Skip to main content
Sooraj Subramaniam | Photo: Tom Decuyper

Identity Crisis

'I am an identity crisis that's been happening across three continents.' – Sooraj Subramaniam,

I am an identity crisis that's been happening across three continents.  I am dosha and kootaan, avial and ingi-puli, thairu and pappadam.  I am a side-part obediently sectioning my subjects right and left. I am Madura and my sibling Meenakshi, two little voices chiming the name of a faraway goddess, kicking into the earth and willing our swing to swish higher.

I am kajal on a six-year-old face, smudged out by bullies.  I am the soil escaping a child's fingers kneading an imaginary meal in the garden.  I am gravity defied in a father’s arms; I am rest caught in a mother’s lap; I am screams thrown at an errant sister; I am food fed by a devout Ammumma.

I am a plastic bag holding together the lunch tiffin for two children traipsing across town on a Saturday afternoon first topaatu class, followed by ballet class, and then 'proper' dance class.

I am canteen money spent onjambu-batu asam.  

I am a box, beholder of vanity troves, sitting lonesome in the Civic Centre car park. I am a fold in the bellows, life support to a gasping-rasping harmonium. I am a ceiling fan cutting lazy across a snoozing afternoon. I am the pencil rewinding the cassette tape.

I am the buzz and crackle in a dial-up modem. I am the sleep that nods on long bus journeys. I am tau-foo-fah, silken and sweet. I am kaya and condensed milk, serial bedfellows on white bread.  

I am the sruti in the vacuum cleaner. I am a hum in the throat of a late night computer madly, reluctantly, completing assignments. I am the plum sauce that goes unashamedly with chee-cheong-fun.  

I am dusk, host to frivolity.   I am a little red Nissan Pulsar making midnight trips to Oriel Cafe.I am a set of frappes battling a Mexican hat dance at the ballet barre. I am a stamp, frilled and fancy, on a postcard magicking its way across postcodes.

I am a string on a cello choked by the seasons across my body; I am an untimely clap at a pause between movements; I am a ticket stub to a chamber concert in noontide Prague.  

I am the catch in a necklace forever kissing the soft of the neck. I am a sear gypsying across knots in the back and aches in joints. I am a hiccup of a pause in a tri, tri, tripalli tukra.  I am the grumble against littering.I am a sigh at airport security checks.

I am the limau completing the teh ‘o ais.  

I am guilt loyal to her lover angst. I am an oyster offering her pearl on a London bus.I am the sly in a bhangi flirting with a blue-hued deity. I am a finger trembling on a tripataka at the end of a tired tirmanam.  

I am stray ankle bells kissing cheeks with keys on a ring. I am the foot striking the earth. I am the clap and tinkle of the nattuvangam.  I am the glamour in the swish of a Kancheevaram.I am the godliness in the ascension of Kiravani.

I am the pained longing in a sideways glance. 

I am the space between the tautness of an alapadma. I am a hashtag waiting for his big break.  

I am a cuppa 'beforeafteranytimeinbetween' at the Charterhouse home. I am an incorrigible flirt, heeding not past lessons.  I am the wet nose on a loving dog. I am rowdy inside and scrupulous outside. I am a jaunt in a straw hat. I am the ache that goes with awe. I am the confluence of palms conceding privilege. I am a ring on a thumb and all things more.

Damned then if I’ll be defined simply by the whiskers on my cheeks.