Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Write... Edit... Publish... June 2021 : Great Wave

 



'Fractured' seems the right thing right now. So here's another one from far away and long ago - repurposed to fit the Write...Edit...Publish...Lite - 


The Hearthopper and the BusyBody


Take the heart.  The heart’s the dragonfly. It’s the grasshopper, that sings all summer and takes leaps of faith, from grass to leaf, from leaf into sky, halfway to the stars and falls back to the grass again, nonchalant.  Who vaguely knows that winter will come but will take care of itself.  Meanwhile the ant, oh god, the ant plods on.  Eat.  Sleep. Hoard.  Clean.  Eat.  Sleep.  Hoard. Clean.   The ant is the body, and her demands must be met, at all times.  Punctually.   To-everything-there-is-a-season-and-a-time-to-every-purpose-under-the-heaven kind punctually.  You know the type.  There’s one in every neighbourhood.  Earnest.   And sternest.  And lectures everybody far and wide about the importance of being both.

 

Now that winter’s almost here, she is rubbing her forelegs together in glee, waiting for the heart to turn up in her somewhat shabby but comfortable pad so that she, the ant, can tell her, the grasshopper, royally off for dereliction of proper duty.  She even tries out her lines with different inflections – you sang all summer? now go and dance all winter, and then tries it out with the emphasis on “sang” instead.  She has both of them pitch perfect.  She’s so conscientious, she doesn’t know when it’s enough.

  

But the hearthopper doesn’t turn up, she’s MIA.  Making most of the summer before it fades.  Rocking the equinox.  Living it up and down and sideways, burrowing real deep into the moment.  So the ant goes out in search of the grasshopper. Besides being the body, the ant is also a busybody.  And when she finds the grasshopper this is the conversation they have, the hopper and the ant, the heart and the body.

 

 

A:  What are you doing?  It’s going to be winter soon.

G: I know!  I have to finish this before the season flips,  this tune is for winter.  Requires some – um - fine tuning hunh?

A: What are you going to do for the winter? Have you got any food?

G (stops singing for a minute):  Food? Food?  Music is food, you illiterate nutcase, haven’t you read your thingamajig?

A: No, I mean really, what are you going to eat? How are you going to keep warm?

G: Listen, I got warmth completely sorted.  This tune? This tum ti ta tum tum ti ta? It’s to learn the shiverdrivel dance with. Dancing is going to keep me warm.

A (flustered and angry because the grasshopper keeps going off script) :  What the hell’s going on here? That’s supposed to be me telling you to dance all winter.  You’re being very irresponsible!  No food, no firewood, and dancing to keep warm. Jeez!  You’ll freeze to death!  Look at me, I’ve worked hard all summer and gathered everything, and now I am all set for the next three months.  You’d better do something fast.  Because I am not sharing any of mine.  Food. Or wood. 

G: No-o-o! You wouldn’t do that? You would? Not even wood?

A: No, certainly not.

G:  Okeydoke.  Keep it all to yourself.  But you do know that food tastes terrible when you eat it on your own alone, don’t you? Turns to ashes in your mouth.  That’s a scientifically researched fact.  Something to do with horrormoans.  Or is it pheromoans?   At any rate, some kind of moan interferes with the taste buds and messes up the entire chemistry of your oral cavity.  Tum tum  ti tum, tum tum ti tum.  Food’s in one end and out the other/memories are the thing to gather. 

A: Oh, you are incorrigible!

G:  Yup, that’s my first preference.  Corrigible is horrigible.  Not at all my cuppa. Or suppa. As you like it.


The ant finally sees she is making no headway and goes back miffed to her pad in the anthill.  In spite of being so well provisioned and warm, she doesn’t really enjoy her winter much because she has this nagging suspicion that the grasshopper is having way more fun. 


