Monday, 27 June 2022

Counting



 


Don’t think and grieve I count out days

in loops of memories and sighs,

that I fritter my life away,

that I stop my ears and shut my eyes.

I count instead how your laughter rang -

transformed the earth and made it glow,

and how the fireflies came along

to show off their light at your window.

The angle the stars held up your sky,

and the seas wove an orchid foam,

how the trees lobbed their branches high

just so they could shelter your home.

Their flowers still dance and pirouette.

They do not grieve, nor do I forget.







Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Reaching for the phone

 





I think of you at half past four,

that was the window for the call.

You’re an ancient pitted mosaic floor

you’re a bird hooting at nightfall -

at every turn, big and small

you are the groundswell of light

and a memory bridge of recall.

Nothing else to say or to write.

 

I reach for the phone like old times

the heart leaps at the strangest things -

seashell crumble on a beach,

washed up driftwood and tree rings,

the politics of violent crime.

Then I recall you’re out of reach.










Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Write... Edit... Publish... June 2022 : Please Read the Letter




Hello, is it June already?! Wowza, almost half the year disappeared in a puff of smoke!... This month the prompt at Write...Edit...Publish... is Please Read the Letter by Robert Plant and Alicia Krauss – and I'm really excited to see what everyone does with it, because in the previous two challenges, writers totally ROCKED the prompts! 

Here’s my interpretation…


Don't Return to Sender!


Dear -

Please don’t return this too, unopened like all the others. Or worse, tear it up without reading. It’s been just eight years but it feels like I have been sending you these letters forever, reaching far back into some earlier births aeons ago. I keep thinking what can I do to make you understand? -  to make you see things differently, to get us back, if not on the same track, at least on tracks close enough for you to appreciate where I am coming from. And where you are heading. How can I make you understand?!

 

Together, we are more beautiful, more resilient - more armoured in our love for each other - than anything else in the universe. And apart, we are just broken human beings, isolated in pain, unable to handle problems, unable to handle life. The weakest, the worst versions of ourselves. The past few weeks are proof of that. Please read this letter. I’m nailing it to your door and to every door around you. You cannot send it back this time!

 

Why must you so isolate yourself and make your home in a parallel world that no-one can reach? Many people would argue it’s not a real world at all, but a figment spiked with fear, greed and hatred. Step out of it once and see how easy it is when we do it together, how pleasant and right it feels when we work towards it hand in hand without conflict and without drama. Without the lies. Because that’s the world you’re in, the one you’ve created – imaginary, unreal. Another word for that is false.

 

At first I thought we were having teething problems, all relationships do - they will work themselves out. But no, that hasn’t happened. One lie was followed by another and another, one abusive action followed by more and more. A world built upon falsehoods can never prosper. It will sooner or later come down like a house of cards. Surely you know that? You will argue that none of those words are yours, the abuse isn’t yours. But that is exactly it! - you are quiet while your family run amok, your silence enables them, encourages them to greater heights of cruelty and hatefulness. Why do you remain silent when the crisis is so dire? Why do you just stand there and watch homes being wrecked and not say a word? Do you really care so little?

 

The past is history. Neither you nor I can change it. Who screwed whom, what was broken, what was built, what was converted and diverted with what intention – that’s a never ending loop of futility, because we can never know for sure. Human beings change over a lifetime. And their intentions and actions are often in conflict. Also how do you know what the intention was behind a particular action anyway, whether it was a thousand years ago or at this very moment? Was Shah Jahan the most romantic husband ever to build the Taj Mahal for his queen, so he and Mumtaz could be together for eternity? Or was he a sex-obsessed maniac who drove his beloved wife to an early death by forcing her to go through 14 pregnancies in a time when childbearing carried the very real risk of death?

 

If it is the thought that counts, then we can’t ever know the thoughts that created history. Sometimes we can’t even know the actions, because not everything is recorded. History is not exactly watertight, it's just a bunch of interpretations about this or that written phrase. And the historians are in a better position to analyse it, let’s leave it to them.

