From San Marcos to Beau Bassin, or, In Search of Home
At Detroit Airport, after San Marcos,
I catch whiffs of Malay food.
Home food, I think, home-made
that will do me good;
but since I see & hear no Malay
I deem it best to stay away.
In Paris, passengers speak English
& are replied to in French.
Bench, says one; the other hears, Fish
(no one understands a thing).
I clear the misunderstanding.
On the train from CDG terminal,
angry men fight at the back.
I look on, taken aback.
When things go back to normal,
I’m asked: Where’re you from?
In comparison, we’re so damn numb.
In House of Bayt, after biting into a croissant,
I lean back, gratified. Sur le moment
an American does the same. I understand, I say,
I’ve been to your café.
At La Chapelle, I smile when I hear Urdu,
wanting to be acknowledged: Me too.
But since there are many of us
I choose to spare them the fuss.
At Père Lachaise, Mauritian Creole;
smiling, I want to say: Ki rol?
but it’s a squabble over money;
so I step away very quietly.
On the métro from Père Lachaise to La Chapelle,
loudly, a lady recites a Muslim prayer
—so familiar—about Heaven and Hell.
When asked if she needs a favour:
A donation, says she, Eid’s ‘round the corner.
At Gowry’s Salon du Thé
(that looks like a cabinet),
to whet my mother’s Bangalori tongue
Gulab jamun, not round but long
as well as juicy rasgullas.
For my Mauritian father’s indigestion
(with his appetite for dal puri & Coca Cola),
a Malyaali concoction, a bottle of Hajmolas.
Finally in Beau Bassin,
I step in—bereft of my baggage,
the French rail on strike—
to a plate of akhni, a Kutchi biryani
savoured by the family
months after engaging on Skype.
Sabah Carrim has published two novels, Humeirah (2012) and Semi-Apes (2015), both set in Mauritius where she was born. Her short stories have been shortlisted and published in various international competitions organised by Commonwealth Writers (Plaine Verte), Goethe Institute South Africa (Tara’s Hair), Odd Voice Out Press (Size of Rice), Bristol Short Story Prize (The Evil in Me), and Afritondo Short Story Prize (Dadima’s Key Ring). Sabah's poetry can be found in Pepper Coast Lit, Jalada Africa, SetuMag, SpillWords, and The Bangalore Review, among others. Recently, she was awarded the W. Morgan and Lou Claire Rose Fellowship for an MFA in Creative Writing in the United States where she is now based.