Josna Rege

A-to-Z 2019: Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles

In Notes on March 17, 2019 at 12:01 am

With some trepidation, I’ve signed up for the annual A-to-Z April blogging challenge for the first time in three years. My chosen theme is Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles, a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot recently and which, of course, is an urgent issue—perhaps the urgent issue—worldwide. Last year the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that by the end of 2017 a cumulative total of 68.5 million people had been forced to leave their homes. More than 25.4 million people became refugees that year alone, fleeing their countries to escape war and persecution.

In the current climate, these vulnerable displaced people have become the perfect scapegoats for unscrupulous politicians. We see it everywhere we look: immigrants and refugees characterized as alien invaders, a disease that must be vaccinated against, a problem that calls for a final solution. Nativist rhetoric fans the flames of hate and gives the nod to violent attacks like the massacre of Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand and the posting of the military to the Southern border of the United States where families and children had undertaken a long, arduous trek to seek asylum. Their essential difference from “Us” is always invoked, as if they are a breed apart.

My family and I are immigrants too, though not refugees, so all this is very close to home. My posts will be as personal as they are political, and I will try hard not to preach, though I can’t help having strong opinions. The A-to-Z entries on words and terms related to my theme will be punctuated with links to some of my favorite novels and songs on the subject.

Although I’m returning after a two-year break, this will be my fifth time participating in the April blogging challenge. For anyone interested, here are my post-Challenge Reflections posts for the first four years, each with a list of hyperlinks to each of the A-Z entries:

2013: Blogging from A to Z (no theme)
2014: Traveling Light 
2015: A Printer’s Alphabet (my favorite)
2016: Bringing Me Joy

April is a cruel month for academics, so sometimes it will be a struggle for me to post my daily entry on time. Wish me luck and All the best to my fellow-bloggers!

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

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407. Inner Light

In Nature, reflections, seasons, Stories on November 24, 2018 at 5:33 pm

It has been nearly four months now since we moved, and every day is still a surprise. By mid-November, after a succession of cold, blustery days, the deciduous trees around the house had lost almost all their leaves. I emerged from the bedroom one morning to find shafts of light streaking into places I had never seen lit up before. The leaves of the potted plants we had brought in before the first frost had been looking dull, but now they were glowing; and, I was surprised to find, so was I. 

It’s counter-intuitive, isn’t it, that as the days grow shorter, the mornings and afternoons gloomier, and the shadows longer, there should actually be more light slanting into the house? As we were turning toward the darkest time of the year, I had been anticipating a season of hibernation and bracing myself to face it. But I had been wrong. Now that the trees were bare and the sun low in the sky, there was new light coming in everywhere, in unexpected places.

In just four weeks we will come around to the winter solstice, a cold, dark, snowy time when we will have to hunker down and bundle up day and night to conserve heat; but also a time to turn inward and discover that inner light.

 

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For You, Mum

In Notes on April 8, 2018 at 9:45 pm

My mother has passed away. It was her time and it was a peaceful passing, so I must be glad. There is nothing more I can say just now, but as I did when my father died, just 18 months ago, I am sharing some of the many stories in the Tell Me Another Archives from her, about her, or inspired by her, interspersed with songs which she loved or which remind me of her.

My Grandmother

When Irish Eyes are Smiling  One of my grandmother’s favorite songs, so Mum told me (see story above). 

Chickens on the Pot

Molly Malone One of Mum’s aunts had a barrow, and we have a photograph of her and her family standing straight and proud in front of it—their livelihood. 

A Nice Bit of Spanish

Annie Laurie Mum didn’t sing this one very often, but when she did, it struck deep into your heart. 

Party Pieces

     The Old Bull and Bush

Strawberry-Picking Camp

 Killing Me Softly This song was released by Roberta Flack in 1973, just three years after we immigrated to the United States. Mum loved it, and I didn’t know why at the time. I preferred rock-‘n-roll and reggae, and thought it rather schmaltzy. Not any more. 

Sucking Lemons and Quoting Shaw 

Hound Dog My cousin Bill remembers Mum teaching him to jive to Elvis’ Hound Dog. If this was in 1956, when it was released, Mum would have been twenty-nine, and Bill just thirteen. 

My Uncrowned Queens

  Avanti Popolo One day, some years into her Alzheimer’s, Mum mentioned that she had a song running through her head, but she couldn’t remember more than a few fleeting lines. She sang them for me, but they didn’t ring a bell, and I thought I’d heard every song she’d ever known. Furthermore, it was in another language, and one I knew she didn’t know—Italian. I went home, did some searching on the Internet, and came back with this, and the lyrics printed out for her. Mum took to the Italian like a duck to water, and soon we were roaring out this rousing workers’ march at the top of our lungs. It must have been stored away in her memory backs from her Leftist youth. What a terrific song!

Servants, or Cleaning My Own D*** House

     With a Little Bit of Luck

His Master’s Voice

     Jamaica Farewell

Learning to Swim

     Island in the Sun

British TV, Fall of ‘63

 Twist and Shout (at the Beatles’ Royal Command performance)   Read “British TV, Fall of ’63” for the back story.

Frittered!

 The Ash Grove Mum would say that, in secondary school, while their music teacher waxed all sentimental about this song, the students would change the words to: “My teacher has a bunion/a face like a pickled onion/a nose like a squashed tomato/ and legs like matchsticks.” In transports of delight, the teacher was oblivious to it all, “Beautiful, Class, beautiful,” she would murmur. 

Top of the Pops, 1968-69

Those Were the Days   When this song started climbing the British pop charts in 1968, it was a song the oldsters liked as well. We didn’t know then that it was a Russian romance from the 1920s. but Mum and Uncle Ted probably did. 

Two at a Time

     Loch Lomond

Simply Paying Attention

You Can Get It if You Really Want This was Mum’s favorite song from the Reggae soundtrack of the classic 1972 movie, The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff. I realize now that it probably spoke to her of the struggles of her own life: . . .”but you must try, try and try, try and try: you’ll succeed at last.”

Just Empty Your Mind

Shelter from the Storm  This was Mum’s favorite song on Bob Dylan’s 1975 Blood on the Tracks Album. She particularly liked it when he sang, “Come in,” she said “I’ll give ya” (and she, like Dylan, emphasize the ya) “shelter from the storm.”

London, My London

     Maybe It’s Because I’m a Londoner

London without Lily

     Old Man River

Doing It Themselves

Mera Juta Hai Japani  A hit song from the 1955 Hindi film Shree 420, starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis which  exemplified the spirit of early post-Independence India. My cousin Meena remembers Mum singing it on a trip to Ratnagiri. 1955 was the year she arrived in India for the first time, with me as a babe in arms. 

A Chip off the Old Block? If Only.

     Day-O

Babysitting

     O Danny Boy

    Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

     Ti geli tevha rimjhim

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