OPINION|THE BIG BANG OF SMALL KINDNESSES

As the pandemic marches on, this is more true than ever. I have felt impelled to write this piece mostly because we have all now, as a planet, lived through a year of the Covid-19 blight. All 7 billion lives have, in some measure, been affected, afflicted or completely upended. And the sobering truth is that there is no real end in sight yet. These past 8 months have also seen families not only devastated by the virus in many parts of the world, but crippled also by the general economic slowdown/ shutdown.

We in the South Asian belt have been relatively more fortunate with regard to our pandemic mortality rates. The conjectures and theories on how the delevloping world is coping so peculiarly well with the disease are varied and many. Call it providential or karmic or the universe finally lining up all the fortuitous constellations in our Asian skies – that is how it is and for that we are grateful. Grateful while still being aware of the economic ravages wrought on the healthy but the vulnerable; the uninfected but the reduced; the vigorous but the poor. Which brings me to the mission of this piece – the importance of being kind. Of engaging in little everyday gestures of generosity to alleviate in some part the struggles of the less fortunate members of our communities.

Start with your neighbourhoods.

Give just a little bit extra to the tuk tuk driver who’s been whisking you about town (or running errands for you) through blazing hot days and even the errant tropical storm. Even if you don’t get into his carriage much or at all these days, tip him for all his gracious service and for persevering still, to earn a decent living despite bleak business.

Patronise your local fruit and vegetable sellers and your standalone neighbourhood grocery stores rather than the larger franchised establishments. The balance sheets of the latter will survive a year or so of beleagured business; the former, however, will be forced to shut down their doors permanently, changing the fortunes of entire nuclear and extended families forever.

⁃ Even if you’re of the genteel old school of thought, for whom the hawkers of malodorous incenses, oddball children’s story books and car cleaning paraphernalia are persona non grata in the general milieu of roadside traffic, be kind. At the traffic lights, despite yourself, roll down and buy some incense, buy a book or buy a cleaning product. Be gracious with your privilege.

⁃ With restaurants and bars in operational flux, if you do go out, tip generously. For most of the kitchen and serving staff, your service gratuity makes all the difference between being able to send a child to school or not.

⁃ For those that are now enjoying, in the safety of their homes, the gastronomic pleasures of Italy, Pakistan or the entire junk food spectrum of the Americas, tip the delivery staff openheartedly. For many of them, their endless google mapped excursions around the city are second and third jobs taken on to supplement incomes made ever more meagre by the pandemic.

Be kinder to your domestic staff, those consummate companions one can’t do without in keeping the household engine well-oiled and chugging along immaculately, peaceably. It’s also no secret that a lot of domestic bliss is owed to their inimitable roles in our daily lives!

⁃ And last but not least, our usually bustling towns and cities are also home to a multitude of scavenging animals. These urban-bred packs of stray felines, canines and even a sizeable number of the avian population depend on the scraps and oddments of the teeming human millions going about their usual day. That food source has become unreliable at best. Do your bit by putting out some water for our creature cohabitants, and food if you’re blessed with an outdoors.

These neigbbouhood civics, in my mind, are fundamental and therefore incumbent on all of us. They are the very basic protocols of social decency and community living, but have over time, and as i look around me, lost their place in our intuitive DNA. And hence, as with so many other virtuous but faded/ lapsed communal interactions in our lives, the need to recall, restore and revitalise is important.

And so, this petition is meant as just a little scratching of the surface to that human part that is intrinsic to all of us bad eggs, good eggs, tough eggs, quirky eggs and all.

I’ll leave you with a cheeky little refrain as a gentle reminder of the compassionate beings we really are, and for when we lose that thread now and then in the frenzied rush of life.

I was a hard boiled egg
Less sugar, more spice
It’s taken a pandemic
To remind me to be nice!

SHORT STORY|2020: A Cosmic Odyssey

AD 2020 – THE ENCOUNTER

“It was the winter of our global discontent as we looked to the only country we’d been conditioned to, for solutions to all our real and existential problems”. That was a recurring information echo in my head after our last Ripple Effect Round Table* (Re-Rt). There was some compelling information to be had; some momentous intervention to be made, in the early decades of the 21st century. So now that It was my turn to follow the Infinite Ripple, I chose to wormhole* to the 45th President of the United States of America, the most powerful man on the planet in Alternate Reality Earth 42:0.

I had done my regular Ripple Voyage* prep on him. He was usually done with his presidential duties such as they were by late afternoon, and the subsequent hours were spent increasingly in a mixture of bewilderment, resentment and fury. His emotional feedback through the Ripple Effect -Round Table (Re-Rt) had been wildly ricocheting, charged with intensity and disquietude. The last time I’d experienced these wildly inconsistent cognition waves, was in the Enhanced Virtual Reality version of Arthur C Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey*. His primitive man had emanated this cacophony of jangling emotions. I had had vertigo for 2 days after that. But this rubric of primeval sensational commotion had been rinsed from the human psyche centuries ago. So this was an unexpected aberration. Serendipitous really, in the otherwise temperate oceans of evolution. I was ecstatic. I was quite ready to get under the skin of Donald J. Trump.

