Two Indian-American students, Maya Eashwaran and Gopal Raman, recently got to recite their poetry to no less distinguished an audience than First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.
The two students were at the White House on Thursday as part of the 5th National Students Poets Program hosted by Michelle Obama.
17-year-old Maya’s poem, titled “Linguistics” is on the immigrant identity, language and cultural loss. Dedicating the poem to her mother, Maya beings with “Ma, I haven’t spoken Tamil in three years”. She calls herself a child of “loose change, of ambiguity” and confesses that her identity is confused. "Meanwhile, I pretend to be cultured," Maya recites, referring to the immigrant tendency to appear sophisticated by "forgetting" their origins.
The poem addresses the immigrant dilemma of fitting in by dismantling one’s earlier cultural histories. Maya declares herself to be “lost” - "Ma, I'm losing parts of myself every day". She goes on to say that she's “shedding ethnicity like hair” and concluding with “Mother, I fear I’ll go bald.”
Gopal Raman, also seventeen, recited his poem titled “August 23, 2005”. The poem pays tribute to the victims of the tragedy unleashed by the Katrina hurricane.
The National Students Poets Program is the country’s highest honour for young poets.