Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hello From Goa; Poem by Daljit Nagra

I'm always nervous about being too personal in this space, and anyway when you're traveling with a two-year old your travel experiences tend to revolve around him, so I'll boil it down to this: Goa sure is nice this time of year. (I'm visiting in-laws, who live here now.)

We were also in London for a couple of days, where I was happy to get to meet Sunny Hundal. Again, let's keep details to a minimum, and say the highlight of our London experience was a restaurant called Imli, serving Indian Tapas (nice idea, huh).

In a London bookstore I found a book of poems by Daljit Nagra, Look We Have Coming to Dover! (the title poem is a postcolonial answer to Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach"). My favorite poem so far is "Rapinder Slips into Tongues," and I hope the poet won't mind if I share the poem here, in hopes of provoking discussion. It certainly resonated with me:

Rapinder Slips into Tongues...
by Daljit Nagra

Dad and me were watching the video--
Amar, Akbar, Anthony. It's about three
brothers separated after the family is parted
by gangsters. You can get it with subtitles, Miss.
When Anthony, who grows up in a Catholic home,
begged Christ for the address of his real parents
then crossed himself, I jumped off our royal red
sofa, joined Anthony with his prayer:
Hail Mary, Hail Mary, Hail Mary,
four-quartering myself then curtseying a little.

Dad just stared at me, knocking his turban side
to side that I almost thought it would come off
which it normally does when he's doing his press-ups
and his face goes mauve. Instead he took off
his flip-flop (the one with a borken thong),
held it in the air, shouting in 'our' language,
Vat idio! If you vant to call on Gud,
call anytime on anyvun of our ten gurus,
Do you tink is white Gud's wife your mudder?

Dad's got a seriously funny way Miss,
sometimes he cries, and says he's going to give me
to a Sikh school, a proper school. That's why
I did what my cousin Ashok does at our local
temple -- while you were all doing hail mary
to end registration, I first locked my hands,
knelt down, prayed with this ditty we do on Sundays,

imagined the Golden Temple and our bearded gods
to your up-on-the-cross one, then roared:
Wahay Guru!
Wahay Guru!
Wahay Guru!

Like that.

A critic named Ben Wilkinson has a brief take on the poem, and Daljit Nagra's poetic style as a whole, here.


Blogger Pinku said...

should I laugh or should I be sad??

Just a couple of days ago read about the young son of a maulvi brandishing his sword and shouting Jai Shri Ram aka the TV serials...while a Eid dinner was on.

thankfully no one scolded the child for was laughed off as child's play.

3:24 AM  
Blogger Inexplicably said...

Awsome, I had to read it twice over to experience all the shades of this. The subtle darkness of the humor is what stays with you long after you've skipped to the next blog...

5:34 AM  
Blogger Yayaver said...

For refrence about gr8 man," Manmohan Desai",he wrote only one story in his life.
x (where x = integer greater than 1) siblings and y sets of parents (where y = integer greater than 1 but not equal to x) are separated due to evil relatives or natural calamities. They have a unique common trait in physical (locket, letter, tattoo) or metaphysical (secret, habit, song) form. They grow up (old) while coming in contact with each other at regular intervals but are unable to recognize each other. They are united after 7 songs, 4 fights and one drunken scene featuring Amitabh Bachchan.

Manmohan desia is director of AMAR AKBAR ANTHONY.
wase poem was good...

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

This poem is awesome. Amardeep Singh, I keep coming across your website randomly through searches for this and that which has interested me. There is something nice about the unexpected recognition.

8:57 AM  

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