Archive for January, 2013



I ramble, seeking mirages,
vanishing into nothingness.


I reach, a yawning abyss.

The edge of the crevasse beckons,


I make my choice.

I step back

The Burning of Manuscripts


The hubris of religious bigotry,

is chilling,

ancient manuscripts are torched,

burnt to cinders.



The searing furnace of fanaticism,
rages on and on,

history itself vanishes,

amidst the smouldering embers.



The arrogance of prejudice,

in all its countless incarnations,

runs amok,
ablaze with self-righteous conceit,


and the smoke billows,

smearing a greying sky,
with the ashes of history,

above a library in Timbuktu.

Polythene Desires Etc.


Life hobbles on,

in this realm of lonesome pairs,
solitary couples,
terminal unions,

desolate hearts,
heaving wallets,
empty consciences.


I make my way,

in this citadel of rehearsed apathy,
quiet acceptance,
mute acquiescence,

slowly disappearing,
gently rotting,
silently drowning.


It remains the same,

in this wasteland of opulent excess,
stinking banquets,
manufactured happiness,

fake smiles,
polythene desires,
anaesthetised souls.


I reach within,

my lobotomised self,
cocooned in fleeting comfort,
dumbed down by numbing routine,

to escape,
to flee,
to run,

flailing helplessly around,

as I remain,


beneath this barren ground

I am

The moon blinks,
behind a tapestry of clouds,

while sounds of the night,
engulf the city,

soaking up,
the remnants of today.

I sit alone,
the heavens embracing me,

and a long-lost sense of belonging,

to hush all gloom.

I am one,

at ease now,

lost in the midst,
of countless shimmering suns.

I am one,

though not lonely,

and as the blanket of darkness,
caresses my soul,

I am assured,

that I am me,


that I am whole



Bygone moons,
have waned,

yesterday’s flowers,
silently wilt,

tomorrow’s promise,




at rest within my vault,

peaceful, serene, wrapped in hushed tranquil nothingness.




Yet loneliness stings,
scratching at scabs,

as old wounds,


even as,
I mask the ache,

by smearing on,
the smile of a jester.




Laughing aloud,
peppering moments with banal chit-chat,

sipping tea,

quietly suffocating,

asphyxiated by everyday’s shroud.




The vacuum within,



through days of feigned mirth,

between lunch and supper,

as the lonesome heart,

screams out,

in a desperate, though muted plea.




All the while,
the passing parade,

moves on,

leaving me,

to rehash,

scribbled verse,


this sorry charade



Inspired by Bob Dylan

Sheltered from the howling winds of vows and scattered souls and sweltering hate,

she is a refuge from the blistering sands of dread and loss and torn and twisted fate.

When the emptiness inside becomes an abyss so dark and wild and cold,

my words get lost in the jangling alleys where dreams are bought and sold.

I met her in those alleys among the withering roses on a bed of thorns,

and she filled me up with poems banishing the scowling moments and their baleful scorns.

Now I lie awake and wish that I could sleep and drift away into the maze of her dream,

but slumber has fled and slipped the noose around my words as they thrash around and scream.

Words that swirl around and around like that scarlet scarf wrapped around her face,

she’s a mystery still as she will always be while I sift through this empty desolate space.

The storm it broke and ceased and shuffled my words as they drifted forlornly into the chasm of the dead,

leaving me here still and mute and frantic as I try to pick up the pieces of all the words that have been said.

Far too many far too often far too conceited and far too proud,

for I failed to hear the stillness of beauty as I rambled along barking my words out aloud.

She hushes me now as she hushed me then in the cobwebbed tunnels of the past,

while I weep more words in blood and ink onto dried parchment meant never to last.

So tell her that her whiskey has been greedily gulped down and now that I am soberly drunk,

I see her songs and hear her breath reaching down into my mouldy abode of hapless funk.

Fare-thee-well for now as I slide into the scribbled hubris of another battered rhyme,

dazed by the glaring embers as they scorch the moments of quickly fading time.

And if tomorrow finds me here still shell-shocked and drained in body and in mind,

tell her that her wine has slipped through the loose knots that bind.

