Shriya MKumar (she/her) is an Indian writer and the co-founder of Filter Coffee Zine (@filltercoffeemag on Twitter!). She spends an unhealthy amount of time with her neighbor's cat (his name is Mochi and I love him). Loves reading (currently obsessed with On Earth, We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong) and eagerly awaiting (and sending out) emails from lit mags!
5 Times 3
As I grow older, I can't help myself from wanting to go back to a simpler time. Of afternoons saturated with brain-dead cartoons, when I took ten whole minutes to polish my shoes, simply because I could. When the most dreadful days were those before table tests, maths was a foreign language in my bilingual tongue. *“Therilai, “I don’t know” I’d shriek when my mom asked me what's 5 times 3. I answered by inventing elaborate excuses to justify this inability to comprehend elementary basics. Maybe that extra hour of Tom and Jerry wasn't the pinnacle of my 8-year-old decision-making talents. To travel back to middle school, when I slipped into an impeccably ironed pinafore every morning and prayed to the sun. I can't seem to remember what I desired in grade 7 that prompted me to beg the universe itself. My best guess is to magically teleport every container of dates, peeled almonds, and Horlicks deep into the Bay of Bengal, the superpower my 5’3 younger counterpart needed. I wouldn't mind even visiting those nights where tears brewed in my eyes like burning coffee, pouring my problems to my family over food, they could always sweeten up the bitterest of brews. It didn't matter if it was the most trivial situation, stolen stationary, one less broken pencil sitting in my hand-me-down pouch. Or a Hindi teacher needling me over silly mispronunciations. When all it took was 2 flights of stairs to get the crispiest **Dosas served with chutney and generational wisdom. My smiles doubled in width when I saw my brother in school, less because of him, largely the opportunity to trade dabbas. I would pay all the money in the world to learn my grandmother's recipes, the aromas flooding my childhood home as I came running to the kitchen. How she would protect me from the rage of the splattering oil while frying papadams, without caring how it burned her fingertips. It's been too long since that math test forever ago and
5 times 3 is 15 but I still don't have all the answers I need.
(*Therilai – my native for “I don’t know”
**Dosas – a south Indian staple meal)