VERSE | LONGING

I found an eyelash on your cheek 
It perched there like a dream
I couldn’t take my eyes away
From that hypnotising scene

The beautiful imperfection of
That eyelash out of place
Was also the exquisiteness
Of nature’s untamed grace

You looked at me as I looked at
The fallen angel on your cheek
It fluttered on broken wings like
Back into heaven it would leap

And then you smiled that special smile
Where your eyes light up with mirth
The eyelash took a leap of faith
Becoming one with the pulsing earth

I found an eyelash, it had strayed
Onto your sun warmed skin
It filled my heart with wistfulness
With love and with longing.

POETRY READING | JUST ANOTHER FAIRYTALE

My book SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS is a collection of poems and essays, 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.

The book is divided into five sections: Joy, Foot-in-the-mouth, Truth, Hope and Serenity. The Truth and Foot-in-the-Mouth categories are especially brazen and raw. As with most such uninhibited writing, the objective is to assail the sensibilities and even if just for a while, to look the truth right in its jaundiced eye. The other three sections are largely whimsical and uplifting very much like walking through a zen corridor, which I’m hoping, will also soften the sensory assault of the former two segments.

POETRY READING | BEAUTIFUL STRANGER

My book of poetry and essays SHIMMERING SCRAPS OF POETRY AND MADNESS will be available in bookstores across Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the end of December 2022.

FRIENDS IN SL can get their copies TODAY from the Jam Fruit Tree bookstore on Galle road in Colombo via call/ WhatsApp to 072-7268078.

Shimmering Scraps is a collection of poems and essays, 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.

The book is divided into five sections: Joy, Foot-in-the-mouth, Truth, Hope and Serenity. The Truth and Foot-in-the-Mouth categories are especially brazen and raw. As with most such uninhibited writing, the objective is to assail the sensibilities and even if just for a while, to look the truth right in its jaundiced eye. The other three sections are largely whimsical and uplifting very much like walking through a zen corridor, which I’m hoping, will also soften the sensory assault of the former two segments.

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VERSE | RED ROSES

The red roses were out
In full bloom
Riotous, cheerful, swaying in their beds
Wearing their full petalled crowns on their heads
I looked from afar
Day after day
As the roses danced and played
In the not so far off distance
Something was stopping me
Something in my heart
Was whispering, telling me that these flowers
Were best adored from afar
I listened and stayed away
From that little paradise
As it burgeoned with beauty
Day after day
But one morning when I came out to the garden
I felt a lightness of being
And so I strayed further afield
To that joyful bed of red roses at play

There I looked at the perfect blooms
Each one’s heart lay glistening in the sun
The petals dancing in unison
Around their pulsing cores
And then I saw
The soil below
There strewn in little pools
Of red, unravelled - unspooled
Lay the fallen petals
Fallen … resting … resting … fallen petals
Some bruised, some new
Some already a part of the earth
As she hugged them close, each delicate edge
Soaking back into her infinite depths
The scene took my breath away
Whisking me back to another day
Full of bittersweet memories
When I’d seen the same petals
Strewn where you rested
In earth’s boundless embrace.

VERSE | FALLEN ANGELS

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre, also known as the Amritsar massacre, took place on 13 April 1919. A large peaceful crowd had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Punjab, to protest against the Rowlatt Act and arrest of pro-independence activists. In response to the public gathering, the temporary Brigadier general, R. E. H. Dyer, surrounded the protesters with his troops. The Jallianwala Bagh could only be exited on one side, as its other three sides were enclosed by buildings. After blocking the exit, he ordered them to shoot at the crowd, continuing to fire until their ammunition was exhausted. Estimates of those killed vary between 379 and 1500+ people.

