Tag Archives: desi

“american” is not a synonym for “white”

dear readers,

as an american born indian woman, i get annoyed when i hear people from all walks of life using the word american to mean white. last night i’m talking to a desi brother, he tells me that he used to go out with an american girl. and i’m thinking, i know he doesn’t mean me. he means a white girl. and in about two seconds, he’s going to find out i was born in chicago and tell me knowingly how i’m not indian. which leaves me with nothing to claim. and that’s what’ll happen too, if you don’t define yourself, someone else will certainly try to tell you who you are and are not.

turns out me and that same dude end up chilling at sob’s. he got tipsy, i wasn’t drinking, but we both got in on his h1b account and that was helpful for this teacher on the grind. just keeping it real. here’s a pic from last night with me and hip hop architect, afrika bambaata. happy anniversary zulu nation.

peace,
roopa

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bhajans and boys: a 3 (three) III part series

part 2: god’s corner

by roopa singh

*

Dear Readers,

When I was last in India I trekked solo through city after city.  Everywhere I went there were gods on the corner.  Men, women, and children brought their hands chest high, palm to palm, paying respects to the urban altars in motion, on foot, rickshaw, and car.  Growing up in the 619, corners started to figure into my thoughts when I started passing out condoms and bleach to hoes on corners in El Cajon.  I was a 15 year old volunteer at the San Diego AIDS Foundation.  Over a decade later I wrote and read poem called “Kinara,” at the 2007 Cyril Family Kwanzaa in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.  Kinara means corner in Hindi, and it is also the word for the candleholder used to cradle seven candles for seven days and the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

There is a long tradition of spirituality and sensuality palm to palm in prayer, together.  The three part story, “bhajans and boys,” culls from this ancient tradition to sandalwood frame a modern day, concrete coming of age story.   It’s like a soap opera, but its not.  It’s a blog opera.

Part 1: Prashaad and Giving up the P, posted Monday, opened the door to the Trekannand family.  Thursday night bhajans were a staple of my young life.  So were boys and relating to this thing called sex.

Part 2: God’s Corner, brings us into the room where prayers were sung and into the extremes of a teenage girl’s self-esteem.

Part 3: Soul’s Sung Clean will be posted this Friday.

Enjoy Part 2.  And to the thousand of you clicking on this site per day, thanks for reading.

***

bhajans and boys: a three (3) part series

part 2: god’s corner

by roopa singh

god on the corner with hoes
god on the corner
shiv ling an exquisite sculpture
a dick rising/sun gliding/up
a yoni spread/moon crying/fuck
shiv ling an exquisite rupture
double toned/poured over
milky shoulder/exposed
god on the corner with hoes

zoya and her sister soraya knew they were driving me to southeast san diego to meet a dude.  but i hadn’t told em that I was going to lose my virginity that night.  instead, I spent the long drive bragging from the backseat of their dope jetta about the three boys I had wrapped, and how they all lived on 47th street.  .

there was michael, my burger bing blood, who’d quiz me on krs one hits on the drive from his cool hood to my boring hood.  “the bridge is over, the bridge is over, brrrbappaah…know who that is?”  only answer he got was an eye roll.

tony, the kind eyed one, so sincere about his freak. nzingha told him to come over, meet her new friend.  tony came in sporting a chocolate brown leather and a serious intention to lay me down.

and then there was alton.  a little slow but sweet.  like most of the young men I got down with, his living situation was in flux.  alton crashed at his producer’s studio. it was a small, carpeted house, no furniture, mad equipment, and occasionally a mile long pet boa constrictor.  alton and I sat knee to knee on two chairs in his empty room and kissed, the boa a background dancer to our love space.

but I still hadn’t lost my virginity.  I hadn’t given it up to anyone till I met montrel at the gas station on the four corners of death.

we followed him to a house around the way.  I convinced zoya and soraya to leave.  they left me.  montrel and i entered a house, and went straight downstairs to a den type situation.  a sofa, a coffee table.  he kissed me back against the sofa. I kept all my clothes on, one shoe, and one pant leg.  my underwear, we pushed aside.

he pushed in and I hurt briefly. then the good feeling of it surged. I said it was my first time, not that I cared or thought that it meant anything, I just told him on gp.  he chuckled into my ear, disbelieving.  montrel pumped and whispered, “you wanna to come don’t you?”  I didn’t know what to say.  “come where?” I wondered.

he came soon, and the feeling in me subsided, vacated.  I was empty. it was done.

it was exactly what I wanted. it was all I could imagine.  the most my self-esteem expected.

he left me down there to kick it upstairs with his friends.  I stared at his watch on the table.  figured it wasn’t worth the jack.  made it home and headed to my room.  I looked and looked in the mirror.  id done it.  I didn’t look any different, I mused, face monotone.

I never saw montrel again. his purpose in my life was just that, to help me catch up to Jeanette.  now we’d both done it, I thought as we drove past her house on the familiar route to bhajan at prem uncle and sheila anti’s house.

we’d pull up the curb, squeezing a park between cars back to back up and down the quiet suburban street.  walk up, add your size 10’s to the shoe swamp, gently push the unlocked front door, and step in eggshell to the slow, spacious beat of tablas.

