“Big Machine”

Today I read:

The map was printed on a handkerchief. It is a map of a place that no longer exists. British East Africa. On a handkerchief—you can hold the Republic of Tanganyika near your nose! Around the carved-out section of Africa float pictures, symbols: a rhinoceros, a bird you cannot identify. Strangely, we had two maps, nearly identical, except that the print on the handkerchiefs, the outlines of the place were slightly blurry; neither was perfect. I was always thinking about stretching these handkerchiefs, ironing them, framing them for a present for our mother who was from there, but nothing came of that. I was a child who wanted perfect. They were hers so it would have been giving something of hers back to her; what kind of gift is that? A good one or a sad one, or both? I never did it. I still find them from time to time.

— Sejal Shah, “Area Studies,” from “Curriculum,” in Conjunctions

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