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February 13th, 2015
Born in India in 1940, Ajmer Rode emigrated in 1966 and came to Vancouver in the early 1970s. He was co-ordinator of the first Canadian-Punjabi literary conference in B.C. and is a founding member of several Indo-Canadian literary and performing arts associations. He has written, directed and acted in plays of Punjabi theatre, and has published books in India and books of poetry in English including Poems At My Doorstep and Blue Meditations.
Most of his poetry is included in his 1000-page book Leela (co-author N. Bharati) critically acclaimed as an outstanding work of 20th century Punjabi poetry. Ajmer Rode is considered founder of Canadian Punjabi drama and his full length play Komagata Maru was digitized and published on-line by Simon Fraser University. In conjunction with illustrator Jarnal Singh, he has since published A Journey with the Endless Eye: Stories of the Komagata Maru Incident (Ekstasis Editions 2015).
The volume is one of several books that have appeared to mark the one hundreth anniversary of the controversial event of May 2014 whe the Komagata Maru, a steamship carrying 376 Indian passengers, mostly Sikhs, was denied moorage in Vancouver’s harbour on May 23rd. The resulting standoff proved tragic when the ship was eventually forced to return to India. Many of the passengers were ex-military men who had made sacrifices for the British empire in wars and expected no problem in immigrating from one British colony to the other. This voyage was a deliberate testing of a discriminatory law which forbade immigration by sea unless would-be immigrants sailed directly from India. Denied food and water in Vancouver harbour, the would-be Candians were mostly forced back to the Indian port of Budge Budge Ghat, near Calcutta, where British-India police fired on them, killing several and injuring many more.
Jarnail Singh of Surrey is an artist, illustrator, designer, photographer, and art journalist who immigrated to Canada in 2000. His artwork frequently portrays Sikh Gurus, historical events and Punjabi folklore.
The Journey With Endless Eye: Stories of the Komagata Maru incident (Ekstasis 2014), illustrated by Jarnail Singh Hardcover 978-1-77171-077-0 / $46.95. Papercover 978-1-77171-078-7 / $34.95