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SOAPBOX: A letter to my daughter, who is tiny and can't read yet

On KJZZ's SOAPBOX, The Show  turns over the the mic to listeners. For the summer 2022, writers tackled the theme HOME.

It started around 400 years ago with the arrival of a boat in what is now known as South Asia. The people in this boat looked like the sun reflected light off their skin, just like a glowing moon. We took an immediate liking to them.

They said they were here for our benefit, and we believed them. We gave them a place to stay and spices to trade. They said they liked our beautiful, colorful clothes, and we liked that very much. It’s flattering when people say complimentary things.

They had nice things like potatoes, tomatoes, weapons and armies. They said we could have these nice things but not all of us, just our kings and queens. Yes, it’s true, we were once our own kings and queens.

Over time our kings and queens (but let’s be honest — it’s mostly our kings who deserve the blame) began to settle disputes on the backs of the armies of the glowing moon people. So they brought in even more armies.

Eventually they brought in enough armies that they didn’t need our kings and queens anymore. And so they declared what was ours was theirs and what was theirs was also theirs.

We laughed nervously.

They took our food and made it their own. They took our jewels, resources, freedom and agency. They tried to take our mangoes but, HA, good luck. Good mangoes won’t grow anywhere else. The joke was on them.

They told us what to wear and how to speak. They taught us how to play cricket and we liked that very much. They enslaved us and this we did not like as much.

They gave us chai and we held onto it for dear life.

Some of us rose up and fought them but no one remembers their names now.

They made us fight in their wars and then when they got tired of us and eventually left, they made us fight each other. Neighbors turned on their neighbors. Families were separated. Many of us died — too many, really. One country became two — India and Pakistan — and then eventually three including Bangladesh.

We were heartbroken but life went on. We sang patriotic songs and waved our new flags. We formed democracies only to have them dismantled by dictators. This happened over and over again.

Because we needed more than just chai to survive, many of us tried our luck elsewhere. We were not really welcome anywhere but we tried to make new homes anyway.

That’s exactly what I did. Just like my father and his father before him. Moving from one place to the next, all of us trying to find a place to belong to.

A lot of life happened but most of that feels irrelevant. Because somewhere between trying to make a new home in Arizona and feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere, I met your mother.

We fell in love, ate delicious food and talked about our favorite podcasts. We went on walks, road trips and to the grocery store. We got married and your mother’s dog went on to become my dog. Then you came along and James became your dog, too.

You see, so much had to happen to get us to this current moment. Where, every Saturday afternoon, I sit at the dining table across from ammi — your grandmother, with you in my lap. We drink chai and we eat desi biscuits. Ammi doesn’t understand anything you say but you two communicate anyway. And we talk about how your nose looks exactly like mine.

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