Ath Gunaya (The Way of the Palms)


I think of all the women I know
My mother, my aunts and my achchas
Who have “ath gunaya”, the way of the palms
When every dish is a magical fairytale
Perfectly cooked and displayed on a table

And it is what comes from
Life-lines, stubborn corns, through spurts of Alzheimer’s
And nucleases found in sweat droplets
The abstract painting we call our palms
And all the chicken, the vegetables and greens
Get churned inside them
As if they hide the perfect spice

What no Spice islands in Malacca could ever give
Or the Malabar coast could yield
Or the Portuguese could ever steal from our foremothers
What rests thousands of years in the making
And handed over through generations

And the secret of our palms is our inheritance
That will exchange hands and become our legacies
A secret that will never be written on scrolls
Or in modern cookery books, Just miracles of the hands
Hands that held you as your umbilical cord was cut
And fed you while you were learning to walk

And those hands have nutmeg skin
And ginger palms and arteries rushing with cumin
They sprout like cinnamon quills or cardamom panicles
And spread like seeds of star anise
Churning like a grinding bowl
Mixing the mainstays of tradition
Into a dish called love.


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