if, if, if —
if i could meet you,
small brown boy,
i’d take your shoulders and shake them,
ask you who taught you
that the way i speak
is not pretty.
why every white man
you must deem conventional and attractive
why the way our coach speaks
with a French lilt
is not just widely acceptable,
but lends him this tone
and inflection we like,
like the way the Italian sings,
like the way the white man speaks.
if i could visit you
tiny brown girl
i’d make you question
why the way brown men speak
remind you of dilli streets
filled with litter,
rickshaw wallah’s gestures,
and stray dogs barking.
why do you cringe the way you do?
(do you wince the same at home?)
why is my and your accent thick and heavy?
like it’s a burden,
like the way
cuts your tongue
you just want to caress words.
if i could see you
i’d ask why you put on an accent?
why you teach white boys words that they can ridicule you with,
why you repeat words i say differently
why you are so proud of your English
why you have dismissed
both the country you are from
and the country you live in
for the way they speak a language that is not their own.
that is 2 billion you refuse to acknowledge.
if i could meet you
desi woman of colour
i know an accent is just an accent.
it is just the way we speak,
just like my skin colour is just the way i look,
and it is nothing to scrutinise
but my god,
if you don’t think the way i speak
is nothing less than beautiful
how will you find the rest of me?