By Laurel Archer
(from Zygote, 1994, Vol.1, Spring)
“Canada Girl, sweet mango chutney pickle of my eye,” Chandra greets the customer. A slow day leads him to excess. Hot, hot for March. Tracy Chapman sings a revolution song.
Chandra goes to his cooking area and mutters, “This is a good tape. It cost a lot of money, but the travellers, they come here to listen to this black woman sing. She sings for the poor, though, does she not? These white people do not hear her words? Are they not enemies? Do the whites not rob her people, like the white and the rich do here?
“And this Canada Girl, such tight skin yet she is an old woman. Why is she not with a man? Why do these people come from their Countries of Gold to this pig toilet haven of mosquitoes? She is bloated with food, yet she orders more curry. She feeds off my country, and I speak her language to her. I speak good English too. I see how she looks at that blond man there. She does not look at me that way. I am nothing. The trees are gone and they all want more tea, more of everything, so that I must pay that criminal for more wood.”
Chandra pulls the tin cups from the shelf rattling them to make noise so the customers think he is hurrying. The Canadian woman is talking to a blond Australian.
“When I talk to that old woman, she does not hear what I am saying. I tell her, ‘I run this restaurant, but my wife is Chinese so we are not good enough for the villagers. There is much racism here. The state officials do not speak Tamil; we can only talk in English, yet they say we are all equal in India now. Pah! And these foreign doctors too. They tried to cure my epilepsy. They try everything, but nothing stops the fits. Then an old doctor, my uncle takes me to. He tells me I must eat a whole pigeon, and I do. I am cured, never to have a fit again.’
“And what is the old woman’s only question?” Chandra sighs. “She asks if that means eating everything, like the brains. Pah!”
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