The grasshopper meanwhile learns the shiverdrivel dance and dances her way a little closer to the equator, where the grass is still green, and the trees are still in leaf; where the ocean raises great wave after great wave; and the river flows sharp and silver like the glint in a rascal’s eye; and the keenest stars hang like crazy huge fruits from the sky in the early evening even before the light has flickered completely out.

 

 

WC – 737

FCA


Read the other entries here

 


Monday, 14 June 2021

Clutching at straws

 


IV.


We spy on her constantly, lest she fly

and this too falls apart, this omen of sorts

where meanings of home and growth crystallise

in this strange space between landing and goodbye

amidst the dire pandemic news reports

and what a dove and her egg can symbolise.

The mundane can be charged with so much hope.

 

She clutches at her straws as I clutch at mine

and we’re both doing what needs to be done;

setting up a home is also dismantling

another in some other space and time,

till the final stop is given, or won

at the very end of all the travelling.

But for now the egg’s a straw and helps to cope.





Sunday, 6 June 2021

Nesting and de-nesting



I


A pair of doves has come to nest across

my window as I uproot my home here;

they’re building up theirs twig by twig by twig

as I find ways to optimise my loss.

Not just me though who’s moving out this year –

so many are – for reasons small or big.

As I move out, the doves are moving in.

 

As we move out, the birds, the beasts, the bugs

can breathe a little easy, find some room;

reclaim a bit of space for themselves

as we wrap up the picture frames and rugs.

The world, I believe, abhors a vacuum

on every level - floors and ledges and shelves,

and as we end our stint, the doves begin.


II


I will not see those fledgelings grow and fly –

these are my last few weekends behind these walls

these windows looking out on raffia palms

their spikes tethering a truncated sky

flailing between new towers and nightfalls.

I’ve wished myself elsewhere often, for the charms

of the sunset splashed vastness of a river.

 

But now the certain knowledge of leave taking

crumbs the whole with a patina, a glaze

of yearning for a few days beyond the date -

just to catch the doves finish what they’re making

to witness the mother raise what she lays.

But we always leave too early or too late -

our timings always off by a sliver.

 

III


We witness neither the new life come in nor

can hold the hands of dear ones that depart,

we’re pinned to our places in the world

by pathways, pandemics or proxy war,

mere spectators as nests empty or start - 

some lives undone as new ones are unfurled

somewhere behind us helpless, beyond our range.

 

The doves meanwhile - she sits quiet through the days,

her nest on the ledge is not too impressive -

just a loose mass, a crude bed of twigs and straw;

her partner comes and goes, he rarely stays;

they too are pinned in place, made as submissive

as we are but without our perverse flaw

of constantly chafing at, yet wishing, change.





Thank you for your patience if you've read till the end. I don't normally put up three part poems, stick to one part here, but this felt incomplete after I put in just part one.  Appreciate your feedback on the effectiveness of keeping to one or the whole, what works better for you? 


And a special thanks to Ramblin' with AM who shared last week's poem. Always great to get that endorsement and a leg up! Especially since I am not on Twitter. 


Have a peaceful and fun week. 




Sunday, 30 May 2021

What the meek inherit



 


Well, you’ve made your bed and you’ve lain on it,

now it’s time to rise, throw off the sheets

and forge a new mattress from these hardships

even if that means you’re out in the streets

in the night. Look up, there’s a skyful of stars

for you still, a full moon - there’s room to breathe,

there’s space to become who you really are.

Some future planet may be for the meek

but this earth isn’t. And a true princess

will not put up with a pebble nor a pea,

a bedframe of arbitrary injustice,

headboards of unkindness and discourtesy.

Throw off those covers, step out - the world’s broad,

there’s fairness round the corner, down the road.





For all my sisters who've suffered unspeakable injustices due to/during the pandemic. 






Sunday, 23 May 2021

Entitled


 



Some days the sill’s empty. Some days it’s full.

Sparrows perch. A pigeon. A spotted dove.

Children’s laughter splashes around the pool,

clear summer skies if you cared to look up.

