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Chakris: traditonal Indian snack made of urad and rice flour on the left; my makeshift heart on the right.

Chakris: traditonal Indian snack made of urad and rice flour on the left; my makeshift heart on the right.

This is where part of my fragmented self belongs, in the white-and-glass kitchen of my mother’s house, the house I lived in for 13 years.

            Here, when I was 18, I sat at the dining table with my parents when it was still too early to be light outside, staring into my mug of milk. I didn’t really drink coffee back then, not yet anyway. I had 5 almonds, too, because my mother says they’re good for your brain. I don’t really know how much they helped, because I think my memory’s getting worse, but almonds still taste good. Here is where my dad sat across from me before I headed off to school that morning and told me that if he were me, he’d give USC a shot. The deadline for my decision was the next day.

            Here is where I was more confused than ever about the baffling state of my life.

            Here, when I was 15, I watched my mom find out her dad was very sick, but in another state. He was usually in Texas, but not when he got sick. Then, he was far away. Far away and his nurse daughter who could have helped him couldn’t help him. I watched my mom cry on one side of the segregating island stove and I watched my dad stand on the other side watching her. I think I thought he must have been concerned, but he didn’t hug her and he didn’t tell her everything would be ok. I remember wishing he’d at least hug her or hold her hand or even awkwardly pat her on the back – anything to close that gaping abyss called the stove. If he’d have hugged her, then maybe I’d have ended up more cuddly and lovable.

            I never told my mom’s dad I loved him. I never really told my parents I loved them until I left for college and they were safely 1,400 miles away. I have issues being emotionally vulnerable. I think I get it from my dad.

            Here, when I was 14, I had a breakdown. I crouched on the kitchen floor and I covered my head and I cried and I cried and I couldn’t stop, and my mother came to sit with me and she didn’t seem surprised at all. I guess I should have known that she knew me better than I thought – I still forget that. A lot of people think I’m sort of a mystery, but I am after all my mother’s daughter.

            Here, when I was 13, I spent hours and hours trying to mold a replica of the Alamo out of clay until my fingers hurt. Of all the projects born of that kitchen, this one was probably the ugliest. But I think my Texas History teacher felt sorry for me because I really did try and she gave me a decent grade anyway – for effort.

            Here, when I am 20, I still help my sister with the dishes. She washes, I dry. It’s a pretty good system.

            Here, when I am 20, I sit with my family for dinner. We have Gujarati food. We say a prayer before we eat – a prayer I never understood because it’s in Sanskrit. Nobody speaks Sanskrit anymore, except in their dreams and in their prayers. I’m not at all very religious – but there’s a difference, you know, between degrees of religiosity and degrees of spirituality. I don’t ever really pray, but here, when I am 20, I sit with my family and I say that prayer because my mother wants us to and after 20 years it’s the least I can do.

            Here, when I am 20, I help my mother and her friend make chakris for a party. I get pretty good at it and think it’s sort of fun. My mother and her friend are gossiping about other Indian people. I’m in my own world – I’m getting really into cranking chakri dough out of the nifty little golden machine from India. India produces a lot of nifty golden things. It’s a dusty country, but a lot of it glows inexplicably. My theory is it’s the nifty golden things.

            Here, when I am 20, there’s some dough left over after all the chakris have been fried. I roll some of it into a ball; it gets fried. I pat the rest of it into a heart; it gets fried.

            Here, when I am 20, I’m not sure who ends up eating my little fried heart, but I hope whoever did thought it tasted good.

            Here, for the rest of my life, I will come home and I will run into the kitchen because that’s where part of my fragmented self belongs, in pristine walls, in the glass-bottom-boat dining table, in nifty golden things and in little fried chakris.

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