Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 151: Bramah and the Beggar Boy — with Renée Sarojini Saklikar

Speakers: Paige Smith, Am Johal, Renée Sarojini Saklikar

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Paige Smith  0:02 
Hello listeners. I'm Paige Smith with Below the Radar. A knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is reported on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On this episode of Below the Radar, our host Am Johal is joined by Renée Sarojini Saklikar, Surrey's inaugural Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2018. She joins us today to discuss her epic poem and story Bramah and The Beggar Boy, book one of the THOT J BAP series. This was a 10-year undertaking which recently came out on June 12, 2021. I hope you enjoy the episode!

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Am Johal  0:45 
Hello, welcome to Below the Radar. Delighted that you could join us again this week. I'm really excited to have Renée Sarojini Saklikar with us today to talk about her new book Bramah and The Beggar Boy. This is a fantastic piece of work. I'm about halfway through it and so I'm still working my way through it, but as others have already stated, it's steeped and simmered in the tradition of fairy tales; speculative fiction meets rhymes and chants. Stephen Collis, professor of English at SFU and a wonderful poet himself, he writes: "with Bramah and The Beggar Boy, Renée Sarojini Saklikar has resurrected the epic poem for the Anthropocene, merged it with the visionary qualities of speculative fiction, and woven diasporic threads into a new and necessary act of world making. The future was such a long time ago—but maybe it's not over yet. Throw the dice. Jump the fence. Cross the threshold." This is a wonderful door stopper of a book, ambitious in scope. I can already say that having been through the parts that I have. Welcome, Renée, thank you so much for joining us.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  2:00 
My pleasure. It's an honor to be here. 

Am Johal  2:02 
Renée, maybe we can start with you introducing yourself a little bit.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  2:07 
Hey, everyone, I'm so happy to be in conversation with Am today for Below the Radar. My name is Renée Sarojini Saklikar. I'm a poet. I've trained as a lawyer, but I don't practice right now. I teach creative writing at SFU and VCC. And I write poetry, mainly epic poetry that is epic in scope, and really long. So my current project is a multi volume series, the first book of which is Bramah and The Beggar Boy, that I think we're going to be getting into, among other things. And it deals with some of the issues that as a poet I've been really grappling with, as we all have, which is climate emergency, inequality. And for me, a feminine-centre, woman of colour, way of reimagining epics. So it has really dominated my life for the last 10 years. And I finally got to book one.

Am Johal  3:04 
That's, that's amazing. Wondering, you know, you're—everyone has their own circuitous journey to become a writer. And and, as you mentioned, you are, you're trained in the law, you practice law, amongst many things. So wondering if you can sort of, we can begin with you sharing your story about how you came to becoming a writer.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  3:29 
It is a great question for all creators, I think. So my childhood was, in some ways on the margins. I was born in Pune, Pune, India, came to Canada as an immigrant, settler, and a citizen, became a citizen with my parents. And so we moved from St. John's, Newfoundland to Northern Ontario, Quebec, to Saskatchewan. And finally settling in BC, in New Westminster, and writing became a refuge. I'm quite a shy person, but I perform. Like a lot of immigrant, settler children, you know, particularly from South Asian backgrounds, you perform for family, for community, for others. We want it to be good Canadians, and conform. And I think a lot of that pressure on introverts, like me, meant that writing was a refuge. It was a sacred, secret place, where I could work out the world. It's taken me a long time to figure this out. If you had asked me this 20 years ago, or 30 years ago, I would have no ability to articulate this. I've been through The Writer's Studio at SFU, which was life changing, and, kind of, was able then to take on the mantle of "writer," having, you know, done the law thing, which I'm very proud and happy to have done. So, writing changed me as a child, but I had no confidence or self awareness that "Oh, this is what writers do." I was always jotting things down. And I also want to add about my parents. My father passed away very suddenly in 2002. My mom is now in long term care. My sister and I are going through that process, as so many do, especially in a pandemic, where we're managing her affairs. She's still mercifully very with it, but you know, has a lot of health problems, and going through her things. So we're sifting the detritus of this immigrant settler saga. And it's both wonderful and heartbreaking, right? And what I wanted to say was, looking through my parents' archives, on the margins, often unacknowledged, although they had many good things happen in their life, and I'm wondering if you could maybe relate, Am, with your parents' own story that when we're not part of the mainstream, like who gets recorded, who gets archived, who gets remembered? And they were always scribbling, they were always writing. I had no conception of them as creatives, as writers, but in fact, they were. And so this is very poignant to me. How did I become a writer, well I was always writing, yeah.

