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NEW BOOK RELEASE | SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS

Dear friends and family,

It is with great excitement and pleasure that I introduce my second book for the grownups – my book of poetry and essays titled SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS. The book will be available across bookstores in Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the end of December 2022. Friends in SL can currently order it from the Jam Fruit Tree bookstore on Galle Road via call/WhatsApp to 072-7268078.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

This is a collection of poems and essays, humble opinions, rumblings of the heart about the joys, the truths, the pain, the controversies, the funniness and the wonder that criss cross all our lives in one way or another. I have compiled them here because too many times, we are witnesses to profound beauty, love, dreams, desolation, prejudice and injustice and yet, we forget.

The contents of these pages range from the sublime to the ridiculous; from soaring on the wings of ecstacy to struggling with overwhelming despair; from the capricious joys of matrimony to the dubious delights of singledom; from the profound ecstasy in a mug of steaming latte to the ardent disappointment in a less than perfectly brewed cup of tea; from the comedic to the somber and from the customary to the controversial, this collection of poems and features encompasses them all.

Scraps of Poetry and Madness is a phrase borrowed from that literary Wonder Woman, Virginia Woolfe. For in this collection too, there is a stream of raw and strident, passive and ruminative, joyous and grief-bound, mad and glad thoughts that run like a melody through the entirety of its spine; and like a sore-throated bulbul (who also has some good-voice days) I have sung them all for my readers.

VERSE | REAWAKENING

I remember, I remember 
A little girl I used to know
She was bright-eyed and joyful
Her spirit had a special glow

She was filled with compassion
And a courage that fairly roared
The world was her oyster
She had found her wings and soared

But then I lost sight of that
Special one when I left home
To let marriage settle me
In its no nonsense folds

Time went on as it does
And more and more I found myself
Thinking of the little girl
A tender nostalgia for a friend

I looked for her on winter trips
That I occasionally made back home
But she seemed to have melted
Into the fading mists of dawn

When life came full cycle and
My youngest daughter was wed
I came back to write and roost
To my childhood homestead

There one balmy summer day
As I began to write
The story that had been hiding away
In the tumultuousness of life

The little girl peeked out at me
Not from behind the door
But from the page that I was writing on
From the ink on it that flowed

That day I met her again
Her happy laugh warmed my heart
Even as she flitted in and out
Of my vision at the start

But then she gently held my hand
As I wrote page after page
And I remembered, I remembered
As I found myself again.

VERSE | THE BRICK-FACED HOUSE

The morning glow touched its face
The brick-faced house in the street
It stretched out in the morning rays
Hide’n’seek with some it played
Its favourite morning treat

In the bedroom facing the east
I lay in sleep’s placid arms
The sun wore its morning beam
As it shone into my dawn time dreams
Oblivious of my late alarm

The house shook out its paint and bricks
Its nooks and crannies too
The mynah was already collecting twigs
To fix its nest, repair the rips
From last night’s stormy brew

The day wore on, the house filled up
With daytime smells and sounds
It shook and shimmered, belched and laughed
As it held us all in its matronly arms
Safe in its blessed compound

Evening came and with it the skies
Turned a beautiful rosy pink
T-41 too flushed with delight
Its terracotta facade catching the light
As it watched the twilight sink

The resident crickets began to perform
Their night time symphony
The house sighed softly gathering its form
It seemed like tonight would bring another storm
But inside its walls was warmth and sleep.

VERSE | SUNNY

The sun came round to play today
I’d left my smile in bed
He streamed in through my window
I looked at him with dread

My thoughts were dark and cheerless
As I came out of my room
I stepped o’er a bar of golden light
That threatened my clouds of gloom

I then went to the kitchen
The sun followed sweeping in
Catching me in his glittering web
My tea and toast and everything

Despite myself I smiled and then
Through to the lounge I went
But I sat in the darkest corner which
His brightness couldn’t rent

But by and by a square of light
Tiptoed up to my shin
Shimmering motes broke into dance
Pirouetting onto my skin

I grinned and turned my face towards
The joyfulness of the sun
He wrapped me gently in his arms
Warming me from the outside in

The sun came round to play with me
My spirit was edged with grey
But he kept beaming, shining on
Until he’d chased the clouds away.

