The anthology, Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians, containing nearly 70 poets in their 40s & under, has just come out (available on Amazon), and it includes prose poems by MUM faculty member Sasha Parmasad.
Sasha clarifies the personal significance of the event:
“In the 1800s my ancestors were taken from India forcibly as indentured laborers by British colonialists to work on sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean (in the island of Trinidad). My ancestors survived the hazardous 2 to 3 month ship voyage across the “kala pani” (black water) of the “middle passage,” crossing both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. They survived their life in bondage as indentured laborers in Trinidad, passing on to their descendants whispers of the sacred land from which they had come (Bharat, Mere Desh, Mother India), the land that they loved so much and longed to return to, if only in their restless dreams.
“The dream of India — a sacred place, a heartland — was passed down from generation to generation, eventually reaching me as a 6th-generation Indian-Trinidadian during my childhood in the 1980s. The India that was passed down to me in the 1980s by my parents, grandparents, and community elders was an idea — an ancestral place shrouded in mystery, an imagined homeland, a dream of what we had lost through more than 100 years of struggle and sacrifice that had enabled us, as a people, to lift ourselves out of servitude and transform Trinidad from Lanka, a place of exile, to Ayodhya, a beloved homeland. With this history and background, it is truly a momentous and moving thing for my poetry to have been included in this Sahitya Akademi anthology; the publication symbolizes for me a return to the ancestral home of my ancestors via The Word.
“Additionally, since I claim several homes — Trinidad, my birthplace; India, the place of my ancestors; the United States, the home of my current years — this Sahitya Akademi publication as well as the publication of an excerpt of my novella, KAIRI, in The Arts Journal of the Caribbean earlier this year, are enabling me to cross geo-political borders and boundary lines and begin to create for myself an “international home of the heart” that transcends maps and homogeneous identities.
I feel a diversity of life within myself so rich that it makes me sometimes weep. Needless to say, my lifelong experience of meditation and my teaching of the TM technique have shaped my heart and mind — and, therefore, my writing — in transcendent ways that have enabled this crossing of boundaries and encompassing of a diversity of truths, perspectives, and homelands within myself.
“I invite others to seek out a similar place beyond boundaries within themselves. As far as my experience tells me, there is no greater joy than finding this homeless home within oneself.”
Two of Sasha’s prose poems were included in the anthology: xxx and Children’s Games. We include the latter here.
I think of a game we used to play as children in Trinidad. The nine-year-old schoolgirls in neat blue-and-white uniforms stand along a brick wall and the schoolboys, building speed from a distance, try to crash into them. The girls roll quickly along the wall to avoid being crashed into.
I was one of those little girls, and in my heart the mortal dread of the rough boys who ran with such force into us. A feeling of entrapment, wonder; the thought—What madness keeps me here waiting to be crashed into! Terrified and yet mesmerized, unable to walk away. I hated the boys for their cruel bombardment. I wanted the war to stop. I wanted them to let me be free.
Now I see, through the boys’ eyes, the other side of the story.—I am a nine-year-old boy running from a distance into pigtails. I want to stop this loony game, but cannot help myself. I watch the stupid demon-girls slide out of my path at the last minute. They laugh cruelly as I crash into the brick wall, hurt myself. I want them to keep still and stop dodging so that I can catch one, stop this mad pursuit; so that I can go home, take a warm bath—rest.
Sasha will be reading an extract from her novel Ink and Sugar at an MUM faculty poetry reading at Cafe Paradiso in Fairfield, on Thursday, Nov. 21st, at 8 pm, along with Leah Waller, Terry Fairchild, Ben McClendon, Dylene Cymraes, Stuart Tanner, Craig Deininger, Rustin Larson, and Nynke Passi.