Am Johal  5:56 
Yeah, no, that story resonates really strongly with me. I think about the South Asian diaspora in BC, where many people that worked in the sawmills in northern BC, and lived these rich lives of community drama, and arts and culture and politics, but rarely rendered the legibility of those stories. And so as some of these elders pass away, my uncle, [who worked at the] sawmill at Fort St. James, you think about that story of arrival and living here and all of that, and how those stories don't get told. But how rich they were in so many ways and, and have a lot to teach us. I'm gonna jump to some of your earlier work, Renée, because I was there when you were launching children of air india, we did a wonderful event at SFU. And I know you collaborated with Mark Winston in Listening to the Bees, wondering if we can begin with that first. You, of course, were publishing in various places prior to those books coming out, but wondering if you can speak a little bit to both of those projects, which have had a really remarkable life in the world.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  7:12
Thank you. Thank you for asking. You certainly were there for me with this momentous books that I didn't want to write. My first published book, children of air india: un/authorized exhibits and interjections, published by BC's own Nightwood Editions, and I've stayed with them for all my other books, in 2013. This was the book I didn't want to write, but I had to write, you know? I can't go on, I must go on. And it's about the bombing of Air India Flight 182, a story that's so heavily documented and yet completely erased. So this juxtaposition of in the media and completely marginalized, again, I think very pointedly relates to what you and I were talking about earlier. We have the whole saga of the Indigenous experience, which is the framing mother route experience. And then us coming in as uninvited settlers, citizens, settler immigrants, settler refugees, we bring these tales of heartache that we do unto others and that are done to us. And so this diaspora of forgetting and remembering, this constant pull, who is remembered, who gets forgotten—I didn't want it. It was so painful, a story the bombing of an airplane off the southern coast of Ireland, my aunt and uncle on it, sadly, and so many other families, and then the way it's portrayed with the racism against Punjabi Sikhs, particularly Punjabi Sikh men, and how was I going to tell the story that didn't weave in to these narratives that I didn't want any part of? Oh, I just ran away from it for so long. And it's really a credit to SFU's The Writer's Studio, to mentors, to people like you that I finally... I had to do it. Because what was happening is it was shutting me down. And I think creatives can really relate to this. You don't want to take something on but you have to? That push-pull of I don't want to, but I can't, but I have to. And then it just, that overwhelm just shuts you down. So, I found a way through that through documents and kind of became known as this docupoet where I look at documents, text, history, which typically isn't covered in—it is now, I do think it was a bit of a game changer along with many... You know, there's always cycles, people are always doing it and then there's a forgetting again, forgetting, remembering. But bringing history back into established Canadian poetry. That's what children of air india is and was I mean, people often characterize it as a kind of memoir-ish poetry book, but really, and it's only now that I can say this, I certainly couldn't at the time, which is maybe just as well. I was writing children of air india for the history books. And indeed, you know, I always tell my students now that I instruct, you never know, you got to just do the work. Because you never know where it's gonna take you. And so this book went out into the world, and lo and behold, Owen Underhill, who I—Owen Underhill, who I did not know that we all know so well now—he was sent my book and he read it. And you know, I'm very honored and humbled. He had a big experience with it, and it spoke to him. He sent it to a composer in Ireland, and of course, Ireland, particularly the west of Ireland was where the plane went down. And that rocky, abandoned Atlantic Irish Sea, I mean, it's full of ghosts and story. And they like the book. And they approached me, and with help of many, many people, not least of which was SFU Woodward's and SFU, and the Canada Council and the Irish Council for the Arts, was a huge collaboration, Irish-Canadian. We created an opera, called Air India Redacted, in 2015. And, boy, that was that was truly life changing. And it leads to the bees in this way. I have said to my collaborators with Turning Point Ensemble, with SFU, with my Irish colleagues, it was as if creating that opera of this momentous book allowed me to just let it all go. And I no longer had to be the carrier of this tragedy of my own family. I don't want to speak for any of the other many families. So it led me to the bees, because I was always collecting bee poems as a very restorative thing. And I was scribbling this epic. Well, this was my fun thing that they were ultimately going to talk about today. This is my like, I don't want to write about bombings and race and everything on point, I want to imagine something else. They all came back through the back door, but in the interim was very restorative collaboration with Dr. Mark Winston, Listening to the Bees, which is essays and poetrys, and very much looking at climate change. And so, here all these strands weaving in, you know, personal history and grief, climate change, of course, but it becomes—it starts to become like this urgent thing when you start looking at bees. And, yeah, it was just sort of a lead up to this, you know.