Tying me to this place of sanity and insanity all rolled into one,

while all is numb and scarred from the deed that has been done.

And as I flee recklessly chasing away myself from me once more,

she’ll know the words for its a song that’s been sung far too many times before.

(for Bob Dylan)

Sprinkling kisses,
on dusty lips,


knots of desire,
twist beneath the veneer.

A yearning heart,
dipped in a blazing cauldron,

knows not,
the coolness of the dew,

settling on the dawn petals,
lonesome as a solitary tear.

Cast away, floating,
adrift on the waters of fate,

I catch,
at last,

a glimpse of love.

Fleeting, impermanent,

poised to take flight,

to soar,
into the great blue sky,

while alone,

I feel the tugging need,

of surrendering to the ocean,

embracing the unknown,
in a slow dance.

A tango with truth, and with unshackled love,

as the dice rolls,

with the intoxicating promise,

that final chance


A summer breeze,
drifts down lonesome boulevards,

touching worlds,
torn apart.

The breeze engulfs,
a pristine sky of blue,

scattering murmuring clouds,

that blanket the African heavens,

in swirls and immaculate shrouds.


A passing shower,
of gentle misty rain,


on freshly scented-earth.

It soothes,

it caresses,

the exhausted thoughts,


a weary traveller,

who sits,

under a Baobab tree.


The traveller walks alone,

at peace with the fragrant soil,

collecting memories of smiles along the way.


Finally, the wandering soul,

seeks rest,

finding peace at last,

yet knowing its price,

is to let go,

each memory,
and every smile,

that once burned true,

but now,
awaits release,

from the ache of the lingering past.

My first attempt at putting a video of poetry + sounds of rain together!



Mute, I stand accused,

scribbling words,
meaningless and empty.

Slipping into a vacuum,
torn apart with each breath,
wasting precious time,

on verses never to be read,
jarred by today’s tattered rhyme.

Mute, I stand alone,
wishing for little,
scraping an endless pit,

of longing and of fear,
unashamedly drenched,

by frayed nerves,
that wash away,
every stinging tear.

Mute, I stand,
picking at scabs,
of wounds raw and fresh,

yearning for a whisper,
of a forgotten sonnet,

stitching a gaping emptiness,

as today departs,
snatching peace as it leaves,

threatening a tomorrow,

desolate and charred,

while jabbing at fractured sentiments,

as memories fade,

leaving this man,

alone, at rest, at last,

holding onto futile desire,



forever scarred


in the debris of the past,
scraps of casually discarded emotion.

in hastily trashed yesterdays,
an inkling of moments flung away.

in heaps of rubbished words,
that tiresome sigh of defeated thought.

in the layers of moulted skin
the wilting self that once was true.

in the reflections between the ripples,
for the whispered pangs of roaring desire.

in the blank eyes streaming endlessly,
an echo of the faintest sigh of new life.



Why does the sun dry up so many scattered tears
Slipping down the coarse cheek of a million hushed fears
Where no one is scalded though the searing fog clears
While prayers are mutely spoken even as the end nears

We shatter and scrape on demented knees
Blindly begging for mercy as it silently flees
Searching listlessly for salvation drowned in the breeze
That spits at the soft rose suffocated by a wheeze

I know now what I need never have known
Of hope that was trampled before it had flown
Into a wasted sky filled with hate that could drown
The giggling of the crowd and the crying of the clown

A hope so fragile its wings were of brittle glass
Ripping the veneer off the sewers of class
Twisting the fabric of the weighed and costed mass
Who numbly waited hoping that it too may pass

For when shards of that hope in all hearts scurries away
To a darkness where crowded night is emptied off the heaving tray
’Tis then when sewn eyes behold that doleful day
When all shall tear at each other while on demented knees we still pray

For a lifting of the veil of that wilful deceit
That’s wrapped up in a flag swollen with conceit
While the limbs splinter in the claw of a winner’s defeat
Yet still the drums roll for the ill-fated souls chose never to retreat

