VERSE | BIRDS

I’d become an avid bird lover
Since the pandemic hit my town
Ere I never could relate except
As a beholder looking on

But then this pair of mynahs
Intrepid little things
Well one was bravheart, the other a mass
Of nervous fluttering

Decided that my balcony
Was a good place for some treats
So they would pay me visits
For some raisins and some cheese

I came to home number two
Carrying my avian love with me
Cooing pigeons in all forms
There frequented my balcony

Their rolling gait, their gentle sounds
Quite stole my heart away
And so I wooed them as they cooed
Treat-luring them everyday

By and by the guileful birds
Dropped their adorable avatar
My chairs and tables were endowed
With their organic pockmarks

Now gently I admonish them
When they flap into my home
But they think I’m requesting more
Of their nitrogen-rich guano

I’m now a not so avid fan
Of the expelling, flying flock
My OCD has on my glee quite
Turned back the blessed clock.
The parents had brought their fledgelings to my home a second time. A bit of a soft initiation into the real world 🌸
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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 | REFLECTION

Do you sometimes ask yourself if you’re alright
Do the burdens of life come down hard on your joy
Do all the schemes of gladness that you deploy
Seem bound to falter, sink with the sun
Making you despair, come undone
Do you sometimes wonder if you’ll ever be alright?

Do you sometimes worry if you’re alright
If you’re treating your body like it was meant
More like a temple, less like a tent
Does it respond with resilience and grace
Does it show up as a gentle glow on your face
Can you smile and say that you’re alright?

Do you sometimes brood about being alright
If the crimson, beating, streaming path
From your analysing mind to your ruminating heart
Is clear and bright and lit up with calm
Where thoughts and memories are like comforting balm
Do you feel your spirit lift because you’re alright?

Do you feel your atoms dance, your heart sing
Then soften to a gentle, constant hum again
Do you feel your blood flow in passionate storms
And then settle into tranquil crests and falls
Do you sometimes in your moments of quiet
Feel a gratitude because you’re alright?

I hope that when you lie in your bed at night
On the cusp of sleep, with your guard down
When your truth shines unfettered, unbound
That with your eyes closed you can look within
And hear it in every fibre of your being
I’m alive, I’m still here, I am alright.

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 | STARS

She carried a little bouquet 
Of golden-hearted nargis*
Her face flushed, her eyes bright
She was going to make a gift of them
To someone special.
The bus stop was empty
Save the woman with the flowers
And me. I had my phone in my hand
She sat on the bench waiting
Clutching her bouquet
I stood nearby, holding my phone
Watching her secretly
Trying not to spook her
But she was mesmerizing
In the tender enchantment
That surrounded her

The bus was late
She sat there almost motionlessly, quietly
But the thrum of her joyful energy
Was taken up by the gay bouquet
As it danced gently in the breeze
She wore yellow shalwar kameez*
With little white flowers
Or were they stars?
They were tiny, almost imperceptible
So small I was sure even she wouldn’t know
But they shimmered in her gaiety
She smiled as she adjusted the stems
The flowers bobbed back happily
She sat there like a painting
Full of joy and anticipation

The bus rolled in
Carrying its load of passengers
I lingered a while to see
The recipient of this picture of love
That waited brightly on the seat
Together we watched people alight
People go left and right
Until the last passenger stepped down
I climbed on, slowly, hesitantly
I sat down near a window and looked out
The bouquet now lay inertly on the bench
Its sunny heart wrenched
Where it had been clenched
In the ardent embrace of a pair of hands
Drenching it in the liquid warmth of love

They were stars, not flowers
On her kameez, five-pronged tridents
Piercing, lancing, shattering
The perfection of beautiful things
Hidden, Unbeknownst to her
The fault, I was sure, lay in the stars.
* Nargis: Daffodil

* Shalwar kameez: the long shirt and trousers worn by women in Pakistan and India

VERSE | PHILOSO-FARCE LAND

I’m sitting here feeling bright 
Home with the family
Conversation is easy and light
And then on comes the telly

I try to talk over its
Loud and aggressive tone
Political talk shows cutting
Razor-slicing through the calm

I want to look away
From this soulless carnival
But the addiction to this madness
Is deep-rooted, farcical

Dante would have short-fused
A few neurons, chomped some grass
To see the Inferno he’d imagined
Come so brutally to pass

Sartre would have grinned
In self righteous satisfaction
Hell really was other people
And their insidious interactions

Nietzsche would have conclusively
Summarily declared
That we’ve given up on heaven
And created hell instead

Turning in his class-conflicted
Grave would be Karl Marx
Seeing history do its rewind
As tragedy and then as farce

Freud would have slyly winked
And then chortled cheekily
To watch our IDs and EGOs
Play out their crazy fantasies

The philosophers and sages
Of times gone by, days of old
Are seeing the fruition of
Their theories, mad and bold

So now I’m sitting here feeling
Like the world has dropped upon
My shoulders, pulverising me
Mind and body, heart and soul.

