After more than two decades of marriage You'll say there's no need- To learn my husband's language Its not like I didn't try in the beginning when I felt the need to explain, or wanted to please, or do more than smile with his side of the family but I stopped and it no longer mattered. And found a common tongue with words and eyes and hands and forehead. But I'm no quitter, So, I gave it another try the other day I pointed to a dish at lunch and asked my husband's mother " What is this called in Malayalam?" "Paḻaṁ" she said, and I repeated after her. Making her shake her head vigorously and say the word again, this time, slowly like she had marbles in her mouth. I strained my ear to hear the phonetics; I heard a 'La' and a 'R' and a sound like from a cave "Pazham is how its spelt," she said with patience, I had earned And opened her mouth again and folded her tongue like a slice of bread or a handkerchief. in two. " Touch your tongue to the roof of your mouth, Like this." she said and I tried and spat the word out- Like a fishbone in my throat, and looked at her for approval Like I had done twenty-odd years ago She turned to the children who, thought it was a game- one their mom was no good at. They tried, stuttering at first then trying again and again Until the word vaulted out of the hollow of their mouths and made a perfect landing It pleased her greatly and she said, "Very good! "Now try saying 'Vazham' and 'Mazha'" And they did, making her beam. And I think, 'It's in their genes,' and clear the table. *Malayalam is a language spoken by people from Kerala. They have an alphabet which when translated to English is written as 'zha' but is pronounced as a 'ya' or a 'la' with a 'r' together. I haven't been able to learn the language or get the pronunciation of words with this alphabet right until date but this poem is in honor of me trying. 'Pazham' means plantain, 'Vazham' means banana.
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