by Jaspreet Sangha
from Sanskrit अ a– ‘not’ and जित jita– ‘conquered’
I see the veins on your hands
come closer to the surface.
I sit by you.
Imagining the untold stories
that flow within them.
I watch you inhale
and exhale the taste of survival.
A strength built since arrival.
Tattooed into your lungs.
A lost linger of exile living at the constant rate of breath.
A village boy
with ambition in his eyes.
But you tried.
Rolling into a rat race
Not knowing a word of their speech.
Determined not to lose the language of your ancestors,
Or forget the prayers that you preached.
I think about the drops of
non-stop rain and storms
that must have weathered you.
We never knew.
The way their words would attempt to rub the colour off of you.
Eventually you learnt a second tongue.
But your heartbreak remained unsung until your family could be with you.
Yet still afraid and
It took many years till your rewards could be sewn.
Days and nights
with destinations unknown.
Eventually you became hyphenated:
But in no way has that divided
the essence of your roots
Separated you from the hard work, blood, sweat and tears
and territorial disputes.
You conquered a land that conquered your bloodline.
It’s a thin line
Between giving up, going back and the finish line.
You set the foundations to
You passed that power to my parents
and encouraged their
Continuing to give your name justice.
You now sit by your radio
Dhaari long and white
And defined by every strand.
Your skin still rich with the colour of your home land.
I smell tea and biscuits.
Reading the news; today’s paper in hand.
But your stories remain untold
Because they will
Jaspreet is a female spoken word artist from East London focused on sharing her thoughts on gender issues, historical topics and taboo subjects both in the Asian community and wider society. By day she’s a History teacher at a secondary school in central London, with an academic background in both History and Gender Studies.