Monday, 23 May 2016


Everything draws to a close, all things –
words, wine, meetings with friends, evenings
pleated through with cursive laughter,
the delight of the deepest yearnings.
The flame that will choose to burn softer
before it drops down with the mothwings.
The breeze that feathers nights, after
the slow spiral of the hot mornings.
One by one the lines and the chapters
till the last, till there remains nothing.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A thank you note

The kindness of strangers, indulgences of friends.
Someone who comes in from the very ends
of the earth, hands me a gift; and someone
else who doesn’t come in but still sends me tokens
of appreciation.  Books, and poems,
a frame, questions, an image of strings.
Grateful for all I receive, each of these things.
The intangible ways this wide universe
marks my doorstep.  I thank her with this verse.

You may think it’s nothing, a few coffee mugs,
the pile flattened in certain places on my rugs;
a badge here or there, pasted on the sidebar,
a guest’s shadow fallen on my walls, the arc
of a note straddling oceans. On my shoulder
the blessing of an unseen friend’s hand always.
The smiles of strangers threaded through my days.
The invisible ways this wide universe
wraps me tight and quiet. I thank her with this verse.

An incredible amount of happy things, small and momentous, have happened in May so far, and more is expected, which will keep me off the blog till next Monday. Thank you to those who have 'marked my doorstep', you know who you are, thank you to the ones who sent the books and badges and poems my way, and thank you to the one who's arranging the fun.  You know who you are too! My heart is on its knees, with folded hands :)

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Lie- ..Nomi-...Who, me?

Susan Brody of The Art of Not Getting Published (do you know this blog? If not, I assure you, you should! Utterly awesome!) has very kindly nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you, Susan! 

Anytime I get a blog award I keep looking back over my shoulder if there's anyone standing behind me people are addressing.  You sure you're speaking to me??  I have been awarded the Liebster before, and I can tell you from experience this looking-behind-over-my-left-shoulder thingy does not go away with experience.

Monday, 9 May 2016

A-OK and not Zero-sum: A-Z Reflections

(: Wah! kya party hai, boss! Pura blogosphere thumakda!* :)

Make your choice, adventurous Stranger (and/or Friend!) and read whichever you prefer :

 The short version

I had great fun this A-Z, as always. Hooked! Beyond delighted to grab my third survivor badge.  Looking forward to my fourth already!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Mother's Day 2016

The year has earmarked days, a quota for
remembrance – fathers; soldiers from the great wars
and smaller battles; women; sisters; mothers;
all manner of ties up on the calendar
for a few hours only, and nothing more.

Your shirt’s loosened, it flutters in the breeze,
billows a farewell. I’ll take the anxieties,
the heartache and the loneliness I’ll keep,
and hand you the excitement as you leave.
It’s one of many partings, nothing more.

We’ll keep it ultra-casual, you and I
cut the drama out in each of our goodbyes
I’ll never let you see my lashes, spiked
wet in disarray, dismay in my eyes.
I’ll say it with a tighter hug, nothing more.

I know you won’t look back, but if you do
I’ll be in the doorway looking straight at you;
wait till the shirt’s a speck too small to show
and its blue vanishes into a vaster blue,
then I’ll turn and watch the phone, do nothing more.

My love’s an amulet, a verse, a charm,
a silken thread against your skin, your arm,
it binds but it also leaves you free - to come
and go, stop at my threshold, but I am
defined and changed by that one thread, nothing more.

In years from now, maybe a decade hence
will you have time to make time for remembrance?
Mark out a certain day in a certain month
and call? And we’ll speak with a wistful warmth
then go back to our days, say nothing more?

A long ago friend, an EFL teacher, taught me what first language interference was.  Only in my case I don't really know how the first language is defined, and she couldn't help me identify it either. Whatever I write in, at that moment it feels like my first language, and I can spot the other standing right there windmilling its arms and trying to get in not one, but several words, maybe even whole sentences in edgeways. It doesn't make for controlled writing.  And maybe it's not even just language but a whole swathe of cultural baggage. First culture interference, more like.

I can see for myself that the above is based loosely on the principles of the ghazal, the radif motif in the repetition at each stanza-end, but the question is what am going to do about it?  Will it get better if I fiddle around with the structure? Will I be able to tweak it even if I wanted to? Write it as it comes is less of a goal and more of a compulsion, how does one begin to change that?

Last month I heard an established senior Arab poet say of a younger poet, that he writes in English but his Arabic shows, and the senior's tone was one of regret -  as if it's a loss if a non-native speaker of English writes in a language other than his mother tongue. As if it's a loss for both Arabic and for the individual.  But people are the way they are, poets are the way they are, may be poems are the way they are too, who knows? And it's probably best to leave them like that instead of prodding them into being something else.

Happy Mother's Day to all mums here, and to those who parent even though they may not be biological ones.

Thursday, 5 May 2016


Considering the general haha party that has been going on here the whole of last month, what with all the limericking and punning and funning, it seemed a bit drastic to flip over instantly to the trademark whingey poetry, so I am easing into it with a flash.  