 

Sometimes the sill’s empty, sometimes birds stop by -

sometimes unknown raptors after a hard kill

wipe their beaks off before taking flight

nervous others stay far, on a parallel

 

ledge. But look closer, the sill’s not empty

the moults of bugs, dried palm spikes, a feather

signal what’s been. Less romantic bird droppings

pock mark the beige concrete. It was never

 

empty, just that you’ve trained, entitled your eyes

to look for doves, pigeons, laughter, clear blue skies.







Sunday, 16 May 2021

This too will pass...right?

 

How quickly the day passes, even without you,

away from your presence, like an exile alone

the weight of memory’s the weight of your bones

as light as a flake of ash, as easily blown

off with the lightest of puffs. Outside, the curfew

is a beast poised to spring. The hours are a dark spell.

The phone won’t stop ringing. I tell them, I’m well.

 

This too will pass, right? How quickly the day passes!

You’re memory of memory - your teacup was still there

unwashed with the dregs. The comb with your tangled hair.

Life’s just a banyan with its roots probing the air.

That morning you drank tea. Nightfall, you were ashes.

They ask how? and why? how will I be? what will I do?

I tell them it’s okay. That I’ll cope. Without you.  






Sunday, 9 May 2021

Mother's Day 2021

 

মাতৃদিবসে কখনো বলিনি তোমায়

ভালোবাসি, ভালোবাসি। হয় নি প্রয়োজন

সাজানো স্তবক, আড়ম্বর।  ছোট ছোট কথায়

মাপি নি মাতৃত্বের এই অগাধ বন্ধন

প্রজন্ম প্রজন্মে গাঁথা।  পূর্ণ নিস্তব্ধতায় -

এখন আর বলার নেই উপায়, তবু মনে হয়

কিছু কথা না বলাই ভালো। সব কিছু বলবার নয়।

 

বহু কথা বলা, শোনা হলো এ জীবনে। 

ছিল যে মমতা তোমার হাতের স্পর্শে, যে আশ্রয়

তোমার আঁচলে, হঠাৎ হাসি ফোটা চোখের কোণে,

ঘুমপাড়ানি গানে সেই প্রথম ভাষা পরিচয় -

ভোরের কুয়াশার মতো ঘেরে, ছেঁড়ে কিছুক্ষণে

পড়ে থাকে নীরব  শূন্যতা। তবু মনে হয়

ও কথাটি না বলাই ভালো। সব কিছু বলবার নয়।



Automatic translation by Google,  minimally tweaked 


I never told you on Mother's Day

I love you, love you. Didn't need to

arrange stanzas/bouquets, fuss. Didn't ever measure

with tiny words this deep bond of motherhood 

carried from generation to generation. In complete silence -

now there is no way to say anything, but still  I feel 

some words are better unspoken. Everything need not be said.


Much has been said and heard in this life.

There was that compassion in the touch of your hand, that refuge

in the loose end of your sari, a sudden smile in the corner of your eye,

the first introduction to language in lullabies-

they surround me like morning mist, vanish after a while

leaving a silent emptiness. Yet it seems

those words are better left unsaid. Everything need not be spoken.





Happy Mother's Day! - to all mums who are here and those who are not.




Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Reflections : A-Z ... mindspaces ... cities ... n ... suchlike ...

 



This year I did the Challenge for an entirely different set of reasons. Partly out of force of habit. Partly as therapy, or at least, the hope of therapy.  I thought the discipline, the routine, the research, would help me climb out of this mindscape of despondency.  I didn't do the theme reveal because obviously I didn't have a theme. I didn't sign up on the master list, because I didn't really think I'd be able to handle new visitors. I wasn't ambitious with return visits or commenting. Quite clear about it being a very different, pared down sort of participation. Considering all that, I've done okay - I managed to finish even though I forgot the order of the alphabet and most of my entries got posted in the nick of time before the date flipped. So yes, I've survived. 


