The Cypher is an exclusive community of some of our favourite artists and talent across categories of artforms. 

For the first theme of August, here’s the submission of Raunak Daswani from Symbiosis Centre for Media & Communication Pune, a member of the (Writers) Cypher on the topic – ‘India and Independence- what it means to you, personally in today’s day and age’.  


Firangi Gringa


My Indianness is too foreign to belong anywhere.

I live out of suitcases,

Boarding passes,

Custom lines

And ‘random’ security checks.


My Indianness was like being a spy;

we had a secret code- Hindi;

and went undercover a lot so that our gringo-ness wouldn’t be exploited


When I brought friends over,

they once found a storage cupboard with only dal and atta.

They told me my house smelt like spices,

and that chai was a warm hug.


I learnt the national anthem because of Kabhi Khushi Khabie Gham.

My dad said “dekh yeh ladka kitna accha gaa raha hai”,

so I learnt it to prove that I am also an acchi ladki who can sing well.


My indianness kind of felt like a party trick sometimes,

“say something in Indian”,

or “write my name in Indian”

or “do that Indian dance”


I fit my Indianness into an outline of Brazil.

My thumkas were combined with their samba,

I called their lentil stew daal chawal,

and our house was the only one with lights in October and November.


I used to hate my indianness especially when I had to introduce myself.

In a conversation with someone new,

it is common knowledge to tell that person your name.

My name suffered many violent deaths-

beheading, slit throats, manslaughter

all straight from criminal shows.

You see,

in Portuguese, any word starting with the letter ‘R’ was pronounced as an ‘H’.

Brazilians feel uncomfortable with ending words with consonants,

so for over 10 years, I went from being “Raunak” to “How-na-ki”.


My friends eventually understood that when I went out,

they would need to provide my parents with a full itinerary,

and a 2 weeks’ notice.


To be honest,

I still don’t know what my Indianness is.

I am too foreign to belong anywhere.

I can’t bring myself to write about the oppression,

Or the pride that we feel.

I can’t write about the devastation of the partition because my history books had different heroes and different conspiracy theories.

I can’t write about the dichotomies that exist here,

Its too vast for me to understand,

And I’ve joined the race late.

There are too many seas that separate my pride and anger.

Too many translations that were lost.