“deepaks getting better and better.”

mom and I walked respectfully, quietly through the living room, dining room, kitchen area, and stepped down into the trekannand’s new annex.

the god corner was where we faced while we sang.  where all the Hindu gods lived, and flowers lived too.  prem uncle’s revered father poster sized in the middle, garlanded and framed by gods all around, ferocious and gentle, two dimensional and three, victorious and contemplative, woman and men, cascading from wall to wall.  even jesus and sai baba had they spots, tucked like bees amidst the flowers on the altar.

gods corner.  that’s where you make your offering of prashaad.  you walk there first, socks padding softly on carpet, stepping in rare empty spaces between folded knees of seated devotees,

and as you get closer to the altar, closer to the trekannand’s singing prayers out high and clear, you see him.  “theres that one uncle,” I think, “right up front and center as usual, back straight like a sergeant.  who does he think he is, so important like that to sit so close to the gods?”  even when that uncle came in late, he’d still march up to the front, and expect folks to move to make room for his bossy ass.  and they always did.

secretly, I admired his self appointed station before bhagwan.  plus, I pitied his wide and daughters, who he always sat in front of, obstructing with his ramrod tall back their view of the gods.

in hand a bowl of peaches and plums, dotted with water droplets, you set them down on the mat at the base of the altar.  it was full of bowls like yours, overflowing with natural raw foods and warm cooked dishes to be sang over. prayed over.  offered over to the gods, fed back to the devotees.

gods corner.  where you give and get taken.  where life is stirred and unshaken.  I breathe in I am ok.  I breathe out and I’ve done it.  I am in control facing god in the corner, with hoes.

*

thanks again for tuning in. stay tuned for more from your favorite political poet.

peace,

roopa/N

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bhajans and boys: a three (3) part series

Part 1: Prashaad and Giving Up the P (Story Below)

Part 2: God’s Corner (Come back Wednesday, October 15, for Part 2)

Part 3: Souls Sung Clean (Come back Friday, October 17, for Part 3)

***

Dear Readers,

Bhajan’s and Boys Intro: Somewhere between the 80’s and the late 90’s, Mira Mesa, my hometown, grew a Little India. Desi’s took over a strip mall section off Black Mountain Road, just before the Miramar Airforce Base. Now Mira Mesa, and the City of San Diego in general, has a Hindu temple, desi dinner spots, desi snack spots, a desi grocery store (we do love our food), and clothing boutiques (and we sho know how to dress).

But when I was growing up in San Diego, my family would drive two hours to Los Angeles to buy spices on Artesia Blvd. The closest thing to Little India in the whole damn city was the Hare Krishna temple in Pacific Beach. We’d go there sometimes. Me pressed back against my mother’s legs as the pale, sari and dhoti clad people danced alarmingly. They’d circle up tight, and then speed up wide, until it was almost as though they were chasing each other in a huge, raucous game of Duck Duck Goose. And then they fed anyone who walked through their doors. Their generosity was appreciated. But their quasi-desi khana was to my moms home cooking what sugar substitutes are to sugar.

Thank god for the Trekannand’s. Every Thursday night Prem Uncle, Sheila Anti, and Deepak, their son, would open up their Mira Mesa home to any and all (but mainly desi folks) for bhajan. The pooja ceremony would start at 7pm. Final aarthi plus prashaad had us leaving around 10pm. In between we sang and sang.

The Trekannand’s were like the Jackson 5 of San Diego Hindus. Prem Uncle sang and played harmonium. Sheila Anti sang a steely backup and played light precussion, mainly tambourine and manjira. Their son Deepak played and played the tabla from when he was young and learning till he was grown and fluent. Together, they led the high and low notes of our prayers.

After opening their home to San Diego for decades, the Trekannand’s moved back to Pune. San Diego is not the same without them, those cultural pioneers.

This story, “Bhajans and Boys,” is going to be told in three (3) parts. Part one (1) is called: Prashaad and Giving Up the P. It is a true coming of age story, of me, an Indian in America. Come back for Part 2 on Wednesday.

Enjoy.

***

bhajans and boys: a three (3) part series

part 1: prashaad and giving up the p

by roopa singh

“prasada: in its material sense, prasada is created by a process of giving and receiving between a human devotee and the divine god.”

here’s a clue. if someone hands you a plate of prashaad, you Have To Eat It. you have to Dive in to it while they are watching. why? because it shows that you are not above honoring custom. and it proves that you love the gods and the gods love you back. or something.

clue number two. if you absolutely cannot finish your plate of prashaad, either pawn that sucker off to your dad (if he’s there) cuz lord knows he’ll eat it, or ask your mom (if she’s not busy) to hold your plate for you for ever, or, worse comes to worst, leave the offending plate on an end table by one of the Nana Ji’s when he’s not looking. whatever happens, do not get seen throwing away a plate of prashaad. total cultural suicide. an absolute no-no.  especially for an American born, hip hop dancing, lamba chora Desi girl like me.

