Josna Rege

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

In Notes on May 6, 2019 at 10:46 am

Last month I participated in the Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge in its 10th Anniversary year, with the theme of Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles. I hadn’t joined the Challenge for the past couple of years, during which time I had hardly written at all, and had posted just a handful of pieces on Tell Me Another. When it came time to make the decision I took the plunge and managed to get through to Z, albeit a couple of days late.

The subject was grim, but it was the only one that presented itself to me, and once it had, there was absolutely no other subject out there. Not wanting to drive my readers to despair with the enormity of the problem, or send them to sleep out of sheer boredom, I tried to strike a balance between the often-horrible details, personal stories, righteous wrath, and resistance, and hoped that my own experience might disarm those with their antennae tuned to detect proselytizing, polemics, and political correctness. Not wanting to preach to the choir, I hoped that the interludes of music and literature between the ponderous lectures might bring some blessèd relief. Whether or not I succeeded is up to the readers.

Here is a hyperlinked list of all the posts I wrote in connection with Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles, starting with the announcement of the theme:

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

Yikes!

A is for Alien (also Arrival, Assimilation, and Asylum)

B is for Border

C is for Citizen[ship]

D: Detention and Deportation

E is for Emigrant, Expatriate, and Exile

F: Family Separation

G is for the Great Migration

H is for Homeland

I is for “Internment”/Incarceration

J is for Journey

Three Ks: Kamala Markandaya, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Kamila Shamsie

Leaving on a Jet Plane

M: Migrant Crisis

N is for Nationalists and Nationalisms

One Love

P is for Passport

Q is for Quarantine

R is for Refugees

S is for Stranger

T is for Temporary Status

Unalienable Rights

V is for Vigilante

Walls

Xenophobia

Y is for Youth

Zero-tolerance Policy

Tell Me Another had a big spike in readership from the moment I signed up for the A-to-Z Challenge back in March, after a two-year hiatus. The visits leveled off somewhat after the first week or so, as everybody got busier, but A-to-Z certainly jump-started my blog again after it had lain neglected for the past couple of years.

Besides my friends Anna, Sally, Marianne, Sarah, Norah, and Maureen (and several more whose loving presence I feel even if they don’t have time to comment), I received feedback and encouragement from longtime and loyal fellow-bloggers, some of whom who weren’t even doing the Challenge themselves this year, others who were and already had their hands more than full. I had first discovered Finding Eliza, Calmgrove, and Wangiwriter’s Blog back in 2013, the first year I had participated, and it was delightful to receive regular comments from writers who feel like old friends by now, as well as to follow Finding Eliza‘s absorbing theme. In addition there were the dozen or so bloggers encountered for the first time this year whose blogs I tried to visit more-or-less regularly throughout the month, chief among them Epiphany, Time and Tide, Panorama of the Mountains, QP and EyeThe Curry Apple Orchard, In the Eye of the Beholder, Jazzfeathers, and Sonia’s Musings. Their visits, energy, and example spurred me on when I was flagging, especially those in Australia who were regularly two days ahead of me in the alphabet.

I will certainly try to take up the A-to-Z Challenge again, although every year I ask myself why on earth I signed up for anything so time-consuming in the ridiculously-busy month of April. But I already know the answer to that question: it is because it makes me write, and writing makes me happier than just about anything else.

A sincere thank you to the hardworking co-hosts and to the community of bloggers who have never failed to be courteous, thoughtful, supportive, and oh, so creative! Most importantly, heartfelt thanks to migrants, refugees, and exiles everywhere and those who advocate tirelessly for them. Thank you for your courage and persistence in the face of so many odds. Please know that for every instance of hostility or bureaucratic nonsense that you encounter, you have many well-wishers. This is a particularly precarious time for immigrants, documented or otherwise. Anything we can do to help will make a difference, from keeping up to date on the issues, to educating ourselves and others, to getting involved with one of the many organizations that provide assistance to immigrants and refugees, to making phone calls to our political representatives, to joining public protests, to offering material support. One love!

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Yikes!

