Book Launch, Vancouver
Sunday 16 January, 2011
2:30 – 4:30pm
Book launch with introduction by
Mr. Ujjal Dosanjh
Historical Kogawa House
1450 West 64th Avenue,
Vancouver, BC V6P 2N4
Book launch, Surrey
Sunday, January 23, 2011
1:30 – 4:30pm
Surrey Public Library
Strawberry Hill Branch
7399 – 122nd Street, Surrey BC
Author Reading, Abbottsford
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Author book reading
Ehsaas Readers and Writers Festival
University of Fraser Valley
‘With the world pre-occupied with rumours of an imminent war, Vancouver’s boys of summer 1914 are at it again – the waterfront is already ringing with their verses of ‘White Canada Forever’. As hundreds of Punjabi Indians quietly sail into the harbour clamouring for their rights as equal subjects to relocate to any part of the British Empire, their chartered ship – the Komagata Maru – now lies rusting at anchor inside the Burrard Inlet on Canada’s Pacific Coast. The hopeful, would-be-immigrants find the host city distracted in its exuberant Victoria Day celebrations, and by the final visit of Buffalo Bill’s Best Show On Earth.
The arrival of the rogue ship into Canadian waters is seized by an immigration inspector as an opportunity to redress personal frustrations and regain lost stature. Meanwhile, a Punjabi mill worker, whose plight in seeking gainful employment is challenged through his community’s daily humiliations and frustrations by the belligerent exclusionist policies, watches the ship’s passengers thwarted in their every attempt at landing.
A gifted undercover operator whose intricate web of informants, intimidation, intrigue and murder has infiltrated the Pacific coast, warns that the new arrivals are a part of an emerging sinister insurgency to free India from its occupying British forces; and his seven-year-old daughter watches a favourite uncle worship the first crocuses and revel in the return of seasonal salmon by swimming with them in a shallow stream.
These are some of the narrative threads of a disillusioned and dislocated passenger on the Komagata Maru. He is ostensibly here to take up the Canadian offer of ‘Free Land’ in the Last Best West and his explorations of the possibilities and limits of hope and endurance spans two continents during the tumultuous decade from 1914 to 1924. It includes the startling revelation of how some of the deported passengers walked the railway tracks from Calgary to Vancouver barely ahead of the onset of winter.
Set against the racially charged background of discordant voices from an unshakeable past, this wrenching and inspiring first novel illuminates a watershed incident of Canadian history largely forgotten outside the South Asian community. The Komagata Maru debacle would eventually radicalize the Indian freedom movement on the American soil, giving fresh impetus to the claim of Indian freedom fighters that there was no justice for them within the British Empire, and the only recourse open to them was to forcefully seek complete independence for India.’
- from the book cover
Komagata Maru historical timeline
First Punjabi settlement in Canada at Golden, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Columbia River Lumber Mill Temple built in Golden, Vancouver Island, B.C.
Sikhs soldiers returning from Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee travel through Canada and carry with them news of Canada’s vast farmlands.
Anti-Asian Riots in Vancouver, B.C. Canada and Bellingham, Washington, USA.
Canadian Government severely restricts immigration from India.
Canadian Government passes 2 orders-in-council: the first declares that all Asians were now obliged to have $200 on their person when they land. The second order-in-council, the ‘Continuous Journey’ regulation, stipulates that East Indian immigrants had to have travelled directly to Canada from India. However, there were no shipping lines operating between the two countries at the time.
May 23, Komagata Maru arrives in Vancouver harbour with 376 passengers (340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus) to challenge the extant exclusionist laws.
23 July, Komagata Maru departs with 352 of its passengers still onboard.
29 September, Komagata Maru reaches Indian shores at Budge Budge near Calcutta. 20 passengers die in the ensuing riots.
Canadian Immigration regulations loosened slightly to allow some Indian family reunification.
Canadian Citizenship Act opens the gates for immigration from the Indian subcontinent.
75th Komagata Maru anniversary plaque placed at Vancouver’s Portal Park.
Vancouver City Hall declares 23 May as Komagata Maru Day.
Filmmaker Deepa Mehta (Director: Water, Earth and Fire) announces plans for a Canadian film based on the Komagata Maru events. Related issues of federal apology, financial compensation to descendants and anniversary commemorations keep the Komagata Maru incident of 1914 alive in the press.
Canadian federal government announces plans for a permanent memorial at the Komagata Maru site in the Burrard Inlet.
‘Chanting Denied Shores’ is published by Calgary’s Bayeux Arts in November 2010.