Am Johal  12:15
When you were talking about Air India, I was thinking about how, you know, I was in elementary school in Williams Lake, BC, and of course, when that tragic event happened, and the way it landed down, there was, you know, so many different types of politics playing out. But, at the way that you receive it as a young person, you know, I was called a terrorist by my classmates and, you know, pushed around in the library, and that type of thing in terms of the way it played out on the ground, where you don't really fully understand what's what's going on. And having it brought back to life through poetry, through opera, and to have a reconsideration of that time, really, I think it resonates with a lot of people. And it's amazing that it had the life that it had, and it's so interesting to hear about that it gave you a sense of liberation and freedom, that it did circulate in that way that you could get on to other projects. In terms of, so this book that's out now Bramah and The Beggar Boy, really, you know, ambitious in scope, and how did the idea for it begin to formulate? I know that it's been sort of simmering for 10 years, there must have been kind of... How did you come up with the idea for it, because not everybody goes around writing epic poems of this scope?

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  13:41
Well, it's, it's a great question that I ponder many a day as I work away, you know, it's a series, this is book one, Bramah and The Beggar Boy. And I think the central way it came about was the question many makers and creators will reveal, will say, it's no secret, what if? And for me, is what if the mistakes we're making on climate and equality, and inequity, right? The world's 80%, and we the happy 2%, what if we don't get it right, and what is going to happen? And everything about the series, which is actually called The Heart Of This Journey Bears All Patterns—THOT J BAP—and there's a great website, chock a block full of things, so, I'll talk a bit more about that. But it produced one Bramah and The Beggar Boy, everything arose out of that. And it was one of those spiraling things that I think speculative fiction writers and sci-fi writers and probably climate change researchers because I've really dipped in a lot with that, to inform my world building. When you worldbuild, suddenly it becomes vast, right? The micro and the macro. You want to balance it, and poetry and the epic form, perhaps ironically but magically, became the form me. It was the container that I could put all this in. But it all came out of, "What will happen if we don't get it right?" And what will happen to who survives and who doesn't? And for those who survive, that may be on under the bridge, in the lineup, at the wall, not wanted, not accepted, not with the right papers. How will we, the brown people of the world, the othered of the world... On the front line, as some of your guests have said on this podcast, of what climate change means in terms of the water, the food, the clothing, the implements. And now led me into this whole concept of making as a form of survival. And then the thing just took off. But it was like notebooks, I'm sitting here in my office surrounded by boxes and boxes of documents and notebooks and fragments and sound recordings. It is my life's work. I don't like thinking it but that's what it's turned into, you know?

Am Johal  16:09
You look at other fiction writers, like Amitav Ghosh, who's written very eloquently about climate change and sort of a call for fiction writers to grapple more directly with these questions, wondering what this form of a book, what kinds of freedoms does it accord you beyond a more traditional storytelling technique? So you know, as a writer, you have a set of choices in terms of deciding to do the form of a book, and I'm wondering, what was it about this way that provided a form of, kind of, liberation for you as a writer or a direction that you want it to go?

