Sunday, 25 June 2017

Malfuf wa Malik : ...and Backstories...

Sometime in the mid-noughts, this song by Nancy Ajram was released. Nancy comes from Lebanon and is a very popular singer in the Arab world. She started her singing career in the late 90's while she was in her teens, and has sold many millions of records since. She has been the World Music Awards recipient multiple times, mentioned by Oprah as an artiste of note, and has also been the UNICEF ambassador in the ME. By rights she should have totally been part of the A-Z series, I don't know how she never made the cut, very remiss of me! Correcting that now - take a listen -

Finding Bernie

Around the time this song was released, we were relocated to Dubai after eight eventful and memorable years in Bahrain. Much had happened here to make me feel settled. The arrival of my son was the biggest life event of them all, I went back to India for the birth and stayed for a longish time. And realised how much of me felt out of place away from Bahrain even though I was technically ‘at home.’

Therefore, it came as a shock how pleased I was at the news of the new posting. I loved our life in Bahrain, we had each slotted into our individual places. It was weird, this pang of pleasure we were going to a new city, albeit not too far from Bahrain, but vastly different in terms of the looks and the vibes. Dubai had been for all those years our transit hub, we changed for the flight to Kolkata there every time we went back.  We had visited there too a couple times, and I hadn’t liked it much. Even weirder, considering.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Because Memory is a Bridge: Write... Edit... Publish...June 2017

It's time to return to Write...Edit...Publish... hosted by authors Denise and Yolanda, the sumptuous badges designed by Olga, and psst...prompt inputs by yerse troolee. Posting early to co-ordinate with Brisbane time. 

Gosh, I feel it's been ages since I was here last! The April challenge flew past and May and June I kind of tuned out, insanely out of routine. Kiddo's study leave/examtime is not good for mum's poetry writing, neither is Ramadan - the Muslim month of fasting, when working hours are reduced to six here. The males are home at unusual times, and I'm busy revelling in that rare commodity called family time, serving and being served coffee, and rather fattening snacks, at the oddest possible of hours. Oh, and we moved house, in the same neighbourhood, not across continents, merci bon Dieu for small mercies! School's out as of today, Ramadan's 3/4rs over, and summer's here, that's a bridge every year to go and visit family in India, we leave soon.  

The challenge for June is 'Bridges' and I'm back with a mixed up two-part post,  a bit of poetry, and mythology, and geology, and geography and folk traditions thrown in. Please read just the poem if you're pressed for time. Unless you're Donna, in which case you're requested to read the second, non-poetry, part :)

And I can't really think of the word 'bridge' without this song whooshing up instantly in the headspace. Because music too is a bridge...

Because memory is a bridge...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Fruit-seller and the Gita

The Fruit-seller by Mira Boolell Khushiram

His watermelons in an offhand heap
by the roadside under vivid blue plastic
sharper than the sky. Casual symbolic.
‘Just the action, mind. The fruit’s not yours to keep.’

But he hasn’t read those specific verses.
He peddles his wares wholly unaware
of hidden meanings, symbols, faiths and their
connects to the fruit that he disburses.

I often stop at his stall, it’s on my way -
he cuts me a juicy watermelon slice,
quencher of thirsts, symbolic and otherwise,
but he doesn’t know it. He picks and weighs

his wares, and allows me to attribute
a deeper meaning to both verse and fruit.

I am trying a collaboration today - letting the art of a dear friend unlock words in my head. The watercolour above is by architect Mira Boolell Khushiram, from Mauritius. Mira and I met in Cairo through a ladies group - she had moved in from Tunis and I from Dubai the same year, and we soon found we shared common interests. Many trips followed - to art galleries in Zamalek and the old Islamic monuments and bead and handicrafts shops in the Khan. She and I both moved out of Cairo the same year too. Expat lives, expat friendships, characterised by transience and more goodbyes than any normal heart should be allowed to handle. We keep in touch, thank goodness for technology!

Mira's interest in art goes back to her childhood, and she has worked with charcoal, oils, pastels and watercolours. While away from her architectural practice in Mauritius she worked in the studios of eminent Tunisian and Egyptian artists honing her skills further.  She is now retired from her profession and pursues her art full time, showcasing Mauritian life and the beautiful seascapes around her through her paintings. 

Her fruitseller invoked a very well known verse from the Bhagavad Gita in my mind - which basically exhorts folks to focus on what needs to be done and do it, without hankering after any benefits. 