I had wanted to pick a discourse with him between 3 and 6pm on a Sunday afternoon. These days he was usually at the White House. In the wake of a microbial blight, the world had pretty much changed, and so had the president’s residential habits, albeit, rather more cantankerously: Mar-a-Lago* continued to be an off-hours preference.

Precise 5D positioning in wormhole antimatter is still an elusive art form. And so I found myself in President Trump’s bedchambers at 10.43pm on a Pandesday* – the planet was largely in the throes of pandemic pandemonium and specific days of the week bore only timorous significance.

He was in his red pyjamas and was leafing abstractedly through January’s Issue of People’s magazine. His hair was in a little cascade of a ponytail on the top of his head, showing sizeable swathes of delicate pink baldness on either side. A little wave of Perception Clearance* and I was comfortably ensconced in a wing chair while he glanced up just once to acknowledge my presence.

Experience Log no. 1100/ AR Earth-42:0/ 2020/ Donald J Trump/ POTUS/ President’s Bedroom, The WH

Me: “Hello Mr. President. I’m Maya* from AR Earth 3.14″.

D.Trump: “Yes hello. Have you seen this photo of Meryl Streep? She looks frumpy. And believe me, she’s not. I always debunk Fake News. She should call out these unclassy magazines that make her look like Rosie O’ Donnell”.

Me: “That’s an unbecoming statement Mr. President”.

D. Trump: “Never liked the woman. Never liked the look of her either”.

Me: “There’s a pandemic on the planet. It appears to be quite serious. There are 1,233,402 dead already”.

D.Trump: [looking vaguely interested] “Really? That many?”

[Then looking suspiciously] “You’re not from Fake News yourself are you?”

[Then almost petulantly] “They’ve always got their daggers drawn against me”

Me: “I’m from Earth 3.14 sir, like I told you. Earth 42:0 has been whispering discordantly of late. I’m here to listen. Listening has a very special ripple effect in our shared cosmos”.

D.Trump: “I’ll tell you something then. I ran for president because I was an entertainer, a showman. I got a kick out of it. And I got stuck with the ball that I’m supposed to hoop in all these weirdly incredible ways . I don’t even like basketball. I’m a baseball kind of guy myself. Not that I’ve seen anything new on that front recently either”.

Me: “You’re the President of the most powerful country on the planet now”.

D.Trump: “I didn’t really ask for it. But yes I am! These damned Republicans were like headless chickens. I just wanted to have a bit of fun, get the cheers, the love. And 6 months later, let Clinton’s wife do all the boring presidential stuff”.

Me: “You have an opportunity to make a difference in the USA and indeed the world”.

D.Trump: “I have been doing just that. Been meeting with princes, princesses, queens sheikhs and dictators”.

[A small chuckle at this point] “Should I tell you a secret? …. I love that Kim Jong-un. We call each other all the time to talk about what we’ve had for dinner. Taco bowls are his favourite! That boy likes good old American fast food. I’d have invited him to Mar-a-Lago for a nice vacation but those Fake News people won’t let me live it down”.

Me: “That does sound counter-intuitive politically, but quite congenial on the human front”.

D.Trump: “He’s the king of all he surveys! No fake news there! Gave me quite a scare when he went awol recently. I like the guy…. although he could do with a decent haircut….”.

Me: “Mr. President, the world is in a state of flux. There’s disease compounded by unsurity, fear and disharmony. You’re in the perfect position to lead the global charge here”.

D.Trump: “It’s those crazy Chinese. The morons let the Wuhan Virus loose upon all of us. I’m just bored with all this death, death, death! Believe me, sometimes I think they’re making up all these numbers just to make me look bad….. Anyway, Mike Pence is dealing with it”.

Me: “Sir, some empathy goes a long way. EQ* is so much richer than any IQ”.

D.Trump: “Who’s that? Is that another Arab sheikh? Those Middle Easterners have a lot of money, and do damn all. Got a couple of billion green backs off them though. I am a businessman and I’m incredibly good at what i do”.

Me: “It’s a precious inflection point in time Mr. President. What the world leaders do now will have ripple effects for centuries to come”.

D.Trump: “You don’t say! I had done a great job with the economy. We were winning so much, we were almost tired of winning. The China virus has blown it all. I feel like kicking SleepyCreepy Jo* and Pocahontas* in the knees right now. You know for letting-off-steam reasons. And also because I hate them”.

Me: “Choose the nobler path. Use your office, your position to bring the people of the world together once again to fight a common adversary”.

D.Trump: “Do I look like Saint Peter? It’s every country for itself. America first!”

Me: “Then it’s the beginning of the end”.

D.Trump: “It sure is. We’re the United States Corporation of America. Not a charity”.

Me: “You’re the epitome of what’s going wrong with humanity sir. And it’s odd… but I see no cognizance of it on your part, nor any self awareness. It’s tragic.

