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Rebecca Gandhi
Word Up 2014 Winner

Rebecca has been writing for as long as she can remember, but only began performing this year.  Her words are strongly influenced by culture, and the intricacies of the relationships we have with each other.  Spoken poem performer Anis Moljani said ‘I’m cutting out parts of my heart to give to you’.  That’s what she would like to do.


Back home, I am an oddity
like someone opened up a can of condensed milk
and poured it spoonful by spoonful over my skin
the rest of them, they scoop the inedible cream
off the top of fresh buffalo’s milk
they will not waste it
they will use it to heal firework burns
I am the firework cracking inside
The empty condensed milk can

The song of my ancestors was transferred directly
from their hands to my mouth,
from vein to vein we touch…
and resonate
But the words in my blood have since been long lost in translation
they are too beautiful for my dirtied skin:
even though it is perfectly fine
you don’t eat the dark chocolate
with the “white stuff” on it

Back home, I am an oddity
my cousins drink virgin water boiled in pots
made out of our mother’s earth
the earth is the same colour as the backs of their hands
you can make love to a woman back home
and become one
with the land – I,
I drink “pure spring” water
ignore the sharp taste of the metal tap
ignore the stares from men back home that think
that because my skin is not pure
they can touch me
Like the spring waters that have all flowed into each other
I feel like all I am is a mix of everything
that has ever touched me

I find myself wanting to marry a white boy
let him touch my dirty skin
one: because no one else will have it just to love it
two: so that my name doesn’t sound so strange
rolling off the tip of my tongue I want it to be a song not a bullet
all it is right now

is a compromise
so that teachers here can pronounce it right
ma, I have never complained but sometimes
I feel more like two halves
than a whole

I have never complained because I know
that you
are like me
an oddity
I am condensed milk yellow
you are white like snow
In the state of Gujarat, it doesn’t snow.
I know,
I know

In Gujarat, women only light fires
to use in cooking, no one has experienced the feeling
of not being able to hold your own
because everything you touch, melts.
Do not expect anyone to understand this      they never will

But ma, I get it
I know what it is like
to not understand the concept of black and white
because we’re stuck somewhere in between
We are women of the halfway land
the women who feel like they do not belong
neither here nor there
who look in the mirror and wonder whether this skin
is a blessing or a curse
who love in shades of grey not in black or white
Do not expect anyone to understand our love
it is not as simple as black and white

Finding a home
is the same
It is not telling people you are seventeen years Fiji
twenty-five New Zealand
three months India never going back
It is about the stories you can use to build your own home
Insulate it with the sweet flesh of Fijian mangoes
play the sounds of our first words on the radio
fill diffusers with the smell of wedding mehndi
Back “home”, we are oddities
but in ourselves we can be whatever we want
You are the home.
wear your skin like a blanket
to keep you warm
you’ve been sitting out in the cold for too long

Ma, all I ask is that you take these stories
forget houses, build cities inside of you
it is okay to be who you are
and you deserve to be home at last
I think we both deserve
to be home at last