India, 2016: A Retrospective Afterthought

I wrote this poem based on my time in India in the summer of 2016. Olivia Gatwood’s ‘The Only Thing I Brought Home From America’ from her book New American Best Friend is one of the poems that inspired it.

Olivia Gatwood is one of the most recognisable young poets in the United States. In her book she deconstructs traditional stereotypes in topic areas such as: childhood, sexuality and gender to name a few.

Furthermore, she writes about things that society tells us we should be ashamed of, through odes to the body and strong women to name a couple. I must say that seeing them performed is more satisfying than reading them.

New American Best Friend is one of the must-reads for the young people of today (millennials), truly. Whether you’re a poet, prose writer or our everyday Joe Bloggs, read this book.

The only things I brought from Britain
were a box of PG Tips
and an Assassin’s Creed T-shirt for Rafi.
On the dry days,
we power slide on bikes,
like we’re in Mario Kart –
Rainbow Road, not Desert Hills.

The locals are shocked that I am black
and not African, but British and not white or rich.
This subverts their stereotype, changing
everything they’ve learned in the
former-church of Victoria, where they
were taught that life was better with a master.

But now they rule themselves –
with bureaucracy, like the British before them.
Curry and corruption is the underbelly,
but Hyderabad lay hungry in the
setting sun. The West ate their bellies full,
with the Industrial Revolution
stacking states like long multiplication.

Photo by: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

“Darkies aren’t good” a light-skinned man
says… in 1948 and 1988 and 2016.
But this doesn’t apply to me, surely
because I’m British, right?
Always guarding my wicket,
ready to hit off-break and seam
down the ground.

In India I was among friends too –
where caste and creed were an afterthought.
Though, Real Madrid was their anthem
as the wicket was mine, or was the anthem
the 4am calls to break the Ramadan fast?

When I tell the family of my atheism
the penny drops –
I’m not female; I don’t wear a hijab,
but I high jabbed the establishment.
(Like saying no to David Bowie in Britain)
Oh no, the sacred texts!

Photo by: Loubna Benamer on Unsplash

We sit for dinner, the whole family,
much alike my own. I sit there,
pretending to be British,
with my RP accent but I think about my
immigrant grandparents. Grenadian-born –
French surname – Ventour –

and I think about my other grandparents,
Jamaican-born – Welsh surname – Griffiths.
But I know, no matter how many times
I speak of the UK, my home,
I think of Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks
like having a British passport makes you British.

Rafi says “I am lucky” and I am,
but I think he is lucky –
to live in a country that still values family dinners
and the art of conversation (somewhat).
The young ones speak in English
and their grandparents speak in Urdu or Hindi.
The millennials respect the elders.
They call them aunt and uncle, even the strangers.

Photo by: Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The young people love football.
Cricket, not so much. They call it boring,
and I know this is the wrong answer.
Cricket is the game of my ancestors.
I am West Indian and British and rich
and poor and a slave and a colonist…

and when it comes down to it,
we’re remnants of our ancestors –
who went from place to place,
men and women who didn’t all wear crowns.
But were more simply –
working people, slaves and peasants.

An Ode To The Millennial Generation

I wrote this poem yesterday afternoon for our first ‘One Night Stanza’ event of the academic year. There were some great acts and it was a good turnout.

Born in 1995, I am a millennial (aged 21-34) and I think society gives us a bad name. We’re stereotyped just as much as every other group.

I wrote this poem inspired from Olivia Gatwood’s Ode to the Women on Long Island. Her poem is worth watching since it’s freeverse, and I think it’s better seen read aloud or on stage than read in print.

When I was writing the poem, a film was going through my head. There’s an unforgettable character in Marvel’s Ant-Man called Luis (Michael Peña) and his conclusion at the end of the film is what inspired the conversational and nonstop chatter-like-style of this poem.

I want to write a poem for the young people of
today who will tap text their way into arthritis,
as they silently socialise in Starbucks, ready to
key in the next emoji. #PumpkinSpice.

The protest generation: the 50s called them the Beat –
Howl, On The Road, McMurphy and the Merry Pranksters.
Kerouac, Kesey, and Ginsberg – a surge of counterculture
critics who showed that you don’t have to roll over.

Every generation has their Beat – more than just art.
The Sex Pistols, The Black Panthers, #NotMyPresident.
Black Lives Matter #Anonymous. The Teenies… featuring
Ed Snowden, Red Jeremy and JK’s tweets (mischief managed).

The young people. Millennials: aged twenty-one to thirty-four,
a progressive population. Not lazy – as the proud elders would
have you believe – not like the 50s’ and 60s’ society before, who
allowed “No Irish and No Blacks” plaques all over Britain.

Smitten with racism. “Burn the gays too”.
That’s what they said. A class of colonists with a love for
cigarettes, curry and corruption – fools love a fool.
Hate breeds hate. A digital nation: black, white, gay, straight…

Get with the programme. “Young people these days,”
my parents said. My grandparents too –
“You don’t know about young people, not like you use to”.
That’s what I wish I said, but I like my head where it is.

Social spiders: Snapchat and Instagram.
To be a millennial is not a crime. Raised with technology,
and my parents tell me about when they had Spam for dinner.
That’s when they knew their parents were broke this weekend.

I want to write a poem for the Millennials
who march like the Suffragettes –
those who sit like the Freedom Riders
and protest alone like the Little Rock Nine.

The young people who protest Trump.
The twenty-somethings who say “no” to the Alt-Right.
My generation who say “yes” to reproductive rights
and “no” to the oppressive methods of corporations.

I want to write a poem for the Millennial Generation
whose static slang and vocal tics twist and curl like snake’s coil.
This is the Protest Generation –
from London to New York to Mumbai to Paris to Berlin.

The people who work hard. Who create. Who throw parties
in their homes until four in the morning –
and then go to nine AM lectures the same day looking like
death warmed up because they mixed weed with alcohol.

And security at student halls won’t put it past
anybody because students can’t be trusted.
BA, MA, HND, PhD – it doesn’t matter, as all
he can smell is the pungent odour of bleach.

Today’s kids are young and old and angry and furious
but they’ll make you a martyr with Pot Noodle
if you hand in an assignment before the due date
or win a game of Ring of Fire or Beer Pong.

I want to write a poem for the Protest Generation,
who, when I make a cool meme,
reply “yes, old but gold”.
And it’s good enough for the wars to come.

One minute you’re at war
with a troll on Twitter.
And in the next, you’re debating with
your friends if Batfleck is better than Bale.

So when someone calls me lazy,
I look at them, and I say
“thank you, thank you very much”.