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Mrs. Biswas of Maryland on the Phone, by Reetika Vazirani

January 25, 1998

I

That Sindhi boy is keen on you.

I saw his mother at Sari Town;

nowadays she is chubby as fruit,

worrying constantly for her son.

I discussed that you are up at school

just like your Nana was. Now he is lame,

and any second he could fall,

he rambles about lorries on our road,

hiccups for several days at a time,

only three Bengali words he says to me.

I am with your Nana this century

so I know what it is to be married.

II

Are your foods good in Cambridge?

You are getting mustard seed and cabbage?

If not, I can send you mustard seed

by post, but for delays on this end;

I am thinking worldwide postal strike--

last month critical letter to X

of D.C. bank, regarding Nana's checks,

came back to me with Philippine postmark.

Mix-ups like India only but very

much worse: last week I sent my sari

to new dry cleaner, and I was in shock

to be billed for two tablecloths.

III

I must buy eighteen nylon saris

and Walkmans for my India trip;

hope customs won't take my batteries.

For years I collected lipsticks to give--

Avon, Ultima, and Maybelline;

I ordered heart attack tablets

and Dramamine pills--handy for seven-day

weddings of Hindus; and I retain fluid;

lately my thumb expanded to such an extent,

I answer the phone with my oven mit.

Labana, Cheekoo, paying respects: believe me,

they're hinting of fashions from Delhi.

IV

You do one thing: come with me to Delhi

while Blue Cross is carrying my health;

I must procure your husband or else

you settle on that Sindhi boy, no doubt

his father is leading in pathology

(and their import business is nationwide).

At twenty-one I finished botany

and engaged. You are nearly twenty-eight,

reading, reading, how do you live,

you will get cataracts from scholarship;

no money, then you go blind. Your Nana was

a scholar, but that Sindhi, tsch, clever in accounts.

From "White Elephants," by Reetika Vazirani (Beacon Press: 68 pp., $12 paper).

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