I wish you well Mr. President. Goodbye”.

Ending Remarks: Earth 42:0 was/is tilting precariously on its cosmic equilibrium when it had called out to the universe. It’s spiritual cognition is impaired, it’s heart is displaced, it’s leadership is in disarray, and its people, indeed all its creatures great and small, are sick and dying.

Probable Prognosis: The end of a Cosmic Epoch and of Humankind on Earth 42.

GENESIS: The Novel Corona virus is in Transformation Cycle T+1. Evolution to Species Intelligentes*: Approximately 5 billion years.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS:

*Ripple Effect Round Table (RE-Rt): Somewhere in an advanced alternate universe, there are sophisticated human beings that are looking out for all of Earth’s vulnerable alternate versions. AR Earth 42:0, our world, is the hardest hit as its very energy and life force is in calamitous dissonance. The RE-Rt is a select group of people which attempts to bring balance, harmony and synergy to all life across the cosmos.

*Wormhole: a structure linking disparate points in spacetime.

*Ripple Voyage: time travel to fix epochal cosmic issues

*2001: A Space Odyssey: A 1968 science fiction novel by British science fiction writer, futurist and inventor, Arthur C. Clarke.

*Mar-a-Lago: A resort and national historic landmark in Palm Beach, Florida. Owned now by Donald Trump.

*Pandesday: any day in the course of the Novel Corona virus Pandemic lock down.

*Perception Clearance: a shifting of energy to harmonise two alternate realities to facilitate inter-dimensional contact.

*Maya: In Hinduism/ Buddhism, the power by which the universe becomes manifest; the illusion or appearance of the phenomenal world.

EQ: Emotional Quotient- a measure of emotional intelligence.

*SleepyCreepy Jo: Trump’s savaging of Joe Biden – the 46th POTUS

*Pocahontas: Trump’s savaging of Elizabeth Warren – US senator and Ex 2020 Democratic Presidential Hopeful

*Species Intelligentes: Intelligent Species, in Latin.

Some other Trump favourites:

Favourite Actress: Meryl Streep

Favourite Sport: Baseball

Favourite Arch Nemesis: Rosie O’ Donnell

Favorite Words/ Phrases: Moron, Stupid, Incredible, Fake News, Great, Crazy, Believe me, Winning, Damn, (Un)classy, A lot of money, Wuhan Virus, Chinese Virus, America First!

Favorite Food: Junk food including the Mexican Taco bowl

Logic for the Numbers used:

No. 42: the alleged answer to life and the universe as a whole as per Douglas Adams in his book “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and a number of other philosophers/ thinkers.

No. 420: a colloquialism used in Urdu/ Hindi to depict slyness/ insidiousness. It is also cannabis culture slang for marijuana and hashish consumption, especially smoking around the time 4:20 p.m., and also refers to cannabis-oriented celebrations that take place annually on April 20 (which is 4/20 in U.S. form).

No. 1100: Mar-a-Lago address

No. 22/7: the value of Pi – the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It has special significance in nature too.

SHORT STORY|Days of Purgatory – (Part 3)

“I have a bit of a secret to tell you”, said Sabeen lounging contentedly on the sofa near the wall.

Dinner had been fabulously satisfying. She’d had two helpings of the fettuccine in all its curried glory and had just finished a not ungenerous slice of hot apple pie. The sprites of Gastronomical Excesses were prancing merrily around in her stomach while the much-worshipped gods of Abstinence were only vague entities in her subconscious for now. The satiated body had further banished discretion and circumspection as the evening wore on. There was no cautionary gut feel nor any protective sixth sense reining in her excitement and her urge to share her joy. She was on the tipping point of divulging the ultimate secret; an affair so close to her heart that she hadn’t breathed a word about it to anyone yet for fear of jinxing the whole business.

Farzana looked up at Sabeen expectantly, her eyes bright, the ice cream laden spoon forgotten mid-air. She loved a good secret and Sabi usually wasn’t very forthcoming with her confidences. Farzana on the other hand, compelled by force of habit and an actual physical discomfort in the company of an unshared secret, happily let loose the flood gates when thus encumbered. This was going to be quite a treat!

“Kya? Batao na…..”(1), Farzana responded tentatively, afraid to disturb the amenability of the moment. One could never tell with Sabi she thought; one moment she was happy and talkative and the next, like a closed up clam with social issues.

Sabi was making her wait it out as always. Farzana felt the hair on her arms prickling in anticipation and also a growing sense of wariness. Uncharitable thoughts began glutting her mind… despite being one of her best friends, Sabi, in Farzana’s mind, had always resented her more “privileged love interest” liaisons. There had been one occasion in fact, where she’d come and stolen her man right from under her nose! She ignored the nagging post script that always followed that thought….the fact that Arsalan had always maintained that he and Farzana were never “going out”, and that he had told her quite early on that he was interested in her friend from Faisalabad. Even so, she thought, he and Farzana had attended two parties together; granted it was together with other friends. But he was Mian Jalaluddin’s grandson and she had exclusive entitlement until he too had seen the light of day and reciprocated. He would have – ultimately, Farzana thought ruefully, had Sabeen not come into the picture. The memory of the day she’d invited Sabi over to meet Arsalan still made her cringe with ardent regret. Her only consolation was that that entanglement hadn’t lasted long!

