Monday, 21 December 2015

Celebrating festivals that aren't quite your own

In that city, it is easy to slip
into the pretence that you’ve never left home -
all along the lanes of the Island
and along the riverside
there’s the same mauve petal-foam
of the jacaranda tree,
the same flamboyant firesparks
the gulmohur shreds on the roads,
the stone built citadel, the pointed arch
in the crumbling ancient walls.
If you look away a moment
and look quickly back again
they exactly echo the ones in
the ruins of the mausoleum
next to your old schoolbus-stop.

On a radiant spring day,
there are two small boys
in holey singlets on a terrace
flying exuberantly coloured kites;
just as there used to be
in the old neighbourhood
off the Ring Road;
the smell of horse and camel dung,
the silky perfumes of old, old dust
hung like streamers on the dusk.

At the start of winter,
every December
fake snowflakes and Santas
are plastered on shop windows
in places that have never witnessed snow;
that’s the same too.
There are fifteen-foot dressed trees
in the atria of buildings, miles
of tinsel and fairy lights;
they make you smile
and rope you into
secretly celebrating festivals
that aren’t quite yours.
That entire city is a conspiracy
to rope you in; to make you celebrate
things that aren’t quite your own.

You are given two homes on earth,
one is where you feel at home,
the other where you can pretend you are.

I am travelling and will catch up with you when I get back. Meanwhile, a very merry Christmas and the best of 2016 to you, if you are celebrating. If like me, you don't, then well, there's always that pretence :) Happiness and peace to you all.


  1. Hi Nila - jacarandas yes ... and while I was in Johannesburg - we had snow .. quite a lot of it - totally bemused everyone ... and my dog went 'bananas'!! I'd never heard of gulmohur - wonderful name and tree - gorgeous colours.

    Hope the travelling is happy ... have a wonderful time - cheers Hilary

    1. Thanks Hilary! Back now at the usual spot. Hope your Christmas week is wonderful too!

      Gulmohur is the Indian name for the flamboyant....grows everywhere in the tropics, great masses of colour yeah, very Christmassy reds and greens...

  2. Hey Nila, thanks to Google + i caught this. Very evocative as always. Different cultures, different festivals. No pretence with me...Christmas is my culture and I embrace it wholeheartedly. Other countries, other festivals, I seek to know, but can't wholeheartedly embrace. That's our disparate world! X

    1. Not a single thing wrong with embracing own festivals!

      Because of the historical British presence, Christmas is still celebrated with great gusto in my hometown...many non-Christian residents put up trees and hang stockings even.

      I believe in all festivals, especially the food and drink part :P