Hyphenated Identities: Parvinder Mehta

Parvinder Mehta, PhD (English) is an Indian-born, Sikh American writer and educator who lives in Michigan, USA.  Her academic work focuses on immigrant identities and cultural formations as represented in Asian American writing and films. She teaches Liberal Arts and English courses at the undergraduate level. Her academic writings have been published in Journal of South Asian Diaspora, Journal of South Asian Popular Culture, South Asian Review, Sikh Formations and Journal of Foreign Languages and Culture. Her poetry focuses on marginalized voices and social justice issues and she is currently compiling her poems for her first book of poetry

Never Enough
“So, here you are too foreign for home
too foreign for here. Never enough for both."
 – Ijeoma Umebinyuo

Walking down the memory lane, I see
a shadow, an apparition from another past:
a forgotten ghazal from youthful days.
Memories, like pieces of an incomplete
puzzle, struggle to belong
hesitatingly whisper to me.
“Will you ever sing us? Remember us?”
Those squiggly uncomposed lines,
nudge me to recall that home I lost.
Thoughts chug out as painful birth
of an impending doubt,
those images from homes begone
haunt me as an unwound clock.
I begin to remember but my thoughts evaporate
before utterance of feelings for
my foreignness of being never enough.

A tug of war

So, it seems like a tug of war
I try to balance my multiple pulls
and pushes from a life known there
to a life lived here.
Many homes, many languages,
many ideas, many apparels,
many flavors, 
many experiences
many privileges, and many prejudices
dislocate and relocate me. I sometimes
swirl like a spinning top until
dizzy spells bring me to my
ultimate reality as the top slows
down, staggering like a blind woman
lost in a maze, resigning her failed ambition
to venture forth. Stuck between nostalgia
and glory of the past, I wait for the promise
of a future when you will finally tell me:
yes, you belong with us,
yes, this is indeed your home.

I Too Will Sing America: A Dream with Langston Hughes[1]

Yesterday Langston came to me
in a dream. Beaten in hate, I laid
in Harlem. With caution, he pulled
my bruised, frail body up.  Following his
footsteps, I measured hope and courage
with each stride as a rhapsody ensued.
“I know you- I hear you- I see you.
Like me, pining those dreams for freedom
you rise above the scorching gaze
of otherness. My melodies of pain
from yesteryears are your poetry of justice
today. Sing on, my friend, rise!
Let the optimistic notes
soothing my hungry soul
inspire your brave spirits too.
Your symphony of respect
and rhythms of compassion
will resound and heal those
arrhythmic hearts full of hate.
Sing on, my friend from different
shores, the zenith portends a
colorful dawn with hues of humanity
acknowledging your difference,
appreciating our sameness.

Embracing ignorant fools,
that know not you yet,
you too will sing America.
Till then live well, serve well
and sing well.” 
I wake up from the punches
of reality. Brushing off
the dust of xenophobia, warding off
those splinters of racism, I remember
my roots of gratitude, and embrace all

[1] In September 2013, a Sikh American professor named Prabhjot Singh became victim of a hate crime in Harlem, NY when he was attacked by a crowd of young Islamophobic men. This poem was first published in In All Other Spaces: Diverse Voices in Global Women’s Poetry, eds. Roopali Sircar Gaur and Anita Nahal (New Delhi: AuthorsPress, 2020).

1 comment :

  1. Cuts deeply into the very bone . Experiencing immigrant lives its loneliness and isolation.


We welcome your comments related to the article and the topic being discussed. We expect the comments to be courteous, and respectful of the author and other commenters. Setu reserves the right to moderate, remove or reject comments that contain foul language, insult, hatred, personal information or indicate bad intention. The views expressed in comments reflect those of the commenter, not the official views of the Setu editorial board. प्रकाशित रचना से सम्बंधित शालीन सम्वाद का स्वागत है।