By: Saraswati Nagpal
A hundred voices travel through time
through many wombs,
to hum the wordless tune on my lips
that dances on the kitchen walls.
It is grandmother's eye that measures
And her mother's hand that sprinkles the salt
Her mother's mother stirs the lentils
Her mother slits the red chilli
and remembers the scent of fresh coriander
With my fingers, she
With my fists, she
And when the red onions are sliced,
it is my eyes from which
my mother's tears flow.
Saraswati is a writer and poet from India. She has taught a variety of arts and literature for over a decade. When she is not teaching, she is reading or writing fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. Her published works are the re-telling of the myths of India in the female voice: the graphic novels, 'Sita, Daughter of the Earth' (2011) and 'Draupadi, The Fire-Born Princess' (2013).
"Ancestral Alchemy is a poem that was literally born in the kitchen whilst I prepared a traditional Indian meal. My preoccupation with female bloodlines, my interest in lost female rites and traditions, and the memory of my late grandmother's voice instructing me in the kitchen, all came together to make this poem. I was on the West Coast of South Africa, on a winter's afternoon, prepping a warm spicy meal when the realisation struck that every woman in my bloodline had probably spiced the lentil soup in exactly the same way for generations in Sindh, in Punjab, in Delhi, Mumbai, and all the cities in the world where this bloodline has travelled. The act of cooking on that afternoon became a timeless bridge between myself and my great-great-great grandmother and all the women in between."