‘We Used to Waitress’ by Indo-Caribbean Poet Jihan Ramroop

2 min read

The Indo-Caribbean poet Jihan Ramroop, born in Queens, New York, takes us on a journey through culture, identity and femininity in her debut collection of poems “We Used to Waittress”. The collection experiences Ramroop’s journey as an Indo-Caribbean girl growing up in America and touches the depths of good and bad human experiences.

Before Ramroop introduces the table of contents, she informs readers about alcohol, anxiety, cancer, colonialism, death, depression and much more. With that in mind, I decided to dive into the reading, careful with the depths of each topic.

The collection is divided into four parts: Stay, Still, Stubborn and Suppose. From alcohol to anxiety to depression, the memoirs show the depths of generational trauma to healing, a subject many brown girls could understand on a personal level.

[Read Related: Confessions of a Bipolar Indo-Caribbean Woman]

The parts build on Ramroops emotion. Dark places and victorious moments captivate readers. We experience that Ramroop is vulnerable and unexcused. With the different styles of writing, from upper and lower case letters to sentences without spaces, the author awakens the feeling in the readers that they understand the fear they felt. Such a unique writing style enables the reader to move away from the traditional notion of what poetry is to what poetry could really express.

As I read through each section, one poem called “Let Abee Call It Inheritance” (let’s call it inheritance) caught my eye. The poem reflected the struggle of Indo-Caribbean identity and the hardship between maintaining traditions or starting over. Again, Ramroop’s writing style, when she crosses out the word, emphasizes the internal struggles that the Indian diaspora imposed on many people to determine who they are and which prevail to this day.

let Abee call it heredity

If I had to write a song for you

I don’t know where to start because I feel like you did

went through something

I couldn’t even know

like i’m sorry

you grew up so fast

I guess that were

are still the times

and i’m sorry you had to

fall in love so fast

it wasn’t love

or was it?

and how did you find the strength

travel across the pani?

from east to west

you have become different

but still the same, my rani

now outsiders in your own skin

find a new place to start again

call yourself “not a real Indian”

Foreign language taste

on your lips

still

you went on

in spite of everything

brown and white man

Eye watch out, call

did something else

out of nowhere

Tradition preserved and

forged a new one

if I had to write about you

I would include all of these things

how are you so stubborn

so resilient

passed on to your daughters

this present

let Abee name it

heritage

Overall, this poetic collection touches on cultural identity, human struggle and femininity. The meaning behind the title shows that brown girls are much more than any negativity that surrounds us. Ramroop’s tone sends the message that brown girls should put themselves first and take the time to recognize their self-worth. We Used to Waitress is a great work and a must have in any brown girl’s collection of great books.

Natalia Surujnath

My name is Natalia and I am passionate about bringing about change in public policy related to issues of social injustice. I’m studying at Clarkson University in the hope that one day I will make the world a better place. In my spare time I enjoy the art of poetry through music, spoken word performances and creating poetry in which people can find a piece of themselves.