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Pazhanthannee (pronounced pa-luhn-thun-nee)

Memory is a curious endeavor.

Slowly taking form in the stories we tell our children,

in our laughs hiding moments of the past,

even in the preparation of a beloved drink.


I grew up watching my dad make a very specific drink in the morning.

Sometimes my mom would prepare it for him the night before.

Water, plain yogurt, cooked rice, green chillies, onion, and salt.

தண்ணீர், தயிர், சோறு, பச்சை மிளகாயை, வெங்காயம், உப்பு.

Appa would take his time to drink it

the silver spoon hitting against his cup as he mixed the contents.


It was years before I finally learned the stories behind this drink.

That this drink was something Appa learned to make in the homeland.

In his childhood.

Running home with his cousins after a long day,

where they would drink it out of coconut leaf bowls.

For so many benefits and reasons that a poem alone cannot capture.

I tried looking it up online, and found nothing.


Now, Appa (or Amma) make pazhanthanee in a silver thermose,

that Appa usually carries with him to work.

A foreign label facing out the cup,

a native drink in a foreign holder.


Memories are tied to my Appa’s rituals of preparing pazhanthanee.

To listen and notice these signs of his lost memories are moral acts.

For a people whose rituals themselves have become displaced

finding new homes in unknown lands.



Abarna Selvarajah (she/her) is an Eelam Tamil organizer and writer whose work examines gendered impacts of displacement, literary narratives of exile, and diasporic representation. She is pursuing her Masters degree in the Social Justice Education program specializing in Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, housed at the University of Toronto. She advocates for the recognition of human rights abuses committed against Tamil people in Sri Lanka through her advocacy and organizing work as the Education Outreach

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