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Paati makes bad thayir

She cooks the most amazing food

My favourite food

But the curd is always impossibly sour 

So I like to take sambar twice

Naan cheyattuma?

She asks, when I say I’ll boil the milk 


I say, take a moment of sharp pleasure

Because I can make one thing better than her 

Paati’s face falls 

And I regret it immediately

Thathi takes vindictive pleasure in this 

So does Amma 

In this strange competition of cooks 

Because the worth of a savarna woman 

Is in her payasam and sadam and sambar and poriyal 

I remember my mom saying with glee 

How the vadyar asked for milk with the curd at my grandmother’s house 

Because it was too sour 

Amma won that day

I think about how paati is allowed to serve the vadyar 

To bend over her aching back 

Pour rasam with shaky hands 

Over and over

Whatever he demands

I think of how I was banished because I bled

And I was glad to go 

To not see the vadyars 

And feel impossible rage 

“Pure” enough to have them in our home 

But, impure by virtue of my menstruating body 

I laugh eating beef fry and washing it down with beer 

Pure vegetarian 

It is a futile resistance but I enjoy it enough

My partner’s paati swaddles her curd in a special blanket for the winters 

“You know” she says, looking at me 

“There are certain parts of our culture which matter to me”

I have been evaluated 

I have been accepted 

I hate myself momentarily for my acceptability

I hate her momentarily for the tradition 

I remember her kindness 

I swallow thayir sadam down with a smile

I think about how I didn’t know sooru was the same as rice 

It was not a word to me

There is caste in the milk which cools on the stove 

There is caste in the culture which ferments it

There is caste in my thayir

Yamini Srikanth (goes by Yams), is a trans writer and student of wildlife biology based in Bengaluru. His work lies at the intersection of social justice across lines of identity and environmental issues. He also freelances as an educator and science communicator.

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