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  16:53
I think it allows for layers. So what I am, as a student, and I always want to be a student of the craft, you know? Don't you think, because you're a writer and a very good one. Once we forget that we're beginners always, then the Muse deserts us, punishes us. So as a student of the craft of the epic, what I am slowly discovering is how much it can contain and the layers that can contain and I talk a bit about this at the end of the book, and I'll share a little bit now, not to get too nerdy on the forepart and and maybe we'll share some poetry. But I think, what poets have always discovered—what writers have discovered, this paradoxical alchemy, where you give yourself a constraint, a rule, a boundary—you emerge with more freedom. The more constraints and forms I explored, to put into the container of the epic, the bigger I was able to explore the layers. So we have the macro themes: climate change, global inequality, inequities, female-centred mythology. And then we have these very personal lives, through sound fragments of characters. And suddenly it became epic—which is opera, which is poetic form, which is sonnet, which is blank verse, which is jingles, which is ad fragments, which is texts of documents, which is an interview I heard Robert Fisk give—it all gets through the form of poetry, somehow leavened and chosen, and you're so right about the choices. I mean, this is the craft, right, what will serve the story and the poetry best. And I don't actually, funnily enough, while I'm creating—it's just about sound for me and rhythm, and image—I'm not really thinking about narrative. The narrative sort of comes to me, I'm like a receptor, and I always feel a bit embarrassed about talking about that part of it. But honestly, the poetry is a gift. And it comes from somewhere, and my job is to be a craftswoman, and humble and learn. And the more I work on the practice of the craft, the gods take care of all the rest.

Am Johal  19:11
Would you be willing to share a passage at this point?

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  19:15 
I'm so honored. Let's start with a key poem, where we meet Bramah and The Beggar Boy, in this world dominated by the evil Consortium, an economic, agricultural, industrial megacorporation. And this location is Pacifica, which is a loosely imagined America on the West Coast. The summons—Bramah is a locksmith, she's a time-traveling locksmith, and she works for Consortium on contract but she's like a Robin Hood, and she steals from them too. 

The Summons: Bramah on a Job

Every siren in Perimeter sounded an alarm!

On that day, arrival, although no one
knew who they were, small woman with a boy—

She from around here? asked the settlers, one by one.
Their voices even toned, their eyes, stone cold, gaze
fixed on Bramah’s well-oiled leather satchel.

Usurpers, what response might they expect?
Settlers at Perimeter’s edge: they wait.

Bramah’s slant smile, radiance as a foil,
under her brown hands, hidden from sight

her Pippin File, her keys and her drill, codes
spells and chants to unlock any treasure.

Street beggars, boys with brooms, girls with swords:
from their bruised mouths, parched lips, masks torn away

Until the rains arrive, and we survive—
wash your hands, use your sleeve
trust us now, you’ll never have to grieve

At the Fifth Gate, transport drivers lounged:
troop guards to inspect, their hands to scrounge.

Bramah on contract, her face smooth as silk
that Beggar Boy trailing behind,
    that last drop of milk—

Am Johal  21:22 
Hmm, beautiful. Beautiful. So good to hear you read your work.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  21:27
Thank you. Thank you. That's great honor.

