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Family Roots 

Two poems by Tanya Tulsyan

Kanchan Chander, ‘Mother & Two Daughters’, Oil on Canvas, 34 X 48 inches | 1980/81

Family Roots 

Mornings begin with  

the rubbing of calloused palms,

slick with the aroma of coconut



seeping into kismets 

of generations, 


their stories 

folded into the braids of my hair,

parceled from weavetoweave,

head to head, 


a meandering trail of black

roots stronger 

than any other family tree, 


from grandmother 

            to grandmother 

                         to mother 

                                     to daughter, 


woventogether into thick

knots and apart the length of hair, 

starting and stopping nowhere.



I remember 

only the chalky ceilings— 

                         jagged with dripping paint— 

we spent our afternoons 

floating beneath, 



of the far summer suns 

veiled behind films 

of heat, of length, 

blurred as my albums of them now are, 


Bothered only for 

the stench of yellowing banganphalli

dangling and beckoning 

like Nani’s bangles, gold riches 

ripe with glee to slurp upon— 

gilding fingernails and cotton 

with the sweet stain of memory. 


             How we used to race the sun 

to reach mornings, slept noons 

under the simple shade of a faded saree, 

made roofs out of her parched palms 

tracing riverbeds on the back of her hands. 


Summers now reek of her absence, 

And to fall for the spoors of the banganphalli ped is

too painful without the hands that used to cut them.

Tanya Tulsyan is a Kolkata-based writer and poet. She recently graduated from the University of Warwick with an MA in Critical and Cultural Theory. Currently, she is working on two book projects.