From that drenched battleground where blood flows through a sieve
And love’s lost song plaintively begs for a reprieve
From eternal loss which into raw emotion does cleave
Only to slip through the fingers and like grains of sand leave




we shall always be many more

we who roast in your designer factories

our brows dripping with our salty sweat

we who may forgive but shall never forget


we shall always be many more

we who reek of cheap moonshine

we who stagger and often stumble

we whose stomachs never cease to rumble


we shall always be many more

we who polish your fine bone china

we whose pay gets docked if one cup is chipped

we who fight your wars, and off to battle get shipped


we shall always be many more

we who clean up after your pretty children

we whose kids are hungry, naked and get swept

into the bowels of desolation, as mothers’ tears are wept


we shall always be many more

we who do your dirty work each day

we who you treat like vermin, foul and rotten

we whose trampled dignity is always forgotten


we shall always be many more

we who will rise up and seize the light of hope

and reclaim what is ours for our daughters and sons

though we will always be in the cross-hairs of your guns


we shall always be many more

and there shall be many more of us still to come

to rid you of your smug arrogance and endless greed

for we too have children whom we have to feed


we shall always be many more

‘and the meek shall inherit the earth’

or something like that though we no longer care

for we shall rise up one day to demand our rightful share


we shall always be many more…


It was a long time ago

when you put your words into song.


‘This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender’ you scribbled on your old guitar.


You wielded that banjo and guitar as weapons,


fiddling out a hail of truth.


Of solidarity.


Of immediate calls for peace.


You said of Leadbelly, that ‘Huddie Ledbetter was a helluva man’.


You sang and spoke through dust clouds and relief lines.


You taught us all, to seek out hope wherever we can.


And when they tried to call all of you ‘goddamned reds’,


you sang on ever louder and louder, rattlin’ their prejudices as they slept in their plush beds.


You rode and you rambled and thumbed your way around,


this land that is my land and your land too.


For you believed all this earth was shared common ground.


And when you sang of overcoming one day,


the injustice and the pain that you witnessed along the way,


they branded you a commie, a pinko, a nigger and a Jew-lover.


An enemy of the state.


While your banjo and your guitars wrestled their blind hate.


‘This machine kills fascists’ you etched on that guitar as well


but they were all deaf, for they could not hear the tolling of the bell


‘the bell of freedom


the hammer of justice


the song of love between your brothers and your sisters’.


And they knew not that they were the ones who would sizzle in their own bigoted hell.


And then came the marches.


You were there too.


Marching and singing with Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma.


And you faced their ugly spit, their venomous rage, their clubs and sticks and knives, but you always knew,


that your cause was just and that the truth would one day prevail.


However long it may take, you would never give up. 


You sang and you marched and you strummed yourselves,


victoriously into their jail.


Then they shot him down, they shot Dr. King dead, as they burnt and lynched many, many more.


Yet you stood firm, you never wavered, your blood was red after all, and they could not tarnish the truth’s core


And so it came to pass, that Woody went on his way.


To his pastures of plenty up in the sky.


And Huddie too, said his last goodbye.


And you were then one, and you may have felt alone and overwhelmed by the battles and with all that was wrong.


But you saw that the people were with you. 


As they had been, all along.


So you fiddled that old banjo,


dragging it through Newport and Calcutta and Dar-es-Salaam.


Through countless unknown halls in numberless unknown towns,


across this earth, turning, slowly, putting smiles of amity on faces that were once pock-marked with disillusioned frowns.




today as I pen these poorly scribbled words for all of you,


for Woody, Huddie, and Pete,


I do so in gratitude, for after all the travails that you’ve been through,


I know that you know that this world still has its fair share of hate, and of loss and of injustice and of gloom,


but I also know that you know that though all the old flowers may have gone,


there always will be, as there always must be,


fresh flowers,


that will be ablaze somewhere,


driving away the apathy and reminding us all,


that this world has for all of us,


plenty of room.



Escaping the omnipresent shadows,

eluding the sweaty palms of the torturer,

running to shed this sorry skin of shame,

in hiding, here and there, with no one,

yet everyone to silently blame.


