The buildup to this issue is not just a month or two long… this issue had been in exile for very very long, before we pulled it up, and it’s finally out, looking like the exposed roots of a giant uprooted tree; its tragedy – overwhelming and its beauty – new and secretive.
The experience of exile, for each one of us has been scattered, felt by us in personal, political, philosophical and aesthetic fragments, in different time frames and different frames of mind. We have all grappled with displacement in time, geography, memory, ideology; grappled with nostalgia, fear, solitude, absence; grappled with rebellion, adventure, mysticism… and through each instance, have come closer to an understanding of a larger humanity, have achieved a deeper sense of brotherhood across time and space.
A few months ago, I had come across the fascinating story of the poet Arthur Rimbaud – the young French poet, who wrote almost all his poetry between sixteen and twenty years of age. He wrote of the joys of childhood, love, religion, capital, ambition, science… until he found his reasons to never write again. An exile from poetry.
Another book of poetry, printed on paper made of enemy flags and blood stained tunics of soldiers, found its way into the sacks of people, walking into exile from Spain into France. The book was Pablo Neruda’s ‘Espana en al corazon’, and was written amidst the chaos of war chants in Spain, and those Spaniards forced into exile,found in it their hope to survive. Poetry in exile.
And in between these two stories, lie a million other stories of exile. Narendra Modi on the cover of Time, ten years aft er the Gujarat riots, Gunther Grass’s poetry on Israel, 65 years since partition, as many years of not knowing whether Kashmiris are happy or not, 100 years of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, dreams of Baghdad in Paris, Meera’s refuge in Krishna, Burma’s political shadows… these are all seemingly unconnected stories, but are somehow connected by those forgotten links between autumn and man, between the fallen leaves of our memory and the vague promise of spring.
The United Nations’ recent human development report on migration claims to break new ground in the study of migration, challenging stereotypes and presenting a new and complex ‘highly variable’ reality, rebalancing our notions of exile, vulnerability and development. Amidst the emerging new statistics and stories, we try to define the meaning of loss, absence, memory and promise seeded in movement, physical or otherwise.
We are honoured to have Sahitya Akademi winning author Kiran Nagarkar, write for us, an exclusive piece on Meera – the woman in a self imposed life long exile. It’s a 6000 word long essay, which we have presented as a special supplement.
Hope the issue is a thought provoking read.