Literary Review

To my childhood friend, who loves to call me Chinki

I

You were here, on the banks of the Brahmaputra

Till we turned twelve. You were here, in

My city till your parents held jobs.

You knew Assamese, better than Punjabi —

The language you termed: Father Tongue, because

Your mother spoke Bengali.

I called your father Papi.

II

After you left, we used blue Inland Letters

To remain in touch. At eleven,

I told you, I was a sorcerer because my grandmother is from

Mayong — the land of Healing Chants, Magic and Witches.

I told you not to mess with me,

Because I could turn you into a rat or a sheep,

With the powers I had inherited from her; that

Was the ploy I would use to make you shrink like

Earthworms retreating from sunlight.

We planned to share our power, like we shared tiffin, secrets

And homework answers. I told you,

You will have to drink

My spit in a glass of Gold Spot.

You pleaded, ‘You can turn me into anything. But not a girl please. I

don’t know how to live without my… my thing.’

III

In 2014, you live in Delhi.

We have remained in touch

Like Blood Brothers — according to our friends;

Between us, we joke we are Spit Brothers.

Sometimes, that makes you angry. Shut up, you say.

When we get drunk, I like to annoy

You by calling you Spit Eater. You still understand

Some Assamese words, so I can always release the

Stronger word “Khekarkhuwa”, that makes you hit me, or break

Something that is around you. We are still brothers of some

Kind: none of us doubt that, none of us

Question that and even if you deny, the letters,

The abandoned Hotmail accounts and

The birthday gifts will sing our story till they exist.

F*** you, don’t you dare call me khekarkhuwa. But I still do.

IV

But we become strangers

when you call me chinki, in zest.

Chinki, come on Skype, let’s chat. Chinki, call me ASAP. Chinki, l

let’s go watch a movie. Chinki, you love that white chick? She won’t

like flat-nosed guys.




I have tried to tell you not to.

I have tried to tell you it is not funny.

You tell me, coming to America

Has made me a Politically Correct Ass. Studying

English Literature has made me Think Too Much.

Chinki is not the N-word, you say. I can’t

Convince you that though it is not the N-word, it is

The C-word that reminds me of the landlady

Who threw me out of the flat

In Roopnagar —12 am, Wednesday, December 2007 —

For cooking pork with bamboo shoot. It reminds me

Of all those people who look shocked when I tell

Them I am not going to that conference on Manipur,

Because I have other things to do — as if I have signed a contract to

Attend every meeting about Northeast

Just because I am from Guwahati.

It reminds me of many things: the girl who I dated for

Four months — who said

My small eyes are too cute, in front of her friends

who had larger eyes and thicker eyelashes. And later

Broke up with me because her mother would never let her marry a

‘tribal’;

The property dealer who told us that he wouldn’t represent

Us because chinki people come from

A Society of Free Sex and drugs.

We were nineteen; we laughed about it in front of Hindu College,

drinking bunta: a Society of Free Sex? Hell yes, we sure want it!

Sounds like a Utopia!




But I wanted to hate you, hit you, tell you

that you will never understand; yet

I kept laughing: for you drank my spit

mixed in orange Gold Spot, almost a decade ago; for our

spit Brotherhood, Blood Brotherhood, buntas, vodkas,

and other things we share.

Aruni Kashyap is the author of The House with a Thousand Stories. Email: aruni@arunikashyap.com

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 4:37:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/to-my-childhood-friend-who-loves-to-call-me-chinki/article5969966.ece

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