Bridge to Global Literature

Let’s all remember that more and more poetry gets lost without earnest attempts at translation.Read poetry here to get a glimpse of the rhythms and resonances of languages you don’t know.

Kitchensutra— Laila Wadia

Aug 22, 2023 | Poetry | 0 comments

TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN BY THE POET

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Me?

Call me Kela

ripe and luscious

light skin                                                                                               

but heart

dark with indignation

against the suffering of the world                                                                                   

                                                                                 

Me?

Call me Aam

Sweet and fragrant

soft to the touch

yet solid inside

Happy women are mangoes

 

Me?

Call me Pyaz

layers of identity

taste, tang

tears 

heartburn

I am the seasoning

of a migrant world                                                                                                                                                                                                                  


 

MAKING MINESTRONE

No melting pot,

merci

Where aloo becomes French fries

And baingan mutes into eggplant 

to be Master chefed with cilantro and jalapeno peppers

 

No salad bowl

Dankeshon

The one-upmanship of cherry tomatoes

against a backdrop of baby corn

and iceberg lettuce

Each fighting the dressing

and sticking up for its lot

 

Give me minestrone,

Grazie

Where every ingredient

stays the same

yet shares

Offering love

not body

Like the wise Masters teach


 

I SPEAK PAV BHAJI

I speak pav bhaji ,

grinding mincing blending

the tastes of India

on the streets of Bombay

 

I speak lasagna

Layering sauces dialects flavours of Italy

in the windy blind alleys

of Trieste

 

I speak shepherd’s pie

Fluffy English spuds

sandwiching masala mince

Creamy white English

cushioning

chilli red Hindi Marathi Gujarati

 

I speak the code of cooks

and seers

and musicians and lovers

which only the senses can translate, wordlessly  


 

TRANSLATION

What language do you speak in, 

they enquire.

If I talk to men

in English, French,

Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati

and Italian laced with dialect.

If I speak to God,

in the universal tongue of light.

 

In what language do you dream in, 

they ask.

If I dream of a child,

the tired eyes of a working woman

the forlorn smile of a lonely pensioner,

in the universal language of love.

 

In what language do you think, 

they wonder.

If I think of the sea, in seaish

if it’s the sun, in sunnish

wind calls for windish

But when I think of all the wrongdoings of the world

I curse

And translate


 

RICE MEMORIES

Rice toddy,

pungent

and creamy clear

nurturing oblivion

and harvesting recollection.

Biryani ,

a  bed of basmati

perfumed and polygamous

embracing a harem of pungent spices

stratifying desire.

Patna rice for pulao ,

tinkling bangles

hard floor

soft bottoms

in a circle

cleaning, rinsing, softly crying

laughing and 

singing of bridal love.

Kanji,

to make thalis glisten

and grandpa’s kurta shine.

Rice powder,

cheeks transformed

goddess Lakshmi-like.

Overexcitement

gives me a tummy ache;

Mummy intones a lullaby

spooning dahi and warm rice

into my wailing mouth.

The priest bestows fistfuls

over my sister’s bowed head

chanting blessings

to fill

her womb with happiness.

The guests satiated,

a handful is set aside

for every starving mouth that will show up at the door.

The day after

mynahs , peacocks and green parrots

will claim their ration too.

 

Sharing joy

Sharing memories

Sharing rice


 

NOSTALGIA

Nostalgia shrouds my senses

My eyes

crave 

flamboyant tropical sunsets

My skin

misses the rough caress

of monsoon winds

My tongue

cries out for tamarind and coconut

I want to clad myself 

in the silk embrace

of my motherland

My ears

shells expunged from loving seas

weep and retain the sweet melody

of distant youth

But then I see you

You fence me with

protective blue eyes

Whisper incantations against solitude

I taste

your honest lips

I smell

the freedom in your hair

And nostalgia melts

into you 

 


Also, read I Left My Home & Other Poems by Rahma Nur, translated from the Italian by Pasquale Verdicchio and Loredana Di Martino, and published in The Antonym:


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Laila Wadia

Laila Wadia

Lily-Amber Laila Wadia was born in India and now lives in Trieste, Italy. 

She taught English at the School for Interpreters at the University of Trieste for many years and has now moved on to freelance teaching of translation and interpretation.

She is a translingual writer and has published several novels and short story collections in Italian on intercultural and women’s issues.

Several of her works have been turned into plays and her novel “Amiche per la pelle” was turned into the movie “Babylon Sisters” (2017)

Her latest novel “Frangipani Garden” (2020) is available in English.

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