Thursday, 19 January 2017

Après toi le déluge?

This alone, the depths of afternoon, lunch
prepared and consumed, the repletion paired
with the emptiness of hours, offhand warmth -
somewhere in it - contentment is layered.
I know you can’t forget the avalanche
forecast for tomorrow, nothing halts midair,
not a single snowflake can be turned, changed,
persuaded to retreat or fall elsewhere -

every drop and flake reaches where it’s meant.
But today a pale faced sun lies languid
on the stubs of grass beyond, no portent
mars the skies, the road runs quiet on the grid
and streams and times are silvery, quite fluid.
No grand sweeps, happiness is a moment.

There seems to be some sort of epidemic of French titles around here, I've no idea why or where that's come from.  I do NOT speak a word of French, much as I am fascinated by French stuff (that's art and short stories and long stories and food and beverage mostly, before anyone gets any ideas...)

All this month I am trying to write 'happy' and failing generally. However, I have managed to steer clear of exclamations.  And emoticons as well.  Serious success. That's happiness enough for the time being, I can live with that.

Monday, 16 January 2017

At the Corniche

They are far out, walking the promenade;
and returning flamingos group in the bay -
the pulsing reflections of pink and grey
are an echo from sunsets past, the mud
exposed at low tide, shimmery with facades

of buildings and a too early neon ad.
A woman runs, the winds billows her robes,
tugs her scarf askew, the last sunlight probes
contours of waves and time, breathes and shreds
itself on lampposts, glow-in-the-dark keypads,

headlights, taillights, sodium yellow and red.
There are small spaces carved for fluorescent
twilight shades, the impossibly transient.
The father and son, small figures are dotted
on the grey paved concrete thread far ahead.

Content isn’t concrete, corniches, rooms;
it’s just a minute to feel the continuum.

Still trying to pin down definitions of happy and happiness. I know it when I see it - unmistakeable. Have a happy week ahead.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Bonjour Bonheur

Hello Happiness! Hello, Stranger!
I knew I’d recognise you straight off
even though we’ve never met – it’s been rough
for the longest time, yet I wonder

if you’ve had it smooth? as smooth as you’d like?
It can’t be easy putting on that smile
day after day, pick a base, decide
where to stay put, when to go; mostly life

upends the anchors when least expected.
Humans make poor hosts, their own innate drive
is to prod things. They compel you to leave.
Are you happy with being a nomad?

I at least have the thin pretence
of freedom, and love of this existence.

I don't do resolutions but I started the year with a vague sort of goal - 'minimal exclamation marks' and well, that didn't last long, did it? :) Shot to pieces ten days in.  And even when the prompt is 'happy' - yes, the real actual word - and I start out determined to write something upbeat and positive and merry..... aaargh! No pen control. So frustrating. Is it just me? :)

Maybe I should add emoticons on the minimal list too...on second thoughts...

Friday, 6 January 2017

In my house there are a hundred half-done poems

All of these poems unfinished, spaces crammed
full of half-uttered words, inert, tongue tied.
Interrupted windows, staircases jammed
with mindless tics and turns and asides,
with untaken steps to retrace, strengths untried

to fling the whole purpose away, start again.
Nothing feels it’s honed to a polished end,
tightened so well that it won’t spring open
next season, at the touch of buttons. Fattened
enough for blades. Lean enough to be deadened.

A hundred of them precarious, unravelled -
each memory in its groove wrongly filed;
some thumbsore, others ignored, mishandled.
The woods and cells and walls poorly styled,
imperfect the rhymes and rugs, unreconciled.

Nothing finds a closure in a short lifetime -
the entire house left open by a crack of rhyme.

First thing in the morning today I read about Om Puri passing away, and the title line which is from a famous Mary Oliver poem called 'Thinking of Swirler' flashed into my mind. And that line kind of ambled into this poem. A sonnet-ish form of my own, with an extra line after each quatrain. Fattened, if you like, ready for the blade.

