The tragic gaps
widening as ever—
between a state of feverish dreaming and contrarian truth
idealism and reality in opposing cycles, perpetual
hope and negation; negation and hope
strife in peace and otherwise.
History—pickled and preserved in museums of minds, places and textbooks composed as per the expediency of a winning force, to be defeated and to rot like Ozymandias
the long pendulum swinging between what- was-to-be, what-was and what-was-not-to-be, nudging towards a future dripped in the grays of uncertainties, like the mists covering the far-off summits, there, yet not there, but visible to the inner eye of an awakened mind.
Memory of a promise, yet unfulfilled
the middle-class primness respectability manners and
maintained by the slave labour kept under the whip and proselytized by promise of heaven and a kingdom for the poor up above—somewhere
the costly life-style of the cruelty, on free estates—in the land of rising democracy
the white privilege posed for camera—for posterity
formal, affluent; men assertive proud; women with dainty caps and demure smiles, decked up, the dolls of the colonial narrative
the power/dominance of a wealthy section and superior colour— framed by a sturdy house with porticoes and discussions of Rousseau and Voltaire in alien settings of dark plantations in a continent over run by exiles
now that splendour—all a shard buried
that vista viewed from the deck of time
the moments of today and gone
lingering or lapsed in the sinking marshes
unlikely combos—meshed together as crushed seeds
in an urban yard gone to the dogs, the master/hunter missing
a poetic mind remembering the futility
of all such ideologies thriving on bloodshed
(Inspired by Louis Kasatkin’s poem: Lamentations)**
** Editorial Footnote
The original poem referenced can be viewed on this Site.
hmm, well, well,
the world is nothing
a heart that sings
despite being hooked to a catheter
or plugged with a stent
in an ICU
where death and life flicker
like a candle in the air.
and makes the same words
dulled with use
into great lyrics
that folks often hum
on rainy nights
to soothe frayed nerves
That day he understood.
the laundry to be put out
and the lunch boxes to be made, before the
bus arrived to take the kids, bit before
mid-day…and other chores,
without any respite!
the maid played truant
as if destiny wanted it that way only.
she, the wife, ill
he, running around
the suburban Mumbai apartment
answering door bells, cold calls, couriers
and storing filtered water in bottles
due to daily shortage
then straightening the rooms
piling the newspapers into a bundle
managing the washing machine
and the office e-mails, simultaneously
—he, working from home, that hot day,
muttering sotto voce, all the obscenities—
his feet running off a tired body
about to tilt like the Tower of Pisa
the manager- guy understood perfectly
what does it mean to be a superwoman
with multiple hands
a galley slave
but never-ever grunting!
those sexy ads
of working women
becoming a grim reality.
the being that was a 24X7 machine
the machine then
morphing into a smiling wife
a great care-giver
to an ungrateful/uncaring
fat Indian middle-class family!
in the office, phone or home
it is dead-end lane.
Like the potted plants
withering in the tropical sun
for want of nurturing hands
with tapering fingers
with electric-red nail polish
that once glinted
as a gem
in the corner room.
Ma, in the next letter, please tell me more about Pa’s health.
Bit worried. How are you coping with your cough? Did the elder brother
Send some money from the Gulf? Or, has he defaulted again?
He has his family, I know but he has to send his share.
How is your fever?
Do tell me in your letter these things, too.
I want to know everything happening there.
Letters are the only source of information.
Take the medicines regularly. Last time I visited, you looked a ghost.
More than two years now. I want to visit you again in my beloved village…
Ma, let me tell you—saw the home in the dream…and you. I had cried so much!
The brick walls crumbling…the doors battered…the cow dung-swept courtyard!
Yes, Ma. In the dream, I visited.
Saw you working in the kitchen, alone. Frail. White-haired. Eyes vacant..
Your hands shiver!
I got depressed!
Yes, the house was real. I saw all the details.
The thatched roof. The sacred Tulsi flower. And a half-moon hanging from the Margo tree in the corner.
The north- Indian village looked the same as ever. Dusty. Decrepit. Narrow alleys. Caste politics. The violence and the earlier murders.