Am Johal  21:32
I'm wondering about, as you framed the story and began to work through it, how you develop the the characters in the book, if you could speak to some of them? You began with with Bramah, but there's there's many others.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  21:48 
There are. So this is very much of work where the characters arrive. And they're not fully formed. And they give me little clues and hints. And usually through these language fragments—and I wake up early in the morning, as I did this morning, and I have a pencil and I have a whole process. I have a composition process. And I scribble out these lines, because you know, the subconscious, depending on our belief system, is it history? If you're an atheist, which, you know, I have a lot of respect for, although I'm not an atheist, but is it history? Is it practices? Coincidence? Jung said there's no such thing, it's the subconscious working it out. Or is it the muse? Is it some divine spirit saying, you know, "Here's your gift and work the craft." So the, the characters in this book are really, the heroes are female. Bramah, who's a semi-divine goddess. She doesn't yet know her origins that's coming in a subsequent book. She's a craftsman, and she's a labourer. She's a worker. And she's doing the best she can, by cheating on Consortium and being a, kind of, Robin Hood for her people who are resistors and seed savers. There's aunties—you know, really very much informed by all the aunties I didn't have and didn't know, as separated from my extended diasporic family. They are mendicants, and midwives, and they're fabulous, and they often speak in verse. Hidden in the middle of the book is a very key character, who's born in the year 2020. And I'd love to read a poem about her when the time is right. And her name is Dr. Ellen—Abigail Ellen Anderson, Dr. A. E. Anderson. And she's born in 2020, in this dystopian world, that's sort of one parallel removed from ours. We might fall down a portal and find ourselves in that world, I don't know. But it's similar to ours, but but not. And born in 2020. She comes from a wealthy family, she's very idealistic, she's called to become a doctor. She becomes a doctor as climate change gets worse and worse, far worse and far more quickly and far more complex, with eco-catastrophes layering on in ways that the people in this world never expected. So by the time she's in her 30s, things are really bad. She's working for Consortium, as many working people do. But they don't like the fact that she's idealistic and trying to vaccinate a third world country, or developing country, or Indigenous people, or people on the margins. Because although they intellectually want to help, resources are so scarce. There, there's a measuring out of vaccines and medicines. She is radicalized, and she joins people she never thought she'd be with. And then there's a poem, I'm itching to read about her, you know, her radicalization, and she starts vaccinating against the Consortium's dictates, and many things happened. A few good, mostly really bad.

Am Johal  24:45 
Renée, the looming consequences of the climate emergency clearly hover over the book. And, you spoke a little bit to the form already, but you know what form of resistance can poetic verse offer us in this time, like, what's the capacity of this form as it's taken, that can take us to a new place regarding these questions, because they're obviously all around us?

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  25:13 
Yeah, it's such an important question. It has so many layers. I can only begin to respond, because I'm still grappling with that, you know, I think it's about finding a way to connect to story, to give us the belief that we still can act. So, although it may sound a little Pollyanna, I have come to see that making is a form of resistance. And for me, what is my craft? I wish it was more sewing, and pottery making, and baking bread, and all these people who do that figure prominently in my community of makers. Because I know that when the really bad stuff hits, if you don't know how to cook, and mend a seam, and dig ground, and grow and save seeds—we are in big, big trouble. So it's, it's like I'm telling myself what I'm going to need to know. But in the meantime, right now, as someone who cares passionately about what is happening, both on the justice side, climate justice, and in terms of what I can do as a human being, it's about connecting to hope. And so although this is a tragedy, make no bones about it. It's also very hopeful, right? Bramah's motto is "let all evil die, and the good endure." And I don't know, in our world of, of neo-modernist nihilistic poetics, it's deliberately a bit archaic. It's a little bit of a rallying cry against, you know, the nothingness of nihilism, right? What is the good? Are there absolutes anymore? And what is evil? And, so Bramah is a very interesting figure, as is Dr. Anderson. Now, Dr. Anderson is 100% mortal. And she makes some just terrible decisions in her life that have awful consequences. But she also does one or two exceptionally fantastic things. And I'm very, very fond of Dr. Anderson. And so she shows that, you know, her class bias is something she has to let go of when she's faced with this survival question. So what can we do? I think we can connect through hope—to hope through action, and each of us has our own calling. And a side thing from that is guilt, like I find in this pandemic, I've experienced a lot of guilt for being where I am so that I have the benefit to work from home and I'm not one of those care workers that's getting up at 4am, mainly women of colour, to go and look after my mum, who I couldn't see for over a year and I literally couldn't see, right? And we all have our stories. So Dr. Anderson arrived, she was percolating in my subconscious and boom, the pandemic hit and I'm alone a lot. And she just took over, you know, this character.