'Each of us leaves an unfinished life.' Indeed.  Om Puri was a favourite in my cine-going days in Delhi, when I frequented the Indian Panorama at the film festivals, because they were the cheaper tickets - available for two-three rupees each.  The foreign films too of course, as many as I could afford. Om Puri was starting out those days, and rose to a major force in Indian Parallel Cinema. I remember some mesmerising performances by him - Aakrosh, Ardh Satya, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Sadgati, he was flawless in every film. 

As I left India mid-nineties, my relationship with Indian Cinema became a little distant subsequently.  I haven't watched any of his later films, but I have followed his career. Beyond saddened at his passing, and a little shaken too - has the loss of Western artistes that characterised all of 2016 somehow infected India now?? 

Mr Puri, you will be sorely missed.

Monday, 2 January 2017


Festivals that seep into rooms
somehow by osmosis;
faraway strains of childhood tunes;
streamers peeping through mists;

a rainbow in a small oil slick,
preserved daisies in books;
flamingos clustered close and thick
somewhere behind the souqs.

The gentle turns of planets, years,
seamless the season’s bends,
the random points marked on a sphere
for beginnings and ends.

Wishing all here a fun, creative and positive 2017.  I got an email greeting which said 'may your happiness break all previous records' and I'm shamelessly plagiarising that. Record breaking levels of joy - that's my wish for you this year. Stay blissful, stay well.

Monday, 19 December 2016

The Last Post...Write...Edit...Publish...

It’s time to head back to Write...Edit...Publish… for the last post of 2016.  This month the prompt is Utopian dreams, as enticing as all the others I’ve written to throughout this year.  A special year-end vote of thanks to Denise and Yolanda for creating and hosting this very special bloghop! Incidentally, this is my 500th post (yay! and....phew!) - it feels entirely appropriate to celebrate this milestone in the company of WEP-ers. 

I started off writing something quite different in tone. But there were some dire news reports coming out around the time, so my story kind of went off track into something completely different.  At first I had thought I’d wrap up the whole thing in a thousand words and be done, but Heba the MC has other ideas….this story is now more than 5000 and no end in sight….so I am presenting an excerpt which adheres to the word limit. 

This is the story of Heba the refugee, the Utopian dream in this case is Saeed’s, Heba’s eldest son’s, which remains unrealised in the story as he has already been killed by the time it opens.  Heba and the family have found asylum in USA where Saeed had dreamt of going. The resettlement becomes an ordeal for Heba through a series of circumstances, her insecurity and confusion rising with the campaign rhetoric and climaxing with the election results.  Saeed’s Utopian dream thus morphs into a nightmare reality in Heba’s life. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Nah...thanks, nothing that can be broken

I’m not committing to a thing
that can be broken, chipped, or marred.
The year can take me anywhere -
unending oceans, city squares
cut up neat between their boulevards,
edges soft with leafsilk lining.

I’ll not be making resolutions -
anything that’s hard to keep.
I’ll be easy in my shoes and skin.
The year is free to take me in
or throw me out, and I’ll sleep
on its pebbled grounds, or oceans.

I’m not running so panic stricken,
wringing hands, trembling with fright.
The path’s a thin thread but I’m on it
and everywhere I stop to sit
there’s birdsong and bread. Some trick of light
makes it a destination.

I have to admit I am not a very systematic person, especially where things like goals and resolutions are concerned.  One year (and I can't even remember which, so deep in my past this is buried) I came up with some vague phrases - try something new, be more mindful, work on patience, STOP panicking! and called them my resolutions and they looked good even after the year was over, and so I never bothered to make any fresh ones. They have served me perfectly well for as long as I have had them.   

Last year try something new translated to a new recipe every month - looking back it feels way more energetic than I thought I could ever feel!  This year has whooshed past before I consciously got to grips with what new stuff I could try even. But I have ended up doing a bunch of things for the first time in default willing-spirit, woolly-brain, weak-flesh mode anyways, so I guess it's okay, I'm on track still. 

That's all I am going to do for 2017 too - stay on track most of the time, and veer off whenever it feels it'd be worthwhile, and stop anywhere that looks like it has some cool birdsong :)  What are you planning to do with 2017?

Monday, 5 December 2016

Hakuna Matata!

The whole year’s a protest vote,
the entire world’s gone right.
Anxiety’s a rupee note
demonetised one night.
The hospital’s just a shell -
frontline for a proxy war.
The rose is a rose minus smell.
The sea’s a plastic tidal swell.
But the afternoon news at four
said democracy’s doing well,
what are you worried for?

It conquers all in the end
whichever road you take.
The foe of a foe is a friend
give protocol a break.
And sovereign countries are equal
but some are a little more.
The rose is a rose, the guns lethal.
The shop’s closed down, the meal’s frugal.
But the afternoon news at four
said the stock market’s doing well,
what are you worried for?

The anthems of the citizens small
are quite audibly low.
They plod, and trudge, they fight and fall
wherever they might go.
But the Defence is phenomenal -
from mountains to seashore.
The rose is a rose, media’s social.
This status's likely illegal.
This afternoon, the news at four
said by and large we’re doing well,
what are you worried for?

Still in stocktaking- and common-measure-mode, folks! :) Just a few more days to tote...I mean, before the holidays begin in earnest. To be honest, I get into holiday mode on 1st December itself.  But I have a milestone exam candidate in the house this year, so probably no travelling. Painful.  Big time cabin fever alert. 

Though come to think of it, this might be just the chance to tie up all the loose ends and half-done writing projects abandoned because of lack of time or some other rubbish excuse....hmmm...

Wish you a lovely week and run-up to the year end.

Thursday, 1 December 2016


The details slip, how blue the sky, how white
the foam, how high the waves rode in the sea,
rough or tranquil – and its exact degree.
The sharpness of the moment and its insight.

The image slips, whole edges blur with age,
some colours rub off, some fade’s added in,
things once intense and profound slowly thin,
covers wear, silverfish damage the page.

The hours slip, while I panic and clutch
at that elusive word, picturesque phrase
must nail it down, stick it in, or the haze
will take it all beyond reach, beyond touch.

And yet it slips, fast and slow, part by part
nothing is safe in the brain or the heart.

Have I told you about the final year-end challenge over at Write...Edit...Publish...? Sign up's today, post on or before 21st.  Off to start on my piece. Join in for an interesting, imaginative prompt and of course the gorgeous badges...

Monday, 28 November 2016


The year’s one long orange peel thrown on the floor
most segments sucked dry, they're giving nothing more
leaf flurries of words caught up in crosswinds
and chat shows about children tangled in war.
Each day has its spinoffs in love and suffering
the old deaths, and young deaths nipped firmly in spring,
drifts of people who don’t know what they’re out for
and minutes which don’t know quite why they’re turning.

Gosh, I am in stock-taking mode already! Every year, this process telescopes into itself and gets weirder and weirder.  I mean, one moment I am trying really hard to remember the year's called 2016 now and the next minute it's zoom! autumn going on 2017...but thankfully there's still a bit of breathing space.  

Blogposts so far - 83
Poems - 75 (Eng) 37 (BEng)
Short stories - 5.5
Anthologies - 3 
Writer's, and other, blocks - 332+

I've written less than I did, posted less than I did compared to 2015, probably a good thing on second thought! Probably greater focus on quality.  A few writing weeks got knocked off because of various illnesses - mine, family members', hardware's, none of them fatal, so far.  Loads of firsts this year - wrote poetry in Bengali, took writing courses, wrote genres I don't usually write, read modern poetry for the first time in life, and even understood some of it! Nothing much really to whinge about still, and with only one month left to navigate. Not counting my chickens before they hatch or anything like that, you hear me, universe? Keep turning it the way you are.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016



I still know how to draw those maps, boundaries
of vanished places, craving deep-rooted trees
whistling out of sight now, the slight lift of dust
feathered into a storm, fleshed to grey and rust,
the north winds in the long grass at different degrees.

