The Professor Leads An American Visitor On Tour Of The New Botanical Garden At Guru Nanak Dev University In Amritsar, Punjab
“The partition of ‘British’ India in August 1947 not only created two new independent nations, India and Pakistan, but also resulted in one of the greatest forced migrations in human history. Millions of frightened people, displaced from their ancestral homes, fled across newly delineated (and quite artificial) borders … Amid the massive confusion and panic, up to 1 million people (perhaps many more) died; while untold numbers of women suffered a fate worse than death — they were raped, sometimes tortured, gang-raped and murdered. Indeed, the Partition of India and Pakistan, a decision made by lawmakers far from the front-lines, unleashed an episode of brutal depravity that might be unmatched in recent history.” Palash Ghosh on Partition
We label each tree. Yes, they are small now but —
mango, camphor, neem –all native to Punjab,
this soil is rich—it looks dry to you?– look closer.
For me these fields are drenched in blood–
women and children fleeing in the dark.
My mother hid with me under a mango tree,
now this new University, red brick, rises in that place
where I shivered the night away like a rousted rabbit.
Bats flew from the old minaret that had been set aflame
they circled me, their terror as blind as mine.
My mother took her head scarf and wrapped
my body in the scented silk gauze. Patchouli. I know —
the soil looks dry. What words of mine could show
you the blood that I still see– this haunted place–
the bodies, the rain, the slipping in red mud?
No, I can’t forgive.– Don’t ask.– What did you forgive today?
We’re all adults now— so you say. This field saw my mother’s shame.
How can her son for– No, no, the eucalyptus grove is over there.
-Norma Jenckes ( Illinois PhD) was born and raised in Rhode Island where in 1970 she met and married her husband Yashdip S. Bains. She later lived at the newly built Guru Nanak Dev University where Bains was the Head of the University English Department. Although she had written poetry since childhood, this immersion in Indian life shaped her work and began a decades long fascination with Indian poetry. .