In Notes on March 30, 2019 at 4:52 pm

The month of April begins the day after tomorrow, and I don’t know what possessed me to sign up for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. To make matters worse, my announced theme of Migrants, Refugees, and Exiles has drawn a fair amount of interest, which means I’m under scrutiny: pressure drop! I know that my April workload, not to mention the March backlog, will not permit me to give the subject the time it needs without burning the midnight oil even later than usual—which I used to be able to do with impunity, but alas, no longer. I had hoped to be able to draft a few of the entries in advance but, again, no dice.

This is not an excuse, just an advance yawp of rising panic. But what can you expect from an Alien with a lifetime of criss-crossing Borders, a Citizen, or rather, a Dual Citizen-, an Emigrant, First-generation, who refuses to Get Back, wandering endlessly through Imaginary Homelands? At a time when “Illegals” are being Interned or worse, when Jingoism is the order of the day, read Kamila Shamsie for wisdom and suppress your Longing to  Leav[e] on a Jet Plane. At a time when Muslims and Migrants are threatened by lawless Militias and Nativism is on the rise, resist the tendency to Other, and instead practice One Love. In a world regulated by Passports and papers, too many people languish in the limbo of government Quarantine. Refugees roam alienating cityscapes and Racism and Scapegoating terrorize innocents. We are all Sojourners and Strangers here, with Temporary status. Bless the Undocumented, those who are declared Unassimilable, the Vagrants and the Vagabonds. Show the builders of Walls the folly of their ways, because walls, like empires, are bound to fall. Neither Xenophobes nor Yahoos nor Zero-tolerance border policies will deliver safe and sustainable societies, only justice and compassion for one’s fellow-human beings can do that.

April will surely come, as one day follows another. But for now, it’s high time I got down to commenting on drafts of student essays on nationalism and national identity; how fitting!

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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!

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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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Gloomy Thoughts in Late Winter

In Notes on February 18, 2017 at 9:48 am
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Pre-dawn (photo: Josna Rege)

Still another month to go before Spring, though goodness knows I’m not wishing time away. There doesn’t seem to be the time or the leisure for Tell Me Another these days, with so many other pressing tasks taking precedence.

Perhaps, after nearly seven years, I’m done with TMA. Perhaps, come Summer, stories will begin to present themselves again; but just now everything seems stale. Perhaps, with nearly 400 stories set down in black and white, it’s time to stop looking backward and start living life more fully again. Then if, inshallah, I live to be an old woman, there will be new stories to tell.

Just now, the springs of renewal are buried deep. But there is not the luxury of simply waiting for Spring. The Earth is under attack, and all that we hold dear. If we fail to fight for them now, those life-giving waters may never return.

Of course looking backward has value; it reminds one of what is important, what one has learned, and what one must pass on. But with that pivot point, the Vernal Equinox, approaching, it is incumbent upon me to recover the balance I once had between action and repose. It’s both too late and much too soon to rest.

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To Dad, with Love

In Notes on October 3, 2016 at 2:24 pm

My father has passed away. It is much too soon for me to write about him; I can’t find the words. But over the years he has figured in many Tell Me Another stories. Taken collectively, I think they convey something of his character, personality, and presence. Here is a hyperlinked list of these stories (with favorites in bold), interspersed with some songs Dad loved and some of mine.

To Dad, with Love

The Yogi of Beals Street

Kaun Gali Gayo Shyam

The Kurta Joke

Hai Apna Dil to Awara

Sucking Lemons and Quoting Shaw

Dhitang Dhitang Bole

So Many Things Have Disappeared

Yeh Raatein Yeh Mausam

Flash

Mandoubala

Jaggery Coconut, Nectar of the Gods

Mexican Home

The Bay of Biscay and the Gully Gully Man

Ichak Dana Bichak Dana 

Dolls I Have Loved (and Lost)

Aa Jao Tadapte Hain Armaan

The Long Journey

Can’t Buy Me Love

From a Railway Carriage

Lady Madonna

Greece in the 60s: Expats and Other Animals

O Ymittos

Learning to Swim

`    Synnefiasmeni Kyriaki

Cookbooks, Immigrants, and Improvisation

Mera Joota Hai Japani

Avoiding the Plague

Aaj Jyotsna Raate

Untangling

Lively Up Yourself

Riding Like the Wind

Pre-dawn Adventures

Utha Utha Sakala Jana

Waste Not, Want Not

On Not Knowing the Signs

“Heuch, Heuch!” (and other family lingo)

The Silver Hairpin

What’s in a Name?

