Sunday 28 July 2019

Don't quite recognise this street


The map says the coordinates are the same, but 
something's moved, irrevocable, intractable
there seems to be less space around the round table
and if I try to speak, some young voice pipes up, cuts

me off mid sentence. The cushions have hardened
what was lived-in is now lumpy, there's vermilion 
on the wall, dried leaves, extra sprees of religion,
too much incense, and some freedom's drawn to an end.

I can't recognise this street address, I can't breathe 
for the smoke from ghee burning lamps, and the shadows
under them are the deepest, a golden flame glows
beside the threshold but the plinth erodes underneath.

The rug's frayed, the floor's crumbly - friable concrete.
It wasn't this way, don't quite recognise this street.

Okay, so I hope the political storms in the teacups of my brain are over. Of course everyone should take a stand to defend whatever opinion they hold, but I am glad it's out of my system. Don't get me wrong, I'm not for one moment saying that it's okay to be intolerant and obnoxious, just that I'm going to resist that tendency in our politics elsewhere. Here I'm happiest being bindaas and will be reverting back to that state forthwith.

All of next month I'm travelling - in USA for the first time, and meeting people I haven't seen in several decades, so excited! My post for the WEP is scheduled and I promise it's nothing political :) I will be catching up on the blog as and when I can. Meanwhile, have the most wonderful month.

Sunday 21 July 2019

Thirty Years Later


It's almost thirty years by the time I get back
and meanwhile all the furniture's moved around
even the window's broken - the street lights and sounds
whatever's within, beyond, feel like an attack,

an assault on the memories and their value.
How can this be home? the rose bush in the courtyard
has been torn up, paved over with a ruthless, hard
concrete and fancy pedestal, much to-do

with a tulsi and a trident. While I was gone
someone has changed the drapes, painted the parlour walls
in a stifling shade. There are many more keyholes.
From the street a strident speech pierces known comfort zones -

intolerance wisps in the air like chloroform,
slogans shove a wet rag on the nose. This is home?

Sunday 14 July 2019

Small my footprint


Not even the fringes will do, because
they are no longer safe or sane, unquiet
stalks me everywhere on earth, day and night,
upends the natural order, the laws
of compassion and civility. Pause
the diatribe, switch off that awful might,
the cameras, the cross-hairs of those rifle sights.
Hubris can't win unconditional applause.

But I'll escape deeper, further inward,
beyond the fringe, beyond the last desert
into forbidding terrain, but I'll cope.
I'll burrow with the antlions into hope
where the sharpness of neither steel nor word
can pin my silhouette within their scope.


But for now I'm here, and I'll stand my ground
however small my footprint, or how quick
the winds blur it. Unapologetic 
I stand here, and no-one will beat me down
with a mandate. They've been voted, not crowned.
The seasons, moons and success are cyclic
and that is that. There's no template, no trick
to avoid change forever, it will come around.

For now I am here, and I won't submit,
this is my patch. Here the sands don't permit
creeping flames, because there's nothing to feed
a fire, no undergrowth, no grass, not a reed.
Can't burn or stamp me out, can't try it -
a waste of matches for they can't succeed.

A few days ago, I shared a new Indian opposition MP's eloquent speech on my timeline with the tagline - the quality of your democracy is directly proportional to the space for dissent...well-said, lady! 

A couple of FB-friends who are avid supporters of the PM didn't like it, they thought the speech and the MP were anti-national, and by association I was too.  The assumption was illogical and they lapsed into rudeness and personal attacks when they couldn't win the argument. 

I generally stay away from politics on any social media, but...I do object strongly to incivility and shouting down. I don't approve of rudeness and rough language. And I totally don't approve of erosion of human rights and freedoms. I don't care a fig what size mandate you got. If you can't take care of your minority rights, if you can't take criticism, if you don't allow questioning or free thinking, you have no right to call yourself a democracy, largest my foot.

And today is Bastille Day which is a good reminder for all democratic people and their leaders. So I thought I'd share the verses here for the occasion. The universe's timing is always faultless, no? :) 

Monday 8 July 2019

Countdown to College

A hodgepodge carton of books and soft toys -
a whale, a dolphin, teddies, the Gruffalo
tucked away in a higher shelf because
you stopped needing, reading them, years ago
when you were five or six. Children outgrow
all their stuff quicker than mothers. I pause
the decluttering, though I know, I know
everything must go, boys are only boys

for a finite time. Yet I cannot bring
myself to throw away a single thing.
Some childhood remains in these residues
in soft toys for which you’ve no further use,
old and matted, beaded eyes coming loose;
in well-thumbed pages you’ve finished reading.

Monday 1 July 2019

Build me a home...somewhere on the fringes

There’s a peace in the fringes of the desert,
in untouched yellowed grasses of the earth,
sands marked with only antlions and birdprints,
in the cricket’s song and the pale moon’s rinse
on the unmarked path that’s barely a path.

It’s not that I have not loved the cities
the streets of bookshops, artworks, topiaries,
the tempests in the endless cups of tea
the bustle of trade, the quick repartee -
but they’re all smoke and change, nothing’s at peace.

In the capitals some or other tribe
jostles for power, takes a random swipe,
narrow minds and narrow rules deal hard blows
to ones they called neighbours just days ago
and peace is a stranger to urban life.

The sands are ever changing, ever still
the antlions likely still pockmark the Sahel,
the birds still sing, the trade wind brings and pours
a fine mist of dust wisped in from the north
only the grass trembles, the rest is tranquil.

But that Sahel’s a figment, just a dream;
the sands are churning, the grasses aren’t serene
some manic sickness has taken sudden hold -
and the innocent suffer all round the world
no antlions those, they’re something else it seems.

Build me a home where humans have forgotten
to aim and shoot, sharpen the war obsession,
where the Sahel and the green are both peaceful,
the olive shades the white dove and keeps her cool,
where ships are only transport and not weapons.