Foreword by Nirmal Puwar
Here is a modernist poem by my father. He wrote it in 2004 when I asked him
about coming to England in the fifties after Indian Independence. He read it
out in Urdu at the Herbert Gallery (in Coventry) where he worked as a porter in
the seventies after retiring from the night-shift assembly lines at Ford in
Leamington Spa. His reading was part of a launch event for an exhibition
I co-produced with the Herbert Gallery titled ‘Khabi Ritz Khabie Palladium:
South Asian Cinema in Coventry 1940–1980’. The exhibition and the launch
event (estimated to have over 300, largely working class South Asian, people
in the audience) saw an interesting occupation of space at a time when
initiatives in diversity invite gestures of easy listening.
The poem was first read by my father in Urdu, followed by a translation read
and provided by Mehru Fitter (an ardent multicultural creator based in
Coventry Library Services). My father’s friend Pran Sharma organized the
translation with Mehru Fitter. He and the rest of the Asian elderly men who
have gathered on a weekly basis for years at Stoke Park School in Coventry,
contributed to the final polish of the poem.
This foreword and poem were first published in Feminist Review (2005)
Migration/Movement by Sawarn Singh
Burn those buds
Deserted by dissatisfied bumble bees
Which quench not one’s thirst.
Reduce wealth in houses
From which mendicants left empty handed.
Which smack of partiality.
What use are eyes
When the beholder is devoid of self-respect?
The prime of life is valueless
When used for oppression and suppression.
Tear the veil
Which conceals depression.
Let fortune smile on dwellings
Blighted by poverty.
Lead us into Utopia
Where caste and creed simply do not matter.