An Immigrant’s Reflections on Independence Day

The Mango Room

Across the Miles

The Taste of Home

Doing it Themselves

Inscriptions

Slow Food from Way Back

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An Immigrant’s Alphabet, July 3rd, 2016

In Notes on July 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm
REUTERS/Neil Hall (from time.com)

REUTERS/Neil Hall (from time.com)

It’s the eve of July 4th, Independence Day in the United States, and around the world nationalism is rampant. In the U.S., presidential candidates give license to hate groups by calling for the construction of a wall at the southern border and a ban on immigration for certain groups of people. In Britain and throughout Europe, racism and xenophobia are threatening to become mainstream; the nativist “Brexit” vote on June 23rd, 2016 was a sign of the times. Meanwhile in India, not being a militant Hindu is fast becoming enough to make your national allegiance suspect.

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There is nothing inherently wrong with patriotism, but nationalism is a dangerously double-edged sword, and jingoism is nothing but trouble. The anniversary of national Independence calls us to reflect upon these times, and how we may be personally, unthinkingly, contributing to the ugliness around us. Here are 27 TMA stories on my own journey as an immigrant and a child of immigrants, my multiple and shifting identities and allegiances, thoughts on borders and border crossings, reactions to racism, and reflections on nations, nationalism, and war. Why 27? Let’s see: how about one for each letter of the English alphabet and one for luck—we need it!

I leave you with two songs—both from the same album by The Grateful Dead— that together pretty much sum up my feelings on nations and nationalism. U.S. Blues is an ironic comment on flag-waving nationalism and Ship of Fools—well, that speaks for itself. George Orwell once said that Britain was like a family (and a dysfunctional one at that) “with the wrong members in control”; sadly, the same can be said for most of the nation-states in this uneven world.

Are You Black or White?

Balancing My Three Halves

Censorship at Bedtime

Common Sense

Cookbooks, Immigrants, and Improvisation

Dogfight

European Border Crossings

The Highlanders

The Hundred-Foot Journey After Charlie Hebdo

An Immigrant’s Reflections on Independence Day

It’s Only Temporary

Jai Jagat

Land Where Our Fathers Died

Lessons from a Historian

The Nation

No, It’s Not Political Correctness

On Not Knowing the Signs

Palimpsest

Quest

Racist Bracist

The Silver Hairpin

Songlines

Southbound

Stereotyping

Walls

What’s Wrong with “Oriental”?

Xenophobia

The Yogi of Beals Street

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Reflecting on the April Challenge

In blogs and blogging, Notes, writing on May 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]I made my way through the month of April in a kind of blur, and somehow managed to complete my fourth annual A-to-Z Challenge. Because April was going to be a particularly  busy and difficult month for me, I knew that this time I needed to keep the entries brief and upbeat, without being Pollyannaish. I needed to remember the small, simple joys and pleasures of everyday life. The list wasn’t very well-planned or coherent. About  half of the entries were on subjects that I had come up with in advance, in a quick brainstorming session when I first decided on the theme, while the rest were thought of as I went along.

I wasn’t able to visit and comment on many other blogs regularly or consistently, and still haven’t got around to responding to the fellow-bloggers and other readers who generously posted comments. If I haven’t yet responded to one or more of your comments, I promise that I will do, eventually. As soon as I had pressed Publish on my entry for Z, my workaday life took me back over with a vengeance, and I’m still in its grip.