Leaving the lips once kissed behind,

to a refuge impossible to find,

not a word of sad welcome,

severing all ties the that bind.


And then finally off to a new dwelling in a faraway alien land,

reeking and drenched in a foreignness so blatantly bland,

never fitting in, though always dreading being shut out,

singing paeans to hope scribbled in the sand.


You left your country, your home, your very own place of being,

you fled, into exile, far away from blinded eyes so unseeing,

and you held to a principle within and you stood resolute,

till the shadows felt themselves in shame fleeing,


We salute you! And all like you, and the so many countless more,

into whose flesh the tyrant’s sword so cruelly tore,


We salute you! You who fought and you who left to fight,

at home, or on that faraway and distant shore



Forget us not,

fellow traveller in our just cause,


‘aluta continua’ was our refrain!

As we trudged in soggy marshes,

malarial fevers lashing us in the summer rain!


‘amandla’ we shouted!

As we hurled stones at that heartless foe,

facing their metallic beasts with our arrows and our bow!



Forget us not,

fellow traveller in our just cause,


‘aluta continua’ is our refrain still!

‘amandla’ we shout today too!

As the fight continues,

for the many who yearn for a world less cruel,

and more true.



Forget us not

fellow traveller in our just cause,


though we have passed and in the earth we lie,

remember us who fell,

and a tear or two for us in solemn moments do cry!



Forget us not,

fellow traveller as you pick up our stones,



forget us not,

as you exhume our tattered rags and bones,



Forget us not,

and do not our cherished ideals betray,



Forget us not,

for we too,


believe in that promise of a new day!


They left so abruptly,

the valiant ones.



many known,

many more nameless.


The truest sons and singers,

husbands and poets,

lovers and wives,

daughters and farmers,

workers and sisters,

brothers and friends.



They left so abruptly,

with quiet pride,

a steely courage,

and a gentle dignity.


They left so abruptly,

leaving us our tomorrows,



filled with promise.


They left so abruptly,

so that we may breathe,

the breath of liberty!

The air of freedom!

The warmth of justice!


They left so abruptly,

leaving with us their parting gift…










They left so abruptly,

yet we remember them all today,

and in the days to come,

their legacy will light our way!



They left so abruptly,

yet they remain!

Hewn into our memory and conscience,

engraved in our heart!


They left so abruptly,

and yet they endure,

with us,

within us,

now and forever more!

At times,
I want to crawl,
out of my skin,

to escape,

abandoning my face,
my mouth, my heart,

to face,
the mouths, the hearts,

pointing at my empty shell.

At times,
I want to crawl,
out of my mind,

to flee,

losing my senses, my sanity, my thoughts,

to exult,
free at last,

hugging insanity, grasping at madness,

free, finally,

to lay my yesterdays,

to rest

Recital at International Solidarity Conference, South Africa, October 2012.



I remember the tears she shed,

as she longed for her distant abode,

she wept often then, as she pined for her children, Tasneem & Azad,


and felt the future looked bleak, on that dim, lonely road.


I remember the tears she shed,

when that telegram came one afternoon,

‘regret to inform you stop father passed away stop’,


She wept often after that, for their last goodbye had been said too soon.


I remember the tears she shed,

on that glorious day in a February not that long ago,

when the prisoner finally walked out, breathing the free air,


she wept less after that, for then she knew where they were to go.


I remember the tears she shed,

soaring high above the clouds heading back to her land,

those tears came out in soft sobs, but her eyes were smiling,


defiant and full of new hope, as she held tightly on to his wrinkled hand.


I remember the tears she shed,

some years later, on that peaceful late April morning,

when she stood and proudly bore the ink on her aging thumb,


she wept a lot that April evening, knowing that a new day was dawning.


I also remember that on a Thursday not long ago,

as she was slipping away slowly, she seemed not to weep,

after all the miles and places, and after all the tears that she had cried,


I remember that she wept little then, as she drifted off into an eternal sleep.


(for my mother, Zubeida Moolla 1934 – 2008)



My Mother and Father

Zubeida & Mosie Moolla

Echoes of distant yesterday,

composing dirges,

in memory,

of torn hearts,
left unstitched.

