Royal City Record
Children of Air India: Un/Authorized Exhibits and Interjections was launched yesterday in the town where Renee Saklikar grew up, practiced law, and heard the news that her Aunt and Uncle had been killed on Air India flight 182.
Hosted by New Westminster Poet Laureate Candice James, the event took place in the Back Room of the Heritage Grill on Columbia Street.
The room was packed and the crowd listened rapt as Saklikar read from her work. Before reading, this woman, wife, lawyer and niece of some of the lost ones, thanked the audience for being there to witness, from a poetic perspective, her meditations on the tangled memories of the deliberate sabotage of an airplane load of travelers in June 1985.
The book, she says, chose her, insisted on being written by her, even though she felt unequal to the task. It is not easy to speak of the notorious murder of 329 people, "82 of them children under 13," as she reminded us. The one most of the the killers got away with.
The questions raised by this poet and this work are difficult and troublesome and of great consequence. What does it mean to live in a society where a belated and bungled and costly judicial process fails to call anyone to account for the mass murder of a routine planeload of travelers? How are we all, as members of this society, implicated in that dreadful history?
The poet does not rant or complain or judge. Instead, she patiently researches many documents about this real event. She writes in response to her findings, shows us her images, asks us to consider them. And with each one presented, she reminds us "Another version of this moment exists."
Let us witness with her; let us opens our eyes, ears, hearts; stop to consider, to face, to remember.
(Nightwood Editions, 2013)