Monday 30 May 2022


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.

Saturday 21 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



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



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