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





12.12.12 – After A Century

I opened a window of the past.
Looking through the wreckage
I found some jewels of  moments
shining  in my tears and turn
into multi-rays of colours.
When the first drizzle of the rain
makes the dusty paths fragrant
I walk with my bare feet
in the scorching desert of life.
In search of my home, myself!
Perhaps I have been wandering
and waiting for a century that
the loneliness will fade away.
The words spoken are lost its sound
with time they shed  their meaning.
The words written on the sand
 wiped out with time’s blizzards.

Still I am going and keeping
the flame of my wait alive
in the wind and rain while passing
through the desert with my feet bleeding.






by Surjeet Kalsey

Poetry walks in my dream with me

to my inner being  every night

and it listens to my unspoken words

which throb with my every breath.

When poetry opens its eyes

the sun shines everywhere

and dew-drops become pearls.

Poetry walks the moonless night

to a spectrum of colours.


Words’ sacred fragrance tells me:

not to lament on what is lost

and yearn for what you need

to live every moment in full.

Breathe in the essence of

every moment and each moment

that embraces you would become poetry.

Poetry stands by me like my true self.

It holds the mirror of the sky

full of all the colours of the rainbow.


In a reoccurring dream

my feet walk on the same road

which goes on and on rapping

around those buff mountains

and sinks into that velvety valley.

My foot-steps end right there

I become a tree standing still there

my dream never ends keeps walking

on the unending realm of the unknown.

Memories go long way to

make us pick those pieces

left somewhere in the pages of history.


Memories knit words and images

colours and fragrance in my dreams

and poetry walks with me every night

words illuminate the never ending path

the moonless night lit up the sky.


Poetry is a never ending love affair of the heart.