Poems on Shanghai (1907) Monday, Mar 17 2014 

Here’s a verse that caught my eye. It was a poetic prediction and related to Public Gardens in Old Shanghai. A “sign” that was purely racial banning entry to Chinese and “dogs” hung on its gates. Quite similar to signs in British India that implicitly or explicitly banned Indians at clubs or other places.  Perhaps, the poet, one Robert William Little, foresaw the fate of the glorified foreigner.

Verse from poem, ‘Amalgamation:’

“I said I’ll go into the Public Garden:-

A tall policeman warned me from the gate;

“Reserved for Chinese,” when I asked his pardon

Was all that he would state.

Little also wrote on the Bund, the North China Daily News, Shanghai Mercury, an itty-bitty line mentioning the Sikh policeman, etc.

Check the poems here at: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL24179674M/Poems

More on the sign that hung on the gates of Public Gardens in Shanghai International Settlement here: http://visualisingchina.net/blog/2014/12/02/whats-a-photograph-for/

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P R Kaikini – poems on Shanghai (1939) Friday, May 24 2013 

Recently, I came across a mention of 1930s poetry book , titled ‘Shanghai.’ The author was one Prabhakar Ramrao Kaikini. Unsurprisingly, this book is scarce. It was listed on Abebooks and I placed an order , only to have it canceled later by the seller, as it was out of print.

P.R.Kaikini ‘s known (poetry) works include  Snake in the Moon (1942), Poems of the Passionate East (1947), Some of my years (1972), This Civilization, (2006)  and others. Described as an Indo-Anglian  prose poet , Kaikini  it seems in his earlier works was  very much influenced by Rabindranath Tagore’s writing style.  Here’s a sample of his poetry.

But, after 1937, his poems were increasingly about blood and war and even the style changed to free verse. This transition was impacted strongly by nationalism, events in the East. Goverdhan Panchal (well-known exponent of Sanskrit theater) in his introduction of Shanghai (as mentioned in Abebooks website) provides a clue.  Panchal states ” These poems will help the reader, especially the foreign reader, to understand something of the contemporary movement in this country in relation to the Indian national movement for political and economic freedom.”

How did the battle of Shanghai, the Japanese invasion impact Kaikini? Was he a witness to the bloody events? Or was he a supporter of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who had visited Shanghai around this time?  The political awakening and national identity question had swept a nation  and the unfolding war that reached India as well was perhaps expressed by this poet, looking for his country’s freedom from all kinds of imperialism. Or was the book title more of a creative metaphor?

I am hoping I come across a physical copy in a US library. Till then we are left with the thought that, at least, there is this added, still unexplored, reflective element in the Shanghai Indian saga.

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