But the news back home got progressively horrifying with each day and the month ended with another bit of terrible news, the very traumatic and untimely death of a very dear family member in India. This year is turning out a worse nightmare than the last, I didn't think that was possible even. At times posting for the A-Z was the only thing keeping me sane, at times it was a chore, at yet another it felt like a thanksgiving for the grace that's come my way in these hard, never-ending pandemic weeks and months. Indeed, I am very aware of the blessings, as much as I'm aware of the grief, both collective and personal. 


My heartfelt thanks to Elephant's Child, Joanne, Hilary, Kristin, Alex, Denise and Yamini for sticking around through April and throughout this pandemic insanity. Your friendship and support, online and off, means a lot. And thank you to A-Zers AlanaLisa, Frederique, Deborah, Gail, Jemima and co-hosts John Holton & J Lenni Dorner for dropping by and commenting.  Also to the entire A-Z team for the monumental work they do.  


So. Have I enjoyed the A-Z? Have I written myself into a better place? I can't honestly say I have. But that's my issue, nothing to do with the A-Z. It reminds me of a favourite poem by Cavafy  - The City, which basically says once your life's ruined, you can't escape it by going someplace else. Today it feels true for mindspaces as well.  I'm still freaked out about problems which have no solutions, except for time. Today, everything's at a standstill and chaotic, not in a good place. Tomorrow, who knows? I might do better.  Correction, I will do better!



 






Friday, 30 April 2021

Z is for ... Zigzag

 




You’re zigzag lightning behind shut eyelids

even when fatigue knocks all time sideways

you’re the shape of sheets scrunched up on the bed

the meaning in a sudden turn of phrase

as it comes to mind and then to the lips.

You’re a storm sweeping in from the north west,

and a threadbare cushion carelessly left

on the sofa, flat against the armrest.

You’re in the contact list, the recent logs,

in a thousand texts and captioned photos

in printed words, images framed in scallops,

wreathed in the past - sheer tissues of long ago

vague tangible online and off, in routine

everyday and everynight and in between.







A-Z Challenge 2021  


Thursday, 29 April 2021

Y is for ... You

 




Some days when the sun’s high and a single bee

buzzes against the glass before it zooms

off chasing the real thing and I’m half asleep

over the screen, wrapped snug in the gentle heat

of the afternoon, it vaguely feels to me

you’re there in the house, just in some other room.

Some days when the sky’s a haze and doves in pairs

sit pecking the concrete on the window sill

the TV’s on mute and I’m just half a mind -

other half’s gone rushing off after a rhyme,

the doorbell rings, some footstep’s on the stairs

and I think for a sec you’ll answer it still.

But then the bell goes again, a strident tone,

I get back up with a lag. And I’m alone.






A-Z Challenge 2021  


Wednesday, 28 April 2021

X is for... Xennials

 


Xennials are a demographic - a microgeneration on the cusp of  Gen X (born 1965-80) and the Millennials (born 1981 - 96).  Researchers and popular media use the classification for people born between 1977 to 1983. They are old enough to have an internet-free childhood, but have spent their work lives online. 


It's a segmentation that was coined by two media people for the online magazine Good in 2014, in an attempt to figure out the perks and downsides of generational identity of those people who didn't fit in with the Gen X or the Millennials.  Read the original here. The major characteristic of the Xennials (pronounced Zen-ee-uh-ls) according to them is that they are a bridge between the disaffection of Gen X and the blithe optimism of the Millennials. In many ways, they have got the best of both the cohorts. 


Note that these demographic segmentations - the Boomers, X, Xennials or Millennials are 

a) based on the Western society, more specifically US society

b) useful and fun but should be used as guidelines only

There is clearly something useful to be gained in such classifications of generations, to have a handle on the social context and the collective, socio-cultural experiences they have been shaped by. But it is problematic also if carried too far -  obviously incorrect to treat an entire cohort as a monolith with the same life/cultural experiences. 


Indian ad/media-persons use a slightly different classification of the generations, tweaked to suit the desi market/society. Read about that here.