 

It is pointless to brood on the past, it ties up the brain in knots and keeps us busy holding grudges instead of actively finding tools to build our lives with. It only creates ill-feeling where none need exist, it doesn’t help. Far more productive to focus on what we can change and get on with that. And what we can change is the future. Not the past. Please let it go, I’m urging you.

 

This whole debate about who belongs and who doesn’t is completely specious. The entire world, every nation, except for maybe Ethiopia, has been built by migrations.  Out of Africa, out of Central Asia, and equally outward from here to further east and to the west. How far back do we go?

 

Several Mughal emperors had Rajput mothers and married Rajput women. Their bones and that of their family members, generation upon generation, are interred in the soil here, their sons’ blood spilled on this very ground. Home is not just where the heart is!  It’s where the bones of the ancestors are, it’s the land that they have tilled or taxed, the orchards they have grown and gathered from, the waters they have sailed and fished in.

 

A foreign individual residing here for 12 years is eligible for citizenship. Just twelve years. And here we’re talking of centuries. Sapta purush jethae manush se mati Ma-yer baRa Tagore wrote – where seven generations have been raised that land is greater than the Mother. And Rahat Indori said in more recent times - sabhi ka khoon hai shamil yahaN ki mitti meineverybody’s blood is an integral part of the soil here… How would you disentangle the soil, segregate and demarcate which grains belong to whom?

 

So come, set aside those grudges, the uncontrolled rage, the manufactured outrage and mindless criminality. It’s never too late. Let’s get back together. There is nothing to fear. All we need to do is pull together, use and share resources sensibly. Respect each other’s boundaries. Value and celebrate diversity. It makes us stronger, not weaker. Come, live a life  of freedom. Free from fretting and fear. From anger and greed.  A life of love, of inclusion, of justice. A stress-free, happier life.

 

Yours,

An ordinary citizen.


~ ~ ~


Tagline : An open letter that could be nailed to too many doors in the corridors of power right now. 

FCA

WC - 992


Please read the other entries here and join in with your own - 

Monday, 13 June 2022

Shipment

Credit 

 


Too much time was spent defining home and away

by leaf shadows, textures of mud, length of the stay,

the fauna that flies, and that swims, comes back to spawn,

the shape of the constellations and of the lawn.

 

The cups we held once, and those that we lost, or chipped.

what was left behind and what was finally shipped.

Too much effort went into piling on the floors

what was mine by right, by grace; and what was yours.  

 

When the containers came to port and were unpacked

everything was mixed up inside, nothing neatly stacked -

had the cups come home or had they travelled away?

whose they’d been before the trip and now whose were they?

 

A few cups were shipped on a voyage through the sea -

they blurred notions of ownership, and of destiny.







Monday, 6 June 2022

Arches

 




I’ve travelled far from those streets, the cobblestones

of long ago, those arches of ancient times.

We’ve been stoic and gone our separate ways

I’ve taken my leave and carried on alone

farther and farther, yielding to paradigms

of unknown worlds, through years and lightyears of space.

My days have morphed to roads and my roads to days.

 

Some figment persists. A yearning for those streets.

In the dark I’ve searched the skies for the same stars,

strained my ears for the river’s tuneful night call,

stood unshod to feel cobbles beneath my feet.

But it’s asphalt now. The river writes memoirs.

And different stars get in late after nightfall.

There are no guides pointing back, no protocols.





Last week I came across a bit of random news - pale and inconspicuous among all the more monumental epoch-making and -breaking headlines - potential WWIII and the one on feminism and women's rights, the last of an era jubilee, the shocking sudden collapse and death of a well known Bollywood singer right after a concert in my hometown...this was a snippet on my feed about an ancient derelict building being restored over many years by two private individuals and being used for a public library. In a city that was once home but is now unlikely to be visited in this lifetime again. C'est la vie...mostly a one way street...







Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Allowed


The world’s shattered porcelain, and on it

lie the eggshells from someone else’s omelette

- ours are a hodgepodge mix we inherit

and eggs are now too expensive to get

while butter’s priced itself out of the market.