Am Johal  28:02 
I'm wondering if you could read a little bit more.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  28:06
Thank you. Excited to do so. So here's the first time, book one of a series, Bramah and The Beggar Boy, that we meet the good doctor. We don't know her name yet. 

The Good Doctor, as Posted on Cy-Board #6

To Whom It May Concern

—although scorned and fearful of—
I found myself and sought them
    marauders, vagabonds, traders, riff-raff,
    brigands, invaders—survivors, they save
        seeds in glass jars.
And at the bridge of locks, cut off, waxed paper
    Still redolent of honey and the flowers—
    documents and escape, a series of borders

Once, would have been unthinkable, now we are close bound

I’ve discovered Colony Collapse.
I’ve seen the despair of Queenless.
I’ve seen oceans overflowing, then sink,
smelt ice, the sound of it cracking, then—
I’ve hugged close, glass vials and my microscope.
I’ve told Beggar Boys and Girls: This is a chalice.
They laugh and point, they help me barter glass.

Dr. A.E. Anderson.

Am Johal  29:41 
Beautiful, beautiful. Renée, I'm wondering if you could speak a little bit to some of your influences around the book. You know, we have examples of people writing in this form and contemporary times but there's probably also very ancient influences that go into this that probably resonated with you as a reader in some time, but wondering if you could speak to that.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  30:07 
Your questions are treasure. Yeah. So, you know, when I started writing this, I was maybe typical of literary writers a little bit, you know, looking down my nose at a certain kind of speculative sci-fi fiction, principally because I felt very alienated as a woman of colour maker. It's so heavily dominated epic fantasy, traditionally. Not now. Now, there's an explosion that's fabulous. But at the time, you know, certainly 10 years ago, when I was starting to get aware and woke to speculative fiction, I was a bit put off by the white maleness of it. And that forced me to look up people like Octavia Butler. Now, there's no question that Tolkien, George R.R. Martin, and then going way back, Homer, I'm reading a fabulous translation of Homer by Emily Wilson. So it's this female scholar who has retranslated, the Odyssey and it is such an influence. It's all in blank verse, which also figures a lot in my epic. So there's also the cultural aspect. But I wanted to say Octavia Butler, she really stood out for me, when I was doing my initial research 10 years ago about well, how am I going to approach the speculative fiction thing you know, there's the epic, but then there's speculative fiction. But of course, the more I read of women of colour practicing, Neil Hopkinson and so on in this field, it actually led me back to the, sort of, three mythic strands in my own being. My dad, one of the first South Asians ordained in the United Church of Canada, for all it's terribly conflicted history on truth and reconciliation; and my father's family, Lakshmi Brahmin Hindus, so all the Vedic, great Vedic epics, the Mahabharata and others. And then, of course, my mum's side of the family, Sunni Muslim. So, the Western colonial take down of the Arabian Nights, and Arabic poetry, and the long saga of Ghazal and Persian and Urdu poetry. So I'm—this is all swirling around me and principally, it's me having a bit of fun with language and trying to subvert these forms that have traditionally been dominated by men. Milton, certainly Shakespeare, Dante—beautiful, beautiful Dante, but you know, there's so much to say about my friends John and Dante. And so, I don't, the hubris is something I'm like, "No, Gods don't punish me!" But yeah, kind of also that juxtaposition of push-pull. Yeah, actually Saklikar as well, you know, writing the epic. So, those are all the influences. There's so many. There's Don DeLillo, The Names. On my website I have a whole list. There's Frank Herbert's Dune. There's Richard Adams's Watership Down. You know, the more I thought about it, as a child, I loved these books. I never saw myself in them. There were no women of colour populating these heroic sci-fi epics. But I was determined to see myself in them. Now I've created one. 

