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Volume 40, Number 1 (2015)

What Is Remembered and What Is Forgotten? South Asian Diasporic Histories and the Shifting National Imaginary

November 30, 2015


This paper considers two historical events in Canada’s past that have a haunting presence in the South Asian Canadian diasporic imaginary, the 1914 Komagata Maru incident and the second is the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182. In recent years, there has been a rather striking proliferation of texts about the Komagata Maru and Air India. Even more interesting is that these texts have come out in various forms including novels, short stories, museum exhibits, inquiries, websites, illustrated books, apologies, and so on. This paper examines two of these texts: Bharati Mukherjee’s 1987 short story “The Management of Grief” and Ajmer Rode and Jarnail Singh’s 2011 museum exhibit the “Komagata Maru Stories.” It argues that set against the forgetting of the Komagata Maru and Air India cases in official history are the efforts of writers, artists, and activists who have done the hard work of inserting diasporic histories into the national imaginary and who have therefore sought to remember the nation differently.