A-Z Challenge 2021    

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

W is for ... Water

 


I just needed to sort myself out, so I thought I'll have a look through the albums of pre-pandemic times and sit quietly - do something without words. So I made this video themed around water. The sound and sight of which calms me.  I hope you'll enjoy watching - 





A-Z Challenge 2021    


Monday, 26 April 2021

V is for ...Verse... Verily ... n ... Volunteers ...

 


Bohurupe sommukhe chhari kotha khnujichho Ishwar?

Jibe prem kore jei jon shei jon sebichhe Ishwar.

                                                                                      ~ Vivekananda

 

In front (of you) in various forms, why do you leave these to search for the Almighty elsewhere? The one who shows love to all creatures, it is he who serves God.

 

“Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Matthew, 25:40

 

The news out of India has been horrifying and beyond distressing in the last few days. Close friends, family members, friends’ friends and relatives – so many people I know are down with the virus. Kolkata has a positivity rate of 55%, West Bengal, my home state, is at 25% overall, up from 4% at the beginning of the month. I'm sitting here with my heart permanently thudding in my mouth, checking on people frequently, wishing I could tear myself away from the threads and feeds and 24/7 news headlines, yet glued to them. My feeds are choked with private individuals’, activists’ and journalists’ posts sharing helplines and urgent appeals from all over the country, trying to connect corona patients with the medical resources they need. No words for the eye searing images, everybody has seen them - as relentless as the virus.

 

The causes of this catastrophic second wave, this wholly preventable suffering and loss of life, the gross negligence and mismanagement, the sheer incompetence, the mind numbing governmental indifference – I’m not even going there, that’ll explode whatever is left of my brain. It boils down to monumental arrogance and vanity – at the very top sits a clueless megalomaniac and his blind Islamophobic fans who have led India down this path, deaf to all voices of reason, systematically breaking the spine of every democratic institution, curtailing freedoms, ramming bills and laws through, heedless of their relevance to the public good or their public acceptance. But like I said, I don’t want to be talking about this toxic man and this agenda of hate and discrimination.

 

What I want to tell you about is the Parsi community in India. They are originally Zoroastrians from Persia, who migrated to the subcontinent after the Muslim conquest to escape religious persecution. They number 69,000 in India, against a total population of 1.3 billion people, talk about minority! - I mean, it doesn’t even show up as a percentage, they are so minuscule. 


But their contribution to modern India far exceeds their weight in the population. Parsis in India are synonymous with charity and philanthropy, prominent Parsi families have contributed to the building of Bombay in the 18th century – landmark buildings and institutions in the city still bear their names. The community has produced industrialists such as Jamshetji Tata (called the ‘father of the Indian industry’), Neville and Nusli Wadia, Adi Godrej; prominent politicians of the Indian independence movement such as Pherozeshah Mehta, Dadabhai Nauroji and Bhikaji Cama; nuclear physicist Homi J Bhabha (‘father of the Indian nuclear programme.’)  They’ve given us several distinguished military officers including defence Chiefs of Staff, an Attorney General and a Chief Justice of India, heaps of educators, sportspersons, film and theatre artistes, authors, poets, singers, and professionals in other creative arts.

 

Serum Institute of India is the largest producer of vaccines in the world. It has shot to prominence right now because of the pandemic, but it’s been quietly producing vaccines against polio and measles and such like and supplying them to African and Asian countries for more than half a century now. Unglamorous but essential. It is playing a leading role in the production of the Astra Zeneca vaccine, not just for India but also the world over. Guess who set it up? Yup, a Parsi – Cyrus Poonawala. Godrej is producing the refrigeration equipment, Tata vehicles provide the transportation for the vials, which are again manufactured in a Parsi owned facility.  For an undemanding minority community which is not exactly a vote bank  that's a lot of weight they're pulling. 


