Hyphenated Identities: Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca

Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca was born and raised in a Jewish family in Mumbai. She was educated at the Queen Mary School, Mumbai, received her BA in English and French, an MA from the University of Bombay in English and American Literature, and a Master’s in Education from Oxford Brookes University, England. She has taught English, French and Spanish in various colleges and schools in India and overseas, in a teaching career spanning over four decades. Her first book, Family Sunday and Other Poems was published in 1989, with a second edition in 1990. She has read her poems for the All India Radio in Mumbai, and her poem ‘Family Sunday’ was featured in an Anthology of Women’s Writing. She writes Poetry and Short Fiction. Kavita is the daughter of the late poet, Nissim Ezekiel. She manages her poetry page at https://www.facebook.com/kemendoncapoetry/

Hyphenated Identities – 3 Vignettes Conversational style


The pandemic has changed nothing
It’s the norm to work from home.
The day begins in classic fashion.
I hear pleasantries from
His south-of-the-border colleagues, on a conference call.
Headphones are uncomfortable
I can’t move my desk to another space in the house
It’s heavy with poetry and photographs, so I can’t help over-hearing.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes’’, he says,” couldn’t be better!’’
We’ve learnt to say that
Even if we feel terrible,
That’s how they do it here.
He continues…
“The trees are laden with mangoes
Jackfruit hang perilously low
Threatening to drag the branch down.
The air is redolent with cardamom and pepper,
Cashews dangle voluptuously in red, green and yellow,
Surely it was the forbidden fruit of lore
And not the staid apple.
What more could I ask for?”
They laugh
Knowing that here, only icicles dangle from trees and eaves troughs.
He must be homesick
Or he’s having an identity crisis
No Garden of Eden here.
He masks his longings for the fruit of a distant, bygone home
With a bittersweet attempt at humour.
We are Indo-Canadians,
The Canadian part has still to kick in,
It’s been twenty-two years.
We cannot drop the hyphen
We are proudly Indo-Canadians.

Disconnected Time Zones

Left home in the foothills of the Himalayas
Three long flights later, a safe landing,
Four suitcases, four pieces of hand luggage
Four frazzled beings with a pretense of excitement.
An urgent phone call to a sister in London
To fulfill the need for the comfort of a familiar voice,
Instead it was the husband, who said,
“Do you know what time it is here?’’
My sister takes the phone from him.
“What is it?” she says sleepily.
“Nothing,” I say,
“Just to tell you we have arrived.”
“Next time, she says, “check the time
Before you call.”
“You are in a different time zone now
You’re not in India anymore.”

So much for comfort.
I zone out, and quickly learn, that I must add
The phrase “time zone”
To my vocabulary.
From now on, we will keep
Indo-Canadian hours
Time to shed Indian Standard Time.

Alrighty, then!

We need milk for tea
We’re just ‘fresh off the boat’
Actually, the plane, that’s not part of the expression though.

For an Indian, tea is the solution to everything
Later, I learnt we are called ‘East Indians’, here.

“Where are you from?”
“India”, we say,
“How come you speak such good English?”
“Did you learn it here?”
“We arrived just fifteen minutes ago.’’
“Alrighty then, that will be four dollars please.”
“Have a good one.”
A good what? I wonder
We don’t say, ‘Have a good tea’

I’ve been an English teacher.
All my life.
But here my English is ‘good’
Because I couldn’t have learnt it
Back home.
Somehow, I have started saying ‘Alrighty.’
Alright is Standard English
Alrighty is part of my

New hyphenated identity.

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