My temples throb
Like the devil has set up shop
In their wefts of flesh and bone
There he threshes
His wheat and corn
Brimstoned and fire shorn
Screaming out his brutal song
Tied inside my throbbing head
Forced to see, ingest and feel
Making me curse
Making me keen
In time to the pounding drum
And the terrifying never-ending hum
Of the devil’s threshing machine
I try to think
Break out of the infernal links
That tie me down inside my head
My raging, aching, splitting head
But the devil sings
His strangely hypnotizing song
And I stop
Trying to slip
Into my veins
Away, away from the devil’s shop
From that wretched, that exhausting pain
And I stay
The convulsions hold me in their sway
Beating, pulverizing me
Crescendoing with my memories
And I sit with my pounding head
As the throb in my temples counts the dead.
VERSE | WAR
LISTEN TO THE POEM BEING READ AT: https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMLSPk6FW/
Cannons boom, bombs explode
The world is the home of war
Lieutenants give crisp commands
To their soldiers, weary and sore
The tribunal sits in their gilded halls
Drinking their whisky tea
The senior most is ninety years old
The youngest is seventy three
They take pride in stoking this war
‘Tis the battle of righteous men
Sending sons and daughters to fight
While they cackle in unison
There’s chaos and killing; a dread that is stilling
The conflict they’ve wrought makes no sense
The old men don’t care, as war trumpets blare
Charged by the flourish of their pens
Soon the booming cannons and the bombs
Will end their brutal repartee
Of slashing and slaying - their bloody tribute paid
To their masters across the seas
The dead will be many, they’ll lie in the mud
Young soldiers from both sides, together
The grief and the pain will be the same
In the broken hearts of all the mothers
War is Jang* is война* is Guerre*
There is no pretty word for it
That can honour or extol or purify
The endless sea of blood it lets
As cannons boom, bombs explode
And the world crashes and burns
The inflection point for humankind
Is now at the cusp of no return.
Jang/ война/ Guerre: The word “war” in Urdu, Russian and French respectively.
OPINION| A GRACIOUS FAREWELL
I’ve been meaning to put this hitherto confusing, emotionally wounding mass of thoughts to paper for a while now. So far, through all the varied attempts over the last 10 years, I’ve always choked on the words in my mind; cocooned in a kind of benumbing Writer’s Block if you will.
So here i am today, feeling a little more intrepid, a tad more emotionally sound and spurred on by a medley of bittersweet reminiscences, to finally reflect on the vital importance of End of Life acceptance, dignity and preparedness.
To die is inevitable; to lead a life well-lived is a choice. And yet, we leave so much to providence while we can still exercise our power to choose, and put up formidable bulwarks of resistance when faced with the inevitable. This is a construct and a bullheaded perpetuation of our modern times, urged on by medical advances and their preserving effect on our life expectancy. While we are living longer, we have also developed an almost combative relationship with the End of Life. Even when everything is pointing towards the inevitable final exit, we choose to fight. We push back, we suffer, we agonize and we degrade, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually as we try and keep the “monster” at bay. A lot of times, that militancy is dispensed by the people closest to the terminally ill; and despite their good intentions, end up reducing their already suffering loved ones to little more than vulgarised shadows of their former selves.
In 2008, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She lived with the disease for four years with the dignity, grace and courage of the superwoman that she was. Never once did she put on the mantle of the reduced or the afflicted or the invalid. Right to the end, she remained the gracious matriarch of her warm, welcoming home. Towards the end, the final two days to be exact, when she should have been allowed to make that Final Walk with the same beautiful poise with which she had lived her life, we, her family and her medical specialists intervened with all of our might to fight off the inevitable. She was taken to two different hospitals over the span of the last 3 days where the vitally alive battled to avert or at least delay an end, that became heartbreakingly beleaguered.
My final memory of her last day with us, has nothing in the way of any gentleness, love or the deep peace of final goodbyes. It is a memory fraught with fussing, poking, prodding Medical Staff intubating, pulling and pushing her as they, with determined professionalism, executed their Hippocratic oaths. The memory of her looking right at me, confused and exhausted as they inserted the ET tube down her throat is still searingly painful.
For a full two years after that, I thought of that terrible, terrible last scene every single night before i allowed myself to sleep. Perhaps it was my form of emotional self flagellation for being a well meaning party to the inadvertent indignity and torment my mother suffered towards the end.
And then, I’m not sure whether it was a providential helping hand reaching out from my own subconscious to finally pull me out of my emotional abyss, or the tender, cosmic reverberations of the maternal bond that helped me to transition to my current state of mental well being. That said, it was a dream that gave me back some semblance of my peace. So lucid, potent and reassuring was the vision of my mother being well and happy that i woke up with the sheer visceral force of the feeling – the warmth of her touch still lingering on the skin of my hands. (I have written about the dream in another post: https://theroamingdesi.org/2020/03/09/thank-you-for-the-joy/ )
And so, I finally did surface from the viper pit of guilt and grief and i have since, forgiven myself.
All living creatures are the sum total of their experiences and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my experience of losing someone close to me is the ability to see death for what it is – unavoidable. While I have lost my fear of the end, i also now understand the profound blessing a quick (relatively painless) exit is. That a departure that is underscored with acceptance, essential conversations, tranquility and quality time spent together becomes the blessed catalyst for more fully celebrating the lives of the loved ones we’ve lost. That the ability to see life and death with more ethereal eyes, to help us to grieve a little less and remember with joy so much more, are the cornerstones of a loving, respectful parting.
These End of Life conversations need to logically start in the hallowed halls of medical science. Medical caregivers need to bring more depth to their oaths taken for preserving the well being of human life, to include the dignity of death. These conversations need to become mainstream; to change the culture of the crusading and contrariness around death. In our current approach, we are left with too little in the way of the love and grace of final farewells.
It will take a consummate change in our emotional and social makeup and temperaments to begin to ennoble death even half as much as we do life. Given the current state of our world, this gracious labour of love around Final Partings may be the panacea for reminding us of both, the wonderful alchemy of the state of being alive and the eternal fragility of life itself.
De Khudai pe aman