smells like curry
Other than my self, I only have a single piece of evidence that my father existed: a snapshot with no discernible person and the words “Very hard to see, but it’s Eric’s daddy at his place of work” written on the back. 

My biological father vanished from my life before we even met. As a child, I began to cherish this image because it validated his existence to me. Knowledge about him was severely limited. All my mother told me was that “he was from India, wore a maroon turban, and smelled like curry”.

Growing up in an unruly environment and in the wake of my biological father’s absence I sought out, and thrived on, structure. I enlisted in the Navy in 2015 and found comfort through the rigidity of this paternal institution. Its rules and rituals filled some of the childhood void, but it was no substitute for the father I yearned for.

His absence also denied me access to his culture; my culture. I have spent a lifetime grappling with who or “what” I am in relation to my lost Punjabi heritage.

When I contemplate my place in the world and reflect on my severed paternal roots, I face the duality between the way I am perceived by others and the way I see myself. On one hand, I am painted white on the surface as I pass as Caucasian; on the other, my reflection has concealed a palette of colors that I am only beginning to understand.

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