Visiting a Historic Site of Komagata Maru


On the day – 23 July when the ship Komagata Maru with its 376 passengers was turned away by the Canadian government after 2 months it stood still in the West Coast Harbour waters in Vancouver in 1914, because it is said that it did not meet the immigration requirement of the clause of  ‘continuous journey’ from India to Canada.

     Komagata Maru, a full length play written in Punjabi by Ajmer Rode during 1976-1977  and  translated into English by  Surjeet Kalsey  in early eighties. The first Punjabi play on Canadain justice system and racism was staged in the year 1979 in Vancouver and introduced the incident of Komagata Maru as a part of our history in Canada.

.KomagataMaru Cast 1979Komagata Maru Hopkinson & Jean.





After this isolated performance to bring awareness about the historic incident of Komagata Maru,  efforts are seen sparingly for about three decades to bring awareness about the issue nor people talked much about it. The very first research about this historic incident was still credited to Hugh Johnston’s research book on the issue, ” The Journey of Komagata Maru”, published in early seventies. During the early years of twenty-first century, the topic became in the forefront again and was highlighted as a political issue by many politicians and the South Asian communities especially Punjabi community became very emotional about the issue because most of the passengers on the Komagata Maru ship were Sikh Punjabis.

.KGM passangers.

The community celebrated Year 2014 as 100th anniversary of Komagata Maru incident and kept demanding an apology from the Canadian government for the then done wrong, to make it right within the justice.

Therefore, finally this important issue was brought in the Parliament for an official apology on 18 May 2016, after 102 years.

I happened to visit the Komagata Maru memorial site in Vancouver at the spot of where 102 years ago the ship was made to stand there and the passengers were not allowed to put their foot on the land of Canada. The monument comprises this historic photo about 4’X 6′ size is displayed on a glass board mounted on the ground, is dimmed with weather, rain and sun; and rusted iron fence/walls with holes presumed bullet holes and about  two feet high grass grown all around these iron boards. Is this the essence of preservation of the memory of this incident?

“ਸੁਨਤੇ ਥੇ ਬਹੁਤ ਸ਼ੋਰ ਦਿਲ ਕੇ ਪਹਿਲੂ ਮੇਂ, ਕਾਟਾ ਤੋ ਏਕ ਕਤਰਾ ਖੂਨ ਕਾ ਭੀ ਨਾ ਨਿਕਲਾ”

I heard that South Asian community, community leaders and different cultural and religious groups who were/are working to commemorate and preserve the memory of this painful historic incident displayed a lack of unified and dignified vision of preserving the history as well as to bring awareness of the historic incident.

On a positive note: The Simon Fraser University, Burnaby has included in their library On-line version of Kamagata Maru, full length play in Punjabi by Ajmer Rode and English Translation of Komagata Maru done by Surjeet Kalsey. Full script in English translation can be read, click:  http://lib-drupal2.lib.sfu.ca/kmj/node/764



  • 8 March – IWD


Surjeet Kalsey’s poems for International Women’s Day

A Century of Our Struggle!
100 yeas of struggle:
women of the world marching on
continuously marching on
and keeping their struggle alive
for equality, respect and dignity!
Yet the destination is far far away
there were thorns and stones on the path!
Marching through centuries on the rough road
our hearts ache and our feet bleed with blisters.

Somewhere on the way we are lost!
As if we fail to feel the pain of another
of our own and stand against each other
making to feel insulted and ridiculed
in front of others in the crowd.
Still marching on the never ending path
women hold hands and many banners
marching endlessly together!
Sometimes we feel that we fail
ourselves, our own struggle, and
we ourselves squeeze our own blisters!
Shamelessly, nothing moves forward
we are still on the margin, we are
still being stoned, still being raped
the violence has not stopped
seems as if we have failed ourselves
and we are blamed for. The society,
the history, the trends, the attitudes
are still chanting Manu Simriti….
A century long history of our struggle
will continue to end our sufferings
Our sacrifices will continue to get freedom
from prejudices and offerings of humiliation.
Struggle will continue, March on! March on!

Voiceless Women
Yes, they are still sitting there
quietly waiting for someone
someone will come
and inscribe their fate
on their foreheads
or a stream of passion
would sprung up from within
or a straw would become a pen.

Women are sitting in the house
as if they are sitting on the street
without its floor without its door
but walls are still their retreat

Voiceless women live in this house
within these four walls
without its door, without its floor
quietly they wait for someone
would come and spread out
earth under their feet.

