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Winter '84 -- Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta

Guest poem submitted by Salima Virani:
(Poem #1792) Winter '84
 I tell the corner store owner
 'pretty cold out there'
 he says
 'ain't what it used to be'
 'oh', i say, 'why is that'
 wondering if coloured immigration
 has affected the seasons...
 'they've been fooling around
 with the weather',
 he says.
 [his wife nods]
 'ever since they sent a man
 to the moon
 it hasn't been right'

 oh, i say,
 breathing out
 'yeah, i know what you mean'
-- Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta

I recently came across this poem and what struck me most about it is that
although it's been over twenty years since this poem was written, there are
many new immigrants in Canada that continue to feel some discomfort and
unease with their status as immigrants. I'm not sure if that is because
there continues to be a lot of racism or if it's something else.

I'd like to believe that actual instances of racism are much fewer now than
what may have prevailed two decades ago. I was born and raised in India and
have been in Canada for less than a decade but I've never really experienced
any racism. That said, my parents who recently moved here (about three years
ago) from India, go to great lengths to avoid eye contact/conversations with
anyone that speaks different or, in their view, is "very Canadian". They
feel unequipped to engage in casual conversations with white folks and so
all their interaction with them is typically on a "as needed" basis. And so,
if, as it sometimes happens, they're approached by a friendly neighbour who
knocks on the door to inform them about a missed fedex delivery or something
similar, their first reaction, much like Bhaggiyadatta, is always unease and
anxiety. Mum will wonder if her cooking is emanating unpleasant odours or if
her blaring music (of Nusrat or Bollywood tunes) is causing a nuisance.
When they find that it's something to do with fedex and that the "white"
neighbour is actually quite a harmless and friendly guy - they're pleasantly
surprised and quite relieved.


There is a lot of information about Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta scattered
over the web but I was unable to find a single page that gave me a
comprehensive bio about the author. So, I have taken the liberty to put
together the information I discovered and compile a bio (of sorts) for him.
Any errors and omissions are entirely mine.

Bhaggiyadatta is a Sri Lankan-Canadian and a prolific writer. He has
authored several books and articles that tackle the issues of racism and
marginalization. He's also a playwright and  one of his popular plays is
called "The D.M.O. (Dishwashing Machine Operators)", which refers to the
jobs held by many Sri Lankan immigrants to Toronto. Bhaggiyadatta has
published five books of poetry: Domestic Bliss, The Only Minority is the
Bourgeoisie, Mothers and Generals, 52nd State of Amnesia, & Aay Wha' Kinda
Indian Arr U. His works have also appeared in other publications such as in
Passport Photos by Amitava Kumar.


57 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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in in the winter cold I find my own soul, in the chill you can hear my voice, in the dark of the night you can find me, so if you want to find me, be prepare to pass throught the cold and ice.

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Lelli Kelly said...

I recently came across this poem and what struck me most about it is that although it's been over twenty years since this poem was written. It is really heart touchy poem for me.

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