonder what they see. The news calls them immigrants by identity. Without papers like mine, their being is a protest and in this country, dissent is anti national. I argue opposition in academic jargon but the truth is they lived here once, and now they sleep in their tents and we sleep in their beds. I am told to call them neighbours. Should I wave? We made extra tea.
There are bits of my skin in corners of this house I haven’t sat in yet. Some are browner than others. My mother talks of Persian descent, but I tell myself that it’s the lighting. It is easier to justify my anger that way. Golden hair on the back of my neck at noon, and then by dusk, a blackness across my upper lip. A shadow grows between my brows and on the sides of my cheeks– it must be the sunset. The day eats away at my skin like a cherry, ripe till there is nothing left but the pit. I am dark like dried kokum when I am reading colonial discourse in a university library. But past its gates, across the road, farmers are in protest. There, my hair is golden again–erect, as if pricked by imposter syndrome. There, my skin is a lesser brown. Identity is a faulty thing. Should I wave? We made extra tea.
In this house, my mother says the help is like family. The kind of family that sets the table then clears it, is trapped neck-deep in dishwashing liquid, keeps the bathroom tiles pearly and kneads till there are leftovers. But they sit at the table, she remembers to state. A predilection for hero-worship, a household refrain. No steel cutlery, fourth bathroom, dressing preference or unpaid leave. We share this house. Uneven ratios and the fundamentals of servility sit with bits of my skin in the corners. They become gathered dust for someone else to clean. Where does this debt-trap diplomacy leave me? Should I wave? We made extra tea.
This house is not one for children of dissent. It breeds margins and refugees and I still wonder where it is that I fit. Because this house makes space for me. There is a key in my name and the floors are hardwood and the sofas reupholstered. The air smells of newness, but there, through the kitchen window, is a field with tall grass and dying crop and guerilla girls fighting different red lights than I am. At stop signs, I cross the road with fingers tugging at skirt seams and deep necks, but vermillion looks different after dark in district lanes, on cloth pads where blood is dirty and bleeding is a sin. We do not share the same light. I am running from a different red. But I see girls and bits of their skin in the corners of a different house, and I want to wave but I don’t know how. We made extra tea but it is cold now. Morning is here. Golden hair, house keys and a room of my own. Is this home?