40% LIQUOR TAX

40% liquor baptized me


the time that johnnie walker started speaking

walker fluttered from his lips & baptized me

that was my escapade with religion

because alcoholism is hereditary

medically denoted in fall 2015.

my baptism is the beginning of my life

& johnnie walker baptized me

my father can’t kill us because respectable brown man

because i’m his name

because service worker

because why kill me when he can

make me

kill myself?

when i can just become johnnie too or even better

jack daniels

or captain morgan

or jim beam

& baptize my children too, free of charge

just the liquor tax

& my children’s children, & their children

my family reunion will be in teetering legs

& holes in walls

& broken shot glasses, wait, broken bowls, wait, broken mugs

because johnnie walker will drink himself from the molding pavement

if it means he nourishes himself that night

 

i will never have children, because i don’t want to be their crucifier.

 

my mother tells me that her astrologist told her

she will die at 60.

“only 10 more years of this” she says

my heart flutters at the image of amma

dancing.

dancing with the tamil ammas with their honeyed tones

in the afterlife. is the afterlife where marinated & chewed bones are buried & finally become free

LONELY BOY PARTY

Shot by: Kuru Selvarajah

Model: Nivake Sukumar

Creative Direction: Mirusha Yogarajah

 

This is an ode to the brown boys and men who are able to celebrate their existence outside of the parameters of “making it", and outside of the notions of self-sabotage because that's what many men in the diaspora do. Tamil men drink away their problems, they do what they are told, and they are ultimately in a position of loneliness. Tamil boys are part of this complicated refugee narrative where many drown in waters and others in alcohol. Many Tamil men aim to forget the pain that their blood and their forms of home carry, but also alter to become monsters. They are the swatches of the pressure, desires, and aims that the community holds. I urge Tamil men to find happiness, even if it means a lonely boy party, where there may be forms of isolation and encroachment from the realms of the community, but they are safe and loved.  I don’t have citations to warrant my claims because people don’t care about us enough to do research on us. But, I have the experiences and the stories and the bodies of many victims to tell you about the realities of loneliness. I personally know so many uncles and young men who have put their livelihood at stake because of the allures of alcohol, respectability, and wanting to "make it." We have so much work to do, but know you are loved. 

SURVEILLANCE FROM AUNTIES, UNCLES, AND MEN IN THE TAMIL COMMUNITY

I recently moved to a city that houses one of the largest populations of the Tamil diaspora. The Tamil population is small—everyone knows everyone somehow. Your tailor is my mom’s third cousin and my cousin is dating/talking to/I don’t really know, one of my Tamil Instagram followers. Let me tell you some shit—I’m exhausted from the unwarranted surveillance. 

I thought that there would be safety in a community that holds so many traumas and strives for liberation. Something I really, really appreciate about the black community is that there is some intense uplifting. For Unfair and Lovely, I received equal amounts of backlash and support from brown people. For my work on Tamil communities and their strives at resilience, I received equal amounts backlash and support in my pursuits. This past week has been really difficult for me, my ass has been commuting throughout the GTA because I don’t currently have a home, I hate my job, and my shit is in different places in trash bags. I am at a tipping point and everyone close to me and willing to have a conversation with me knows that my current situation is not a damn look. Even though this is the case, my dad’s- aunt’s-27 year old daughter-has the audacity to tell my mom and uncle that I have inappropriate pictures on Instagram. And then they confronted me about it.

There is nothing “inappropriate” about the images I have on Instagram. If cleavage threatens you more than alcoholism in the Tamil (male) community, then you are dismissed. If my initiation of discourse on sexual assault and molestation in the Tamil community irks you more than the physical domestic violence you witness against women in the Tamil community, get the fuck out. It is so pathetic that your sorry asses feel that the diaspora exists to entertain your small minded discussions. It is bizarre that your topics of discussion surround how much of a hoe a woman is, rather than her accomplishments or everything that she has to her name. I was discussing this with like my third cousin or something and she told me an anecdote about how men in her family were triggered when a woman drank beer rather than a cocktail, and how they criticized women who know how to drive manual. There are arbitrary interpretations of what men and women within the community are allowed to do, and god forbid you don’t identify with either gender. I am SO SICK of standing up for the community holistically when all Tamil people know to do is invalidate achievements and to seek out ways in which an individual is human. It is as though they are so invigorated and reassured of the lives they lead by criticizing the ways in young women lead their lives. 

