Searching For Desh Pardesh

Poetry by Maryam Gowralli
By Maryam Gowralli
Desh Pardesh 1991 Event Poster
Editor’s Note: Rungh is in the process of activating the Desh@Rungh archive. This set of new poems references these landmark cultural gatherings held in Toronto, Ontario from 1988 to 2001.

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A Social Contract

Formally, I & the undersigned—
Pardon? Use, like Mammy said,
your imagination if you still have one
where scripts still scrawl bow-legged
on the knees of women
with sinuous chatter, where cursive still
wraps its tail around your right hand
like a pet corn snake, where syntax still
stutters, lurches into a sin, a cutlass,
a pleasurable refrain; if that much of you
remains, you’ll see them, us, me
(lonely as a cracked doorknob),
the possible contours of silent
manifestos—do hereby request
you speak for us only if you
bear your teeth. We realize there is
that which we do not know.
We realise there is
that which you do not know.
We realize knowledge
is a fragile sponge,
but we do not want much.
Only not to be taken,
only for hope everywhere—
for wildflowers, voice & water.

We will pay—have paid—
with ocean bodies & river minds.

Come. Let us watch the water rise,
& smash stone.

Indentureship in Technicolor

Dear Coolie Beauty, will you join me in palatal rage?
I can no longer look at these black and white photos,
golloping edifices of empire, between expansionism
and a postcard industry. Everyone wants to eat your
body, to ramshackle in a painted backdrop, a stately
sylvan jaw, jhumkas to earlobes. But like the poison of
industries, they dump you like monocultural products
gone excess… how is it that a genealogy of definitive
images remain? See the July herald, a woman garbled
in imaginarium and citizenship. Does racial capitalism
mean to make us women of trinkets for public ghosts
to possess? Carbon copy us primitive, tribal, opulent,
dreaded exotic. A soft-power colonialism that says the
woman in Princes Town and she in Calgary has done
well for herself, a bridal bouquet grasped in desh

Letter I Write to
Sharon Fernandez
by the Window

In future years: I wonder, will we be beside ourselves
in the fate of diasporic art?

Will we ever stop the comfortability which resides in
archaic immigrant language or stereotypical aesthetic
despite our Westernized privilege?

Teacher, I admit like many, I am not inherently
nostalgic of times gone but I wonder if the large
interiors of suburban homes designed by others & my
lacking in, for some kind of feeling— on laws passed
since home, thrice-removed, became a foreign nation
far away. Please tell me about the last Desh in 2001,
& I will try to speak of the mausoleum I read about
since then, the flip-flopping of Indian governments,
the headlines tracing tauntological pinpricks, legalized
recognition to only a handful of same-sex couples,
though in stillness, they stunk of recent death. These
flashes as if lives were lived in them, but not enough to
disturb the silk cushions on the crushed velvet settees.

Outside, away from the white-lined sidewalk, the
highways would buzz with traffic, particularly during
he morning rush hour & the tired evening commute.
Then suddenly, I’d feel like watching Kajol in Kuch
Kuch Hota Hai, whizzing along, motion a green forest
bordering the sharp bends in the road. To fly, they’d
take themselves to airports, with even more cavernous
spaces & roofs, which are wavy with no feeling in
them, but are said to imitate the topography of the
land. Perhaps I don’t fly because I remain a tourist in
my own body. When not running panicked, I saunter
in me, like most outsiders do. Indifference &
consumption are a part of me. I do acknowledge that
while I don’t see the real India of today—as the
psychoanalytic REAL of the India I
romanticized—the tranquilizing siege of Kashmiri’s
millions are one’s I know to be. In British Columbia, a
friend crying for his parents two years ago, while he
waited for an information vacuum to dissipate. So at
least once,
I hope I could make you proud & say, I wasn’t fake
with everything.

Looking through a window as a mass-produced,
urban morning, you can see the way highways
wind in & out of gas stations & signage, like
some long, slow-dying hope in stricken suburban

Teacher, I will try my best to activate the
poignancy of missing people; the radical politics;
the arrivals;
the departures.

Raj, Raj, against the Dying Light

Raise the Roof
dance!                 dance!               a fusion piece tonight,
               creole masala mix        grind’   grind’
tiny, tiny, wineee              district milky              funny
               boi time             bloody lesbian
weddin’ necking time                 sea of butches
                             grind’                grind’                 grind’
sweat soaked                 satin shorts                     oogie
boogie                 soca                  desi                     grind’
dance!       dance!       a fusion piece tonight,
       creole masala mix       grind’       grind’
tiny, tiny, wineee    district milky     funny
       boi time             bloody lesbian
weddin’ necking time         sea of butches
              grind’           grind’                 grind’
sweat soaked           satin shorts        oogie
boogie            soca            desi            grind’
Maryam Gowralli
Maryam Gowralli is a poet and writer.
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
Rungh Redux Winner 2022 Award of Merit Innovative Practice
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