Sea Breeze, Bombay
by Adil Jussawalla
Partition's people stitched
Shrouds from a flag, gentlemen scissored Sind.
An opened people, fraying across the cut
country reknotted themselves on this island.
Surrogate city of banks,
Brokering and bays, refugees' harbour and port,
Gatherer of ends whose brick beginnings work
Loose like a skin, spotting the coast,
Restore us to fire. New refugees,
Wearing blood-red wool in the worst heat,
come from Tibet, scanning the sea from the north,
Dazed, holes in their cracked feet.
Restore us to fire. Still,
Communities tear and re-form; and still, a breeze,
Cooling our garrulous evenings, investigates nothing,
Ruffles no tempers, uncovers no root,
And settles no one adrift of the mainland's histories.
(From the Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry)
When tragedy strikes, art has the power to connect. While searching my files for artistic connections to the events in Mumbai, I found the thoughts and writings of Amardeep Singh, Assistant Professor of English at Lehigh University, to be of great importance. Amardeep Singh led me to the work of Adil Jussawalla whose thoughts from a 1978 interview with Peter Nazareth still ring true:
Jussawalla was asked about the responsibility of the writer in times of crisis. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I think each writer will deal with the crisis in his own way . . . Maybe I see writing as an activity, at least for me personally, as linked up with a whole life, a whole sense of time. Indian writers do have a different sense of time in relation to their own work than the writers in the States, in England and in France, which means that we are bound to have a different attitude even to crisis . . . Am I being fatalistic if I say that for Indians, the crisis is perpetual?”
48"x48" oil on linen 2008
As a global community, it is our duty to mourn with the families of those who were lost and also, as some will seek vengeance, to remind them that, as Gandhi taught, only love and understanding will eventually break the cycle of prejudice, hatred, and violence. It is my hope that these desperate and bloody acts in Mumbai will actually bring the people of India and Pakistan together in mourning and thus create a spirit of cooperation to battle a common enemy which preys on both states. Measured, calm, rational responses to the current chaos will help stabilize the region and the globe.
Poetry International on Adil Jussawalla
Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth