Friday, 22 July 2016

Double helpings of Liebster, Mary Oliver, Camus, Conrad, and the Definition of Various Things

Denise Covey, and prior to her, Yolanda of Defending the Pen  have both very kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award.  Both are published authors and ubercool bloggers, with fun and informative individual blogs on writing, check them out by clicking on the links and if you aren't following them already, I assure you - you totally should.  Not only that, they also jointly co-host the monthly bloghop Write...Edit...Publish where aspiring writers  meet every two months to work at set prompts and present their creations for review and feedback. Thank you for nominating me, ladies! 

And what is the Liebster Award? The Liebster Blog Award is an exciting opportunity to develop relationships with our fellow bloggers from different domains. This is a peer nominated award, which acts as a chain blog post. And is mainly intended to connect with new bloggers while building your email list. So, here goes...I start my acceptance with answers to Yolanda's questions :

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Subtle happy

The afternoons are slow, nothing to do
between the end of morning and four o’clock
a kite swings a dead rat on the hot tin of the roof
or it’s a vulture, a swifter winged hawk
and it circles slow, breaking the normal cycles
the sun loses the wind in his sails by and by
no matter how slow the hawk chooses to fly

a lone eyelash falls, lured somewhere off the lid
and someone plucks it off and places it on my fist
now shut your eyes and blow hard and make a wish
but I can’t think of anything however hard I try
however tight I squeeze my closed eyes
nothing left to wish for, no secrets yet to hide
– a subtle sort of happy that can make one cry.

No writing it as it comes this week, a slightly older poem I wrote as I was thinking of my school holidays  a long, long time ago, as we waited for the offspring's school to close a few weeks earlier.  Home leave is always intense, and I have got by on other years by scheduling and planning ahead.  This year something inside the brain rebelled at that, so... no advance posts.  And it is about to get 'intenser and intenser' as Alice might have said.  Not only did I not schedule my holiday posts, but I have committed to an online creative writing course, which fits neatly into the home leave dates like they were made for each other! What was I thinking of?? But now that I've signed up, I can't leave well alone either, so this whole vacation is going to be one long juggling act performed by someone who is a committed single-tasker.  Well that's just an euphemism, half-tasker is more like the truth!! We shall see....

Hope you are having a great summer/season of fun and relaxation wherever you are. 

Thursday, 14 July 2016

This and that

Nope, not the usual poetry post, I'm speaking like a sensible, normal human being today.  Am officially on home leave from tomorrow, which is just another way of saying 'hectic' and 'out of control' :) There may or may not be a post next week, depending on how organised I can manage to be. And if the wifi is sorted. 

Just popped in here to share that and a couple of other things. One of them is this anthology here

which has 86 poets from around the world writing about love.  I'm in there with some of mine. Here's the link.

I also wanted to talk about the Write...Edit...Publish bloghop which gets back on next month.  The prompt is Gardens, the sign-up begins on 1st August, the postings on 17th.  More details on the WEP page and on the hosts', Denise and Yolanda, here and here. I will be travelling back just then, but am definitely going to participate, maybe with a couple of days lag in the hopping.  I seem to be using the word 'lag' a lot lately somehow :)

Two badges this time, aren't they luscious? and a whole lot of inspiration! WEP allows enough freedom to interpret the prompt and make it your own, and then there's the feedback from publishers and authors. Check out the pages and join in, it widens and deepens writing/creative skill sets, apart from being a whole heap of fun.  Seriously! See you there.

Monday, 11 July 2016


I will write you everything in just one line
and you can call it any name you choose
syllables and line counts cannot define
what is or isn’t a sonnet, or the truth.
As honestly as I can, I will write
what I feel in the simplest language, use
no embellishments, nothing to turn and writhe

at the ends of octaves and quickly form
the premise and endless counter argument.
No snake gobbling its tail, not a huge word-storm
in a small teacup. One line, then fall silent.
And it’ll still be a sonnet, though the norm
of iambs and fourteen shall be absent. 

Monday, 4 July 2016


As the crow flies, Dhaka isn’t far -
in fact just the other day, some of us
had got together, an evening of raucous
laughter and drinks later, hatched an idea
for a sunset safari at Cox’s Bazaar.
You can cross the borders now by train and bus,
but there are others near impossible to cross.
As the crow flies, Dhaka isn’t too far.
Nowhere is. And nowhere is far enough.

Both my parents were born in Dhaka in pre-Partition India. I have friends who live and work there, I have friends who were born there, I have family members who visit there often - this one has struck very close indeed.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Liebster, TMI, and ageing by parts

Yolanda, a long time blogger friend, has tagged me for the Liebster, and very generously given a choice in how I respond, either with her set of questions or with the TMI Blog hop's.  Therefore, with heartfelt thanks to Yolanda for the award, and in honour of Debbie and Guilie, I've voted to participate in the TMI Blog hop. 

