1. Your heartache comes after reading a YA novel about a group of immortals, like the aftertaste of bad coffee that acidifies in your lungs so that the salt from the tears is a welcome change of taste. You open a tab on the browser and type Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and listen to Urdu that sounds so close to Punjabi that you cry again.
2. You recall the album American Jugni when they talk about spirits in class. You find it on Spotify. It makes you think of the turbaned taxi drivers in New York City, who call their Indian home after a long day of work. You look up the artist. He is an immigration lawyer who sings Bhangra tunes on the side. You find that inspiring.
3. You go to the loo to pee in peace. A girl who lives with two others in the room at the end of the corridor stares at you. You have caught her looking at you a lot. You don’t feel like smiling anymore so you walk away.
4. You remember your mother telling you that ‘Agar Tum Mil Jao’ was an old Pakistani song. You look it up on YouTube and sure enough, you find a lady in yellow sitting on the ground with her head covered. Her hand gestures remind you of Madhubala as the courtesan in Mugal-e-Azam. She has that sense of propriety that your grandmothers always walked with.
5. You buy a tikka, complete with a ruby-esque jewel in the middle in an Indian shop in Edison, Jersey. It is ten dollars after discount. You know your mother would have called this purchase unnecessary because you could have gotten one from India for far less. You put on your forehead and realize the gem is a colored mirror. It snags your hair when you take it off.
6. Your professor tells you it’s an Indian restaurant. You go in and see green everywhere. The television plays news in Urdu. The food isn’t separated by veg or non-veg. It’s a Pakistani restaurant, you tell your professor. He nods, and says yes, it’s Pakistani. You wonder why it was so important for you to point out the difference.
7. You go on internet forums to learn more about your last name. You see a post from a concerned girlfriend whose Pakistani boyfriend has the same last name as yours. She says he is a Christian and doesn’t prescribe to the caste system. Still, her interest is piqued. She isn’t desi enough to know that you ask these questions to your parents, not the internet.
8. You look up your boyfriend’s last name. You know his family came from Pakistan back when Punjab had its five rivers. He is a hawk-hunter by caste. You find that antiquated and romantic at the same time.
9. You wish you knew Urdu like your mother did. You wish you could write Punjabi better. You wish you could speak Hindi better. You wish you could explain to someone that all these languages of home but in different ways- the Punjabi in which your grandmother spoke to you about the meaning of life, the Hindi in which your best friend told you the latest gossip in, the Urdu in the old ghazels your mother listened to during quiet nights. You wish to explain how they all merge together sometimes, and you can’t distinguish but you understand everything.
10. Your father has Pakistani friends that lived with in the USA. He says there is no difference between you and them. He tells you to make connections. There is no saffron, no orange, no green in the USA. There is only white and those who can make their own place in the white.