The House of Sustenance
A 'black box memory poem'
This poem is about a conversation I could not have with my nanny (my now deceased maternal grand-mother in Trinidad. Nanny is a Bhojupuri Hindi word. Bhojpuri is a hybrid of Awadi Hindi from North-Eastern state of Uttar Pradesh, fro where my ancestors were Indentured under British Colonialism from 1845-1917).
It is increasingly being erased but now re-emerging in Trinidad. And this poem for want of a better phrase is a homage to say thank you to my nanny, for her labour, the labour of my ancestors for all enriching me by passing on her/their labour, food, language and so much more.
I remember visiting both my nanny and nana in the 80s and even though they did not have much, their small house had an abundant garden of infinite offerings.
This item was uploaded during the 'DIY Feminist Archival Practices for Researchers' (10th Feb. 2021) workshop, facilitated by Dr Sharon Webb and Dr Niamh Moore, for the AHRC-IRC funded network grant, Intersections, Feminism, Technology & Digital Humanities network (IFTe)
Date Created
27th November, 2017
Kathleen Boodhai
extracted text
The House of Sustenance
Food Memory Story/Poem

Nanny, I remember you
And your house of sustenance
We frequented
In in those carefree years.

Comforted by the billows of smoke
Which, through the carat-leafed roof of your tapia house
Lingered the aroma
Of mouth-watering curried cascadura.

I remember you squatting in your kitchen
As you turned the talkari in the big pot on the chula
Your reverence, in every ingredient
Now nourishes my memory

Of a dish as the native legend says
‘Once you eat the cascadura
Wheresoever you may wander
Will end your days in Trinidad’.

The poem is about a distant, childhood food and family memory. Kath remembers
the tapia house, a humble thatched-roof dwelling of her nanny’s (hindi for maternal
grandmother), where she ate talkari (hindi for a kind of dish) of curried cascadura (a
kind of freshwater fish in Trinidad) cooked on a chula (hindi for an earthen fireplace).

By Kath Boodhai

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