I hope you'll take the dare and join in!

This is me, from A to Z

A: Age

Varies by body part. Heart=19-ish, head=Methuselah, knees somewhere in between.  Can vary also by time of day.

B: Biggest fear

Loss of a loved one, I guess. And also that aliens will goof up somehow and zap the entire planet's coffee plantations instead of us humans one of these days, yikes!

C: Current time

01:29.  Most of my posts are written in the dead of night.

D: Drink you last had

One of those pre-mixed vodkas.

E: Every day starts with

Whut?! Is that the time?! 
See C above.  I am so not a lark.

F: Favorite Song

I find it really hard to pick favourites - just too many super awesome songs! Right now, can't get Il Divo out of my head.

G: Ghosts, are they real?

This answer varies by body part too. Heart- erm, yeah, who's the headless lady wandering around Tower of London otherwise, hunh? 

Head - nah, don't be silly.  

Knees - we are just going to scoot off home, just to be on the safe side while we all debate this rationally. As soon as we can turn ourselves back to solid from the jellylegs we've become.

H: Hometown

Several.  Grew up in more than one town, all feel like 'hometown' still, even though I haven't been those places for ages.

I: In love with

The smell of new books.  The smell of old books. Poetry. Travelling.  Ruins of old buildings. Sunsets (and the son as well, the son's father is also not too bad :)

J: Jealous of?

I am really not very good at jealousy, seriously energy-intensive stuff! But I could take a stab at people who can go all day long in spiky heels and retain their good humour.

K: Killed someone?

Oh, heaps of people. Imaginary only. I have it on the best authority that no writer is worthy of being called one unless s/he can 'kill the darlings off' at the drop of a hat. Practicing hard!

L: Last time you cried?

Can't recall, awful memory for negatives. Believe in selective amnesia. But I do tear up all the time at the mildest of things, happy, sad, just like that.  A real weepfest is rare though.

M: Middle name

Parent's never gave me one. And I didn't discover the lack till I was too old to go back and demand it, drat!

N: Number of siblings

None.  Parent's didn't give me any of those either. Deprived childhood, as you can see :)  No middle name, no siblings. Scarred me for life.

O: One wish

Can't think of a single meaningful thing.  I have all I need.

P: Person you last called?

A real estate chap - we might have to move out to a different palatial mansion oops, I mean hovel, yeah, again, yeah, move.  Hubby usually lets off these bombshells every couple of summers. I am just being proactive  - if he does drop it this time, I have already done my homework.

Q: Question you're always asked

'Dinner mein kya hai?' (What's there for dinner?) without fail every evening, even though I always reply with a 'I'm working on it, along with the poetry.'

R: Reason to smile

Does one need a reason? I mostly smile without any. Like this :) 

S: Sounds that annoy you

Notifications beeping a million times everyday on the cell, I got some kind of fake birdcall thingy permanently slapped into the circuitry which refuses to be dislodged.  Can't mute much coz well, have family back home, people with ageing family members will know what I mean.

T: Time you woke up

Dunno.  Today's the weekend and the first day of the school summer vacation here. Probably around 7 o'clock.

U: Underwear colour

Anything except white.  Favourite set's emerald. 

V: Vacation destination

Summer - usually India, because that's where the extended family are.  Winter - somewhere else in the MENA or Europe.

W: Worst habit

Too much coffee probably, and not enough writing to show for it.

X: X-Rays you've had

Last one I remember was the shoulder. 

Y: Your favorite food

Mangoes in the monsoons (that's the real reason I go to India in July-August! all that about family is only so's not to hurt their feelings. :) 

And of course, chocolate all year round. Thank goodness that's not seasonal!

Z: Zodiac sign

Please join us!

The blog-fest is on through July 13th. 

Just add your name and post your answers.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Dinshaway, 27th June 1906

I’ve never been to Dinshaway, some places
are like that, unvisited, widely unknown;
but when their names are taken, a line of faces
hovers over memory, as if they’re my own.

Perhaps I was among the flock of pigeons
which took the bullets for the soldiers’ sport;
I was the burnt grain; the trailing smidgen 
of smoke, the shock at the sentence of the court.

Maybe I was the wood that got hammered -
unwillingly nailed into the scaffold;
the mother’s final lament; the child’s last word;
the crowd’s last gasp at the rope’s stranglehold.

Not the key, nevertheless, a witness;
I was there when the bodies twitched, lifeless.

