"In my poems, Indian Muslim women and families were walking with me during those afternoons, during the nights near the train tracks."
Author: Sarah Mohammed
Growing up in America, I struggled with finding a community of people who looked like me. I remember all those sunny afternoons when I was young, where my mother and I would take long walks around our neighborhood. I’d bend down to touch the white flowers blooming through the cracks in the sidewalks and lay on the grass when we finally came home, sunlight dampening our faces.
I was amazed because the world was so gentle, and I was part of it, my mother’s body warm and so close to mine. But something still felt missing. As I look back at these neighborhood strolls, I can’t remember seeing even one Indian Muslim woman passing by my mother and me, or one girl who held my identities in the place where I lived.
Some nights, sitting by the dusty train tracks near my home, I felt so alone. I shouted My people, and no one answered. I had my family, but I did not have any Indian Muslim friends. I wanted to live in a world brimming with incense and open hands and friends who could understand me when I spoke in Tamil and talked about going to the mosque.
But listen: I made that world for myself. I started writing poetry to grapple with my identity and understand myself better. In my poems, Indian Muslim women and families were walking with me during those afternoons, during the nights near the train tracks. In the poems, I could bring myself back to Kumbakonam, India, where my parents had grown up and where my parents and I traveled every year. I realized Kumbakonam was a space that felt so holy to me because people who looked like me inhabited it.
I wrote poetry as a way to journey, mentally and emotionally, to Kumbakonam every day, to make homes filled with my people, to feel connected with where I come from even when I lived and went to school in America. To write into the world where my people are here, and we are alive and so beautiful.