VERSE | NATIONAL (S)CARRIER

A bit of a funny ramble about my recent flight from Karachi to Lahore.

I travelled on a plane today 
And felt compelled to write
This verse of my experiences
On PIA’s domestic flight

Let me start with a whinge
The seats have no leg room
Even the petites are overcome
By claustrophobia and doom

The stewards and the stewardesses
Seem like they’ve just had enough
Of meeting, greeting passengers
Their demeanour is kind of rough

But that’s ok, we’re a nation of
Tough minded women and men
And there is a tad more softness
For the elderly and the children

It was a daytime flight, post luncheon-time
So folks had had their meals
Some nodding off with gaping mouths
Others snoring with extra zeal

The plane jerked forward and began
To taxi on the concrete
While the stalls held two or more
Full bladder emergencies

Off we lifted off and then
We climbed up to the clouds
There was a bit of turbulence
There were loud prayers from the devout

As we levelled off the crew
Started on their inflight missions
Soon the plane transformed into
Zubaida’s Desi Kitchen

And of course everyone there
Ate a second meal
Food is integral to our
National look and feel

Soon the air was rent with
Loud belches and with sighs
The pungent vapor wafting ‘tween
The seats and in the aisles

An overhead bin flew open
With a painful, turgid groan
A fit finale to the meal that had
Endowed its own bloat

The icing on the cake was
The toffees on the tray
And our disembarkation
In a half-civilised way

One prevented a stampede
Of desperate humanity
One a choti meethi* offering
For PIA’s eccentricity.
* Choti Meethi: :small and sweet” in Urdu

HAIKU

A haiku is an unrhymed Japanese poetic form that consists of 17 syllables arranged in three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables, respectively. A haiku expresses much and suggests more in the fewest possible words. Trying my hand at the lithe and sinewy art form.

Some gladness, some strife
Mixed in with some love and hope
Faultless slice of life.


It opens again
Haltingly, poundingly, my
Newly love-drenched heart.


The light shone, my soul
Soared. The monitor too glowed
In final farewell.


The pane shudders, shakes
In the wind. The pelting rain
Renews, whets the pain.


The old men sit snug
In their fortressed halls waiting
Out the raging storm.


She lay down to rest
The crickets were still. There were
None six feet under.


The breeze kissed my face
Whispering, praying we would
Never meet again.


Tea with buttered toast
A little sip, a bite, my
Broken heart revived.


The wind pulled at him
The kite pulled at his laughter
Heart in hand they soared.

VERSE | DIFFERENT

I met her on the internet
We had a little chat
For fifteen or twenty minutes
It wasn’t more than that

The next day at 3pm
I saw my screen light up
There was a message waiting
She had not given up!

I smiled, nay beamed it was
Uplifting and sublime
That this lovely lass could one day
Be a real friend of mine

She had put up a photo
In the app display online
I tended to opt for staid old men
Quoting their pithy lines

The weeks they turned into months
She suggested finally
That we should meet up somewhere
For sandwiches and tea

I was torn, I was in two minds
To go or not to go
I had had some experience
Of dejection and of woe

But she seemed different
Grounded, honest and mature
So I bested my insecurities
Of one score years and four

I walked in early and sat down
I ordered a latte
I waited looking at the door
And then I saw her face

Gleaming, hopeful, expectant
She glanced around the room
Our eyes met for a bit and then
She looked away confused

She lingered for a while before
She glided out of there
With my disillusionment and coffee
I sat in my wheelchair.

VERSE | STILLNESS

There is a peace in solitude
It comes with a little practice
At first you miss the cacophony
Of everyday distractions

But the heart in time learns to grow still
You can almost see your breath
Weaving its vapory way out of
Your lungs in a silver thread

Every inhale is deep and calm
You close your eyes each time
You feel your blood rush in your veins
You feel serene, you feel alive

Time slows down, each moment glides
Almost visibly away
But not before it wraps you
In its visceral array

It is Now, and Now is all
There is for you to know
It’s in this time of solitude
That your calm and stillness grow.

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.