She caught Sabi looking at her thoughtfully. Farzana was getting visibly agitated at not only the prospect of being secret-deprived at the nth hour of confidence-sharing, but also by the strange look on Sabi’s face.

I’m your best friend yaar. Mujh se kya chupana. I’m like an open book with you. Batao na”(2), Farzana cajoled, moving closer to the still reposing, still contemplating Sabeen.

“I’m getting engaged, Fara; to the Nawab* of Bahawalpur”, came the deadpan response. Delivered with just that air of indifference to make it into a screaming headline.

Sabeen looked at Farzana, a slow smile spreading across her face. She knew her friend enough to expect any of a range of emotions; barely concealed resentment being one of the more realistic predispositions on this occasion. As time had lapsed, their bachelorette banner had determinedly unfurled in Spinster Territory, changing perceptions, prospects, attitudes and with it, notions of self worth. And Farzana was painfully besieged by the change in social status, spawning a wave of desperate love affairs and subsequent unpredictable outbursts. Sabeen was earnestly hoping this wasn’t one such instant; she was really hoping, yearning for a propitious ending to this evening.

Farzana blinked uncertainly, and slowly put the dripping spoon of ice cream into her mouth. She felt hassled and unsure; hassled about whether Sabi was in fact telling the truth, and unsure whether she herself had heard it right.

“Kaunsa nawab?(3) What are you saying? Farzana managed to ask, looking agitatedly at Sabeen. Her feeling of unease grew as the enormity and sensibility of the affirmation dully sank in. She swallowed hard, her mouth suddenly feeling dry even as she sensed the sweet liquid sliding down her throat. She was unaware of the change in her expression or her bearing as she stared unblinkingly at Sabeen while hunched over in an almost foetal position in the chair opposite. She waited for a response; laughter, some reassurance that this was just a really terrible joke.

Sabeen sat up and looked directly at Farzana, taking both of her hands in hers. She suddenly felt an intense desire to have her friend acknowledge her joy, and to be happy for her. She wanted Fara to understand that this was not just another ephemeral burst of scarlet on the romantic horizon. This boded longevity and was replete with not only the rainbow hues of new love, but also the many shades of grey that constituted a real relationship. This was going to be her “happily ever after”.

Farzana looked on in confused fascination; at this point, she was only aware of the maniacal intensity of Sabeen’s hold of her hands and thinking if in fact her friend had finally given in to senility just shy of her 50th birthday. She was talking of Nawabs and horses and knights….had she said horses or princes…? She wasn’t quite sure. But there was music playing, so Farzana did the only thing that seemed lucid to her at the time.

She pulled up a startled Sabeen and said, “let’s dance meri jaan(4)….. all those extra calories you’ve had today are making you sound crazy!”

And she whirled her friend around the room, grinning loonily while humming along to Jenny Young’s quirky love refrain:

“….Here is a heart,

I made it for you so take it.

Battered and braised,

Grilled and sautéed

Just how you like it…”

De Khudai pe aman.

(1): “What? Tell me…”

(2): “What do you have to hide from me…… tell me”

(3): “What prince?”

(4): “my love”

*Nawab: ruler/ prince. (Largely a figurative title now but still respected as incumbents of a privileged lineage).

PANDEMIC 2020|Positivum Cogitandi*

I have waxed eloquent as far as Pandemic Diaries go, on the thrills and the gloom of being “benignly incarcerated”. This piece will dive into the nuts and bolts of the experience as I try and capture a typical curfew-bound day in the tropical environs of the Colombo lockdown.

It all starts at around 9.30am as I have yet again (quite happily) switched my circadian clock to the later morning hours. Less hours to stew a Lockdown Potpie in, being the resounding sanity preserving logic! The regimen that follows is fundamental to helping keep it all together through the interminable weeks upon weeks of government and self imposed confinement.

I make my bed, with the assiduity of a 7-star hotel housekeeping staff. Fitted sheet pulled until the 800 thread-counts crackle at their seams. The duvet laid out just so, followed by the bed cover. I then wash and change into my day-time lounge wear which is different from my nightwear only because I wear it during the day really! It’s the doggedness of routine that is paramount here. I’m still passing the Lipstick Test* as i put on my tinted chapstick and my eyeliner. Thus fortified with the elixir of my morning regimen, I sally forth from my bedroom.

The electric kettle is filled and switched on, almost immediately permeating the kitchen with its hypnotising “double double, toil and trouble” caffeine chant. I busy myself with cutting up a whole host of greens….and reds and yellows as I pull together a big salad. The chopping and the dicing and the slicing are profoundly cathartic, as pent up frustration at Time sliding by in the unchanging surroundings of a limited space…yes, ok, home… is released with every deliberate lancing exploit. The ensuing digital fatigue (of the fingers!) is the sweet pain of yet another daily protocol dutifully delivered.