I’m wearing my yellow chunri today
I look at my reflection in the mirror
And I see a girl in front of me
Her face is shining, her smile wide
I look into her eyes and laugh
I’m the happy lass today. That’s me!
It was going to be a lovely week
Of friends and melas and cream sodas
Baljeet and I were going to fly
Up, up into the sky
On rose-festooned jhoolas*

I waited at the bagh* with bhai Jan*
His friend was organizing something
They were busy but I was busier still
Absorbing everything
From the smells in the air to the sights and sounds
I bought a set of bangles
Red, gold and brown
For myself and some for Baljeet
Emerald green with silver trim
They would play on our wrists, tinkling

Mohammad Bashir bought me some moongphalli*
He was bhaijan’s friend
Organizing something at the bagh
The sugary pinkness melted in my mouth
I got kissed by a little breeze blowing in from the south
I turned the other cheek
Laughingly and waited for Baljeet
For kulfa falooda* and gajar ka halwa*
For nimboo mirch wali garam, garam challi*
My heart soared at the thought
I looked at the kites gliding above
I closed my eyes imagining I was
One of those magical things
Floating, flitting on currents of air
I felt the breeze play with my hair

Baljeet didn’t come that day
Bhai Jan forever went away
In front of me, while in my arms
Bleeding, gasping for air
There were screams and sobs
There were gun shots
I’d lost my voice; but inside me
something broke piece by piece
There was no comforting, caressing breeze
To sweep the stabbing bits away

Silently I looked around
My bangles were broken, there was no sound
From there either
There was a wildness of colour on the ground
The red of blood spilling fountain-like
The wet brown earth where life
And breath congealed in the grass
There in the April sun’s golden glare
I saw fallen angels everywhere
At the Jhallianwala bagh.
* Chunri: fabric pattern with little white specks on colourful backgrounds 

* Jhoola: Swing in Urdu

* Bagh: Park in Urdu

* Bhai Jan: affectionate term for Brother in Urdu

* Buria ke baal: Literally meaning “old woman’s hair”. Colloquialism used for cotton candy/ candy floss in Urdu.

* Kulfa falooda: A rich summer dessert very much like ice cream.

* Mongphalli: Peanuts in Urdu

* Gajar ka halwa: A traditional sweet made from carrots

* Nimboo mirch wali garam, garam challi: salt and chilli powder doused hot roasted corn on the cob

VERSE | MIST

The winter mist is rolling in 
Casting umbras and penumbras
On liquid walls conjuring
Illusions of nostalgic things
Like tapestries of sunny hills
And shadowlands where
valleys stretch
Into soft concaves
Of velvety darkness shimmering
At their edges, glimmering
In the halos of lit up orbs
Glittering, pulsating
Watching and observing all
Like eager sentries making sure
The invading mist
Covets no more
Than the silver kiss
That it bestows
On each doorway
As it tiptoes
In and then away
Into the darkness further along
All the while
As it glides
Whispering its vapory song.

VERSE | OUTSIDE IN

We were talking
About this and that
The conversation meandering
Sometimes off the beaten track
Into more private realms
Reticent spaces holding
Secret reflections, introspection
Ruminations that had rarely seen
The light of day
Hesitating, faltering, we walked along
That path hewn on the cusp of right and wrong
Where perplexing thoughts lay vulnerable, bare
And then we heard the call to prayer

She rose with an alacrity borne of custom
With velvety smooth liquid motions
Like a babbling stream that has
No more reason to be but because
It can flow gliding in its bed of silt and stone
She floated through the ritual
Sure, secure in the discerning eyes
Of her faithful world. On the outside
She had done the needful, the right thing
She came back to our conversation
Her face shining with virtue, beneficence

But now the doors were closed
To the questions that had peeked through
The heavy, opaque veils of tradition and goodness
Back they had sunk into the clenched depths
From which they had inadvertently crept
She looked at me with guarded eyes
Lest I scratch that surface again
Lest she forget what keeps her true and safe

I smiled and she smiled back at me
“Have another cup of tea”
She said bringing the conversation
Back to the glittering streets
Of the daily treads of teeming feet
And I followed, leaving the track
Lit up by mysterious stars and the soul-searching gleam
Of the moon that now shone on our backs.

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 🌸

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.

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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