Nanak Jahaz —101 years on—


‘Jahaz’ is the Punjabi word for a ship.

On the 23rd of May, 1914, Nanak’s Ship, also known as Komagata Maru made it all the way to Canada.




In Japanese (a friend told me)

Koma Gata stands for ‘horse-shaped’

and Maru

means a ‘circle’

From left to right

from top to bottom

a sketch done in red ink.

Hoon tah 

memorial wee

bun gaya

(my aunt tells me)

A wee memorial

exists now un-

oblivioning the past wrong.


I walk

towards Vancouver’s Coal Harbor

My feet disturb

deep wounds of an  archive

Paper cuttings wake up

Needle like whispers

and screams of sepia—

Over 350 were denied

entry (The passengers

merely wanted

to expand the world)




at that precise spot

Sea Princess

is anchored. And

the Memorial Maker

(happy and satisfied)

plays bare-feet

(on lemony pearl-grey beach)

with his children

and their children.

Do the little ones know?

About the fate

of those sent back?

The kids glitter as they make sand-

castles and give names to long

shifting clouds

Once in a while tiny-

squinty-sad-and-happy eyes

do wander towards big words

inscribed on a Georgian steel


next to the rusty cast-iron slab




loonie-sized holes. At times

dogs urinate there.



Even children notice—

no grownups read the thing

other than a few

tourists out of an Alaska-bound

cruise ship.

The writing on the wall

is not about righting

the wrong. But

wronging it further. Often

power is

euphemized. Or it lies

through its teeth

Like that limpid

polite white-wash

of a catalyst—

The “incident was a 


for change to…


and immigration laws.”

And not a single word

mentions the popular 1914

song (or was it a jingle?)—

White Canada Forever




one may stand in front

of this 21st century Forget-orial

or Proud-orial forever.

The corridor

after-all is officialdom’s right

to free speech, a Venn-diagram

of positive spins.

By the Coal Harbor

I found a few ghat-like steps

sat down and wept.

The Sea Princess


in fading light. And

soon grit and smell

took over

as if the ocean

was baring its bottom. A thick hydro-

carbon breeze emanated from Chevron’s

shadow in throaty

Pacific. In my be-cupped

ears rang the Japanese


horse-shaped circle

horse-shaped skull-cle


And I near enough

lost my mind

Jaspreet Singh is the author of the novels Chef and Helium.