Fragments of Seva*

Jagdeep Raina
MFA PT 2016

I am asking you to wade through digital wastelands
You must dig up fragments of seva, they still exist
A fragile link between worlds is still possible
Thank you British South Asian memories
Thank you 24 Pearl Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts
Click, click, I found you pure and gentle,
gifting me with remnants of heart-wrenching stories
Click, click, I found you in the ashen directory
gifting me with the intersection of environmentalism and performing arts

I am asking you to look at this photograph taken nearly fifteen years ago
I reach out to touch the screen, my fingers
pulsating against the pixels
The screen is brimming with scorching heat
as I imagine those Punjabi fields must be too.
Click, click, more fragments of seva are emerging
Thank you Movement against State Repression in Chandigarh
Thank you Baba Nanak Educational Society in Bathinda
Thank you Punjabi Bharat Kiran Union, Kheti Virasat Missions

I am asking you to weave together memories of 2005 and 2019
It’s all you physically have, but you have this story now too
Resurrection can be reassuring,
an act of subtle responsibility that shatters this toxic silence
Walk gently through this violence and take my hand
She bends down, her fingers hiding behind curved leaves,
tips protruding in a spiky, menacing gaze,
bulging cotton balls sagging, their heads bowed down in anguish
BT Toxin, Fertilizer, Diesel, Machinery

I am asking you to slow down
amidst the picking, faster and faster and faster
A piece of cotton fabric wrapped as a duffel bag, thrown over her shoulders
The second woman pausing,
her cotton bag a grid pattern, blues and whites
The third woman adjusting her dupatta,
Kikar tree hanging and piercing the skies, sweltering heat.
The field stretches for miles, yet the leaves surround and awash you with shades of green
I close my eyes so I can taste olive, mint, sage, lime 

I am asking you to come to terms with the truth
We’re nothing but first-world global hoarders
Pointing fingers is a tricky beast
I urge you to shut your mouth, listen, sit down, crack open your heart
I urge you to hold in your hands the fragments of seva you have dug up
They will became jewels that will long outlast the dowries, the degradation, the violence
They will become jewels that can help us find our way back to Mother Earth
They will become jewels that can help us disinfect her of the rot
She always loved us, she will always love us.

*Seva is the Sanskrit word for “selfless service.”