Sunday, 20 January 2019

Empty Waters

The airport is already swankier. Clicketty-click polished granite floors where the carpeting does not deaden footsteps, the concourse wider, an enlarged duty-free, shops glittering with souvenirs – costume jewellery, camels, miniature coffee pots. Sleek kiosks of global brands. Rows of backlit signages, lights reflected off all surfaces like some kind of weird visual echo chamber.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Shaken, not stirred

Over familiar, she leans close, and whispers
as the steam rises from my cup,
‘You babble a lot about death and winters
but sometimes you’re forced to shut up.’

Early morning in the park the crowd is thin
just she and I at my old bench,
the clank of garbage vats, the year’s beginning
with the same noise and urban stench.

‘You can write it lofty when it is just you,’
she smirks, though her lips remain grim,
‘all immortal bravado- what will you do
when it’s not you but it is him?’

The coffee goes cold, and the day, between us.
Overhead a birdsong shrills, a branch shivers.

A rocky start to my 2019 - first a medical emergency in India with my mum on Christmas Day for which I had to travel back, then upon return, another visit to the ER here in Bahrain on account of my husband- scared totally witless! 

Both parties out of hospitals now and recovering at home. Truly grateful for the outcomes and the timely interventions, prayers and support from friends and wider family. 

Hope to be a little more regular with blogging and online life once the offline one teeters back to (the new) normal.  The cup may have gone cold for the moment, but thankfully, I'm being allowed the option of reheating. Staying positive and writing it as it comes, when I can. 

Monday, 31 December 2018


December sunset over Tubli Bay, Bahrain.

Teach me to see beyond this horizon
to the sea beneath the sea,
beyond flames and haloes, golden icons,
where all is fluidity.
Teach me to listen with every organ
to the flight of the dragonfly,
teach me to breathe in the dust, and plankton,
with my naked skin, and eye.

You must swim the darkness and the ocean
and know true north isn’t fixed,
witness butterfly seasons close and open
knowing all is change and shift,
and everything’s a cusp and an omen;
and that a fluid core's a gift.


I gifted myself a MOOC (yes, I know. I'm addicted.) over  the festival season, which in my parts lasts from September to mid-January, well actually it doesn't end even then because, well - spring! Anyways, this text  I read over at that MOOC resulted in the above. Because I know I will forget. 

My year-end has been a bit turbulent - I'm posting this from an unscheduled trip to Calcutta due to a family health crisis. Travelled back on Boxing Day and will be here over the New Year. Things fall apart but then they reconfigure, they are on the mend, fortunately...super grateful for all I/we have received this season. 

Wishing all who stop by here a fun and fulfilling New Year 2019. May your horizons and cusps be captivating always and may you always be able to see beyond and beneath. May each day be a blessing. Happy New Year!

Sunday, 23 December 2018


I could not spot one festive tree
decked out and lit up bright,
no charming tales of nativity
as I would have liked;

and up and down the streets I looked -
just a worn out sort of guy
over a punctured tyre he stooped -
nothing merry or blithe.

But then I passed a clump of palms
and through it the wind sighed
‘look hard - they come in many forms
sometimes quite well disguised.’

Indeed the clouds above me moved,
reconfigured the light
and dumbstruck underneath I stood,

And since that day I do not search
for festive trees and sights;
instead look at palms on the verge,
flat tyres, stooped men, roadsides.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 

Monday, 17 December 2018

Separate windows

If I lived somewhere close enough to you
I'd go round in the evenings, yes I would -
watch the stars pin the sky to your window
if I lived near by in that neighbourhood.
Sometimes we'd play at checkers or ludo,
reminisce over the old carrom board.
But we'd mostly idle. Nothing's left to do
but sit with you, beyond all games and words.

Oh, don't you think I'm a romantic type -
I know the exact count of miles and years
that keep your windows separate from mine.
Diverging's an intrinsic part of life,
the lights that pin your sky aren't in my sphere,
neither the neighbourhood, nor the starshine.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Write...Edit...Publish...December 2018: Ribbons & Candles

It is time for the last post at Write...Edit...Publish... and to wrap up the year I have another part of the same story I posted for the last two challenges. You’ll find the previous posts here (Change of Heart) and here (Déjà vu or Voodoo) in case you wish to reread. Now, for the whole backstory of the bloodstained’s my entry for Ribbons and Candles :

Small windows 

It takes only a few years. For worlds to fall apart. For rooms to stop breathing. For windows to go blind. The climate is unforgiving. The land is too fertile for its own good. A banyan can take root anywhere. In the cracks. Beside the exposed pipes. Wherever there is a toehold.

