The following was originally published as the afterword to the collection Love after Babel and Other Poems by Chandramohan S, published in January 2020 by Daraja Press. The collection won the Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista Outstanding Book Award in January of this year. You can order a copy direct from Daraja Press here.
They ask me why do you write poems? I write poems – the people have the right to…bear arms.
These lines, taken from his one-stanza masterpiece ‘Why Do I Write Poetry?’, encapsulate the very essence of Chandramohan S’ approach to his craft in his third collection, Love after Babel and Other Poems. These poems are unapologetically weapons, fighting against the pre-modern notion of caste in all its insidious 21st century glory.
Foreground, left: a woman holding a sickle in one hand and a large red flag in the other, and wearing a green scarf over a yellow khadi; behind her, a man in a light orange khadi, a light blue turban, a beard, and raising his fist; in front of her are three ears of corn growing out of green stalks.
Background, center to right: two red farming tractors drawn as if moving up a slight incline, towards the right; one is partially behind the two human figures, and bears a small red flag; the other is fully visible, and bears a small green flag.
Above the two tractors is the text: Unite against corporate slavery of farmers.
On December 16th, the UN General Assembly passed a proposal entitled ‘Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance’. 130 out of 193 UN members voted in favour of it, and only two against: the United States and Ukraine. Similarly alarmingly, all EU member states and the UK abstained from the vote. Why are the nations who take so much pride in having defeated Nazism 75 years ago now refusing to vote in favour of combating it?
Content warning: brief references to sexual assault
The Barging Buddhi and Other Poems takes us on a journey from human expectations that are created within a set culture, to more cosmic climbs, from which we are brought back to earth with the fragility of life, to then be connected to a wider sense of nature. Sunita Thind’s poetry is rich, sensual and visual. Although her numerous questions throughout the collection hint at self-doubt and uncertainty, she shows a strong sense of voice that is not easily contained, like the ‘pyrotechnical parrots’ she describes, how humans ‘clip their wings to capture the fury of their rainbow constellations / humans devouring them like black holes / sequestered in monster iron cages.’ The collection is strongest when assertive, using imperatives: ‘delete the tears’, ‘stain me’, maroon me.’
On 12th December India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) passed the Citizen (Amendment) Act (CAA) into law. The series of protests that have erupted and brutal crackdown that has ensued has thrown the country into a state of flux. The highly controversial Citizen (Amendent) Act seeks to fundamentally amend the definition of illegal immigrants in India. Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Parsi and Buddhist immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan will be granted fast track Indian citizenship in six years. Muslims are not included on the list.
Since 5th August 2019, the Indian government has shut down Kashmir in the most repressive and terrifying fashion possible. 48,000 Indian troops have been moved into the state, making it, with 70,000 Indian troops already posted there, the most densely militarized zone on Earth. These troops are now operating under a “shoot-to-kill” policy and hundreds of Kashmiri human rights activists, academics and business leaders have been arrested. Meanwhile, the Indian government has simultaneously imposed a media and communications blackout, cutting off the internet and thus preventing Kashmiris from being able to communicate their suffering in real time to the rest of the world. Pakistan too revoked state subject rule from Gilgit-Baltistan (part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir) in 1974, in a move similar to India’s current strategy. However, in doing so, there was no media black-out nor curfews imposed. India, on the other , has jailed all Kashmiri leadership, transferring them to jails in New Delhi, as well as, according to a magistrate speaking on condition of anonymity, arresting and detaining over 4,000 Kashmiri citizens since 5th August.
Land is a topic that is not at the centre of political news or conversations in the UK, yet land and how we value it is central to environmental, social and economic sustainability worldwide. Land is central to food security, culture, conflict and peace, and society as a whole. Food is a human right, and yet it is a commodity privy to the powers of the market, and not guaranteed for many people. Power is concentrated in the hands of a few mega corporations who monopolise global agriculture and food systems.
Amid simmering tensions between India and Pakistan, in parallel with the Trump White House determined to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and Russia’s illegal missile, which effectively ended the INF Treaty, climate change might not be the nail in the coffin; human society might just jump straight into the furnace.