The tale they wanted to tell
that has become aged, stopped.
The tale is circling within circle
from ages and their voice is not heard
their eyes are lit like lamps
on their wrinkled faces – waiting
waiting and waiting someone will come.
Their story is being written in their wrinkles
they will bury their story with their bodies
or a straw would become a pen
or they would remain
voiceless even in this age.

Farmworker Women

(Dedicated to all those women
working in farms)

Women come and work in
the wide spread BC farms.
Smiling and energetic they come
from the land of Punjab
educated, uneducated, married
unmarried young and old
all become slowly and slowly
hard-working farm labourers!

From the land of the five rivers
soon women arrive to Canada
they work in the farms every where.
Many of them are attracted to
Fraser Valley ornamented with
sharp rich colours of raspberry,
blue berry and strawberries.

Brides take off their gold and silk
come wearing t-shirts and jeans
with soft henna coloured palms
women come with holding babies
women with pre-schoolers
women with grandparents
women with old in-laws and
some with old parents
and aunts and uncles
women with large families.
Women work around the clock
their hands work non-stop
in the fields of raspberry
blueberry and strawberry.
Women pick mushrooms
cut broccoli and sprouts
marshy land is under their feet
under the rain of pesticide
their hands get blisters
their feet get swollen
their eyes become watery
they breathe on fumes
and their arms, necks and faces
get infected with killer pesticides.
Working the soil they become soil.
Women work day and night
their hands work non-stop.
Longer hours more than dawn to dusk
women work and get tired
come back with aching feet and hands
when are taken back to their homes
in a stuffed van of a contractor
where they can not even breathe.
Working women, labourers, they just work !

They come back home late at night
tired and then they start home-shift –
cooking for their hungry children
for their men, for their large families.
they wash everybody’s dirty dishes
and do everybody’s laundry.
Women take care of everybody
– crying hungry or sick children
Women look after everybody’s needs
remain unaware of their own needs
women go to bed vary late
after everybody’s gone to bed
and after making preparations
for everybody tomorrow’s work
and they have to get up very early
before the first ray of the sun rises
and get ready to go to the farms again.

Farmworker women are brave- Zindabad!


8 March

International Women’s Day stands for women’s unity and one voice all over the world. From the beginning of the 20th century, many women in industrially developing countries were entering the paid work force. Their jobs were gender segregated, mainly in textile, manufacturing and domestic services, where conditions were horrible and wages worse than depressed. These conditions ignited many industrial disputes, involving both unionized and non-unionized women workers.

On March 8th 1857, women, working in the clothing and textile factories in New York, held demonstration against 12-hour working day, low wages and terrible working conditions. This demonstration was broken up when the police was called in. Less than three years later, these women formed their union. Following this success, women in many places organized themselves and become unionized to get equal pay and better working conditions, although even 50 years after their demands remained the same—shorter working hours, higher wages and better working conditions.

In 1910, a socialist women’s conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark and March 8th was proclaimed “International Women’s Day” to commemorate the common struggles of women and to show solidarity and support for garment workers in their fight for higher wages and better working conditions.

In 1911, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in USA, Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland. As the years went on, women in more and more countries gathered in ever increasing numbers on March 8th, not only to celebrate But also to protest against their oppression.

Today, women celebrate this Day all over the world. International Women’s Day is the day when women gather to rise strong, and to fight for their common cause and rights.

Today International Women’s Day allows women and men all over the world the opportunity to reflect on women’s progress, celebrate their efforts and acknowledge the work that is yet to be done.

Doesn’t matter where we are, doesn’t matter how far we have go, get involved, just do something to mark the day. Some suggested activities to celebrate IW Day such as:

*Organize women’s festival during the week of March 6-12 or later. Use theatre, poetry, dance, film. Paintings, photos, crafts, food, music, comedy, or any combination of activities to celebrate women and their creativity.

*Host an IW Day get together lunch, inviting women from multicultural background and sharing ethnic food with each other.

*Organize and information fair—invite women’s groups, community organizations and service providers to set up information tables at your event.

Rung Mandla for Peace


Take all the colours of Rung Mandla and make Peace on earth:

May this season sparkle and shine, may all of your wishes and dreams come true, and may you feel this happy validation every day in life.

Wishing all peace, joy, and all the best for everybody.