Then it’s my first mug of coffee in hand and an hour of watching the Pandemic and a host of other bad news unfold on the CNN and the BBC. It’s always bad news or sad news or disturbing news. For good news, people (and I’m thinking, the rest of the animal world too in fact) have learnt to rely on themselves – much better for preserving sanity, dubious and relative as that is too nowadays.

The hunger pangs hit around 1pm. The once rather vague attention to “where’s the next meal coming from”, has during the course of the curfew, morphed into an armageddon-level phobia: I must have a view of where my next 3 meals are coming from or my dreams are suffused with so much biryani and spaghetti bolognaise that i wake up with a heartburn. Mind over matter at disturbing play here….

So while I’m whipping up some Fixed breakfast-component toast with the Variable accompaniment of last night’s leftovers or eggs, I’m also feverishly contemplating the contents of my main meal of the day which is dinner. I have been insidiously photographed by a near and dear one while thus occupied, and i can best sum it up as “there’s a pleasure in being mad which none but madmen (and desperate sustenance seekers) know”! I’m happy to add though, that since the food delivery services have resumed feeding the hordes of the Urban Ravenous, the feelings of deprivation disquietude and lunatic anticipation have much abated.

I am also one of the more fortunate who can, of a torrid locked-down evening, indulge in (suffer through?!) heart-healthy aerobic workouts. The sizeable parking lots of apartment buildings are very effectively doubling as walking tracks for their home-bound residents. And come heat or humidity, or even torrential tropical downpours, my brisk evening walk is another regular ritual that has helped to keep the mental nuts and bolts peacefully in their places.

Even so, the healthful mental effects of a regimen built largely around a 3-room space can last only so long. And some days when the painstakingly cultivated mental tranquility is shattered by the lock-rattling of the inner social beasts that we all still are, I quell the mad urge to scream, rant and even bawl by initiating yet another healthful ritual: I set myself up to write. The iPad is set up, the TV is put on mute and almost instantaneously, the mind collects itself as I immerse myself in the next best thing to a companionable walk at the racecourse/ a trip to the spa/ a belly laugh over a drink/ or just a warm reminiscence over a latte. The world slows down and the frustration fades as the words spill out like a cathartic mist over another clean page. And in that endeavour is also the promise of a new day.

Positivum Cogitandi; Tabula Rasa.

De Khudai pe aman

*Positivum Cogitandi: Positive Thinking

*Tablua Rasa: clean slate

*Lipstick Test: a psychological/ mental wellbeing gauge

*Pandesday: any day in the course of the novel Corona pandemic

VERSE|The Ballad of Bubba Buckley

A fond tribute to all the hillbillies around the world; to the vaccinated lot and the detergent gulpers 😉

I was mindin’ ma own beeswax, toilin’ on the grange,
potterin’ in my chicken coops, Tendin’ to ma mange;
Got it off sweet Misty Dawn, the old ass at the farm,
She’s in Donkey Heaven now and left me with the charm.
I’d have a 12 Corona pack, and get drunk as Cooter Brown*,
I’d be swayin’ about the Hillby Farm until the sun went down.
I was happy as a pig in mud*. America was great.
And then the dammed Corona virus came to the United States.


I done not seen it yet; they say it’s kinda small.
But ma piggy babies are tiny too, and I can see ‘em all!
I got me a pair of new clod hoppers from Jed’s shoe estate,
To stamp out the damned varmint, if it came up to ma gate.
I also done taken out, ma AR-15,
And polished it up nicely to a mighty high gleam.
And If I ever see that Corona son of a gun,
I’ll mow it down with a full-on clip ‘fore I’m fully done!


The Corona! Who’d have thunk, that beer could be mean!
I’ve done throwed 24 cans of it on the grody heap.
I’m indulgin’ me ale-hankerin’ with this new “Lion Beer”
Brewed in Colombo, Kentucky by a good ol’ American brewer.
Now I sit on ma porch all day, until it done get dark,
Waitin for the cowardly Corona to holler its ugly bark.
I got ma gun on the ready, and ma virus killin’ gel,
“I’m ready for ya plonker, and you can Kiss ma go to hell*!”


They say the Corona’s got a magical wee cloak,
And you can’t really see the darn thang until you all-out croak.
And then it just eats ya, right up from the inside,
So you’re not there no more - like you just never died!
No sir! I ain’t gonna let that happen to ol’ Bubba Buckley,
I already got me a verse cut in marble for when I decease.
And then I heard our Cap’n Trump on the idiot box,
He said drinking De-tergent will kill the nasty fox.
So I went to ol’ Skeeters, and got me 20 pods of Tide,
Gonna have the whole darned lot with ma Lion beer tonight.

