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  • Nikita Parik

Mother Tongue; My Mother Speaks Odiya

By Nikita Parik

Two poems from her newly published collection: Diacritics of Desire.

Mother Tongue

If you plan to rule over

a people, material imperialism

is never enough.

You must take hold

of the language,

seize its sounds,

cause them to choke

in the very throats

they originate from.

Next, you must strip it

naked, cause shame to

the tongues that speak it.

Then, to be really sure,

plant the seeds of doubt

carefully, and when the brains

begin to question

the very tenets of

the uncivilized truths

of a once-enslaved language,

give yourself a pat and

consider your job well done.

My Mother Speaks Odiya

In brief moments of complex linguistic exchanges,

the water-fetchers from the sea-state

of Odisha connect to my mother

in a way I never could.

The mutual pleasantries shared taste like

sea-salt on the tongue, the phrases vibrant, like

conch shells buried under the tides

of a shared history in a shared land.

Oh how now the rhythmic, chant-like banter

shape-shifts before my eyes into frothy saltsprays, now

Rathyatra-chaos, now rushed rustic

banter in breezy paddy fields!

Every time my mother speaks Odiya, she exposes me

to a history- latent, unexplored- and in its lilts

I imagine the lulls of a sleeping sea,

the sounds- all its phones and morphs-

transporting me to another time, in another state,

where the colors of the sky write themselves over

the playfully turbulent seas in the same rhythms and cadences.

About Nikita Parik:

Parik holds a Master's in Linguistics, a three year diploma in French, and another Master’s in English. Diacritics of Desire (2019) is her debut book of poems, followed by Amour and Apocalypse (2020), a novel in translation (Hindi to English). She has been invited to read her poems at the Sahitya Akademi Multilingual Poets Meet and Sahitya Akademi Young Writer's Meet programmes. Her works have appeared in Rattle, U City Review, The Alipore Post, Vayavya, The Bombay Literary Magazine, and others. She currently edits EKL Review.


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