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 :)

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Malfuf wa Malik : ...and Backstories...


Sometime in the mid-noughts, this song by Nancy Ajram was released. Nancy comes from Lebanon and is a very popular singer in the Arab world. She started her singing career in the late 90's while she was in her teens, and has sold many millions of records since. She has been the World Music Awards recipient multiple times, mentioned by Oprah as an artiste of note, and has also been the UNICEF ambassador in the ME. By rights she should have totally been part of the A-Z series, I don't know how she never made the cut, very remiss of me! Correcting that now - take a listen -



Finding Bernie

Around the time this song was released, we were relocated to Dubai after eight eventful and memorable years in Bahrain. Much had happened here to make me feel settled. The arrival of my son was the biggest life event of them all, I went back to India for the birth and stayed for a longish time. And realised how much of me felt out of place away from Bahrain even though I was technically ‘at home.’


Therefore, it came as a shock how pleased I was at the news of the new posting. I loved our life in Bahrain, we had each slotted into our individual places. It was weird, this pang of pleasure we were going to a new city, albeit not too far from Bahrain, but vastly different in terms of the looks and the vibes. Dubai had been for all those years our transit hub, we changed for the flight to Kolkata there every time we went back.  We had visited there too a couple times, and I hadn’t liked it much. Even weirder, considering.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Because Memory is a Bridge: Write... Edit... Publish...June 2017







It's time to return to Write...Edit...Publish... hosted by authors Denise and Yolanda, the sumptuous badges designed by Olga, and psst...prompt inputs by yerse troolee. Posting early to co-ordinate with Brisbane time. 

Gosh, I feel it's been ages since I was here last! The April challenge flew past and May and June I kind of tuned out, insanely out of routine. Kiddo's study leave/examtime is not good for mum's poetry writing, neither is Ramadan - the Muslim month of fasting, when working hours are reduced to six here. The males are home at unusual times, and I'm busy revelling in that rare commodity called family time, serving and being served coffee, and rather fattening snacks, at the oddest possible of hours. Oh, and we moved house, in the same neighbourhood, not across continents, merci bon Dieu for small mercies! School's out as of today, Ramadan's 3/4rs over, and summer's here, that's a bridge every year to go and visit family in India, we leave soon.  

The challenge for June is 'Bridges' and I'm back with a mixed up two-part post,  a bit of poetry, and mythology, and geology, and geography and folk traditions thrown in. Please read just the poem if you're pressed for time. Unless you're Donna, in which case you're requested to read the second, non-poetry, part :)

And I can't really think of the word 'bridge' without this song whooshing up instantly in the headspace. Because music too is a bridge...





Because memory is a bridge...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Fruit-seller and the Gita


The Fruit-seller by Mira Boolell Khushiram




His watermelons in an offhand heap
by the roadside under vivid blue plastic
sharper than the sky. Casual symbolic.
‘Just the action, mind. The fruit’s not yours to keep.’


But he hasn’t read those specific verses.
He peddles his wares wholly unaware
of hidden meanings, symbols, faiths and their
connects to the fruit that he disburses.


I often stop at his stall, it’s on my way -
he cuts me a juicy watermelon slice,
quencher of thirsts, symbolic and otherwise,
but he doesn’t know it. He picks and weighs


his wares, and allows me to attribute
a deeper meaning to both verse and fruit.





I am trying a collaboration today - letting the art of a dear friend unlock words in my head. The watercolour above is by architect Mira Boolell Khushiram, from Mauritius. Mira and I met in Cairo through a ladies group - she had moved in from Tunis and I from Dubai the same year, and we soon found we shared common interests. Many trips followed - to art galleries in Zamalek and the old Islamic monuments and bead and handicrafts shops in the Khan. She and I both moved out of Cairo the same year too. Expat lives, expat friendships, characterised by transience and more goodbyes than any normal heart should be allowed to handle. We keep in touch, thank goodness for technology!

Mira's interest in art goes back to her childhood, and she has worked with charcoal, oils, pastels and watercolours. While away from her architectural practice in Mauritius she worked in the studios of eminent Tunisian and Egyptian artists honing her skills further.  She is now retired from her profession and pursues her art full time, showcasing Mauritian life and the beautiful seascapes around her through her paintings. 

Her fruitseller invoked a very well known verse from the Bhagavad Gita in my mind - which basically exhorts folks to focus on what needs to be done and do it, without hankering after any benefits. 

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन |
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि ||

karmay-evādhikāras te mā phalehu kadāchana
mā karma-phala-hetur bhūr mā te sago ’stvakarmai



'You have a right to perform your prescribed duties, but you are not entitled to the fruits of your actions. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, nor be attached to inaction.' ~ Bhagavad Gita, 2:47.


The fruit-seller's cart - rather a poignant metaphor. Look forward to your feedback on this collaborative effort and thank you, as always, for reading.




Sunday, 11 June 2017

Forgotten cooled






Sometimes I forget to drink while it’s hot,
and later when I peer into the cup
it’s gone halfway down and a skin has formed,
marred the creaminess and puckered it up.


I could pinch it between finger and thumb
and remove it gently, reheat and restart
and finish it to the dregs as usual
but drinking halfway cup’s also an art -


not everyone can remove those skins
to lift them seamless requires expertise
and put that exact heat back in the drink -
preference is a matter of degrees.


So I pour it off, let the half go waste
the temperature makes or mars the taste.






Does it happen to you sometimes too? :)  The cup, the glass, the cafe, tavern, inn etc, someplace with lots of comings and goings is a staple of Eastern metaphors. Comfort food. Or rather, drink. I have a craving for it right now :)





Sunday, 4 June 2017

Tell me, where is poetry bred?


This is where poetry comes from -
the textured silk of the sea.
The sunset hitting a window frame
quiet iridescence of beauty.


The abrupt blinking of small screens.
Spider webs of unused rooms.
The stab that makes the silence scream.
Empty bottles of perfume.


The yellow ribbons of the road,
the white ribbons of contrails,
the silver shined parallel ropes
of long-distance vanishing rails.


The mists quivery with early light,
a lone boat returning late.
The scattered shrapnel of a life,
the shudder of a mangled gate.


The strange geometry of geodes.
Comfort zones of shaggy mundane.
The footwork of slow dancing blood
in the long corridors of veins.