The garden used to be fragrant with jasmine. Not any more. The squatters were here till last Monday. It took endless visits to the thana. Under the table, over the table, sunlit, bulblit negotiations.  The local AdSP finally had a word with the goons. The squatters magically left the next day. But traces remain. Ugly blue plastic awnings. The smell of stale urine and unwashed bodies. Stink pressed hard into the cracks. Bald patches on the ground. Where the lawns once were. Deep holes in the earth for bamboo. The marks of tent pegs and scaffolding. Holding together canopies of borrowed space and time.

The front door has still not been breached. It is teak gone black with age. The shutters are nearly three inches thick. The wood logged out of the forests of Burma. In some dim past when trees had solidity and girth.  And a lifespan greater than men.

But one cannot be too cautious. The sisters have got those ugly collapsible gates installed. Two heavy locks. Chains with fat links on the backdoor as well. The interiors remain secure. For now.

It used to be a happy house. Oil lamps around the porch at Diwali. Ribbons of smoke from the sugar snakes, ribbons of sparks from the Roman candles. Children in the garden messing up the beds. Paper lanterns and streamers at birthday parties. A pair of hilsa fish brought in. On the day for the worship of goddess Saraswati. The faded marks of vermilion on the walls. From the offerings to the deities. They always showed faintly through. Even after the painter's quick job of cover up. No amount of repainting seemed to help.

No-one passing by would guess. An ordinary house. Washing strung out on wire clothes lines. Pegged with wooden pegs. Little frocks and shorts gradually giving way to bigger and bigger sizes. Frocks replaced by saris.  Shorts replaced by trousers. Then a sudden fall in the feminine items. Two daughters married and moved away. No daughter-in-law to replace their presence. Only the mother’s sari flapping lonely in the wind. First in multicolour. Shading to pale pastels shading to white. A new one joined it. Both like the start of an oversized prayer bunting. All traces of red on the white ones’ borders vanished.  Then the white one vanished altogether. The coloured one billowed lonely again. But there is more heartbreak and loneliness layered into the rooms inside. The clothesline can only tell a partial tale.

The rooms are closed now. But the air stirs an uneasy dust inside.  The dining room rug has a patch of discolouration. It is an old Turkish kilim. The cleaners tried the strongest agents they dared. But they could not get the bloodstain off. The patch is quite prominent.  The sisters cannot bring themselves to throw it away. A valuable rug.  Sentimental. Brought back from Istanbul by the grandfather. They cannot agree on its disposal. But it needs to go. If they are ever to find a tenant. Or a buyer. They are not agreed on that either. One of them favours selling. The other is reluctant. 

The stories hang like the cobwebs. They are like the bloodstain. Faded but still distinct. Recognisable for what they are. No polite pretence is possible. The mésalliance. The resentment. The brother’s stubbornness. The long illness through which his wife nursed him. Losing her own balance a few times. Then the sudden heart transplant and heady hopes. Which came crashing down with the death. The killing. It was not deemed murder. She was judged ‘not criminally responsible.’ The trial was endless. So was the gossip. The family name in tatters. Splashed luridly across the tabloids.

She died later in the institution. No one claimed her body. No one performed the last rites. Given a shoddy send off by the penny-pinching government. Not exactly a tragic heroine.

The unsavoury stories still keep tenants away. Not much talked about these days. But enough to cast a shadow. It must be handled delicately. Easy to scare off prospects. Only the squatters do not scare easy.  They will probably be back in a month. There is only a small window. Always too small a window. And such a lot to address.


WC- 757

This is part of the same story I developed for Moving the Margins, a MOOC from the International Writing Program at Uni Iowa. Totally a fan. 

In this exercise I tried 'moving the margins' of my language by using parataxis. The idea was to keep it a little stark, spare. Thank you, as always for reading. 

A very happy Christmas to you who are celebrating and happy holidays/December to you if you are not. Wishing you peace, joy and love this festive season and all through 2019.

Read the other entries here and join in with your own. 