I wasn’t able to seek out and follow many new blogs, in large part because I didn’t have the time, and to a lesser degree because, I think, the Challenge has got so huge that it is tedious to scroll down the long list and find new, simpatico blogs and bloggers. As a result, many of the people who “Liked” my posts and left comments regularly were bloggers with whom I already keep up and correspond, some of whom I had met in previous years of the Challenge. These included Finding Eliza, Aotearoa Seasons, Modhukori, My Ordinary Moments, Wangiwriter’s Blog, Calmgrove, Nina Grandiose’s Blog, and galeriaredelius. But there were some new discoveries, blogs and bloggers whom I visited and who visited me in turn. These included (and forgive me if I leave out one or two inadvertently): To Wonder at Beauty, Chez Shea, PunarjanmamThe Life of Ordinary Me, Islam on my Mind, Enchanted Forests, The Widow Badass Blog, The Shameful Sheep, Weekends in Maine, The Incoherent Ramblings of a Moose, and Laughing Tree Space. It was a delight to receive a comment from Arlee Bird, the founder of the A-to-Z Challenge, who blogs at Tossing It Out. And as always, I treasure the visits and sustaining comments from friends and family: Hayat, Jaya, Sartaz, Lesley, Jude, Norah, Sarah, and Asghar.

Did the writing bring me joy? I think so, at least momentarily, for the time I was actually caught up in it. Did it bring you joy, or at least a smile to your face from time to time? Do let me know if there were particular posts that moved you.

Thanks to the hard-working organizers of this annual blogging binge, and here’s my A-Z list for 2016, hyperlinked for your convenience.

Bringing Me Joy: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016

The Pursuit of Happiness

Accomplishment

Bookshops

Chillies and China

Darjeeling

EastEnders

Friends

The Guardian

Henion’s

India

Jai Jagat!

Kindred

Lemons and Limes

Movement

Night

the Outdoors

Pre-dawn Raga

Quirks

Real Country

Singing

Thrift Stores

Unions

Verandas

Writing

Xýpna / Ξύπνα

Young People

Zoe

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Bringing Me Joy: Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2016 Theme Reveal

In Notes on March 22, 2016 at 10:35 am

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This will be my fourth year participating in the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Unlike last time, when all my entries were focused on graphic design, letterpress printing, and typography, my 2016 theme will be much looser and more personally idiosyncratic: creatures and things great or small, concrete or abstract, cerebral or sentimental, animal, vegetable, or mineral, that bring me joy. Because April is a cruel month even without the daily Challenge, and this year it’s shaping up to be worse than ever, I will try to keep the entries short—always a challenge in itself for me, since I do tend to go on. So I’m in with some trepidation this year, and can only trust that, as it has in the past, the Challenge will increase the sum total of my joy. I hope that Tell Me Another will likewise bring a bit more spring into your step.

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Taking a break: bear with me

In Notes on November 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Much as I love writing Tell Me Another, I’ve decided to take a break from it for a while. Many other tasks are pressing themselves forward ever more insistently, and writing a new story on my blog, being the most enjoyable, ends up being the default selection on my To Do list, trumping (oh no, terrible word choice, given the current array of U.S. Presidential candidates) more urgent items. If TMA weren’t an option, would I turn to these other items more readily? Perhaps I’ll let you know when I find out. Wish me luck!

Thank you, dear readers, for our virtual community. Our conversations have been very important to me these past nearly-six years. Wishing you a peaceful holiday season. Until we meet again, let the storytelling continue!  J

P.S. In case you’re a new reader, I thought I’d leave you with a selection of my current personal favorites:

Lively Up Yourself

Hidden Places

His Master’s Voice

My Grandmother

Grandpa Victor and the Story of the Tomatoes

From a Railway Carriage

Sucking Lemons and Quoting Shaw

The Mango Room

Trouble

Getting Out of Silver City

October Rains

Feasting or Fasting?

My Uncrowned Queens

Paharganj, January 1984

Untangling

Slow: Salamander Crossing

Personal Space, Indian-Style

I once was lost (and wish I still were)

The Taste of Home

That Funny Accent

The Yogi of Beals Street

Get Me to the Church on Time

Just Empty your Mind

Watching the River Flow

In the Bleak Midwinter

Con Men, Card Sharks, and Playing a Different Game

Talkin’ ’bout My Generation

The Magic of Found Objects

The Iliad at Bedtime

¡Viva La Literatura!

Darn It!

No, It’s Not Political Incorrectness

Doing it Themselves

Correspondences and Convergence (“Chicks Can’t Dig!”)

Krishna’s Butterball

All the World’s a Stage

Against the Grain

 

 

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