De Khudai pe aman

Southern Slang/ Idioms:
*As drunk as Cooter Brown: Very drunk; inebriated
*Happy as a pig in mud: very happy; ecstatic
*Kiss My Go to Hell: Kiss my a**
*Hankering: craving; urge

VERSE|I Sat Alone with Sadness

I sat alone with Sadness
I felt it’s grainy edges,
I saw it’s grey-bound form,
I touched its dark, dark heart
And then I heard it moan
it’s dolorous dirge.
It whispered of a gloom
that quelled the light inside.
It spoke of a despair
that clung like gnarled old ivy.
It lamented of an anguish
that congealed the blood within.
And i mouldered in the Sadness....

Then it dragged with it the phantoms
of Heartache and Desolation.
And finally it whispered
Of a Final Cessation.
And I listened....
And I crumbled...
And piece by piece, I sank ....
Until I had drowned in my Sadness.

And then the vortex glimmered;
There was promise of some light.
I floundered through the tempest,
Struggling to inhale!
Convulsing with release,
I finally broke the surface,
Of my abysmal grief.

And I wept.... and i wept...
And my ravaged spirit breathed,
As I embraced my Sadness.

De Khudai pe aman

SHORT STORY|The Fatigue

I was so tired.

I arrived at my grandmother’s house, Z___abad, at a little past 3pm. It was a cool mid-March evening and the slight chill in the air felt soothing. I made my way up the broad walkway towards the main house. The familiar spring foliage in the inner garden was in full, salutary bloom. My favourite shrubbery running the length of the high ceilinged veranda was inflorescent with a myriad shades of green, ranging from the deep dark of the Monstera to the delicate green plumage of the Bougainvillea. The late afternoon light played lazily along the palm-shaded steps leading from the garden to the veranda – each umbrous shape flitting like a gossamer phantom between the real and the shadow worlds.

There was a faint smell of the rose and bergamot incense that my grandmother had liked to burn every so often; usually, when the gastronomic labour of love, undertaken daily through prodigious breakfast and lunch preparations for the family and the contingent of domestic staff, was done for the day. It wafted in barely perceptible undulations like shy little wraiths playing hide and seek.

I stopped for a bit to take it all in….breathe it all in. I was home.

But I was so tired.

I walked into the big, airy lounge, greeted immediately by the portraits of my grandmother and my mother. I looked at the pictures, and waited for the inevitable wrenching tug of heartache. It didn’t come. Instead, I felt a quiet calmness and solace… I was back home.

“You’ve arrived”. P. abai, the old homestead retainer said, looking at me quizzically. I hadn’t heard her come in. I smiled and we embraced. Z__abad and P. abai are intrinsically bound together in all my memories of the place.

“Where were you the last time I came here? You’d been ill and then they said you didn’t come back. I missed you”, I said looking at her gently smiling face.

“I’ve missed all of you too. I had to go away for a while….”. She hesitated, looking at me tenderly and then smiled again.

“I’ll bring you some tea – you must be tired” She said with an affectionate caress on my head.

I smiled at her and watched her go out through the lounge doors, melting into the evening shadows that had descended on the sun-warmed veranda. I shivered a little – the residual late winter chill had further cooled the evening air. I sat on my grandmother’s chair at the familiar old dining table. The edges of the flowery linoleum table cloth fluttered tremulously in the crisp March breeze that wafted in through the open doors.

I could still smell the incense faintly. I glanced around the room, vaguely wondering where it was coming from. It didn’t matter; it was replete with nostalgia and serenity. I looked outside at the garden. The twilight of dusk had succumbed to a tranquillising, soothing darkness.

Exhaustion washed over me.

I put my head back and closed my eyes.

I finally rested.

Khyber News Alert:There was an accident on Highway S-1 near Charsadda this afternoon at 3.15pm. The Nissan Sunny car driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and had plunged head-on into a lorry carrying scaffolding girder beams. The driver has been hospitalised with a broken leg. The passenger, a woman in her 40s, died on the spot”.

PANDEMIC 2020|Hairy Adventures – Part deux

Pandemic Special

It’s been just short of a month since the current curfew conditions were imposed in our city, and quite a lot longer in some other metropolises. And while the world at large has been preoccupied with the more immediate imperative of procuring food and other essential provisions, nature has been gleefully taking its regular course on all other fronts. Including the Follicular.

Three weeks on, and one can finally look in the mirror and know for a fact that what folks see of you now is what they actually get- an abundance of character, a pretty robust immunity (you’re still around aren’t you!) and of course the extra kg or so of all sorts of hirsute proliferation. This may include the heretofore publicly unseen unibrow, now quivering with health in its full horizontal entirety; and maybe also a quite robust moustache, that you last encountered when you were 14 and were still fast friends with all hair-related outcroppings. And of course the resilient growth on the arms and legs- a veritable extra canopy against the clammily bracing tropical breezes. Needless to say, many an air-conditioning thermostat has been adjusted to account for the extra covering, worn per force.