Earlier this year, fuel prices were raised in most of the GCC countries, giving way to what was inevitable.  There has been a cut in food subsidies here as well last year. As a fall-out, lamb of all descriptions has disappeared from the menus of the budget restaurants, which are still cheap but not so cheerful anymore. Petrol prices had remained at the same level for decades together, the increase generated a lot of heat and dust, predictably.  

And also this slightly delayed flash :)

Hop on hop off island

The screen froze as soon as he pressed the key, but Seth knew the answer anyway.  He did not need a currency converter to do the maths.  The crude oil prices were at a record low. The meat subsidy had been axed recently.  Even fuel prices, steady for more than three decades, would soar this midnight. A huge leap, no chance of looking anywhere before.  Nothing would ever be the same again, happiness, misery, money, wealth, security.

The screen had transformed into a spiral, a series of dots stalking each other in a never ending cycle, a snake trying to devour its tail.  His concerns felt the same, each stalking the other, an ongoing cycle there too.  Stripping Peter to clothe Paul, it had worked very well somehow. That would stop at midnight. The horses back to being mice, the coach turned back to being its rotund pumpkin self.  Something else would have to be figured; arranged as elaborately as the sham that was coming to an end. He had been cocooned in it, this ongoing spiral of pretence – his debts, his relationships; even the spent steam from his coffee curled in an arc, cooling next to the screen. 

Well, it had been good while it lasted.  He had the usual trappings of a Gulfie life - a cashew plantation, a slightly pretentious mansion, a somewhat distant and sour wife festooned with jewellery, and three sleekly educated, sullen children back at the permanent address.  And some not so usual ones too.  A series of ‘seasonal wives’ here, installed in a penthouse for the duration of their tenure and then seen off by his discreet manservant when they became too demanding.   

Interconnected countries and economies and relationships, global villages wirelessly, paperlessly linked.  He had made them into micro-level islands with his suave thieving skills, forced them apart – businesses, lives, wives, planes of existence.  One of them would have to be dismantled before it came crashing down.  Even so, the debts wouldn’t vanish.  Therefore, he would have to.

It was for just such an eventuality he had got the spare passport.  Option B.  He hadn’t thought the day to use it would come in this particular way.  He pressed a few keys and completed the withdrawal.  Money, an identity, a way of life.  Digital footprints and fingerprints carefully obliterated as far as possible.  A new life would begin at midnight. He heaved a sigh and shut down the computer.

Robina sauntered in and sat on his armrest, briefly peered into his mug.  ”Would you call that half full or half empty?”

Seth looked at the coffee.  There were no curls of steam anymore. “Either way, it’s undrinkable.  Gone too cold. Time to get a fresh one.”


Hope you enjoyed the flash. See you next week for the A-Z Reflections post, am still struggling to make sense of the numbers and the intangibles, which are both more than the sum of their parts, and I am happy to be confused. 

Have a great day/weekend!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Z is for Zorba

is for Zorba

Zorba was a foreman, that’s not to say
he wasn’t a dab hand at play and foreplay -
he played the cimbalom,
asked a courtesan, “madam
which door may I use to go the whole way?"

A final shout out to Arlee Bird the creator of the challenge and a big, fat thank you especially to Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh for being the exemplary co-host and personality he is, and to all the other co-hosts as well.  Also a warm vote of thanks to all visitors and commenters for their words of encouragement and laughing at the right places even when they didn't feel the least like laughing :)  

Okai. So. That's that.  A-Z.  Done. Survived. Happily exhausted. The best kind of exhaustion is when you're knackered from doing too much of what you enjoy. Got to grab that badge when I wake up.  Z is for zzz...and oh yes, nearly forgot.  Fistpump!! Yay! See you in May!

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2016 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Y is for Yuri

is for Yuri

Yuri’s space trip

There was a famous spaceman called Yuri
who preferred his chickens à la tandoori
he went into the rocket
with some drumsticks in his pocket
and said, “these’ll do till Moon, even Mercury.”

His bosses said, “We don’t care a whit
how far you carry or how indeed you take it,
the protein’s okay high,
for beyond our deep blue sky
the problem, quite frankly, is how you shit.”

Have you ever wondered, given it some thought
how zero g affects pooing astronauts?
A different level of aim
is the name of the space poo game,
on no account must shit escape and float.

Please note that the above is wholly a product of the imagination and any resemblance to people or events are purely coincidental etc etc. 

The real Yuri’s flight lasted less than two hours and therefore shit and pee weren’t a burning issue.  However, the story goes that as he went to the launch, he apparently asked for a pee-stop and relieved himself on the back right-hand tyre of the bus that was taking him to the launchpad, which subsequently evolved into a ritual of epic proportions.  Astronauts follow it even today.  

Is it just me or does it strike you as well? how Yuri sounds like a truncated version of pee, and if this whole pee-stop thingy is somehow connected?  No? Okay, it's just me then.  Never mind.

