Pooja Nansi is a first-generation Singaporean. With two books published, her poems show the influence of “Old Bollywood songs, my family and Rap music”. Pooja Nansi’s poetry reveals the melancholia of exile, visible in her songs of parting ‘A line that says “After renunciation, you will be given a letter stating that your Indian passport has been cancelled and that you are no longer an Indian citizen”’. Her poems are also playful and make fun of pop culture, movie theatres, the idea of loving somebody and loosing oneself in somebody else’s dream. For this issue, Pooja Nansi allowed us to publish ‘Songs of Exile,’ ‘Amitabh Bachan’ and ‘Geeta Cinema’.
Songs of Exile, Pooja Nansi
These are the songs of parting. The songs of exile. Self imposed, or otherwise.
The sound of a pen scratching as my father signs a document which says “Renunciation of Indian nationality is irrevocable and due care must be exercised in making an application for this purpose. A declaration must be made that the renunciation is voluntary and that the applicant understands its consequences.”. These are the songs of parting. A line that says “After renunciation, you will be given a letter stating that your Indian passport has been cancelled and that you are no longer an Indian citizen”. These are the songs of exile. Self imposed or otherwise. This is how you are expected to dust the earth off you, stop looking back and make yourself (some say) a better home on foreign soil. This is how you grow up singing the songs of one land and are then supposed to forget the notes . These are the soft songs of parting, the winds different, the smells different, but the never ebbing longing always a constant flow. This is when you are always home. This is when you are never home. This is how borders of love and loyalty are expected to shift, as though your heart understands this redrawn cartography, as though country is merely movements of tectonic plates. As though country is a thing, not a feeling. As though my country can never be two places, six people, seven things. But these are the rules they say, these are the rules of exile, the songs of parting that haunt and some things we cannot translate.
I want to marry him I whisper into the TV as a three year old because who else can open a car door handle like this tall swaggalicious man who else chews on a toothpick like a hot first kiss and it’s hard to find words to articulate the whirpool in my belly, his eyes that mourn but turn mourning into something sexy. Whose voice is chocolate bubbling baritone, he strolls slow while other men are falling in the middle of curry western movie fight scenes and oh my god is he puffing at that cigarette or trying to create an orgasm this man this six foot two pillar of desire and the bad guy says “now you’re in trouble you rogue, we’ve been looking for you”
But he? He tilts his head back, exhales smoke and says “you’ve been looking all over, while I was right here waiting.”
And when hegoes looking for the bad guy he stands like a rock in the middle of a hurricane and spits Agar apni maa ka doodh piya hai to saamne aa. Dammmmn son you’re going to make a girl unable to walk straight your smirk hits hard as a double vodka and gin cocktail. You so beautiful on a motorcycle, hard and lean on a horse. You dancing but only moving one muscle, you resplendent in remorse. You drenched to curve of chest in rainfall, you gun cocked with half smile. You full of anger and tenderness and sex, you aviator sunglasses, wide collared, bell bottomed styled.
God help brown girls like me everywhere growing up watching you on screens.
God help my brown girl’s hunger and my brown girl’s sweltering dreams.
Ten steps away from Kum Kum Terrace is the Geeta Cinema. Where you can watch B grade movie reruns and buy tickets in black from the men outside chanting inflated prices under their breath. I write letters to my grandfather and label the envelope
2 Kum Kum Terrace, Geeta Cinema Compound. A midnight movie adventure is only 5 minutes away. Where you can sit on the wooden slated seat, eat channa, drink Limca and lose yourself in somebody else’s dream. Where grandmothers live forever and never lose their memory, where the bad guys find their comeuppance and the tall dark hero emerges victorious where you are the heroine, her spangled dupatta reflecting off her long dark hair, where a song seals a romance and your long lost father is a benevelont billionaire. Where rain drenches you but your make up never runs, where alcohol is a river that never gets you drunk. Where everyone always wants to dance and always knows the steps where nobody has heard of a smartphone or E- books or a multiplex.
Pooja Nansi is the author of two collections of poetry. Her key performance work includes her one-woman show, You Are Here which explores issues of migration through personal family histories. She also wrote and performed Thick Beats for Good Girls with Checkpoint Theatre which opened in April 2018 and explored the intersections between feminism, identity and Hip Hop. She is the co-founder of Other Tongues, a literary festival of minority voices in Singapore. She teaches creative writing at Nanyang Technological University and is the current festival director of the Singapore Writers Festival.