Rinse. Repeat. Repetition doesn’t change things,
nor needle-sharp new words, seed no new meanings;
the landforms, the contours, the topography
still the same, guinea corn grits crumbing my knee,
an empty clothes line bejewelled with starlings.

The world thrashes, then falls back into its groove,
only a tidal murmur persists, out to prove
every line washes away, but then the sands
reconfigure into the same coasts, same lands
without the pen or my hands having to move.

Hiraeth is actually a Welsh word, I've no idea how the Welsh got so Bengali!! Or how this Bengali got so Welsh without ever setting a foot in Wales?! :) 

It means a hard to pin down homesickness/nostalgia for times and places and homelands lost.  I have been craving me some Africa this week, well, a spike in the hiraeth really, because who, having lived there once, doesn't crave Africa all the time, right? The grandmotherland of us all and the silver lining of whole lifetimes.

It's been an eventful November so far, both the outer world and inner thrashed, but now back into the groove hopefully, running smooth and low key.  Hope yours is running smooth too, at the exact key you want.

Sunday, 13 November 2016


The curtain’s cracked silk, and the dawn comes in
and darkens again. I’m glad I was here
when you sang beyond these windows – anthems -
defiance – profane - that was also a hymn -
though the meanings weren’t immediately clear.

Glory, I guess, and grief too, must be felt
before the seaweed heroes can be seen,
waters and wakes that must be cupped and held -
webs of light and sound, and jet-ski rebels,
before trash flowers float on aquamarine.

The waves tonight are banded with debris
of amber light, the skyline polychrome.
I’m held up by this flimsy balcony
made of words, wood and brick, a tracery
of senses. And the jet-skis have gone home.

Some truly ghastly things happened out in the world since I wrote here last, but the silver linings are still there - except those nothing is permanent. Most changes are reversible, or cyclical, or something like that, takes their edge off. Anyways, everything is maya and moh, all elected leaders serve their time and leave, no matter how hard they might grab at anything. Also  a little shocking the cavalier attitude of certain nations! I mean if Russians have a say in everything, then surely I and my RotW-fellow-citizens should also get our share of voice, no? Someone has started an online petition for just that, 'in-a-fair-world-everyone-should-be-allowed-to-interfere-equally-in-the-US-elections' type of thingy, I am happy to report :) 

Back in India, the PM announced without any notice that a couple of denominations of banknotes would stop being legal tender after Tuesday midnight. Now I live away from ye olde homeland, so you'd expect this would not affect me. Except that I have only those denominations here, and so far not one option has been devised for expat Indians to change their notes back if one is not physically present in the country. My entire pitiful wad of Indian cash will have to be shredded. So I am going to be even more broke than I already am, didn't know that was even possible! Thanks for showing me there's more nuances to being penniless than I had thought, Mr Prime Minister! 

Seriously though, the one irreversible change that affects me the most, is the passing of Leonard Cohen - a poet and songwriter close to my heart since I don't know when. Many of his songs are my comfort blankets, my go-to dose of solace in out-of-control situations (e.g. when some obnoxiously rude, misguided misogynist lost to all sense of decency and what's due to high office might get elected to it halfway across the world. Or when your own PM gets into some weird Cinderellaesque mode, also halfway across the world.)  

Hallelujah, Suzanne, Dance me to the end of love, Everybody knows, no knowing how many times I have listened to them. He's seen me through teenage acne to middle age cash crunch.

Heartbroken, devastated, desolated, anguished, I saw these words circulating freely on social media, but I've no words for the profit and loss this past week. The profit side always seems heavier in my eyes, no matter how many notes stop being legal tender or how dismal the misogyny index of the world. 

All I can say is that I am profoundly grateful that I was here on this planet growing up, and growing old, when Leonard Cohen sang. Some privileged upbringing!