Sanat Ranadive

Dear Bhagat Uncle, 

100 years later from the city
in which I’m invisible most days,
I’m writing to you
as I linger on street corners
to eavesdrop on conversations
between delivery bikers
who look like me
as they pause between gigs, 
wishing I could speak
to them in any tongue
not born on this continent. 
Everyone would fear me more
if I wasn’t wearing Lacoste,
like the man who angrily asked me 
Wohnst du hier? Wohnst du hier?
as I entered the apartment 
building. Sparrows bathe
themselves in tiny puddles as I recall
their Marathi name— चिमणी,
though the word 
likely means nothing to you. 

I wish you’d won. I’m lying. 

Dear Bhagat Uncle, 

I’d like to be a revolutionary,
but I love lapsang souchong
and old bathtubs

with clawed feet too much. 
Sometimes I even read Céline
and laugh. Your Wikipedia
page doesn’t mention
your favourite fruit, so
I’ll assume it’s apricots, 
that you admire
the way they shed their creamy flesh
from the pit
so easily, like an idea
rising from a burning body.

I’ve often wondered
how it felt to stand amid 
the smoke, chanting 

while waiting to be captured
and executed 
because you trusted in the words. 

Like a river? 

I wish I had somewhere worthy
to place a bomb. 

From the Author: These two poems are written as letters to Bhagat Singh Thind and Bhagat Singh, respectively. Bhagat Singh Thind (1892 – 1967) was a WWI veteran who in 1923 lost a Supreme Court case where he argued that as a descendant of Aryans, he was a white person and deserved the privileges that came with the title (at the time only white and Black people could become naturalized citizens). Bhagat Singh (1907 – 1931) was an anti-colonial revolutionary who was executed at age 23 by the British for the murder of a low-level officer, though he was only arrested after setting off non-lethal bombs in the Delhi Assembly as a form of protest.  He and his compatriots could have escaped in the confusion, but instead they stayed, shouting Inquilab Zindabad (Long Live the Revolution). I chose to write to these two men because of how they model different ways of living as a South Asian in a Western-dominated world and because they shared the same first name. 

Sanat Ranadive is a high-school student from California currently living in Berlin. You can find him in his favorite café on Leibnizstraße sipping a matcha latte and trying to look mysterious and thoughtful in case Yoko Tawada walks by. You can also find him on Instagram @sanat.ranadive.