Plain China

Your Accent is Almost Gone

by Tulika Varma · University of California
"Media Naranja", Julianna Drew · Rice University

they say my accent is almost gone, but maybe
i never had an accent to begin with. is it

the way the Rs roll off my tongue,
 streams rolling over
            river rocks,
is it the way the letter A is wrapped in my throat, not

hidden behind my teeth, is it

the way the CVS cashier blinks when i ask for a packet

not a bag, is it my otherness, my yellow-on-black, is the

  crunch of my consonants

too loud for you?

 

your accent is almost gone

 

the californian drought dries up this soft brown soil, leaving

my skin hard, cracked, and i wonder,

what is left now, what will grow now, who will live here now?

because i still hear the R echoing off my parched tongue,

rangoli, ramakrishna, rani,

remittence, renewal, rambunctious

­—do you hear it too?

 

i live in a glass house with a puja room: stainless steel,

and wooden figurines of ganesh and krishna on his little swing;

i pick flowers to give to my mother on our silver tray,

i watch her as she lights the aarti,

and i hear that sound, unexplained, hidden
in the ring of the bell in my brother’s hand. maybe
that sound is the R that struggles to escape

from under my tongue these days.

 

maybe that sound is the one of me listening to you say, as you

unwrap your chipotle burrito, sip from your

16 ounce cup of coke zero, clutch your morning 2% venti chai-tea latte, listen

to your NPR podcast, swallow your nyquil,

your accent is almost gone,

and i stare at you and hide behind bottles of chyawanprash,

(because they say it gives you immunity),

and my fabindia skirts and jaipuri sandals, and say,

no it’s not,

but maybe it was never there
at all.

About the Author

Tulika Varma · University of California

Tulika Varma is a second-year double major in English and Gender Studies at UCLA. She is an international student from Chennai, India. She writes and edits for FEM Newsmagazine, UCLA's feminist newsmagazine, where you can read her nonfiction work at femmagazine.com. "Your Accent is Almost Gone" first appeared in Westwind. 

About the Artist

Julianna Drew · Rice University

Julianna Drew is from Baltimore, Maryland and currently resides in Austin, Texas. She studied Health Sciences and Hispanic Studies at Rice University. "Media Naranja" first appeared in R2: The Rice Review.