Thirty Years On (from November, 1984): Jaspreet Singh

Kafila normally never publishes poems. But sometimes, we make an exception. Because poetry give voice to memory in ways that prose can’t always. And because we must never forget November, 1984.

Guest Post by Jaspreet Singh


One hears that the grass has grown again

and old domes have been plated

with gold. Children of ashened fathers

have acquired autos and crystals, and Lutyens’

stones have bloomed

One hears about the impossibility

of living in the past, difficulties of forever

remaining within eddies of anguish

One hears the bankers and media-anchors

talk about the need of the hour

to move on

(Never mind the periodicity of Gujarat, Trilokpuri…)

Ruination of language and biology

and justice – For them merely burned


or a lost cricket match

Why then before each year comes to an end

I, like so many others,

get Novemberized?

And, you, Jagdeep Kaur, how you have greyed, I hear your choking

whispering, witnessing, voice still

When I woke up…

My eyes could not understand

Why I refused to see

What they had seen

A garden or metal or marble might hold some of your losses

But I am not sure time

will smell like time again

Hope this entire nation tells its children what happened

As Primo Levi said, “Or may…

Your offspring avert their faces from you.”

Hope this entire nation mourns

and performs the deep crystal work

with un-iced solitude and togetherness and

engraves it all on its hearts.

No one can order anybody to unremember 84, especially not

the perpetrator

One knows this all too well

(not after 3 days

or 3 decades)

Dark clouds—

still ascending over Delhi.

To forget is to necklace the dead twice over with rubber tyres

To forget is to stop caring

To forget is to repeat

To forget is to cease loving each other

To forget is to die

Let us never and Never forget

those erased simply because they were

trapped in a certain body

Ash particles, floating in air. They are so near us

The dead

 Jaspreet Singh’s latest book “Helium” is published by Bloomsbury. He lives in Toronto.

One thought on “Thirty Years On (from November, 1984): Jaspreet Singh”

  1. Thank you for this, Jaspreet.

    The perniciousness of censorship and revisionist history (AKA Geroge Orwell’s “memory hole” in…1984!) makes it all the more necessary to take on the much-maligned and thankless role of whistle-blower.

    Canada, too, has its dark secrets, though fortunately not as bloody.

    In 1985, Brian Mulroney revoked the Public Order Bill–a disguised and more repressive version of the War Measures Act–in effect from 1971 to 1985, unbeknownst to nearly all the population. Apologists for P-E. Trudeau scoff, saying that after the autumn of 1970, the provisions of neither law were actually used, when, in fact, we cannot possibly know anything of the sort, censorship and secrecy being part and parcel of the nature of the beast. In fact, until then, “innocent” Canada had been subject to martial law used for civilian purposes through more than half of its history, truly a sorry record for the world’s first postmodern nation. Trudeau, in fact, ruled under martial law, or the threat of such, for virtually his entire career.

    With such hidden threads running through our social and political culture, it is not surprizing that we now tolerate a government that sabotages democratic legislation and institutions by administrative and financial manipulation. It necessarily turns a blind eye to the dirty secrets of other “friendly” regimes, such as India, the “miracle” of modern capitalism.

    One last ironic note: in 1984, the Clash played in Canada for the last time.

    Best regards, my friend.


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