Am Johal  32:44 
Yeah, I think Vikram Sampath had a book in verse The Golden Gate, like a long time ago. Must be in the '90s or something. Yeah,

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  33:29 
He absolutely did. Certainly. Certainly he did. Yeah.

Am Johal  33:32 
So, this is the first book of a series. And so I'm imagining that you're already working on the next one. You don't want to tell too much or look too far into the future. But wondering what you could speak to in that regard.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  33:50 
I would love to. I mean, here I am in my office. These are all my composition and structural notes for Book Two and the big manuscript is underneath. I have rough manuscripts for up to 6-8 books, in truth. Book One, which I think clocks in at 360-some pages, or just under, or 330-some pages. It's a merging of what was originally Book One and Two. So right now, Book Two is what was originally Book Four. And at the end of this book, you know, we go through the saga, Bramah shapeshifts. She's a demigod, she's a locksmith. She has the keys and codes to circumvent Consortium's control of the seasons through the seasonal portals. And the rest of us have to manage and whatever dimension we are. So, at the end of the book, Dr... Or in the middle of the book, Dr. Anderson, who meets a—it must be said, a tragic end—she does one good thing. She adopts another little beggar girl named—and she gives that beggar girl her name, Abigail. And Abigail has a whole series of adventures in part two of this book that you have that we're talking about, Bramah and The Beggar Boy. And Abigail hooks up with a scholar named Bartholomew, one of the few positive male figures in the Book One, and they have a child and that child's name is Raphael, he who heals. And Book Two will feature Bartholomew, and Raphael, and Bramah, of course. She's always weaving in and out.

Am Johal  35:23 
Wondering if you could read another part of the book, if you're, if you're willing.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  35:28  
I would love to, um... I'm going to read having spoken about her, Abigail and Bartholomew. And they have many adventures together. Abigail doesn't want to follow in her adopted mother's footsteps, this tragedy, you know, upon tragedy. She's very attractive. She's adopted, so she is not of the blood of Dr. Anderson. But she's very much brought up by Dr. Anderson's aunty, Aunty Agatha on the farm, and brought up to just be away from all these troubles. But of course, climate change trouble just will not let us escape. It's everywhere and the Earth demands Abigail become a resistance fighter, and ultimately she does. It's a speculative fiction story, so she finds a cracked Android that her Aunty has been saving with a message of course. Star Wars music can play now. She finds this message on this cracked Android and sighs and realizes, "Ugh, I have to get into this. I'm called to do this." And she meets up with a scholar Bartholomew, and they become resistant fighters and seed savers, and eventually they conceive a child and I'll read a a sonnet about that. 

Abigail Conceives Her Child

And our great enemy the Sun, a star:
heartbreak, a way, paths of tribulation.
Winter Letters: Dear Bartholomew, you—are
the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.
Our wayward ways, our loving ways, come back!
I love the sound of your pencil on cream paper.
In the Room called All-Spice, lemon peel steps.
Two moons foretold that night, dull knives, chilblains—
We had found charms once, on Tamboline Road,
Girls, if from Tower Juniper, were to—
We knew nutmeg, if mouldy, were poison,
means to light a fire, boil water, soft rags—
My cervix dilated, we held hands, breathing
that cherry-red coat, that open field, meeting.

Am Johal  37:50 
Beautiful. Thank you so much, Renée for joining us on Below the Radar. Bramah and The Beggar Boy is out with Nightwood Editions, and I'm positive this is gonna have a great life in the world as well as the books to come. Thank you for spending a decade on this Renée, this is going to have a great life in the world. Thank you so much for joining us.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar  38:15 
My absolute pleasure and privilege. Thank you, Am.

Paige Smith  38:21 
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast created by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. This has been our conversation with Renée Sarojini Saklikar. Head to the links in the show notes to learn more about her work. 

This will be our last episode of the year as the production team will be off on winter break for a few weeks. Below the Radar will return in the new year, but in the meantime, we have 150+ episodes to catch up on! Thanks for joining us again on Below the Radar, and we wish you all a restful season.

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Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
December 21, 2021

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