I used to want to write and support but now all I want to do it sit here and forget. The Tamil community reduces me to my sexuality, my failures, and everything I don’t do for them. It’s repulsive. Pass this on to small minded assholes who have tissue boxes perched on the back of their car and feel the need to regulate who their sister dates (I will never comprehend that) and who engage  in petty conversations because they literally don't know what to do with their time. 

TRUMP'S YOUR CUTE ACCESSORY

I am a resident of Toronto, Canada and can tell you that the Trump presidency has verified that borders are porous. Nation-states consume and trade goods and ideas with one another, which linger amongst both populations. This Trump presidential win enforced to so many people that not only were they meant to be invisible, they were meant to not exist. They are to be destroyed. The American presidential elections validated the feelings of racist people in Canada to come forth and freely express their ideas without repercussions. Toronto is depicted as a multicultural, diverse, melting pot. Sure it has fantastic Korean and Jamaican food on streets that intersect one another, but I’m sorry, that doesn’t equate to racial equity. The other day my brown girlfriend and me were walking the streets of Toronto, when a white man was so giddy to find people he could target. He screamed, “Trump won” at us. Wonderful. He laughed, we continued to walk, and then I sobbed because of another altercation with a group of white people claiming that their access to privilege is limited. It really doesn’t stop, does it? This all happened within a ten minute time span and I live in Canada. Do not tell me racism is not transnational, or reserved for the East, or that combinations of red, white, and blue solves for something that evolves on the backs of black and brown.

There have been multiple incidents and hate crimes that have occurred within Canada since the 2016 USA Presidential elections. I must say, that my immediate reactions to watching Trump dominate the electoral college was to gulp down cheap wine and stay up until 5:00AM to pray for miracles. I am not religious. My loved ones in Texas deserve the world—and they are people of color, queer, Muslim, visibly outside of the white-Christian realm that America masks as saviors of safety. I’m learning of the horrid hate crimes that arose within America, specifically around my alum, the University of Texas at Austin. I am in panic mode and fearful of the incidents that I may hear through social media through my friends and family who remain in Texas. These hate crimes have transpired throughout Canada even though we are supposed to be a liberal oasis that is a hub of human welfare. I’m calling bullshit.

There have been numerous incidents documented in America about the ways in which racism has unfolded—with attacks predominantly against black folks and Muslim folks (or combination of the two). I heard stories of a brown man being verbally assaulted by a white man in downtown Toronto. A white man told him to “go back to your fucking country”, and of course, the brown man was apologetic to the Toronto Transportation Commission and bystanders for intervening in the situation. There has been documentation of KKK support, hated-filled graffiti, along with the “ragheads” and other discriminatory rhetoric aimed at people within Canada. Canada is not immune. Don’t even say it, don’t joke about moving to Canada after Trump-- don’t do any of that. You’re probably a white woman who can solidify forms of safety in Canada, whereas most others can’t.

White supremacists have been okayed by Trump, and the political decision to elect him the 45th president of the United States of America. White supremacy just became mainstream, but it was here all along. There is a real threat to our functioning. I have noticed this constant denial of the pain that people of color, queer, femme, Muslim, women, etc. experience. Majority populations want to alleviate themselves of burdens. Even the liberals, who claim to support people of color, are the same people who expect oppressed groups to educate, to constantly speak of racial theory, and fail to listen to lived experiences. But racial theory is just a theory to white folks. That’s why it’s cute. Trump makes it even cuter to you.

 

 

BROWN BOYS DO CRY

This photo series was shot by Kuru Selvarajah and creatively directed by me, Mirusha Yogarajah. The models in the images are Nivake Sukumar and Ravishan Thanarajah. 

Brown Boys Do Cry aims to address how comfort with notions of femininity and masculinity allows brown boys to be their whole selves. Self-identified boys can embrace the truest forms of themselves if they dismiss notions of masculinity that are commonly waged in the South Asian community. The marvel of masculinity dictates so much of how men reinforce forms of patriarchy and violence onto others and onto themselves. Sexual assault, domestic violence, alcoholism, and gendered forms of work are intensely reinforced within the South Asian community. I saw this within my beautiful boy cousins who remain so tender and so wonderful, but are constantly told that painting their nails or wearing pink is explicitly for women. They were also told that their duties were to make an income and sustain a family, and were exempt from learning domestic duties, unlike their sisters. 

