Sometimes I’m a foxtail orchid
Needing extra care and warmth
Sometimes I’m a leaf skipping
Where the wind takes me along
Sometimes I feel fresh and light
Like just-cut summer grass
Sometimes things get cold and grey
Then I’m the winter frost
Sometimes earth’s shadowy arms
Are where I want to hide
I’m then the discreet Cereus that flowers
Once in a great big while
Other times my gladdened heart
Beats strong and rhythmically
My courage drapes me like a cloak
Then I’m the intrepid weed
Every day brings a new avatar
A new sensibility
I hug the day that comes my way
Or watch it drift from my safe niche
Nature’s blooms that make up my being
Rest in their special spaces
Each day I become the seed that keeps
Life marking its measured paces.
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.
A little disclaimer: This particular piece is not a critique of the ideology of marriage itself, but the warped manner in which it is used to keep young women in check. To prevent them from breaking through the heavily-manned barriers created for them by society.
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Yes, I waited a great big while
For my knight in shining armour to arrive
To sweep me off my impatient feet
To finally enable me to start living my life.
He came to our door, not on a steed -
That’s the whimsical stuff of fairytales
Not really rigged for the 21st century.
The rest of the story I was sure prevailed.
And so he came to our house in a car
His mother and his sisters too
I dutifully served them tea and samosas
His eyes were fixed on me like glue
I tried to think of what I felt
Did he stir something in my heart
Did I feel a like-mindedness
Was he the catalyst to my big, bright start!
The only thing rolling around in my head
The only thing that I could really see
Was the freedom to do all that I couldn’t before
That sunlit pathway stretched ahead of me
I remember I smiled a little too avidly
He grinned like a loon right back
And so it was decided auspiciously
That we’d be married in three months stat!
The wedding was done, it was T-plus six months
And I sat at my dressing table
I looked at the face of the woman in front
Was she the euphoric lass of fables?
She looked back at me confusedly
I pretended I didn’t quite read
What her eyes were so desperately telling me -
That rabbit hole was just too deep.
I looked away, this wasn’t the first time
Of my inability to face the ghosts
Of broken hearts and shattered dreams
Of being deluded, of feeling lost
I had grown up believing with all my being
That my best life lay ahead
When I took on the mantle of someone’s wife
That’s what age-old tradition said
But that’s not true, I now know
When I can’t look at myself in the mirror
There are shackles anew, I’m so confused
My dreams couldn’t have been frailer
And so I wait yet again, but now
Free of archaic norms and guiles
For when I can find the courage to be
Who I really am, who I have been all this while.
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I saw a little spider today
Weaving itself a pathway;
In silken thread and zestful strides
It made its way up the side
Of the glass wall close to me
I kept watching it carefully
Partly because horror flicks
Have made me squirm around these arachnids
But mostly because of the enterprise
It put into its little life
It climbed halfway up the glass
And then a gust of wind alas!
Tore its thready ladder up
It swayed before going plop!
Right onto the table where
I sat with my coffee to stare
At this busy creature lift
Its body up bit by bit
I moved back in mild alarm
Not because I’d come to harm
That was not the thought I had
My arachnophobia got me to stand
It sat there a little concussed I think
Before it gathered up its wits
And off it went climbing again
Forming anew, repairing
With so much drama in its life
Buffeting winds, with predators rife
The spider stays focused on its goals
It weaves its web, mends broken holes.
We can learn a thing or eight
From this marvellous arachnid -
To go on even when we’ve gone plop!
To persevere, to climb back up
Folks, if little spidey can be
A superhero, so can we.
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She’s probably flown in on her witch’s broom
As her sullen starchiness sweeps the room
She looks around her and she spies
Young women having a good time
She glowers at the girls
No dupattas covering their shirts!
The lines between her brows grow grim
Huddling together like dowager twins
Then they rise up in stark rebuke
Clamouring, hammering “I’m judging you!”
He sits in the cafe looking around
A smoking gun dangling from his mouth
As he peers over the smoke
It’s gnarled fingers like a cloak
Hide the vileness in his eyes
He stares at the woman who sits alone
She ignores his lecherous stare
He taps his gun, his yellow teeth bared
Smoke-grey lips curl into an ugly “U”
Leering, sneering “I’m judging you!”
This judiciary are the insidious dregs
Of a society that has no legs
No kind eyes. Their hearts are still
Yet they sit there determined to fill
Precious spaces in our lives
With their hats and their beehives.
They hold on to crass old ways
As their own insecurities play
Out an age old tune
Croaking, choking “I’m judging you!”
Give not a hoot nor a call
To them sitting in their Halls
Of Judgement. They are not fit
Not a thimble, not a whit!
Stand your ground with those that will
Force upon you their own bitter pills
Calmly cut them down to size
Look them in their jaundiced eyes
When you spy their mottled souls
Their power fades to judge you at all
Live your life how you will
Reach for the stars, ride the wind
May you always find your spark
Even when all around you is dark
Move away when you feel dragged
Down, down; making you feel bad.
Build within you your own compass
Of dignity, courage and kindness
So that the only one ever judging you
Is YOU dear one, only ever you.
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I see her sitting under the tree
Dignified and serene even as she is encircled
In the cumbersome arms of poverty.
Destitution has cloaked her for many years
From head to toe it has persevered. But still
There are nuances of grace and light;
Of a decorum that has bested the blight.