 

We don’t need a war to go out and kill

- allowed in peacetime, in places peaceful.

A perceived wrong, someone being uncivil

long ago and the irresistible pull

of the trigger - the settlement in full.

 

The world's just shattered porcelain and eggshells

glinting in the sun, and broken spectacles.









Sunday, 22 May 2022

How to miss a city


 


The big landmarks? - those multilevel flyovers/bridges, the breadth of the corniche, the river itself, the Tower and the most historic manmade structures towering over everything? But those are not the things I miss the most. It’s the smaller stuff, the unremarkable, the everyday things that change irrevocably once one moves. That’s what I miss. Inexplicably. Sometimes intensely.  

 

Like the sounds of Arabic on the streets, the loops and dots and diacritics of the script on the signages. Cities are not id-ied by their random street corner conversations, their vendor calls or what the waiters/cabbies/parking attendants speak, but they should be. It determines what life there is pegged to, its all-important background score. Whether one understands or not doesn’t signify, the cadence of the language primes and changes one, slowly draws one in to its mystique. It has always felt to me that their words are pronounced from somewhere deeper inside the chest, somewhere much closer to the heart.

 

The tamr hind juice seller in the alleyways of the ancient market, with his shiny metal cymbals and fez. A guy on a bicycle balancing a large wooden pallet of bread on his head, early one winter morning, his breath misting in the cold. That’s another thing – properly cold winters, not these sham, jumped up seasons of 25s and 22s masquerading as cold.

 

The unevenness of the cobblestones in the Yellow Alley under my feet in the early February morning. The centuries old rivets on the massive wooden Gate of Conquest. The ‘marching soldiers’ crenellation of the boundary wall around an ancient monument. The stained glass in an 18th century merchant residence. The view through a mashrabiya, a minutely latticed window made of turned bits of teeny tiny wood fitted into each other like a complicated puzzle. The sunlight slanting in through the oblong openings of the roof cover of  the tentmakers’ street.

 

Young schoolchildren playing football at 2 a.m. in the morning at the meidan in Kafr Nassar as I return home from a late night dinner. The huge banyan in Zamalek and those jacarandas, laden with mauve blossoms in season so that not much green is visible. Ditto the rows of flamboyants in 6th Oct.

 

The melodious voice of the neighbourhood muezzin and his azaan slicing the day into five neat segments. Four actually, because I was asleep most times when he gave the first call. The shape of the arches in the oldest mosque, the wide sweep of the desert just beyond the range of the balcony, the curve of the wrought iron railings in Downtown, the arrow-straight grace of the minarets piercing the sunset from Ahzar Park. 


The triple height loaded pickup trucks on Ring Road reminding me of Rajasthani ladies with three tiered water pots. A car blithely reversing into the Juhayna roundabout at top speed. A silent old man with rheumy eyes offering household wares for sale by the roadside after the revolution dried up the tourist trade. A young boy in a torn singlet flying a green kite during Shem el Nessim.




 

The angle of the light as it hit an old glass lantern in the old city. The angle of the light as it hit the floor in Emerald, where some earlier resident had stubbed out a cigarette and left a burn mark on the wooden veneer. The bookshops displaying Naguib Mahfouz titles in two different languages, where suddenly finding a book by Amitabh Ghosh had made my heart race. The seafood chowder at Chef called Viagra soup for some reason I  never did find out during so many dinners there.

 

Just some of the things from a city that was home once but isn’t anymore, yet still feels as though it is and that it should be.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Because I was comparing Fiji with 70's Nigeria, and that led to a long thread on what we, the ex-Naijja expat children, miss about that life. That naturally had to bring to mind the other city in Africa I've lived in, for longer than I've lived in Bauchi and Maiduguri individually. 

i carry your heart with me (i carry it 

in my heart) i am never without it..... ~ e e cummings






Monday, 16 May 2022

Measures

 



Sometimes I forget the year but recall

the exact hour when I opened the mail,

the dark grain of wood under the laptop,

my stricken eyes in the mirror on the wall,

the azaan from the mosque a plaintive wail

and shards of light like a stained glass backdrop

 

to the news, remembered in clear detail

precise and accurate, not one thing wrong

except that count of years. Randomly fourteen,

but often correct - sometimes the fingers fail

to stack up the total, it’s been so long

that they forget what years and numbers mean.

