Questions and Remedies

ANCESTORS:

Questions and Remedies

ancestors tell us how to continue

inside a world of lovers long forgotten

inside a world of how to be 

remembered on the page,

in books, in our memory and taste buds 

ancestors haunt us through our bone marrow 

ancestors whisper all that you know 

when I am asleep, murmur answers 

from the universe, like my lover 

does in movie theatres, broadcast beyond 

this world with stories that fuel our cells

ancestors defend our love poems, back to us 

ancestors we have queries about your whereabouts

a flash on a street corner, blinds us

a lime green coat, crosses the street, a double take 

a grey-haired woman turns slightly to reveal a profile

we linger at the street corner, tear-filled 

stop in the middle of the road, chin wobble 

we reach out, arms at the ready

a bubble up quick an ugly cry

ancestors show us our own heart 

-Sharanpal Ruprai 

DESCENDANTS:

Remember, that you dear poet, come from a long line of artists. Read, absorb, read, research the poets that have come before you. You are not alone. Honour our artist ancestors by sharing their work with others; share a piece of poetry by someone who has influenced your own work. Grow our ancestor’s readership and it will ground your own practice. 

Sharron Proulx-Turner, a well-known two-spirit Metis poet and she was a dear friend; passed away a few years ago. Our conversations over the years led to sparks of love, ideas and fuelled my second collection of poetry, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb. Sharron reminded me that food and recipes were a vital aspect of love and life. When Sharron was in hospice, I promised her that I would spread the word about her work and make her famous! She, of course, laughed and said, “you, do that!” and we never had a chance to talk about writing again. 

Descendants, when I am asked to read at literary events, I share a poem (or two) from The Trees are still Bending South, by Sharron Proulx-Turner and explain our connection and how she includes her family recipes as poems; this is how we will build a network of generations of ancestors that will support and light the way. I ask you, to do the same. 

From The Trees are still Bending South by Sharron Proulx-Turner

two-spirit love poem, three

in some cultures

when a woman dreams

she’s sun’s lover

she becomes a sundancer

I’ve had no such 

dreams of sun 

but dreams of you 

as we walk 

the blue mountains 

winter’s sun 

warming the sides 

of our faces 

the backs of our necks 

you and me opening 

pathways 

in the snow 

our future 

as new to us now 

as alive and certain 

as the distant 

morning star 

welcoming sun 

as she rises 

her face opened 

in our eyes 

Sharanpal Ruprai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Winnipeg. Sharanpal Ruprai’s début poetry collection, Seva, was a finalist for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry by the Alberta Literary Awards. Her second collection, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb, is a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards for Lesbian Poetry.Her poetry is featured in a number of anthologies: GUSH: Menstrual Manifestos for Our Time, The Calgary RenaissanceRed Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets, and Exposed. Sharanpal Ruprai is also a poetry editor for Contemporary Verse 2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing (CV2). 

Sharanpal Ruprai is the 2019-2020 Canadian Writer-in-Residence at the University of Calgary working on a collection of short stories called, Blue Kara.

Sharanpal is currently

working on a collection of short stories called, Blue Kara and I am writing a play! I am so excited that my second poetry book, Pressure Cooker Love Bomb, is a finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Awards! So, I am reading all the other Lambda Literary Award finalists listed here:  https://www.lambdaliterary.org/awards/current-finalists/. And being inspired by all the new fresh story lines, language, and visuals that these narratives bring to the mind!Attachments area

When did you cross the threshold?

WHEN?

 

My Nani once shared with me that my great-great-grandfather Pirmohamed Anand, was actually named Purshotam, prior to sailing to East Africa from the ports of Kathiawar. Purshotam means “Supreme Being” and is the 24th name of Lord Vishnu.

I would ask my ancestors what it was like to be neither Muslim or Hindu, but instead Khojas following the Satpanth, a syncretic community that adhered to a fusion of Shia Muslim, Sufi, and Vaishnavite traditions.

When did you decide to cross the threshold and call yourselves “Ismaili Muslims”?

What is it about the religion of your forefathers, that gave you the strength to hold on to it for generations?

 

What did you feel when you sailed away from the ports of Kutch and Khatiawar to reach the coast of East Africa?

 

How do you feel knowing your descendants are losing their mother tongue, sense of rootedness, and love for their own (brown) skin?

 

REMEMBER THE UNKNOWN STORIES

 

For my queer diasporic desi descendants, those who have hybrid identities that hyphenations fail to connect, I would remind them about their ancestors.

Both blood and chosen. That’s right – blood isn’t the only criteria we use to build our families. We should remember our queer ancestors who came before us but who weren’t necessarily related to us by blood – whose art, poetry, resilience, and experiences inspires generations after. But also remember our ancestors who allowed us to come into being today, even if their stories are unknown and lost to time and memory.

I would remind them that it was colonization that uprooted our connection to our third gender sister communities in South Asia and made our sexualities appear deviant.

I would encourage them to celebrate wins, small and large. My win is being able to proudly wear jhumka earrings and flowing shawls to my Jamatkhana in Toronto, irrespective of the bewildered faces and the nazar of aunties. My win is identifying allies within my place of worship that see me as a human trying to be his authentic self, a privilege not many have.

I would ask them to work on decolonizing. To create spaces for them to live, breathe, and create in and build solidarity among other marginalised communities. For them to join this legacy for their own descendants – both blood and chosen.

 

 

Zain Bandali is an unapologetically queer non-binary poet that writes on themes related to Islamic mysticism, queerness, diasporas, and where they interact. He is 21 years old and takes pride in being a Shia Ismaili Muslim of Indo-Tanzanian heritage living in Canada. Zain is in the final year of his undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo, where he founded QTPOC KW, a community group for racialized queer and trans students. He is an avid vegetable gardener but cannot always stomach the chilli peppers he grows.

Learn more about Zain and his work here.

Upcoming Event: 

Zain be performing at brOWN//out at the Deloitte Stage (Intersection of Church St. and Gloucester St.) on June 22nd from 5-8 pm (the Saturday before the Toronto Pride Parade).