This is, in a way, a response poem to Cavafy's 27th June, 2 p.m. In another, it's a response to an old news story that feels like a recollection, dredged up from the deepest layers of deja vu-ness.  An 'incident' that sowed the seeds of a different Brexit. It slotted into me like a missing link of memory the first time I heard it; and it continues to move me, no doubt because there are very similar tales from pre-independent India.  I mean, that must be the rational explanation.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Old melodies

Listening non-stop to old melodies
dredged up from clogged memories of childhood,
frayed satin ribbons, pressed flowers in scrapbooks,
caught in folds of pages, in an obscure crease

of time and place. Reminiscent of things
I hardly think about now, the drizzle
of sunlight through leaves, long-tailed kites, and whistles,
wide open skies, gentle lands, and landings.

Halfway across the world, streets, towns convulse -
someone, something has fallen, crashed again,
the earth is slack jawed, crushed to smithereens
a lone armed man gloats at a feeble pulse.

Can't find a tune to match, something titled -
‘never yours, with aversion’?  Unbridled.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Fancy dress

However timid my heart, I will wear
it where I please, on my sleeve or my hat
or under linen skin, layer upon layer;
hide it within the staunchest rib, a nightmare
maze of bone and secrets, crosshatched slats,
but they’ll still find it and pick it quite bare.

The hats too shorn of every rosette, the caps,
of feathers, badges; would you know me then
for your own among this mass of passive men?
They’ll pluck it clean from the cloth, a pulse, a sob
of breath, a scrap of flesh, hardly a throb,
a drop of blood on the wires of timetraps.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Peace and bliss

I like the way your hair waves off your forehead
in a gentle tide; the way your eyes crinkle
up small as you smile wide; your ears flush red
when you’re discomfited; the unpaired dimple
on the left corner of your mouth. My delight
stems from ordinary things, from the simple
halo of your hair on my pillow, the sunlight
striking it aslant, dusting it in sprinkles.

The somewhat stale-warm morning breath of the room,
yours mingled in it, therefore heady like perfume;
your half-open palm a boon and a promise
unfurling around my days, one hallowed world
tucked in your limbs, lines of thigh and waist, back curled
under the covers. No greater peace or bliss.

Still somewhat taken up with the breaking of rules, not for art or some serious reason like that.  Just to see how it feels like, if poetry feels like poetry if it snaps a few strict ones...The word sonnet comes from 'little song' and mine is that still, quite little, littler than fourteen even :)

It's the start of the Ramadan here where I am, and one has to be in Arablands to appreciate that austerity and introspection and prayer and joyfulness and exuberance can combine so seamlessly, and in so many ways.  Peace and bliss. They do it in some style.  

If you are observing, then my greetings and best wishes to you for a serene and successful holy month, may you find what you are looking for and draw closer to your spiritual goals. 

And if you're not, like me, then just dig into the food served at iftars, wherever you are. This is my time of the year to go haleem hunting. Peace and bliss of a different order entirely! :)

Friday, 3 June 2016

One less petal

Suppose it’s only thirteen, does it stop
being a sonnet? and suppose it’s not about
unrequited love, shakily devout?
would you agree it can still do the job?
Does an extra slant rhyme completely rob
it of meaning, the whole open to doubt?
Must every poem tow a line, never drop

its guard for even a single minute? lest
it’s called unflattering names - pseudo, fake.
If the rose had one less petal, you’d contest
its right to be a rose? Then why can’t this break
away from arbitrary rules? let it rest,
be thirteen, without being called a mistake.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Pegs. Panic. Patience.


I’m back to drinking half latte, and panic
gulped down in the first moments as I wake;
because the room’s vast and far too empty,
because on the floor patches of sunlight break
into shards without a sound. I grope lyrics
like lifelines, the chords that grounded you and me;
the clock twitches, the wall behind it aches
and the universe’s just another tic.

The sonnet’s handiwork hangs a bit awry -
the peg’s loose, or maybe the fault’s in my eye.
The coffee’s a whirlpool, a muddy vortex
that, at the very start, sucks the day dry
and hides its gift somewhere under the dregs.
I drain the cup. But nothing tightens the pegs.


I also know you’ll return here in days,
the distance between us duly shortened,
the room warmed, its emptiness made richer.
All travel-sore wandering must end -
we each loop back even as we step away;
the river herself finds and lets us bridge her,
each crossing however rough, does unbend
and let us through, barring minor delays.

It’s easily written: destiny, it’s fate;
the reward will come, just be patient and wait.
Patience will somehow wrangle its rewards.
What if it doesn’t? or it comes too late?
what if it panics at the shortfall of words?
The peg’s still loose though I hammered it hard.