With the curfew now onerously plodding into its fourth week, the thin stores of razors and depilatories have also probably become nostalgic Ghosts of Hairlessness Past. And The more genteel amongst us are now probably spending more than a few of our locked-down hours thinking up ways of “taming the beast” before heading out for a session with Tania at Waxworks …. whenever that might be! The more constructively intrepid may even share a digital pearl of homegrown wisdom on the subject. So, together with updates on visiting food trucks, a social media hawkeye on this aspect may be of vast benefit to some….. many… who am i kidding, all of us!

In the meantime, the other denominator- the salon staff, are clocking their own glabrous countdowns to the time when they can alter the current Corona trend of Grisly Ladies who Lunch- in solitary. Needless to say, the urge to pluck, yank and depilate is intense across the entire salon confluence. I for one, got a lovely message from my resident spa wizard asking about my general well being. I told her that I missed her and that I was now quite definitely looking like Snow White’s wicked stepmother sans her magic (read: beautifying!!) wand. The hair was growing inelegantly grey and the eyebrows looked like 2 very, very distantly related cousins, in the aftermath of some personal endeavours in that area. In summary, I was not only suffering from cabin fever after all this home boundedness, but was with every passing day, looking more and more like I’d stepped out of the Neanderthal display in a natural history museum. She was delighted!

The age of the Corona is obviously teaching us more than just patience, forebearance and humility. It is also adjusting (correcting?) our socially conditioned sense of self as more and more, we’re letting it “all hang out”. Our partners too, are hesitantly/ puzzlingly/ apprehensively (depending on how much of a real life filter you had going on for yourself!) getting used to the peremptory au naturale trend of 2020.

The runways in 2021 will be interesting to watch. Nameless/ faceless models, with on-point face masks and matching all season gloves, teaching us elegant ways of walking 6 feet apart from one another. The post-Covid ramps will offer little occasion to portray beauty that is only skin-deep; picture perfect, surgically enhanced features will seem irrelevant and ephemeral after the corporeity of the previous year. It’ll probably spawn a whole new return to basics with a more authentic medley of wellness, beauty and form.

That will imaginably be a CSL – a Corona Silver Lining.

Hairy adventures

De Khudai pe aman.

OPINION|The Myth of Super-Luxury Condominiums – Part Deux

(When the Food Chain upends – The age of fastidiousness, curfews and microscopic annihilators)

The current high stress, painfully limiting, curfew-constrained environment has been a fitting test for how well the Super luxurious developments in the city have responded to the basic needs of their residents – like the politico with the 100 watt smile and zero good intentions. Yes, it has been quite entirely dismal. One can probably, in a fit of magnanimity (and copiously blithesome inebriation), forgive the unconscionable oversights; but what has to be gleaned from all this all-out service ineptitude are lessons for other such times. For other such pestilentially afflicted times, there will be.

Besides the obvious and debilitating confinement brought on by the various lockdowns and curfews, there has followed in its wake, the almost non-existent fall back protocols for the supply of basic necessities and services at the besieged condos in the heart of “Premium Colombo”. Residential complexes in other areas/ townships, in fact, have had much better organised conduits of supply to meet demand. The worst faring have indeed, been the Super Luxury developments.

On a personal note, if it had not been for a friend’s domestic aid living in Homagama* from where he sourced vegetables, fruit and dairy, I’d be living off Lilly’s** 10 day old food, fastidiously apportioning it and then scraping the last bits off so that the further lack of dish washing soap at least, wasn’t going to be a problem.

My Super premium condominium actually has a mini market on the premises. Needless to say, it remains shut quite frequently even at the most easeful of social times so it was no surprise to see its sombrely shuttered facade through this entire ordeal; a jeering reminder of how fickle the entire super luxury leitmotif really is.

The management of these developments needs to rouse itself from the salubriously benumbing breezes of the Galle Face Green and look at actually making “Life in the times of the Bacillus Extremis” less arduous for their high-paying residential populace. It’s time to re-evaluate essential skeletal staff numbers together with what constitutes essential services, to ensure life can go on in the sundered cocoons everyone is being forced to build around them. Standing agreements with grocery stores, pharmacies and even laundry services, will be integral towards appreciably improving life in isolation for the residents of the Premium branded residencies.

Time to look and act beyond having the residential address doing all the high-caliber talking. Time to get your hands dirty and implement some real value- added services for the convenience of the residents. The age of the Mighty Microbes is only just beginning and we need to have a head start in making sure we adapt our lives likewise, underscored by carefully deliberated standards of comfort, safety and sophistication.

De Khudai pe aman

Mahvash.

*Homagama: a little town 24kms south east of Colombo in Sri Lanka

**Lilly: a wicked cook who, twice-weekly, whips up gastronomical delights for me; and who heretofore has also been the bearer of all perishable food to my humble abode. Without her, my larder is as barren as the Gobi desert in June.

VERSE|I shot the Sheriff

And I think he’s called the Covid, the Covid 19.
I also know this declaration seems somewhat extreme
Because I hadn’t been tested
So how could I have bested
The microbe that has its pestilential claws
render all it touches, grievously impure?
Try “dead” to be factual!
But hope doth spring eternal ....
In this pandemic, we lasses are only gently brushing by Hades
We’re nothing if not intrepid of spirit, what say you ladies!

