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.