Dulai’s migrant ship
June 25th, 2014
After a long gestation period, Phinder Dulai’s third book of poetry examines the infamous Komagata Maru “incident” in the Vancouver harbour, a subject that has been percolating with him since his early twenties. dream/arteries (Talonbooks $16.95) connects the stories of other New World migrants who had previously sailed aboard the ship with the heart-breaking story of the Komagata Maru passengers in 1914when 376 Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu would-be immigrants travelled from Punjab, India, but were refused entry at Vancouver, even though all passengers were British subjects, due to Canada’s racist exclusion laws of the time.
While many British Columbians know of the fate of the passengers on the Komagata Maru, not many people today are aware the ship had a history of moving New World settler migrants for decades, calling at ports in Hong Kong, Japan, India and Turkey to eventually travel to Ellis Island, Halifax and Montreal. What’s different about Dulai’s investigation of the Vancouver stand-off is that he links the stories of previous migrants on the ship with the Vancouver-bound hopefuls. By drawing on ship records, nautical maps, passenger manifests, and the rich, detailed record of the Komagata Maru, Dulai demonstrates how the 1914 incident encapsulates a broader narrative of migration throughout the New World.
Dulai’s publisher describes dream/arteries as “hybrid poetics” that “use historical fact with fiction.” He mixes words of loss and silence with the “cacophonous sound bites of TV news culture, war coverage, and the manifestations of contemporary ennui,” and explores notions of hope, possibility and regeneration.
Dulai has given readings and talks on Canadian literature, with an emphasis on migrant voices, for schools, colleges and universities both in and outside of Canada. He has worked in print journalism in Vancouver’s South Asian media and as an associate producer for Gabereau Live. His poetry has been published in Ankur, Rungh, The Canadian Ethnic Studies Review, and the Toronto South Asian Review. Excerpts of his poetry have been featured in the Vancouver Sun and The Globe and Mail.
Phinder Dulai will be reading from his new book at Performing the Voyage: Legacies and Echoes of the Komagata Maru on July 6, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm, at the Museum of Vancouver, 1100 Chestnut Street.
The evening will also include music, art and conversation with artists inspired by the Komagata Maru episode. In addition to Dulai, other authors include Renee Saklikar and Priscila Uppal. Musician Neelamjit Dhillon will perform a series of new jazz performances.