Prem Uncle and Sheila Anti had one son, Deepak. i just knew we were gonna get married. the three of them, the Trekannand family, hosted bhajan at their suburban track home every Thursday night.

every Thursday for years, the quiet block would jam to high heaven for hours, and their doorstep would be littered with shoes.

thick strapped beige chapaals with toe loops for the Nani Ji’s. thick strapped black chapaals with no toe loops for the Nana Ji’s. black and brown loafers for the Uncles. maroon slip-on’s and glittering heeled chapaals for the Anti’s. sneakers with internal weight activated lights for the little ones. nikes, reeboks, jelly sandals, and miniature versions of Uncle and Anti shoes for the big kids.

showing up to bhajan late meant wading through the swamp of these shoes.

“big brown hiking boots?”

must be that tall white man came again. sitting in the back, nodding and singing loud, even not knowing the words.

you add your shoes to the swamp. push wide the unlocked door to enter the tall ceiling room.

inside it looked just like zoya’s house. which looked just like sahil’s house.

suburbia.

zoya was my persian best friend. her dad was a taxi driver and back then they had this same two story house. back before his gambling lost them the house and all his medallions. back then we would watch MTV and BET for days in the same back room that the Trekannand’s had converted into a temple. back then zoya was always always in hip hop chat rooms on this new thing called aol, tearing up heads all over the country with her lyrical skillz. and I’d be writing on the sly, in my journal, or half practicing new step moves to show the team. when we weren’t watching tv.

back then, zoya was always on the brink of rage, punching holes in walls, screaming her guts out. they had fled what had been a good life in Iran. and sometimes her whole shell shocked family would duck every time the door bell rang.

i’d look around at them, bone still behind the sofa, and be like, “um, I think it’s the mail man…do you want Me to get the door?”

yo mtv raps, duran duran, blind melon, bone thugs, b-e-t’s the quiet storm. tv keeping us calm for hours. sometimes i’d get lucky and zoya’s mom would practice doing nails on me while we watched, layering my fingers thick with acrylic for hours until they were done and I had ghetto fabulousness all across my wing span.

inevitably the nails would fall off the next day, too thick. eventually, zoya’s pearly and lacy and tight mouthed mother would give up the salon track and work fast food, jack in the box and later, mcdonalds, bringing home american treats for her family before the daughters, zoya and soraya, fled the tense nest.

there were 5 models of homes in our southern cali neighborhood. a military town, so nothing too extravagant, but the Trekannand’s house had one key difference. the Trekannands had added on a room in the back, just to hold all the people who flocked to them for Thursday night bhajans.

we drove there dutifully, part of the flock. my mom and i. me reluctant at first. reverential at last.

we always passed jeanette’s house on the drive to bhajan. jeanette was my best black friend. she lived right around the corner from the trekannands.

jeanette had finally done it with larry, her man. she told me so in my backyard, arms stretched up, hanging onto the sliding glass door frame like otherwise she might blow away with the force of it.

“you did?” I couldn’t believe it. before me?

I quickly found me a man too. montrel. we met over the phone through friends of friends, phones and pagers. then, days later, we met at a gas station on the corners, aka the four corners, aka the four corners of death. that was back when southeast san diego was gangland and the intersection of imperial blvd and federal blvd was known for being lethal, an asphalt and concrete burial ground. bodies and dilapidated taco shops.

we met at the pay phones by where cars pulled up for air that cost a quarter. he looked good but vacant. just like i’d thought.  lips like soft like sun rays. eyes half closed to life. i just wanted to get this virginity thing over with. he would do just fine.

zoya and her sister had drove me up to southeast. on our way to the gas station we passed 47th street. i talked and talked of the 3 men i had in the palm of my hand on that one street, 47th street was my Shit.  i crowed, hadn’t given up the P to nary a one of ’em, and still had them risking to be with me.

there was michael, who i met at burger king, which he called “burger bing” cuz he was a hardcore blood like that (not) and thus would not pronounce the “see” or “kay” sound for nothing. michael was the first dude i let eat me out. he had “whoomp there it is,” by tag team on repeat the whole time. i preferred 95 south’s “whoot there it is,” it was way better to step to. but we managed to hit that third base, sweet and sticky contortionists in his white girl’s red sports car. the cop who eventually knocked on the steamy window wasn’t an asshole, but i was pretty mortified nonetheless.

then there was tony. a grave and gentle young man, who i had met in the living room of my homegirl nzingha’s house. nzingha’s mom was always home but never outside her bedroom, so it was like nzingha’s own place. her little brother pooty could spin some mean cartwheels on the front lawn. tony, who stayed on the phone with me all night long when that’s all i needed in the world. a lifeline. tony, who watched me seriously and kindly while he pushed two fingers inside of me and slowly, pumped.

***

Stay tuned for more on Bhajans and Boys from ya fav political poet, roopa singh.

Part 2: God’s Corner, coming at you this Wednesday. See you then!

Peace,

roopa singh/N

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