Hum Kisise Kum Nahin
Bootleg Bollywood tapes in my hands, the ones from the Indian grocery that
comforted you. The man on the screen grinning, dancing. You whisper, I hear
he is a jerk in real life.
Dancing with you in American living rooms, phir bhi dil hai
Did you ever look at me and wish I’d known you sooner? A man longing for
legacy, love, America. In college, you clipped a newspaper article about Rainer
Maria Rilke. In college, I stumbled upon Duino Elegies. I loathed schoolwork.
You hated waiting.
Your reassurances—never too sick to remember my name, to know my face. A
scratchy kiss on the cheek. I can’t recall the feeling. It’s ok, you promised. Theek
hai. I learned to read lips that year. When you couldn’t speak, I would translate
What will happen when this is all over? A blue highlighter tucked in a magazine,
marking the article you want me to read? Will you have your voice again to sing,
kya hua tera waada?
Note: In Hindi, “Hum kisise kum nahin” means “We are not less than anyone.” It is also the name of a 1977 movie that featured the popular Mohammed Rafi song, “Kya Hua Tera Wada”—literally, “what happened to your promise?”?
Sunita Theiss is a writer and content strategist based in Atlanta, GA. A second generation Indian-American, her writing explores the experience of growing up between two cultures in the American South—including grief, religion, politics, and inter-cultural relationships. ??