Sunday, 25 November 2018

What Absence Shapes

Rickshaw van in Taki

We are on a three wheeler, my cousin and I - three bicycle wheels with a flat wooden platform for seating, the front wheel connected to a saddle for the ‘rickshaw-van’ puller.  A common mode of transport in most of rural West Bengal, in India. The road, after a feeble attempt at being macadamised, peters out to a rich brown, wet mud track. It is mid-monsoons, the season of rains. The growth all around is so lush that the diffuse light of a cloudy day is filtered green through it. The road runs parallel to the river, the glimmer of water breaks through the dense foliage from time to time, sometimes the branches clear up to reveal the waterscape. There are small, pointy boats out, each one with the Indian tricolour flying. We are at Taki at the border - the far bank of the river is Bangladesh. Debhata, Satkhira, Khulna. The names are just as familiar as the Bengali ones this side of the river – Bashirhat, Taki, 24 Pargana.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

What does this need a title for?

Everyday's a pasted famous quote -
Al Prufrock or Tagore's Paper Boat
on it's timeline, just in case you think
it's a dead end, dead pen pushing ink,
not a solace, just a flimsy dream
the escape hatch of a digital scream
before it burrows back into the day
and ponders if anything gold will stay
and are there any rare metals at all
in the million, billion plastic dolls,
in the slow pulse of chronology,
in the cell walls of soliloquy.
A sudden buzz on the telephone -
just alive, but also a dead zone.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Um...lend me your ears...maybe...??

I've been reading my poetry lately - first for the Colours of Life Festival last month, and then for a Diwali poetry fest this past week. So I thought I'd try doing it here as well. Let me know what you think...if you'd rather read...or if this is moderately tolerable? 

Incidentally, in Bengal, a tiny rag dipped in a runny rice paste is used to draw patterns on the floor on major festival days - mostly auspicious symbols such as (goddess) footprints going in, overflowing pitchers etc. The folk artform is called 'Alpona,' done by women with great artistry. You need dark earthen or plain cement floors to show them off.  Also need knowledge of the traditional designs. And of course, massive rag control. 

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Diwali 2018 - Seeds of Light

The sky flows like a river into these eyes,
there’s a golden mean and meaning somewhere -
but not right now, not in the city square,
not in the swoosh-words hoardings advertise.

But there’s no place where the river doesn’t flow,
and gold is hard to get and hard to keep;
unless you count the sodium streetlights’ sweep
and signage blinking in LED glow,

and this darkness that’s some percentage light -
partly wakeful crickets, partly starshine
the horizon a faint fluorescent skyline
the towers vanishing into their own height.

Nothing extra anything else can impart –
the seeds of light sprout deep within the heart.

It's Diwali week - the festival of light, which is on 6th and 7th - I'm celebrating with some more poetry readings at a local Diwali fair. Apart from the traditional oil lamps of course.  Happy Diwali to you if you are celebrating. Have a brilliant week and November.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Don't worry, it's only poetry, it's all poetry

While I'm letting the ink dry on this verse,
come sit with me a minute. Nothing worse
than being forced to face an abstruse rondeau 
when you are not in the mood for those words.
So I won't recite anything to you.
Just rest yourself, do what you want to do -
feel, listen to this silence between us
because, after all, that's poetry too.

Yesterday was the local Poetry Festival - The Colours of Life. I was there with two of my poems. This is a yearly highlight for the Bahrain Second Circle poets, an evening of fun, sharing poetry that's sometimes serious and at others lighthearted. Smug as a bug in a rug - the final time this year methinks...or maybe not quite final...

November is the Writer's Retreat for NaNo, I don't do NaNo, but I go along for the retreat each year and get a short or some poetry out of it...inspirational to be in the same space as a bunch of dedicated writers at their craft. There's usually wine and bottomless coffee...a balcony with a seaview...a 5 star sunset...what else does a poet need?

Monday, 22 October 2018

On happening to watch video instructions on hairstyles irrelevant to the present situation

A Youtube clip on how to do a French twist -
I don't know why I watched it - my hair's cropped
for years now. No long plaits twirled around my wrist
into updos, no chignons, all pins dropped.
And neither the length nor the weight is missed,
the mess of herbs and rinses - all that's stopped.
Not a Samson nor, I think, a narcissist 
whose strength or beauty lay in hair that was chopped.

Yet I watch women twirl young hair into buns
without quite knowing why, and I reminisce 
minor things - lost barrettes in faux tortoiseshell.
Sundays stacked with a certain shampoo-smell.
Undoing, loosening it all, oh the bliss -
tugging it free, finally, when the day was done.

Writing it as it comes and still on target with the title-heavy teeny-tiny though I've no idea where that came from. Is it just me? Or does anyone else watch/read instructions for things they know they'll never have the least urge to do? Hairstyles, recipes, skydiving? :)