VERSE | LOVE

I look at you with a thrum of love 
You look back with a smile
Your eyes crinkle affectionately
We’ve been together a while

I have stopped lingering upon
The outside of your being
For, years ago I fell in love
With what lies within the seams

Now I look into the depths
Of your twinkling, smiling eyes
And I see the gracious soul
That reverberates inside

I see the kindness that you bring
To the tumultuous world around
To the big and small, the young and old
You bring an empathy that’s profound

I see the pain and the passion too
Both heave in your very depths
One keeps you wise and rooted
The other keeps you forging ahead

I also see peace and calm
They rest quietly in your heart
When life sometimes disturbs, disrupts
They play their blessed parts

At your very centre I see the man
That you always strive to be
Dignified, upright, aware and true
All while you nurture your humanity.
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VERSE | JOY

When morning shakes out her dress
Of blue and gold and green
I hope that you can smile at her
Beauty as she preens

I hope that you’ve fulfilled some things
That you’d planned out for the day
As noon time jogs along your path
In his radiant array

As the tender blush of evening
Bids farewell to the sun
I hope you found joy in the tasks
That needed to get done

When at last night drops her cloak
Around the world and you
I hope that in your heart there’s peace
And the spirit to start anew

When morning sings her new-day song
And wafts in once again
I hope that you will dance with her
Heart to heart and hand in hand.

VERSE | TEA FOR TWO

It was two for tea and tea for two
Both meeting after a decade or two
Friends of old, kins of the heart
Separated by time and circumstance
Chatter and laugh over tea for two

Tea for two and two for tea
Neighbours for a year, kindred souls for twenty-three
They’d seen each other through thick and thin
Loving Kintsugi* mending walls where they’d grown thin
Catch up over two for tea

It was two for tea and tea for two
From working together their friendship grew
They had rejoiced in one another’s highs
And had held each other’s hands in trying times
Rendezvous over tea for two

Tea for two and two for tea
The sister and the brother sat quietly
The coolness of bruised hearts lay around
The air was rent with empty sounds
As they tried to build bridges over two for tea

It is usually two for tea and tea for two
That brings hearts together, both the sunny and the blue
Loving ones forge more joyful memories
Aching ones for a while find some peace
When they come together over tea for two.
* Kintsugi: The Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art.
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VERSE | SEASONS WHISPERER

Where are you going my little one 
With your hands full of summer flowers?
Why do you have that smile on your lips?
Why do your eyes shine like stars?

I’m coaxing with play the Summer away
She’s never ever happy to leave
She’ll pout and she’ll wallow, go all shades of yellow
She’ll moult in the throes of grief

But when I pick up her bloom-strewn dresses
And laughingly whisk them away
She follows along singing a song
And her sister takes up the reign

I’m the whisper of the breeze flowing in the trees
I’m the drops of morning dew
I’m the patter of rain on sun-kissed earth
I’m her fragrance as she breathes anew

I’m the usher of times, of blossoms and snow
I’m the forger of grand season farewells
I’m the music and cadence of the rhythm of life
I ring all its wistful and joyful bells.

VERSE | SWEET AWKWARDNESS

They look at each other 
Awkwardly
It’s been thirty five years
Since they’d last seen each other
Blood has flowed thinner, starker than water
For the two sisters
Now standing together

They sit down
It’s in the younger one’s home
The older one perches on her seat
Hands clasped around her knees
Knees bunched together awkwardly

The younger one makes the tea
The steaming, billowing pour
Softening, mollifying the tension
That has stretched like taut skin
Raw, painful, blue-complexioned
On the surface of the atmosphere

The older one reaches for the milk
She pours it into her cup of tea
Hesitates and looks at her
Wondering if she still drinks it
The same way she did before

The younger one nods, smiles ever so faintly
She puts the sugar in
Looks at the older one inquiringly
No, she didn’t have sugar in her tea
From each other, they both look away
At the steaming cups on the tray