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2016 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

X is for Xerxes

is for Xerxes

Xerxes and arses

The one and only for this letter
is Xerxes, and no-one else better!
Because he was a great king
though that could mean anything
from sex-crazed jerk to kick-ass go-getter.

But he was portrayed in books after
as cruel, inept, with scorn and laughter;
but then history depicts
based on whose arse was kicked
and whose boot was involved, nothing’s dafter.

What can I say about X? That it is the most Xtreme letter is obvious. The only other name I know that begins with X is Xavier.  And the only Xavier I know of is the Jesuit saint who went to India and founded schools and stuff all over the place.  Not Xactly a life to induce wild laughter or anything, not a limericky type of life at all.  At least Buddha had the sense to sport a distinctive hairstyle!

Maybe there are other names and characters- Xiu, and Xin, and Xu.  But my knowledge of China is shaky and knock-kneed. Limited to the cuisine passed off as Chinese by the residents of China Town in my hometown Kolkata. Which has been there for nearly two hundred years of the three hundred odd years Kolkata has been in Xistence.  They are more Bengali than Chinese, if you ask me. At least their food is nothing like what’s available in Chinese restaurants in Singapore. East is East, and West is West, and in this case, don’t have the least intention of meeting.  The Chinese in Kolkata speak fluent Bengali and probably write Mandarin in the Bengali script, since their own alphabet is so Xcruciatingly compleX.

Tell me, who’s your X

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2016 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

W is for William

is for William(s)

Can't have it all, mate!

William S. was a golden lad, all told.
His fancy and its flights were purest gold -
he wrote up some blizzards,
each of them zillion words,
but the head that housed his brain was quite bald.

No-one gets the whole world on a plate
whether he's Will S, or Will of Kate.
A prince or a pauper,
or a nonpareil author -
can't cadge one damn hair to grow on his pate.

Who else but Will S Will you post about this month of this year? His birth and death anniversary are both in April, and this year is the 400th anniversary of his death, and we are still reading his sonnets and watching his plays.  That's some serious best-selling numbers! 

As for Will of Kate, though  he emulates the bard in hair-dos and anniversaries, and seems to be an all round good egg generally, I have my doubts whether his legacy to the English-speaking Wider World will be of the same magnitude after 400 years. No Way!

And I Wonder if William S had ever anticipated the changes his language Would go through in 400 years? I'm sure anyone doing the A-Z in 2416 would be using different Words. And I bet vowels will have disappeared entirely, I mean this para would probably be Written like this - 

n wndr f wllm s hd vr ntcptd d chngs hs lngg wd g thru n 400 y? m sr ny1 dng d B-Z 2416 wd b usng dff wrds. n bt vwls wl hv dspprd ntrly, mn ds pr wd prbly b wrttn lk ds -

and of course, capitals would be part of an ancient ritual, and using a comma would put you at par with the Wonderfully esoteric.

And We the last Weekers of this challenge are almost done, Whew! and Wow!

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2016 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

V is for Virgil

is for Virgil

Virgil and the fragility of things

One letter is all it takes to make a Virgil
change to a virgin from a poet of great skill;
it takes the same for Veer
to morph to Veep or Leer
but Vilhelm is way more invinciBill.

One small letter and shit hits the fan,
the slightest changes can alter a man.
From lap to slap the gap
is tiny, just a snap -
so be Vigilant, Vaughn, Vaughan, and Van.

Just before the A-Z started, I wrote a post in which I tackled a few things you could expect from me as a fellow participant.  Some found it too Vehement, but I did it with the idea of not being Vague and wishy-washy.  Vague is not in Vogue around here.  Vehemence is okay sometimes, so long as it doesn't turn Violent, so long all courtesies are observed.  Some things can't be stressed enough, don't you agree?

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2016 

Monday, 25 April 2016

U is for Urban

is for Urban

Urban's crossness

Pope Urban said crossly to Galileo,
"In this awful business of your helio –
you see centricism is fine
if you know to draw the line,
as for where it’s centred – that would be geo."

Pope Urban was mostly suave n urbane
except he lost it at Galileo’s vein,
“The sun the centre? Just absurd!
besides it contradicts the Word
and I’m not allowing that during my reign.”

I don't know much about Pope Urban (or for that matter any Pope, very little to do with Popes and Kings and lofty beings). But Urban is not my favourite word, and why anyone Pope or otherwise, should choose to have it as a name beats me hollow.  

Urbanisation is a serious issue where I come from, the socio-economic impacts are mind boggling.  Personally, I have grown up in spaces that are beyond back-of-beyond, and therefore tall, dense buildings, concreted roads bristling with the ubiquitous sodium vapour lamps,  and too many people milling around, all make me want to take off at 100 miles an hour. The only advantage to city living that I can think of are bookshops and libraries.  I'd rather be a forest than a street any day, or to be more specific, an African grassland than a street.  Grasslands imho are Uber cool, have you ever seen any street that was of the same awesomeness as a stretch of savannah? Nope, me neither.

Posted for the A-Z Challenge 2016