The blood gushes,

through leaky veins,
spilling out,

painting the earth red.

We tread on,


peering from unseeing eyes,

the echoes haunt us,

settling into corners,
of our shared souls,

jarring us,

to embrace,
every sliver of hope,

though jaded,

the blood flows,


seeping from wound’s,
inflicted by destiny,

and by fate,

while echoes,
stir quietly,

our ever mindful,

sentinels against forgetting

Remember us…

(Dedicated to the countless South Africans who gave their lives for freedom and democracy)


Remember us when you pass this way,


We who fell,

Who bled,


Remember us when you pass this way,

We who fell so that countless others may stand,

We who bore the brunt of the oppressor’s hand.


Remember us when you pass this way,

Leave a flower or two as you pass along,

Sing! Sing for us a joyous & spirited song.


Remember us when you pass this way,


We who fell,

Who bled,


Remember us when you pass this way.


Remember us in your tomorrows,

As you remember us today


Amandla! The Struggle Continues…

the rains settle,
meandering over jagged faultlines of our memory.

the rains settle,
streaming through veins,

the thud-thudding of the heartbeat of Africa.

the rains that settle,
within each of us,

herald rebirth.

if you listen,

if you strain to hear,
while shedding the raucous noise of your inner turmoil.

If you listen,

the whispers of the ancestors,

speak to us all,
lending us warmth,

urging us to stand,

even though we may

even though we may fall

(for Lata Sethi’s late-mother, who was my mother’s ‘sister’ and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi)

…a wife left South Africa in the 1960’s to join her husband

who was in exile at the time…

in 1970 the husband was sent by the African National Congress to India to be its representative there…

the husband and wife spent two years in Bombay…

one afternoon the husband fell and broke his leg…

the wife knocked on their neighbour’s door, in an apartment complex in Bombay

the neighbour was an old Punjabi lady…

the wife asked the neighbour for a doctor to see to the injured husband…

a Parsi (Zoroastrian) ‘Bone-Setter’ was promptly summoned…

the husband still recalls his anxiety of seeing ‘Bone-Setter’ written on the Parsi gentleman’s bag…

by the way, the ‘Bone-Setter’ worked his ancient craft and surprisingly for the husband, his broken leg healed quite soon…

but still on that day, while the ‘Bone-Setter’ was seeing to the husband…

the wife and the old Punjabi lady from next door got to talking about this and that and where these new Indian-looking wife and husband were from as their accents were clearly not local…

the wife told the elderly Punjabi lady that the husband worked for the African National Congress of South Africa and had left to serve the ANC from exile…

and that they had left their two children behind in South Africa and that they were now essentially political refugees…

the Punjabi lady broke down and wept uncontrollably…

she told the foreign woman that she too had had to leave her home in Lahore in 1947 and flee to India with only the clothes on her back when the partition of the subcontinent took place and Pakistan was formed and at a time when Hindus from Pakistan fled to India and vice versa…

the Punjabi lady then asked the foreign woman her name… 

‘Zubeida’, but you can call me ‘Zubie’…

the Punjabi woman hugged Zubie some more, and the two women, seperated by age and geography, wept, sharing a shared pain…

the Punjabi woman told Zubie that she was her ‘sister’ from that day on, and that she felt that pain of exile and forced migration and what being a refugee felt like…

Zubie and her husband Mosie became the closest of friends with the Punjabi neighbours who had become refugees themselves, as ‘Muslim’ Pakistan was created…

then came the time for Mosie and Zubie to leave for Delhi where the African National Congress office was based…

the elderly Punjabi lady and Mosie and Zubie said their goodbyes…

a year or two later, the elderly Punjabi lady’s daughter Lata married Ravi Sethi and the couple moved to Delhi…

the elderly Punjabi lady called Zubie and told her that her daughter was coming to Delhi to live and that she had told Lata, her daughter that she had a ‘sister’ in Delhi…

