Origin story

My grandma died a year before I was born.
I know her through the old, black-and-white pictures.
Some sepia-tinted, [y]ear-torn pictures.
She hung on a piece of old, rusty nail
As I grew up in our middle-class, urban, two-roomed apartment
My mother called me ‘Ma’.
She said I was her.
I looked for traces she had left behind.

In my eyes, in the roundness of my face,
In the straightness of my hair,
In the shape of my nails.
My mother told me about her.
She was quiet, and poised.
She was thrifty.
She had to be, as refugees ought to be.
‘Who is a refugee, Ma?’ if I would ask my mother
She would explain how nations cracked
And families wept.
She talked of families,
Uprooted and dismantled,
Yet with dreams of rebirth.
I was born with memories of my grandma.
She crept into my stories,
Into the conversations I had with her
In the privilege I had of looking at her
Without her complaining.
I am only a fragment of her.
And yet, I believe my mother
When she calls me ‘Ma’.
I believe her when she weeps
Resting her head on my lap,
Mourning her death.
I believe we began together
And we journey together.
Whether or not our paths collide
We remember. And we forget.
We forget to remember
That the blood of the earth
Still flows through the cracks.



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Sukanya Thumbnail I am an artist-scholar and Assistant Professor in Theatre Studies at the School of Theatre and Dance, San Francisco State University. I received my doctoral degree in Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford in June 2016. My dissertation, completed under the guidance of Dr. Jisha Menon, was awarded the Charles R. Lyons Memorial Prize for Outstanding Dissertation. My research project was supported by the Graduate Research Opportunities Award in Stanford, which facilitated my fieldwork in India and Bangladesh during the summer of 2013 and 2014; and the Wisch Fellowship by the Center for South Asia, Stanford University, for my work in South Asian theater and performance studies. My training and specialization are in the area of oral history; postcolonial and ethnic studies (with a focus on South Asian performance studies); ethnomusicology; dramatic literature; transcultural theater and performance; experimental devised performances; and community-based performance-making.


It would be wonderful to hear back from you, and you can always reach me via email.

Sukanya C.