Writing by Riya Abiram
As I walk into the kitchen, whisked away by the aromatic scents of the sambar broth simmering on the counter, I pour myself a steaming cup and melt into the assortment of spices, listening closely to their unique melodies that together form an enchanting harmony. They sing of my paati, who woke before the sun to grind manjal and milagai that would leave powder floating in the air and dusting the countertops. They sing of generations thousands of years before who built their flourishing empire around their flavors and held their spices as secrets to be passed down to their children. They sing to me to remind me of my connection to my ancestral home.
As I listen to my father, speaking to me in the language of his mother land, I listen to the dips and curves of the words rolling off his tongue—the same words spoken by the Dravidians and carved into ancient temples thousands of years back. Although I cannot speak Tamil and carry on my heritage, I hear their voices through my family, and am reminded of my connection to my ancestral home.
As I adorn my ears with gold kaatanikal, my eyes follow the reflections of the stones as they bounce around the corners of my room. These earrings were passed down among generations of women in my family, who wore them with the same pride I now carry. It is an honor to be trusted with the rare and exquisite gem that was enshrined in books and embellished the hands of mughals and gods. Wearing them is an acknowledgement of the strength and independence they held throughout their lives and is a reminder of my connection to my ancestral home.
As I look in the mirror at my dark skin that shielded my ancestors from the harsh sun of Tamil Nadu, my big eyes that helped my ancestors express emotion in their dances and songs, or my wide nose that allowed my ancestors to thrive in their humid environment, I am reminded of the blessings each of my ancestors has given to me for protection and for passion. I will always be reminded of my ancestral home as it is a part of me.