Rallying Cry

they ask me where i am from / and i do not know how to answer / because how do i tell them the story of my truths / when the all the sentences attached to them / have been conveniently buried / before they could reach the mouths of those we cherish / before they could trickle down our senses / fall between our lips / find a home within our tongues / settle into our taste buds / so we could breathe them into new lives 

in 1947 one of the world’s largest mass migrations occurred / the colonial British began dismantling / their carefully curated empire in South Asia / splitting a nation enriched by a myriad of cultures languages and religions 

into two / carving borders / where there were none / fourteen million people were displaced / acts of mass violence took place / where once people lived in harmony / now there was rage 

my ancestors came from a province called Sindh you see / back then it was a part of all of India / now it is only in Pakistan / and i say i am Indian / but i am no more Indian than i am Pakistani 

they ask me where i am from / and i still do not know how to answer 

i am from the ridges between mountains that don’t fit / the in betweens of catastrophes / the stories lying underneath sand that dwindled / between breaking oceans / i am from the suitcases that were lost in silence / the blood between soil / found in fruits that grew / despite the fires that brewed / i am from the photographs that burned / through golden frames carefully kept / cautiously tucked aside / buried with seeds from mango trees that once grew / i am from the undivided land / my ancestors regrets 

they ask me where i am from / and i still do not know how to answer 

they ask me again / like there is no knowledge of the fact that the lines that were carved displaced millions of their homes / and the lines since then have only grown 

they ask not because they want to understand / but because they need to justify their actions for the word no 

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962
The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968
The Immigration Act 1971
The British Nationality Act 1981
The Immigration Act 1986
The Immigration Act 1988
The British Nationality Act 1990
The Asylum and Immigration Act 1996
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997
The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002
The Asylum and Immigration Act 2004
The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009
The Immigration Act 2014
The Immigration Act 2016 

they expect us to then / piece the puzzles of the histories they’ve carefully curated / without ever acknowledging the lack of it in their textbooks 

Who is Queen Elizabeth 2 married to?

What is the capital of England? 

How many women were victims of sexual assault during the partition of India? 

Which flag has a white cross on a blue background? 

What was the population of the UK in 1901? 

How many people were displaced during the partition of India? What is the monarch’s ceremonial role? 

How old is the Big Ben? 

How many families had to break during the partition of India? 

you see each of the acts have caused more borders / and the borders have only caused more barriers / and the barriers more hostility 

and now we have people in uniforms screaming the words no / but its often
already known that’s the answer / because the media swims under headlines
normalising hate 

humans are labelled ‘swarms’ / ‘cockroaches’ / and ‘illegal’ 

so they sit there in their uniforms / once again puppets of an empire that has
not stopped / politely saying in their ‘british’ ways 

I know you want to step in
but I am here to tell you
You are not allowed 

You cannot step into this border
With your filthy hands dipped in chicken curry
Cut in your motherland
Because we don’t eat like that here 

We knife our roasted meat with pride
and have pints with salted chips for dinner 

I know you want to step in
but I am here to tell you that
You are not allowed 

Your sarees and burqas don’t fit into our wardrobes
Because we don’t dress like that here
We drape ourselves in the Union Jack
Built on the backs of half of this world’s people 

I know you want to come in
But I am here to tell you
You are not allowed 

Your bindis and mehendi
Are too customary
Because we are so unorthodox here
We go to festivals and relish in accessorising our bodies
With everything you Hindus hold dear 

I know you want to come in
But I am here to tell you
You are not allowed 

Your languages don’t roll of our tongues easily
Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi doesn’t fit in our dictionaries
We expect you to learn our phonetics
Because your accent just sounds lame 

I know you want to come in
But I am here to tell you
You are not allowed


Hansika Jethnani is a poet and visual artist currently living in Mumbai. She has previously lived in Jakarta, Shanghai and London. Her work explores a variety of themes including migration, sexuality, healing, mental health, and fat acceptance. She is interested in decolonisation and the dismantling of oppressive structures institutionalised within wider society. During her tenure as education officer at University of the Arts London Students’ Union she co-founded the decolonising the arts curriculum zine. 

This piece, Rallying Cry was originally commissioned by Apples and Snakes, October 2018 for Rallying Cry at Battersea Arts Centre. It has been previously published in Whip Zine Issue 3.

The context of IS&T’s Jubilee Suite can be found here: Critique, Dissent, and Resistance: A Suite of Poems for the Jubilee.