 

Years and numbers. Anyway quite useless

as a measure of grief. Or of happiness.




The last week had one 13th death anniversary, the 21st birthday of my son and also the 21st wedding anniversary of a couple, one of whom died one year ago. And of course, Mother's Day was the Sunday before. Which celebration is never the same once your own mother has passed and/or your child has left home and is resident of a different country made further inaccessible by the pandemic. But we managed to celebrate the milestone birthday with videocalls and cake delivery. Thank heavens for technology! And thank heavens that US doesn't have a system of OTPs like India!






Monday, 9 May 2022

Street vendor

 



The city skyline is a step function,

the song’s just static on the radio,

splattered pigeon droppings on the windshield,

and drizzly leaf reflections come and go,

 

there are leopards in the clouds and the lake

is rippling with their roaring open mouths.

Knots of students and their drooping backpacks

slowly move from the north towards the south.

 

The road’s a patchy old moulted snakeskin,

the signal at the crossing a beggar’s claw

telling you to slow down, stop, throw a coin,

make eye contact, perhaps unclench your jaw

 

but the crossing’s a dead end and a slim

young boy stands there selling a smile that's dim.




I've no idea where this has come from :) It's not Kolkata and it's certainly not any city in Fiji I've been to so far. The ones I've visited don't have skylines, all low rise buildings dwarfed/masked by the coconut palm trees...Even after so many years the whole process is utterly incomprehensible, what the brain dredges up from years ago and twists like one of those balloon shaped animals in an instant to look like this and presents as poetry. 


Happy Mother's Day! - to you if you are mothering/have mothered, irrespective of gender. And have an equally happy week ahead.


Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Not a Reflection or anything...




Port Denarau. Some great waterfront dining options here.


This is not an A-Z Reflection or anything it’s just to let folks know - we moved into a house in Denarau yesterday the 3rd. Port Denarau is walking distance though I haven’t had the time to check that out by walking there myself yet. Been there a couple times in the car from Lautoka. The yachts look beautiful against the mountains in the background. And the food's awesome. Many of the outer island cruises and day trips start from here. A regular tourist hub.

 

We consumed a homecooked, plain meal after three weeks and I felt sanity creep back in, whew! Never thought I’d say this in a million years but I’ve actually reached an age where I prefer self-cooked to starred hotel cuisine for days on end. Great for a change but not as a lifestyle, thank you!

 

My aunt back home, when informed of the plans, had said Tuesday’s Akshay Tritiya, which coincidence has made me feel absurdly pleased. Akshay Tritiya is an Indian festival, akshay means undiminishable, tritiya refers to the third day of the moon’s phase – a festival and an auspicious day in the Hindu tradition. To start off with any new venture on this day is believed to be an automatic invitation to abundance. May there be an abundance of peace and may everything that’s broken in my world and in the wider world be made strong and whole again. 


From the front facing room. It's a gorgeous day today.



It was good to sleep on my own sheets too. And here’s the view of the sunrise from the room. Later I went round the garden inventorying the current day’s blooms. Some of them I know the Indian names for but not the botanical/English ones. I so regret not paying attention in my botany classes now – have done so ever since Cairo which also had an abundance of flowering plants all round me in the grounds. If any of you know the names please educate me.



As large as a hibiscus, but leaves are not serrated. 





This is called Rongon in Bengal, prolific and
dense flowers. Comes in several colours.




Togor in Bengali and Pinwheel in English - this
too I know. Also called crepe jasmine, I think.







Orchid. Don't know what it's called. There are three -
one more the same, and another that's fully purple. 





Periwinkle. The ones back home are lighter in colour.
There's another deep red one too - its blooms were
on the ground today.