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ||

karmay-evādhikāras te mā phalehu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te sago ’stvakarmai

'You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.' ~ Bhagavad Gita, 2:47.

The fruit-seller's cart - rather a poignant metaphor. Look forward to your feedback on this collaborative effort and thank you, as always, for reading.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Forgotten cooled

Sometimes I forget to drink while it’s hot,
and later when I peer into the cup
it’s gone halfway down and a skin has formed,
marred the creaminess and puckered it up.

I could pinch it between finger and thumb
and remove it gently, reheat and restart
and finish it to the dregs as usual
but drinking halfway cup’s also an art -

not everyone can remove those skins
to lift them seamless requires expertise
and put that exact heat back in the drink -
preference is a matter of degrees.

So I pour it off, let the half go waste
the temperature makes or mars the taste.

Does it happen to you sometimes too? :)  The cup, the glass, the cafe, tavern, inn etc, someplace with lots of comings and goings is a staple of Eastern metaphors. Comfort food. Or rather, drink. I have a craving for it right now :)

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Tell me, where is poetry bred?

This is where poetry comes from -
the textured silk of the sea.
The sunset hitting a window frame
quiet iridescence of beauty.

The abrupt blinking of small screens.
Spider webs of unused rooms.
The stab that makes the silence scream.
Empty bottles of perfume.

The yellow ribbons of the road,
the white ribbons of contrails,
the silver shined parallel ropes
of long-distance vanishing rails.

The mists quivery with early light,
a lone boat returning late.
The scattered shrapnel of a life,
the shudder of a mangled gate.

The strange geometry of geodes.
Comfort zones of shaggy mundane.
The footwork of slow dancing blood
in the long corridors of veins.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Malfuf wa Malik: Authors, for example...

Ali Bahar (1960-2011) was a Bahraini musician who rose to fame in the 90's with his band Al Ekhwa (The Brothers), arguably the most famous Bahrain has produced. He was called the Bob Marley of the Gulf and also the ambassador of Bahraini music. He died at a tragically young age, but his music lives on here. Listen to one of his pieces while you read -

Arrival. Adjustments. Attraction.

When we look back on anything - any relationship, the current state of it feels perpetual, but that's often incorrect, we are experts at cherry picking stuff to suit us. At least I am, shouldn't really be speaking for anyone else. Looking back at 20 years in the MENA, I can't seem to remember a time I was not interested in Arab culture.  But of course that's rubbish. It takes time to fall under a spell, whether a person, a land or a culture, barring a few rare cases of love at first sight...

The first couple of years in Bahrain were spent being somewhat clingy – rereading old books and working out how to keep cultural headspaces intact in this avalanche of new experiences. Of a totally different language being added to my environment. Adjusting to traffic on the right, to a sky that hardly ever rained, to being a trailing spouse - which was the biggest lifestyle change of all. My childhood shot at being a trailing daughter stood me in good stead. No panic attacks, lots of cable TV, coffee, piles of books and long letters home - telephone calls were way too expensive if I converted the currency.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Malfuf wa Malik*

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
        ‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax –
        Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot –
        And whether pigs have wings.’

This is a bit of a departure from the usual poetry trip that characterises this blog. Though I do realise it is not an auspicious start to begin a non-poetry post with a quote from a famous poem. It is inappropriate to appropriate verses from a renowned writer to do the work of your prose. Inappropriate and ironical and cheeky. Not a good beginning. Let’s start over.

Monday, 15 May 2017



She no longer knows voices on the phone
you had to say your name last time you called
faced with a blank pause - this too a milestone
of growing up and away and growing old.
A tremor perhaps, but quickly controlled
and the conversation curled but went on -
reset somewhere in the depths, overhauled
minds and meanings, the smallest shifts unknown.

Years knit up things and years unravel too -
the threads meshed together day after day
till the weave’s a habit you’ve slipped into;
but one thread snags, it all stops running true
and puddles at your feet, whichever way
you go on, the knot’s formed, and it’s here to stay.


You wish the memories were yours to choose
and keep in a glass vase like bunched orchids.
As she loses her bearings you too could lose
the high recall of tremors and get rid
of the blanks in telephone calls, and visits
when she asked your name, but the residues
chafe under your eyelids like sand and grit
and the orchid’s face twists into a bruise.

That’s all you have in your hand to display -
some bruised flowers, the colours imperfect.
You can choose just the vase, don’t have a say
in the composition of that bouquet
fresh or faded, the long stems whole or wrecked,
the deviant petals not yours to correct.