I want to show the beauty of brown skinned men being able to dismiss gendered ideas. I want them to caress flowers, make milk tea for themselves, wear whatever colors they desire, and adorn South Asian jewelry and pottus. Brown boys do cry, and they don’t need to cry through violence or a masked face. They can be free.

 

 

 

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE (INSPIRED BY REAL EVENTS)

Dear White People: 

When I’m drunk and pondering the streets of Toronto with my brown and black friends, do not interrogate us on our understanding of racial dynamics. We are trying to be carefree and alive and young and you are actually aging us. No, I do not wish to recollect violence against me and my loved ones, nor do I want to explain to you the constant racial surveillance I encounter. I’m running around downtown Toronto with my friends on a Friday night, my first day living completely on my own, with my mental health finally at ease, and I have no desire to educate your ass. I know it’s cute to you because, let’s face it, racial theory is just that to you, a theory. It is some hypothetical concept you enjoy drunkenly inquiring about. It is your deep version of small talk. It is what you think makes you better than other white folks. Do not approach me with your Chacos and ask me where I’m from. My god. What a way to start a conversation. There are a multitude of uses for Google and academic literature and resources at your disposable. Don’t use me for that when I’m really trying to be free. And lastly, don’t be all fragile when I call you out for how inconsiderate you and your Chacos have been.  By the way, this is not limited to when we are trying to enjoy ourselves. We are not a sociological study openly available for your questioning. 

You mad?

--Mirusha

I AM NOT YOUR DIASPORA: SOUTH ASIANS, DESIS, INDIAN TAMILS, EELAM TAMILS AND MY LACK OF HOME

There is a problem within the South Asian community of dismissing the likes of Tamil people as being dark, monkey-looking, and inept. It is quite the narrative of persecution, as it is also the reason for the genocide and discrimination that Tamil folks experience. This is especially true for Eelam Tamils. We are prudent and part of the South Asian narrative when it means you can claim our success. Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Padma Lakshmi, A.R. Rahman, Navi Pillay, Sundar Pichai, Siva Kaneswaran, M. Night Shyamalan, etc. leave the back of your throats as notable South Asian/Desi figures. But when it comes to Tamil people, you want nothing to do with our humanity. You mutter the names of Tamil folks and claim they’re South Asian when people talk about the cute Aziz Ansari bit they saw on YouTube. This is a problem. There have been numerous times when I hear, “Tamil people are so dark, but you all are so smart” or “Tamil people are the ugliest of South Asians.” There is an insinuation that being dark is a negative characteristic, and Tamil people are not worthy of being included in the South Asian landscape. Well, I don’t want anything to do with it.

There is a massive distinction between Eelam Tamils and Indian Tamils. For those new to everything and never opened a Wikipedia page, Eelam is the alternative state that Tamil people who were born in Sri Lanka take on because Sri Lanka never wanted us. Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese state that conducted our genocide for 26 years and remains discriminatory and violent towards Tamil bodies. There have been numerous instances of rape and other forms of brutal violence and genocide that the Sinhala state has initiated against Tamils. And you know what the South Asian community’s response is? Silence. Acquiescence. Not giving a shit. To you all, I say do better. Don’t conveniently claim us and our brilliance and beauty when it benefits you and sheds light on your South Asian identity. 

South Asian and Desi are generic terms that are intended to eliminate the nuanced oppressions and struggles that different groups experience from the Southern part of Asia. I must say, most South Asian groups in America did not experience the same struggles that Eelam Tamils experience. Many of us were smuggled; many of us orphans, many of us were a part of gangs as a form of protection and survival against other South Asian groups. We don’t have a home. Our homes are markings of memories embedded in our bodies, other bodies and truths up for grabs. Our mothers birthed stillborn thaalee kodis (wedding necklaces) and fathers lamented in pools of Johnnie Walker. We are refugees and will forever be refugees, with merely oral tradition to preserve our children and us. This is not you. Claim us or don’t, but only pick one.

Our disposability is a result of seeing as us too close to black to be good enough for you. It is anti-blackness. We are too dark, not Eurocentric enough. We are your indentured servants, your tea plantation workers, your cooks, your maids, your drivers because you made us be. I refuse to identify as South Asian or Desi from now on if that means you own me, I refuse to be "a part" of a diaspora that plagiarizes my work and lingers behind me to merely kick me in the end.