Welcome to my A-Z 2018, for which I am revisiting Africa, the continent of my childhood and my dreams. The posts are, as always, infoheavy and opinionated, but they are sectioned off - some music, the day’s topic, couple writers, a slideshow from the safaris – plenty ways to cherry-pick. So you may consume just as much, or as little, as you're cool with. Zero obligation to agree with any of my views either, feel free to air yours :)

Monday, 28 November 2016

Turning



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

Hiraeth



Credit



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

Privilege



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! 




Sunday, 6 November 2016

Guess what?





Some wring their hands and grind their teeth.
Some smile, and drink it in.
Some flaunt it like a badge and cape,
some bear it with a grin.
Some treat it like a wound and staunch
the blood with endless gauze,
and some think it's a game of chance,
and some, a book of laws.






Currently can't get this particular metre out of my head - obsessed! (It's called 'common' or 'ballad' metre by the way, 8686 syllables, easily memorised, easily written to. Most frequently used in hymns, and sailors' ditties, and nursery rhymes, and ballads, for obvious reasons.) It's been on my mind since I reread some of Emily's verses in September - 'Tell all the truth but tell it slant/success in circuit lies...' Masterful! Don't you just love her poetry?!