Double dose and regular forms today, as least as regular as I can get - 2(8x6). Last month I met an elder with Alzheimer's - it's a difficult disease for the victim, for the caregivers, even more so when they are family members taking care of sick elders without any support far away from home. Last month also we had the local poetry festival, which I don't think I've mentioned.  We did, had great fun there too, I presented two of mine. Read and/or view.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Back in the groove


As May isn’t spring everywhere, there are
some days of different shapes and perfume.
A few miles down this road, not all that far
a different season of an endless war -
no daffodils there, only the guns in bloom.
But you may light a candle in this room,
a change of smoke masks scorched flesh and burnt tar.

You may turn the page and let chapters close,
may press the required key and work the knob
till it’s spring again and the daffodil grows,
everything here pleases the eyes and nose.
Just a couple of tweaks will do the job -
turn up the sound and drown out the faint throb
and phantoms of smoke outside these windows.

Okay, April has zapped, zipped, zoomed past taking A-Z with it and boy, was it a continuous funfest blogparty or what? My head barely stopped spinning - too much merrymaking - exhausted by the end of it, but in a good way. Took some time to get my breath back, but now I'm back in the usual poetry mode in my usual whingy avatar, and all is proceeding towards sunshine and drawstring PJ's and comfortably smug n snug here.  And no wonder. Because - 119. That's the wordcount of this 7X7 sonnet.  You just can't beat poetry for teeny-tininess, you can't! 

Hope your May is going well too, spring or autumn.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Long And The Short Of It : A-Z Reflections

First off, keeping the music handy might help, in case you want to fortify yourself :) Because for all you know another mini-dissertation-length post is waiting...

Tadaa! Surprise! not quite. You pays no money, but you gets your choice! Take your pick -

The short version

The A-Z went list-free this year. I went poetry-free for the first time here. I wasn’t sure if I could swing it this time, but I did. 

List-free made no difference to the level of viewer activity on my individual A-Z posts, they remained roughly the same as last year. I know. I'm as baffled as you. It doesn't add up. But when do blogstats make any sense anyways? :) 

In the final analysis my takeaway seems to be, and not for the first time - lists and numbers are not the determinants of the fun that can be had at the Challenge. I had great fun this A-Z, as always. Happy to claim my fourth survivor badge. Congratulations to you too if you managed to complete the Challenge!

As the Arabs would say – ‘Kol sanaa wento tayyebeen, ya nas! Ashoofkum sana il gayi, nafs il waqt, nafs il makaan!’ (All year and you keep well, people! See you next year, same time, same place!)


The l-o-o-o-o-n-g version

My A-Z this year was different from last year, from any other year. Firstly, 2017 was always going to be a difficult year anyways, a weird combo of unavoidable surgery and school leaving exams and sundry horrid things like that. To make life more complicated, a series of awful events back in India turned the year ghastly early on. I was buffeted by continuous bad news from every side. In short, 2017 was on its way to become an annus horribilis on the personal front. I wasn’t sure I had the concentration to participate in the A-Z, and when I found it was going list-free - it was another uncertainty to contend with! But the A-Z in April is like plan A for me, has been for the last few years. Once I get a plan A going in my head, I don’t have enough head left to wrap it around a plan B. April without A-Z? How was that even possible?

Every event has its own lessons and its opportunities. And one of the opportunities was to change my approach to my own A-Z. Opt for something flexible instead of having to elaborately work things into poetry, which is what my A-Z themes have always been. So I did just that. 

So. How did the list-free bit go? In short, brilliantly! The whole A-Z felt tighter, neater to me. No dead links, no strident sales pitches, nothing that lowered the tone of the Challenge.  List-free made no difference to the level of viewer activity on my individual A-Z posts, they remained roughly the same as last year. Overall views here were nearly double that of April last year. The number of commenters also remained at similar levels as last year on a post to post basis, even though the total number of A-Z participants felt way lower this year. I know. I'm as baffled as you. It doesn't add up. But when do blogstats make any sense anyways? :) 

While I was quite sure from the start that I didn’t mind the two-second work it took to paste in my links, I do think they tended to get lost, maybe because I am not on Twitter, or prefer not to know the right end of a hashtag from the wrong one :) But as I said, it didn’t affect the views or comments as compared to 2016 when there was a list. Some people managed to land up from the A-Z page, some people came in from the FB links, more from FB than the A-Z blog, to my surprise. I should take FB more seriously :)

For my part, I reconnected with some old A-Z buddies, I found some cool new blogs, I read some awesome posts, learned a few new things both in reading and in researching for mine. I love the sense of community and camaraderie that happens during the A-Z for those who participate in the true spirit of the blogfest. 