Sparse hair is pulled back into a little knot
Threadbare clothes are mended and clean
Calloused feet wear leather sandals
Thousands of steps etched into their seams.
She sits there solitary and separate
Her expression is one of learned abjection
As she labours on in her enterprise
To live another day, to go on, to survive.
But every so often, when there is a lull
In the cresting and falling human swell
Where she sits, under the leafy canopy
The wretchedness leaves her face
And in its place
Shines a serene and quiet majesty
A poise, a stateliness
Quietly they still linger in her being.
Even as she sits under the tree
To beseech, to plead, to request
I can still see the queen.
The lotus flower blooms in hues
Of lovely pinks and whites
It stands tall in the muddy pond
Resplendent and upright
Even when its watery abode
Goes from murky to bone dry
The lotus flower, it endures
The adversity and stays alive
It blooms in beauty and in grace
While its roots take all the strain
Bravely going from day to day
Through sunshine and through rain
We human beings are quite a lot
Like the stalwart lotus flower
Buffeted by all kinds of winds
We still find our super powers
Our bodies and our spirits may be
Trampled by pain and strife
But we hold on, roots and all
We persist and we survive.
And so it is that even in
Our darkest, joyless hours
The lotus in our throbbing hearts
Renews; continues to flower.
“I love you and only you
You fill my heart in every way
I will be but a shell if you
Call it quits and leave me some day”
Said the man with the twisted lips
As he held her close, hands on her hips
He’d done this a lot and then changed gears
The words felt absurd even to his own ears.
She looked into eyes that were gleaming with fire
Was it hope, was it love, was it lustful desire?
The three entities then followed behind
As she walked into the space of her heart and her mind
There she sat them down, the judicious sleuth
And looked into their faces now lit up with truth
Hope sat there wilted, there was hardly a trace
Of sincerity and faith on its mottled face
Love was like a wraith of its radiant self
Like old dust that had drifted off of the shelf
Smouldering away in the furthest corner
With sly little tentacles sat covetous Desire
It looked at her trying to hide its true hues
But in the light of the soul that was hard to do.
She lifted the heavy hands from her hips
Bestowed a smile from her beautiful lips
“I suppose I should say a heartfelt thank you
But I won’t; those words, they just don’t ring true”.
Little Meg was a field ant
She had a wooden leg
She couldn’t crawl like the others did
She hoppity-hopped instead
She could not carry heavy crumbs
Of fruit and grains and sweets
She could only hoppity-hop
So she didn’t go on hunting sprees
While the rest of the colony
Went hunting for their food
Little Meg stayed in the nest
And swept and cleaned their rooms
One day it rained for five whole hours
Flooding the whole world
Little Meg’s home too overflowed
As the mud and leaves all swirled
The Queen then gathered all the ants
Something had to be done
A bridge to cross to higher ground
Away from the dangerous currents
Little Meg with her wooden leg
Hoppity-hopped to the front
“Your majesty with my Neem tree leg
I will get this job done”
While the other ants made mud balls
Little Meg went on ahead
She dropped each ball in the rushing flow
And hoppity-hopped to place the next
Little Meg with her wooden leg
Got thousands to dry land
They still sing praises of her courage
That brave little field ant
For all the girls, and the women young and old, who are made to feel less, inferior or impaired because they have dreams that are different to the ones dreamt up for them by others. May you find the strength and the passion to be you.
Why must I be what I don’t want to be?
Why must I change the state of my dreams?
Why must I cower in fear of my world?
Why must the story of my life stay untold?
Why must I hide myself away?
Why must I look behind me always?
Why must there always be danger to me?
To my spirit, my soul, my mind, my body?
Why can I not laugh out loud when I want?
Why must I hide all my joy in my heart?
Why can’t I turn my face to the sun?
Why must I hide in the shadows you’ve spun?
Why must I bear the ball and chain of my roots?
Why must I remain invisible and mute?
Why was I born if not to revel
In life’s ever cresting and falling swell?
I’m a child of this world, let me roam free
Let me think, let me speak, let me be me
I’m a creature of this earth, I belong everywhere
Let me spread my wings, let me lay my heart bare
Let me be, let me be, just what I want to be
Let me dream, let me dream, what I want to dream
Let me walk in this world unafraid and kind
Let my life tell the story of my heart and my mind.
KINDNESS, it’s such a simple thing
And yet we speak of it like it was the benevolence of kings
DIGNITY, such a basic quality
And yet we are in awe of it like it was the Pope’s homily
COURAGE, that gritty stuff of warriors!
We speak of it like it was an unmasterable barrier
HONESTY, its whiteness, and its shades of grey
Always so elusive, like catching the sun’s rays
Being SELF-AWARE, that dialogue with one’s core
Only Maharishis* can ever open up that door
Depleting self-suggestion tells us
How unconquerable are the odds
Of mastering these exalted traits;
This stuff of Allamahs* and gods.
Look within yourself and tell me
That you don’t see the shimmer
Of all these “divine” elements
Some bright, some a little dimmer
It’s time to wrap yourself in your kindness and dignity
To feel the potent warmth of your courage and honesty
That is you, that’s how you were built to be
Take your inertia and your self doubt
And finally throw them out to sea.
* Maharishi: A great Hindu sage or spiritual leader
* Allamah: An honorary and prestigious title carried by only the very highest scholars of Islamic thought, jurisprudence, and philosophy. It is used as an honorific in Sunni Islam as well as in Shia Islam. Allamah is a leader for the Islamic faith.