“The City Was Missing,” one of my city poems appear in the latest issue of Star*Line, edited by Vince Gotera, and published by SFPA: Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (America). I just received a contributor’s copy, and the cover illustration is gorgeous, also the poems!
The opening two lines of this poem will be featured in The Mumbai Collaborative Poetry Project (MCPP) — the first ever video poem themed on the city of Mumbai — curated by Vinita Agrawal. Twenty-five poets will be featured in the project, including Nabina Das and Priya Sarukkai Chabria.
Here are my notes for the poem from March 22, 2015:
“Two weeks after The New York Times asked PM Modi to speak about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities, he broke his dangerous silence. ‘My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly,’ he assured Christian leaders. The attack on a Navi Mumbai church this Saturday showed that it would take more than rhetoric from the iron man of secular India to protect its minorities. This poem is a warning against the departure of religious tolerance and cosmopolitan spirit from Mumbai, formerly Bombay. (The city’s name was officially changed to Mumbai at the behest of a local Hindu-nationalist party because Bombay sounded so British.) Ultimately, it is about our personal relationships with cities we come to associate ourselves with.”
“The City Was Missing” first appeared in my poetry collection Khas Pidgin (Amazon, Barnes & Noble & iBooks). If you haven’t purchased or read it already and would like to receive a review copy, let me know. Happy reading! 🐘🌸😇
Three of my poems “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station,” “Khas Pidgin” and “Foreign Tongue” appear in the latest Sage issue of Coldnoon, an international journal of travel writing & traveling cultures. These poems are part of my debut collection, Khas Pidgin.
I think I wrote the poem “Khas Pidgin” in 2009, and “Foreign Tongue” in 2014? I am certain that I wrote “At Rajiv Chowk Metro Station” in 2014, because I have these notes for the poem written for a poetry-challenged friend the same year:
While waiting for the train at Rajiv Chowk, I was reading Amit Chaudhuri’s essay titled “Beyond ‘Confidence’: Rushdie and the Creation Myth of Indian writing in English” from his collection Clearing House.
He writes that there was Indian writing in English before Rushdie, a fact that the arriviste India seems to have forgotten. He concludes:
That’s why Indian writing, in the last one hundred and fifty years, represents not so much a one-dimensional struggle for, or embodiment, power, as a many-sided cosmopolitan. It isn’t enough, today, to celebrate Indian writing’s ‘success,’ after having identified what its marks of success are (as if the whole tradition must only, and constantly, be thought of as an arriviste would be); one needs to engage with its long, subterranean history (as hard-earned as political freedom itself) of curiosity and openness.
When I closed the book and lifted my eyes, they caught a brief but warm reflection of a face on the glass door of the metro. I thought it was mine, but I can’t be certain now.
The Indian writing in English is a blob and its seeming triumph, perhaps a brief rupture in what the western critics (dust and chatter) consider their canon (text).
And Indian writers (brown light) writing in English can’t be blamed for not knowing exactly who they are writing for (and the question is irrelevant, Chauduri argues)—they are faceless dots in the literary world, the mirror of their times.
It doesn’t matter whether you are living a sheltered life in a valley, or struggling to scrape a living in exile, the war always finds brutal and ingenious ways to come to your home or school. I wrote “Kohram – The Wailing” at the height of the people’s war in the Himalayan territories, before the red rebels signed a comprehensive peace accord with the ruling parties in 2005. Already in my late teens, I covered those turbulent years as a young citizen journalist and blogger, writing and reporting for my blog (now private), “Kathmandu Speaks,” national and foreign publications. Two years later, I would decide to quit journalism, and leave the city in which I grew up to become a lifelong student of arts, technology, film. Wow, it’s been quite an incredible journey!
Manokamana – Poetry on Film Series #4
Title: Report, Length: 45 seconds
Language: Nepali, Subtitles: English, Nepali
I don’t remember exactly when I wrote this short poem. “Report” is about the relationship we have as poets and artists with the country we choose to take refuge in, build a home, serve. It’s about the desire to see peace and prosperity flourish in the lands we traverse, be it our own or foreign. It’s about the collective failure of a people, a nation, which has become a Salusa Secundus of the modern world. (more…)