Monday 29 January 2018

Malfuf wa Malik : Silence, Sounds, Shapes, Ramadan Stories and Traditions

I’m still in the mood for oud. Here’s Ahmad Alshaiba from Yemen with an oud cover of The Sound of Silence, one of my all time favourite songs -

and also of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. The absence of lyrics is a serious improvement imo, the music's okay, but thumbs down for the chauvinistic words.  The polar opposite of favourite, not a fan  - no idea why it won the Grammy yesterday...but then I'm not the demographic that Ed is singing for. Though I'm glad to see the choice is creating its own firestorm of protest.

Anyways, take a listen while I tell you about...

Saturday 27 January 2018

Republic Day 2018

Vault over to some place where everything
was colour, glory, the parade in full swing -
thousands moving as one, the thud of boots,
overhead the roar of airmen’s salutes,
multitudes of faces, hands in the crowd
clapped to the marching beat and cheered aloud.

Once more then, through jamun lined avenues
the early morning fog in soft greys and blues
traffic sparse enough to step on the tarmac
along the wide boulevards as we walk back
to where lies, if uttered, were not-for-profit,
all men were heroes, at least, not complicit.

Even now, though age has coarsened my hands,
they still want to clap to those marching bands.
But meanwhile some of those jamuns are gone,
the fog’s forced to curl around a saffron con.
The tunes are just as brave, the wings in the skies.
But the grounds are mined with a web of lies.

Of course the decades turn, the sense of free
changes with time, as does the jamun tree,
and the road it shaded once. Some time ago
that morphed to a highway, but peak traffic’s slow,
and there’s a bridge and a brand new police booth -
more crime, less heroes, that’s the honest truth.

We walk in silence, each rapt in her thoughts
a gate, a date, a parade, and each one fraught
between the current and the past recalled.
As for myself, I struggle to place the fault -
is it mine or is it just circumstance?
There’s a hole where a jamun had swayed once.

Free us from hatred and the conflicts it breeds;
give us strength to embrace every tribe and creed
free from the past, not trying to rearrange
what was unpleasant - for it does not change
even if a name’s wiped out, a word dropped
out of visible discourse, a few facts cropped.

The march past I watch now, and also those
I watched long ago, both draw to a close.
The balloons rise, the guests begin to leave.
Glad my hands have clapped, but they also grieve -
this road’s widened but endless others shrink,
narrow the spaces to live, love and think.

Monday 22 January 2018

Written in blacks and whites and greys

You wrote me like a poem, a tracing
of water on a metal plate
a single blade of grass, subtly lacing
and weaving the breeze into a fete;

you wrote me like the plumes of dust devils
gently blur the horizons, spiked
lines that danced on the page, couldn’t keep still
and went off the edge as they liked;

you wiped me off too, like the savannahs
after rain, pockmarked with blossoms,
carry the sounds of slowly fading cars,
erase the gleam with clumsy thumbs.

You wrote me down and then you tore me up

flung me into the grass and into love.

Thursday 18 January 2018

Fresh new eyelids

Somewhere in a river of red Sundays,
in thick drifts of January headlines,
somewhere in black boxes of old crosswords,
perched nervous on a taut wire of sunshine,
I’ve waited for you to give me back my mind.

Somewhere in yellowed photograph albums,
in a million cracks of brittle glassine,
staring at the six-faced dies of mind games,
turning the wheels of dead mundane routine,
I’ve waited for you to tell me what you mean.

The years fall like petalled rain on fingers
and both my hands and eyelashes are wet.
On the highway piled up sullied winters.
You’re still out shooting, eyeballs on target,
but no more waiting, I’m primed to forget.

Eyelids are woven so they’d be drip-dried,
strength’s a dragon kite flying at its own will.
I’ve torn up all the rivers and cracked glassine
and forced the boxes open, dies to spill.
You’ll be in sometime. I’ll be quite civil.