How is the money-lender? Tell him your youngest son, a car driver, sends regularly the monthly money orders. He need not bother.
Do not worry. I work for 18 hours and save some money by being frugal.
Next time, I will, in rains, get the roof fixed of your room.
You can retire there without the leaking rain water.
And save some more money to be sent to the second married sister also. Tell her she has got her own brother.
Do not worry. If all children turn their backs on you and Pa, I am always there…Just take care.
Your little son is 22 and has got a full life ahead!
But, Ma, please… do write the next letter!
You are, my dearest
As important to me
As a solitary wayside tree is—
For a thirsty-tired pedestrian
The slender outstretched arms
Providing soft green cover
To sweating him, on a May afternoon
In the polluted New Delhi humming with bulldozers
And cruel mercury
Touching a record-breaking
45 Degree Celsius!
They came down here
In the Calais jungle to escape
Their own jungle back home
In the Kurdish Iraq or Sudan.
The refugees risked lives
Across the dangerous seas
And landed in the beckoning France.
The dispossessed lived in tents and dreamed of
Better existence in a foreign land.
Things changed this week as
The French authorities came down to
Evict and demolish these primitive camps.
The refugees protested but to no avail
They stood no chance against the state.
The migrants had entered another hell
In that piece of cultured, democratic France
Home to the Revolution of 1789
Now—reluctant to host children of ethnic strife and violence
How things get changed over intervening time!
Dreams, not shelters, got demolished by the riot police
And refugees are again made homeless in civilized lands!
Cries the spirit of enlightened France.
Three kids, raincoat-wrapped,
Bulging backs, plastic bottles
Hands tiny, standing unsure,
Free hands interlinked,
Waiting to cross, a wet Mumbai road,
By wading through the screaming buses,
Bikes and fancy cars.
Three helpless figures,
Stoic and silent.
The mad machines come hurtling
Spread panic and hardly care for lives,
Or rights of the pedestrians;
The height of arrogance of the
Indian automobiles, terrifying missiles!
I will be with you Ashraf tonight and other nights
To listen to your poetry full of truths a great poet like you reveal.
Tonight, I will show solidarity with you through the simple act of reading your poems and thus, symbolically, like rest of the reading/protesting world against your
Death sentence by a Saudi court on most weak grounds.
What a great appreciation!
The public joins in a big event to condemn a refugee and a writer for writing beliefs, the foundational stone of great civilizations and clinging to them, not the ones enforced by blind systems.
Of course, I will not be joining any world-wide group but reading your poems
In my suburban Mumbai home and registering my tiny support to freedom of expression.
Mine is a subaltern voice not heard or found in any glam literary fest but it matters not because folks like me, middle-class, professionals, hard-working and angry with a greedy capitalism that keeps on reducing them to the hapless 99 % and this has become a real force as it has finally awakened and cannot be put down by hegemonic structures for long.
Ideas are material indestrubile. Dictators can never vanquish ideals and humanism.
The logic is simple.
More brutality; more resistance.
More Arab Springs will soon follow in frosty lands
More Occupy Wall Street campaigns across cities of the globalised village will erupt against One PPercent.
And more Ashraf Fayadhs blossom to oppose any totalitarian system through bare words and ideas potent to change the moribund!
I feel inspired by you, dear Ashraf, because, in the face of death, you refused to recant and decided to take on the Kafkaesque world by your bold stance.
By your courage you have proved the might of an individual who stands for democratic principles and that approach elevates your poetry many thresholds above from the anemic self-seeking poetry of today!
You are charged with blaspheme and atheism. Shelley, too, did the same.
Human rights are sacred and cannot be trampled.
Unknown to you perhaps, living in a cell, dear Ashraf, you have created your own religion of dissent and your actions have further sanctified the philosophy of literary resistance that has the power to topple notorious tyrants.
To-night, on other lonely nights, whenever low, I will be reading you to find inner strength to fight any system that stifles dissent.
You are our own
And they cannot kill the supporting millions!