But I digress- yes I still maintain,
That I encountered the corona conta-gion!
It came upon me like a flash in the pan;
One day I was hearty, the next, weary and wan.
And my muscles, they did ache
Like someone had driven a stake
Through both of my legs, ala some Vampire Chronicles
Except ‘twere my limbs that were speared, and not my coronary auricles.
Could have been the ventricles too I concede,
But poetry is distinct from prose, you too will accede.

Continuing the saga, I was sick as a dog
No not quite, I’m just exaggerating a tad!
But there was intermittent nausea and my spirits had dithered;
The full bodied lily had ever so slightly withered.
I thought I would get lighter
By a kilo...or fiver.
But the ‘piggy pangs’ continued to be salubrious guests,
And so, I beat the virus at my robustest best.

So why do I say that I have sat at the table
With the Mighty Corona and am yet able
To count myself not only among the recovered and well,
But also that alone, I greeted and then bade him farewell?
Because it defies logic and reason,
That the virus is enjoying a full hunting season
In the First World, which with all its military might
Hasn’t been able to quell this microbial blight;
While the much more vulnerable emerging nations
Are seemingly left to their third world machinations.

So I’ll end with a salute to our high caliber genes
For besting a bacillus extremis like Covid 19

De khudai pe aman

Mahvash.

PANDEMIC 2020|The Corona Theatre – the Muses weigh in

We have indeed entered the Age of the Mighty Microbes as the days go by and mankind continues to buckle at the knees in the face of the latest onslaught. Welcome to 01AC – Year 1, Anno Coroni

Despite the obvious ravages wrought by the bacillus, one can’t help but take an existential view of the situation. Twenty first century Political ideologues, Economic powerhouses and Moral custodians all continue to be similarly baffled and besieged by the all-embracing, unrelenting sweep of the “invisible enemy” – some would say a Diviner, a harbinger of things to come.

In the midst of this unprecedented assailment, Melpomene and Thalia* have managed to do a few merry dances together choreographed by Dionysus** himself, as we continue to see blitzes of comedy, madness, revelry and of course, kindness and triumph in the advancing milieu.

The Comedy and the Madness: personified so aptly by our very own planetary resident uno – the 45th president of the US of A. His initially altogether bewildered, butted-in-the-stomach look has very rapidly evolved to his signature winging-it-with-the-confidence-of-a-rocket/ (microbiology!)-scientist avatar. This time though, the usual spin doctoring is very hard to believe even if one is a Die-Hard Trump supporter. Because when all’s said and done, there is a difference in dying hard literally, especially with the Corona at the helm of the transition from figurative to literal. Entertaining and cringe-worthy simultaneously are the expressions of the medical professionals of the American Coronavirus Task Force while Trump oscillates between making comically absurd statements (the “Chinese virus”/ we are hours away from a vaccine) to downright obnoxious ones (slamming a journalist who asked for his response/ reassurance for the troubled American populace at large). Other charming inclusions here are the Brazilian president who thought congenially rubbing shoulders with Senhor Corona was a political tour de force; and the Sri Lankan politico who was convinced that his act of taking off his own well-worn mask and putting it around the face of another was the ultimate apex of on-point political savviness.

Act 1, Scene 1Thalia and Melpomene are hamming a demented fox trot all over the summer harvest; the picture is both jocose and psychotic.

The Revelry: with the younger denominator around the globe and the fogyish in places where it is “UnBritish” to enforce controls of any kind, there has been an almost unhinged disregard for the calamitous prophecy embedded in the Corona DNA. Pubs, clubs and beaches have continued to be thronged by the Corona cynics; because communal drinking and socialising traditions that have prevailed even through the extreme exigences of WW2 can hardly be sidelined by the scare tactics of a (Boris) Johnny come lately.

Act 1- Scene 2: The Theatre twins are pantomiming a steroid-fuelled ballroom dance across the streets of the First World.

The Triumph: And then, the veni, vidi, vici moments of some nations as they adjusted for, battled and triumphed (at least for now) over the ‘C-adversary’. In an ironic twist of fate, the bulk of the nations here have been from the Asian/ developing world. The dignity, gravitas, foresightedness and pertinacity with which these nations brought their people together to ‘little by little, drive out” the enemy is unparalleled, given, in some cases, the relative vastness of their populations.

The Corona may yet turn the tables and angle the tide on the current world order. It may yet drastically change priorities and aspirations, visions and goals, neighbourliness and compassion, community and connections – the very essence of what defines us as humankind.

Act 1- Final scene: While Melpomene slumbers, Thalia sways gently to the rhythm of the swishing leaves as a fresh, new breeze blows lightly through the field.

De khudai pe aman.

*Melpomene and Thalia: the Muses of Tragedy and Comedy respectively

**Dionysus: Greek god of Theatre and other fun things! Look him up 🤓

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