The Next Chapter

Madhur Anand's This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart is a look at the past to understand the present

The Canadian poet and professor talks about writing an experimental memoir about the journey of her immigrant parents.
This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart is a book by Madhur Anand. (Karen Whylie, Strange Light)

Madhur Anand's memoir, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart, came out of the desire to try to better understand her parents' lives.

Anand's parents lived through the Partition of India, when British India was divided into the separate regions of India and Pakistan in the late 1940s. They later moved to Canada, a journey that featured many emotional and physical challenges.

Anand is a Canadian poet and professor of ecology and environmental science. She tells The Next Chapter how she drew on both these disciplines to write This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart.

An experimental book

"This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart is an experimental memoir written in two parts. The first part narrates the lives of my parents from when they had to leave their ancestral villages as children because of the partition of British India in 1947. They found themselves on the wrong side of the Radcliffe Line, the crooked line drawn across Punjab into two new nations, India and Pakistan. 

"I decided to write their stories after my mother had a heart attack in 2015. The cardiologist showed me a black-and-white line drawing of the artery blockage. That image somehow made me realize how much of her life remained completely unknown to me. 

I decided to write their stories after my mother had a heart attack in 2015.

"The stories followed their arranged marriage in Delhi and immigrating to Canada in the late 1960s, living in remote mining towns in the middle of boreal forests and northern Ontario and raising their family on discounted food in a tiny apartment in Toronto."

A walk in their shoes

"I tried to become them — to walk in their shoes, to put on their shoes, to wear their coats. Because of that, my own stories crept in. That became the second part of the book.

I tried to become them — to walk in their shoes, to put on their shoes, to wear their coats.

"Because I'm a poet and a scientist, I cited the Kama Sutra and I talked about abstract algebra to interrogate the entirety of our knowledge systems to tell these stories. 

"I hope, in doing so, it allows readers to enter them from wherever they might be in their own journeys." 

Madhur Anand's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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