The music that bloggers put up this year was a joy, Yvonne and Debbie, I’m looking at you :) and also Mary. I've listened to Debbie D's music more than once as I've gone around reading the other bloggers' A-Z posts. I've borrowed her idea of a playlist to keep the music I put up in one place. And the actual and fictional places some bloggers took me to, wow! - marvellous! (Hilary, Keith, Eva) and scary!  (Nick, Tamara, Arpan

The thought that bloggers put into their posts and the quality and variety were generally très magnifique (Hercule Poirotese can say it much better than plain English sometimes :)  I came away with ideas/tips for my writing. Oh, and book recos galore! (WordDreams, So Much to Choose From) And learnt a swathe of new stuff about 40's films (The Old Shelter). 

However, I didn't get around to as many blogs as in the previous years, this I think tops my personal teething problems of list-free. Last year I made it to over 25% of the linky list, but this year - my feeling is - no. I couldn't quite get to grips with visiting from the individual letter lists because of the time-zone/weekend differences. By the time all US/last time-zoners posted, my day was nearly over and it was time for the next letter, and going back to the previous day's posts was an impossibility given the returns and current letter visits I had to make. I think I managed to return the visits/comments of everyone who visited me. 

Some exceedingly kind A-Z participants read my overlong posts and did not tell me off.  They all have my gratitude.  (How do folks manage that 300 word limit? How?? I need to take a precis course or something!!)

Thanks also to the entire A-Z team for the huge work they do to keep the challenge fun for people like me, year after year. Some bloggers who I think of as dear friends were away from A-Z 2017 for various personal reasons, and I want to let them know they were missed! And some blogger friends who didn’t even participate were with me throughout for each post, however long. Thank you! - Elephant’s Child, Joanne, Martin Kloess and The Silver Fox, I cannot begin to articulate how much I appreciate it! 

To sum up, I wasn’t sure I could swing it this time, but I did - fistpump! In the final analysis, lists and numbers are not the determinants of the fun that can be had at the Challenge. I had great fun this A-Z, as always. Happy to claim my fourth survivor badge. Looking forward to the fifth already. Congratulations to you too if you managed to complete the Challenge!

As the Arabs would say – ‘Kol sanaa wento tayyebeen, ya nas! Ashoofkum sana il gayi, nafs il waqt, nafs il makaan!’ (All year and you keep well, people! See you next year, same time, same place!)

Friday, 5 May 2017


Listen, I’ll be late back on Monday.
No, it’s not what you think.
I’ve an interview.
I didn’t know you were looking for a change, dearest.
Well, no. It isn’t that kind of interview.
Really? What kind then?
It is a job interview, but I’m not a serious candidate.
What? Then why are you going?
Oh because I’m a filler.
What’s a filler?
There’s this big shot over to recruit some fin props for his company. Anupam has to line up some authentic looking candidates, he asked me to help out. So I’ll be dropping in after work. Can’t refuse a friend in a spot.
Oh I see. Pity.  There was this play on…
I’ll tell Anupam to wiggle my name in early. Don’t want to be stuck there forever. But I might be late.


There’s a bit of a problem.
Now what?
My name’s got through to the second round.
So? Why’s that a problem?
It’s a waste of time. His and mine. More his than mine.
I thought you were doing it for Anupam?
Yeah, I am. But it’s a pain all the same.


Why are you looking like a nuclear disaster?
Dreadful thing’s happened - I got the job! Soon as I walked in he made me an offer. Asked if I had a passport. I was dumbfounded! What am I going to do now?
Did you call Anupam? It’s his mess. He ought to get you out of it. Hang on, passport?? Where is this job?
I’ve never even heard of it.  Have you? Some place called Bahrain.
Yeah, vaguely. Don't know anything about it though.
I don’t know where in the world it is!
Well, look it up in the atlas then. What are you going to do? Accept?
What do you think I am, crazy? How -? Never thought about going abroad at all. Not plan A. Not B or C even.


So naturally, six month later we were here.

Best-laid schemes o’ mice and men. Gang aft agley. 
We were experts at agley. 
Still are.