And I’ll claim back each of the shot Sundays,
and every blank box on the crossword grid,
rake back each ribbon of hijacked mindspace
and weave myself a pair of fresh, new eyelids
and brush off all that you did, and undid.

Sunday 14 January 2018



The first discards are not even noticed -
the packing newspapers, old magazines,
the shift in the definition of local,
and the weather displayed on tiny screens.

One day too soon the memories are blurry
and previous city roads get unravelled.
The radio programmes, heights of doorframes
shift slightly to let you know you’ve travelled.

The last of the old supermarket’s brands,
bags bright in undegradable plastic -
a beaker bought there is suddenly broken
and shattered pieces of glass equal homesick.

You sigh, sweep up and throw them in the bin,
and that’s when the meaning of home sinks in.

I'm still celebrating the mundane, which is what I do, generally. I know, I should get a life! This year, I promise. I'll make a serious attempt. Right after I finish this post. 

Anyways, last month, last month? year end, I was talking to my friend, and of course, we started with something very crisp and concrete on the agenda and wound up someplace completely unrelated-fuzzy, history, and homes, and the meanings of both.  And something that was said - home is shared history, the stuff you carry around, the interior of the mind and not the interior of the house - must have stuck in ye olde subconscious and produced the above. 

An Egyptian kettle and a teamug broke in the  meantime, I don't know how they managed to sneak in here. But things have got to a pretty desperate stage if broken mugs and electrical appliances are making it to poems! Must find mundane, but less mundane, stuff to celebrate. Pronto!

What are you celebrating today? :)

Sunday 7 January 2018


The yin and the yang, the fizzle, sizzle and bang
the sparkle, the circle, and line
oh, I am grateful for all, the short, tall, oddball,
the glass and the fuss and the wine.
The stable, unstable, the three-legged table
so long as there’s place it’s just fine.
The pins and the prongs, and the fork’s probably wrong -
but I’m grateful it’s still got tines. 

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Hello, 2018!!

Not many photos of the grass
-  so remiss! So remiss, because
the earth there wears a festive lace,
it shimmers when a mild breeze blows.

Not many photos of the grass
as it’s not in the line of sight,
effort’s needed to find the grace
that’s not obviously supersized.

Just one photograph of the grass
to snag memory in a snare.
The small always made even less,
ignored as if it isn’t there.

But the grass underfoot makes me ache,
it’s lace, and longing, and heartbreak.

I was in the African savannahs over the holidays. Got lots of photos of the wildlife, the big 5, the mammals, even the smaller less drooled-over species like dung-beetles and lizards. The variety and the beauty of the grasses blew my mind, the delicacy of their seedpods, the slant of their bending to the winds. I didn’t get too many photographs though, the breeze was always blurring the picture, when I made the effort to focus in the first place, that is. Which is odd when you think of it, because surely the star of the show in the grasslands ought to be the grasses and not befanged and betrunked animals?

But I got a few photos, and one of them is up there for your consumption, for whatever it’s worth. Not every magical moment/thing can be clicked and binary-coded into hard disks and boxed up even if I were to be less remiss – that too is a life lesson in acceptance.

I also had this vague expectation, fully aware it was wrong and therefore duly afraid of being disillusioned as well - this mixed and mixed-up expectation that somehow it would offer me a route to the utter peace, the aching content that the savannahs of my childhood did. It was a thinly veiled attempt to return to lapsed spaces and times. Which of course was doomed to fail from the outset. 

But as it turned out, it wasn’t a failure.  The landscapes of the East are different from the West where I spent my childhood - the acacia species, the missing baobabs, the mango trees laden with a totally different red-magenta fruit. Even some of the grasses felt different. But that heart-stopping hushed feeling when in the savannahs, stretching from where your feet are planted to the horizons? Exactly the same. You breathe deep, and you mentally clasp your hands together in gratitude.

Welcome! to M-i-V in 2018, which is going to be roughly the same as it was in 2017, but hopefully a little wiser, a little less remiss, with a slightly clearer focus on the grasses while keeping an eye out for the betrunked and the befanged in the savannahs of life.