But it's not just the Parsis. Elsewhere I read another post which commented on the frequency of Muslim names occurring on the lists of citizen helpline groups in cities all over India. This is despite the toxic Islamophobia of the leaders at the centre which demonised an Islamic gathering as a super spreader event exactly one year ago, yet lets the Kumbha Mela of the Hindus go ahead plonk in the middle of the pandemic. Despite the hatred and discrimination that is the driving force behind laws like the Citizenship Amendment Act. 


In another article journalists share the information that the Sikhs, another minority community, have organised an oxygen 'langar' in a Sikh temple -  a communal oxygen bank where anyone in need can go and hook up to a cylinder. Sikhs are big time volunteers even at normal unpandemic times, their temples or Gurudwaras all invariably run these communal kitchens on a massive scale where anyone, regardless of their faith, can go get a hearty, vegetarian meal.  The holiest Sikh spiritual site, the Harmandir Sahib Golden Temple in Amritsar, runs a langar that feeds 50,000 people on an ordinary day. That can spike to 100,000 during a festival.  The biggest, holiest Hindu temples, on the other hand, do not permit non-Hindus to enter the temple precincts. 


From where I am standing, it looks like the Indian pandemic response, in the total abdication of all central government responsibility, is driven largely by ordinary citizen volunteers. And the minority communities seem to have a disproportionately large share in that effort. For all the vociferous and aggressive chants glorifying Hinduism, it seems to me the minorities, the non-Hindus adhere to Vivekananda's teachings far more closely. 




A-Z Challenge 2021  





 


Saturday, 24 April 2021

U is for ... Unusual... n ... Unprecedented ...

 



Something strange has happened – it’s vaguely shocking and at the same time it’s making me smile too. Sitting here wondering -  does one swallow a challenge unmake? Can one can aim to be a survivor if…one has kind of swallowed up a day and a letter? Because that’s what’s happened here – I have somehow gone from R to T without pause or stumble. I mean, this could be serious. I've forgotten my alphabetical order, no kidding -  either the pandemic has unhinged me or… 

 

And I had such sumptuous plans for S too, given that it is one of the most frequently used letters. From Snell's Law to sericulture, from Shakespeare to spectroscopy, from schools to schooners - there are a gazillion subjects to talk about. At first I thought okay, let's just scribble something for the S post and sneak it in backdated somehow. Then I thought - nah, it is what it is. Embrace the error and be sincere. Honesty is the best and the easiest policy. Stay calm and carry on.  


The packers are scheduled to come in on Saturday, that is later today, I guess that adds to the general confusion and shambolic state of brain and mind as well. Every relocation is the same and also unique in its own way, but this one's a little unusual. This is the relocation to end all relocations, we're headed back to India this time.  After twenty five years in the Middle East. India has changed, so have I changed since ye olde motherland and I lived together at close quarters for any significant length of time. Then there is the pandemic which throws its very own spanner into the works - I'll probably land up at the peak of the second, more deadly surge.  Not so super timing. That too adds another layer of uncertainty


Underlying the whole move is the reason for it - which is no more valid. I am going back to an unoccupied, empty parental home. Best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley. Well, this one of mine has gang spectacularly agley. I don't know how to define the emotions - don't quite know which words to pin where. Sadness, melancholy, regret, apprehension - none of them fit properly. 


I have moved house many times - across cities, across countries, across continents. I've lived a surface-rooted life all my years, the average stint in any one home has been a little over two years.  So I detach easy from places and houses once the decision is made. An easy, uncomplicated transplant. Not this time though. Not one of my protocols feels like it is working. But Och! I backward cast my e'e on prospects drear/An' forward tho' I canna see, I guess an' fear. I thought I knew exactly how to handle relocations, how and what to feel and what to do about them. But this time I don't. This time it feels different, the entire template, the process, its demands on me. It feels like...yeah, you know what? - exactly as if a letter has been strangely dropped out of the alphabet, a frequently used consonant has suddenly gone missing, and no-one knows quite how to find it and insert it back in its correct position. It's unprecedented.  And somewhat unsettling.











A-Z Challenge 2021