I haven't got any poetry done in the last few days, so I am going to see what I can do to return to it. And if I manage to churn something out then I'll be back with it next week as usual. Meanwhile, I hope your week is going well. 

 





Sunday, 1 May 2022

Zillion


 

Z is for…Zero

 

Zero is the number of posts left for the A-Z and I am posting a day late as per Fiji time, but since 99.9% of the world is still in non-Fiji time and therefore in 30th, I am still in time. Another zencool thing about moving to the Eastern end of the world. April has been eventful, a zillion things could have gone wrong, but so far so good, that number is zero too, thankfully.

 

The property lease was signed yesterday morning. It’s quite far from Lautoka and hubby will have to commute an hour either way, but that is what it has been for all the previous managers and he’ll get used to it, hopefully, so will I. The property itself is lovely, the usual Fijian feature of double height ceiling, palmwood beams, a smiling garden lacy with palms and ferns and orchids. Lots of spaces around to walk and explore, the marina is close by, the beach is not too far I understand, though I haven’t been to that specific one yet. And the security aspect is better which is the most important thing. As one challenge ends, a larger one begins - to settle into a new place, to  tread light and keep my footprints erasable behind me, so that when I eventually leave the house it is as welcoming as it was when I stepped in. Wish me luck!






A-Z Challenge 2022 

Friday, 29 April 2022

Yep



Yep, still here. Still posting. Only one more to go...

 

Y is for...Yusuf


Yesterday I met some Indian expats who immediately filled me up with more economy-size horror stories about rob-n-run crimes and the cockroach to medical staff ratio of the local hospitals. Okay, I get it, the healthcare's basic and it’s not safe to go around wandering in the dark, but enough already!

 

The day before, I met a lovely family, fourth generation Indo-Fijian, strongly connected to both India and Fiji and super warm, hospitable, humble and down-to-earth. The lady offered me her number without my even asking. The guy is a presidential medal awardee and everything, apart from being chairman and president of this, that and the other. But you’d never guess hearing any of  them speak.

 

Anyway, all this socialising has meant less time to explore and write up my posts, there’s another event this evening (insert eyeroll here)…I was really tired out yesterday, the horror stories sap me, truly they do. (However, apart from the dire-y tales, I've also managed to prise out info on a local library - yay!)  I’ve come, I’ve listened, I’ve given the warnings their due weightage, and now I am through. Be sensible, keep eyes and mind open and carry on - is going to be my mantra, as always. I'll focus on what can be done and leave the rest to work itself out. 

 

Anyway, I don’t know if it was all the extra going out or the extra-large helpings of doom and gloom,  but my old friend insomnia struck last night, I woke up way before daybreak and couldn’t get back to sleep. Didn’t want to disturb my husband, so sat out on the balcony and watched the sky lighten by degrees. And from there, Yusuf was a natural progression…




From a personal standpoint, the last few years have been challenging. I feel a little bruised from their manhandling of me and my close family.  The very structure and form of my family has been metamorphosed into something that’ll still take me some time to get used to.  I had hoped this year would be different – a new place, a new start. But it’s the same old same old. A close family member back home has been diagnosed with cancer – it’s turned my heart and head inside out. Health issues are going to dog our collective life for the foreseeable future. Just super thankful that we are here and hubby’s able to do what he needs to do. So I'm praising with elation, praising every morning/God’s recreation of the new day. Not that I am evolved enough to understand the concept of an Almighty, definitely one of the ye-of-little-faith ones, but you know what I mean. May we each find the strength to overcome our individual crises, whatever they may be and do what we need to with an unrelenting focus.


While on the topic of thankfulness, I'd like to take the chance of also thanking the friends who've encouraged and supported me on this blog and otherwise, through this A-Z and through the other, much bigger challenges,  Alana,  Alex,  Denise,  Elephant’s Child,  Hilary,  KristinJoanneYamini - thank you! I cannot begin to sum up in words what it means to me. 

  



A-Z Challenge 2022