The brews in the cups
Swirl for a while
Spin and beguile
Then come to rest
Pulling a film of whey and casein
Around their hearts
Hiding away from the scene
Hiding away from the awkwardness

“Do you remember -“
“Do you remember -“
“You used to love the milk skin on the tea”
“I used to love the milk skin on my tea”

They look at each other
At last
They laugh
Sweet-awkwardly
Eyes moist, hearts beating fast
The tension is torn away
Finally
In the gush of warmth
From the tea
From she looking at her
From her looking back smilingly

The older one looks at her cup
The smile still playing on her lips
She picks up her spoon
To remove the cream
Her sister never had it
Today she wouldn’t too

The younger one looks at her cup
Gazing down at the membrane
Floating in the milky brew
She picks up her cup
Her sister always had it
Today she would too.

VERSE | CRESCENT MOON

The crescent moon shone overhead 
She wore a tilted smile
I looked at her and asked wherefore
She smiled so, was she shy?

Convinced that in her timid state
She hadn’t heard my query
As she perched in her cosmic grove
Smiling lopsidedly

So I cupped my hands around my mouth
The lady was full of guile
“O Crescent moon, you nighttime boon
Give the world a real smile!”

She seemed to laugh and hid herself
In some gossamer clouds nearby
But her glowing curve still favored
The right side of the sky

I watched her play hide and seek
Showing a bit of her askew smile
Floating, gliding through the clouds
I was enchanted, mesmerized

I turned away, this sensory play
Called for a brew of tea
Mug in hand, when I looked again
She was beaming cheek to cheek.

VERSE | BEAUTIFUL STRANGER

I see her in the cafe 
She’s sitting on her own
Like me.
A cup of coffee
Rests in front of her
Lines huddle in the space between her brows
They’re furrowed now
In some private grief or anxiety
Only her cup knows for sure
As she stares into the darkness within
Her lips tremble for a moment
Just a bit. She takes a quick sip
Of the vitalising potion
Swallowing her emotions
Down they both go
The sadness and the coffee
Lingering on the inside now
I feel my heart go out to her
It hovers around her table
Softly, silently, wordlessly
I want to follow too
But we are strangers
It wouldn’t do
She looks up. She sees me
I smile and then I look away guiltily
Outside the window
And then down at my own cup of tea

I see her looking at me
Just a glance, a little look
Then away from the nook
I am sitting at
But that little exchange is everything
Even in that whisper
Of a gaze, that smile
I feel her compassion
Shimmering around me
Gently, silently, comfortingly
I look at her as she sits there
In her wheelchair
Reminding me that frailty
Is never on the outside
Her own courage shining bright
Has skipped across the room
Transforming into a tenderness
Shattering my spell of gloom
My heart lifts and wafts out to her
I want to follow after
But we are strangers
I turn back to my cup
And I smile
I hesitate just for a while
And then I beam across the room to her
My heart now light with gratefulness
Lit up by a beautiful stranger

VERSE | THE PLEASURE OF KINGS

I go to the kitchen and switch on the light 
A hazy, 5 watt bulb warms to life
I then put the kettle on
And while it sings its little song
I fix my square blue-flowered tray
Strainer, spoon and a little bowl
And one of my mugs adds to the whole
With a pinch of the most fragrant earl grey
It sits in its saucer and awaits
The steamy pour from the spout
Of the kettle as the water gushes out

Onto the teabag it flows in a rush
Steaming vapour billowing up
The mug is filled almost to the brim
Just enough space for milk, not skimmed
(Low fat is the best I can do
Playing around with tea is taboo!)
Then the iris-strewn tea tray goes
To the lounge, loaded with its amenities
In all of this, as its centrepiece
My mug puts on a steamy show

It blows kisses in fragrant plumes
Sending them wafting across the room
I kiss it back with my first sip
It’s the one that has the scalding nip
I close my eyes as it slides down
My throat, searing the flesh around
But that is the pleasure of tea drinking
A self-immolation fit for a king