Slam book cover
Created: 1st October, 2021


Enough by Michelle Nathan


Before I travelled to Sri Lanka

for the very first time

My cousin told me that

the most important word

I could learn in Tamil,

is Kaarnum –



And I didn’t understand why

until I got there



where each meal is so distinct

but also seem to slowly meld together –

as one ends

the preparation for the next begins



where they pile the plates so high

the food could almost touch the sky



where the edible leaning tower before me

threatens to spill over the sides and floor me,

I somehow find the strength to say

‘Thank you,

Jaya Auntie,

Kamala Marmee,

but please, it’s enough!




She does not even hesitate,

but simply continues to spoon

even more food

onto my plate


Unwavering in her mission

It’s a condition that all aunties suffer from –

they feel the need

the need to feed


I even cover up my dish with one hand

form a line of defence with my palm and fingertips –

she will never get through this elaborate barrier

I think to myself


But little did I know,

she is not afraid to pour hot sambar –

spicy, soupy

liquid gold

directly onto my skin

So at least that way

some of it can

still soak in


These daily feasts are feats of near perfection

that I have never even tried to replicate


Because feeding a family isn’t easy,

by any means

Hours over an open fire stove

no microwave or Uber Eats to lessen the load


And we’re living in a patriarchy


so the women will wait hand and foot on the men

while they barely lift a finger

unless specifically asked

and sometimes, not even then


But I think that my Kamala Marmee

is happy, at least


She is more


than most people I know


Her laugh is a song that I would play on repeat

if I could

There’s no real melody

but as she cackles and whoops

the sound fills my heart with so much joy

it could literally burst


And she is


to a degree

that I find hard to conceive


When I give her a gift

that my sister has sent to her

from across the seas

she hides it in a cupboard

for a rainy day –

or more likely

to give away to someone else

who’s more in need


She is everything I wish I could be

a teacher

a mother

the most compassionate of caregivers


We stayed with her

in Vavuniya

for only four days

In a near constant

sleepy, satiated haze



where we were trapped in language barriers,

but not when it came to food

because cooking my favourite dishes was how she said

‘I love you’

every day

without fail

and that needed no further translation


Because even though it is dripping in syrup

the payasum is never too sweet

Make no mistake

it will give you cavities

and maybe a sugar induced stomach ache

but that’s only for the weak –

because in my heart

it’s never too sweet to eat


And the curries are never too spicy

Even when there are hot tears trailing streaks down my cheeks

and my nose threatens to run off and away

with the dish and the spoon –

they are never too spicy to try


And even when my Aunty


asks me




My response to her

is a resounding –



Because even when I’m so full

that I resemble the moon

hanging low and heavy in that rusty red sky

Or a full, ripe mango

that could roll down the street

and pop like a balloon

I will never


have had enough

of you



© Michelle Nathan, from SLAM! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This, chosen by Nikita Gill, Macmillan, 2020


Nikita Gill - Enough by Michelle Nathan