Lata and Ravi Sethi then moved to Delhi…

This was in the mid-1970’s…

Lata and Zubie became the closest of friends and that bond stayed true, and stays true till today, though Zubie is no more, and the elderly Punjabi lady is no more…

the son and the husband still have a bond with Lata and Ravi Sethi…

a bond that was forged between Hindu and Muslim and between two continents across the barriers of creed and shared anguish…

a bond strong and resilient, forged by the pain and trauma of a shared experience…

and that is why, and I shall never stop believing this, that hope shines still, for with all the talk of this and of that, and of that and of this, there will always be a simple woman, somewhere, anywhere, who would take the ‘other’ in as a sister, a fellow human…

and that is why there will always be hope…

hope in the midst of this and of that and of that and of this…


(for Lata Sethi’s late-mother, who was my mother’s ‘sister’ and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi)

As our ancestors speak,
we hear their whispers,

deep in our South African night.

We hear them,
their hushed pleas,
and plaintive murmurs,

imploring us,

to listen, to hear,

to still the din of the day,

to feel caressed,
by the blanket of night.

As our ancestors whisper,
they wait,

for us to listen, to hear,
their songs of life,

rising from our soil,
healing our inner strife,

while hushing our fears,


wiping away,

our cascading tears

of difference,

mingling on a canvas.

Your dream became,

our shared vision,
our collective hope,

of black, and of white,
and of rainbows,

that merge,

to a confluence,

of harmony,

within sight,
without despair,

within beating hearts,
without invisible walls,

as we pledge,
and forever more,

to honour your dream,
and build on your sacrifice,

to shun narrow visions,
of divisive gloom.

we embrace,

all colours,
every hue,
and the countless shades,

of difference,

as we,

your torch-bearers,

plant the seeds,
of the flowers of peace,
of tolerance,
of justice.

And as we nourish,
those flowers,

we know,
we know,
we know,

that the flowers of peace,
of tolerance,
of equality,
of justice,

will, and must,

inevitability bloom

She died this morning,
her body losing its final battle.

She may have died a long time ago,

and as a man, I can say she died long back.

She died,

a little,
through every humiliation that was ever meted out to her,

from the clutches of hegemonic patriarchy,

camouflaged as culture.

From the snide comments,
about her dressing,

she died this morning,
and yet I hear not a soul confessing.

She’s Dead. Raped. Murdered.

And we the people pass the buck.

To those in power.

To the cops and the politicians and the bureaucrats and the lawmakers.

But we the people,
have sat silently,

for too long.

We the people,
have fostered gender discrimination,

in our homes,
our schools,
our places of worship.

We the people,
are culpable.

We the people are guilty,
of never looking inside,

to face the beast that within us men does so often lurk and hide.

She’s Dead. Raped. Murdered.

By those thuggish savages, yes,

but by our collective inaction,
over the centuries,

as we stood idly by,

and reaped the benefits,
of women, mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces,

being shoved down in religion’s name,
in the name of caste,
of culture,
of tradition.

She’s Dead. Raped. Murdered.

And we cannot avert our shameful eyes.

We are all culpable.

You may disagree but I’ll say it again and again and again.

And again.

I am culpable.

That is true.

We are culpable,

As are those thuggish savages,

those smiling businessman who buy flesh,

those gentle fathers who slip into their daughters beds at night,

those sickening uncles and cousins who molest 5 year olds, and 15 year olds.

we are all culpable,

and we must feel shame.

we are all culpable,

and we must,

we must all,

take the blame

A lewd-stare here,
some groping there,
the vulgarity of cultural excuses,
the profaneness of looking the other way,

‘what was she wearing?’, they ask,

‘she asked for it’, they say.

The blame game continues,

films, tv, fashion,

the scape-goating is obscene,

how convenient to pass the blame,

as the abuse, harassment, cat-calls, and rape,

without any shame.

Now could we take a moment, and ask,

why don’t we ever,

take ‘culture’, ‘religion’, or ‘our people’ to task?

Well, its much easier,
to shovel blame elsewhere,

while conveniently ignoring,

religion, caste, culture, etc and etc and etc,

for if we are to point the finger of blame,

why not start at home?

but its so bloody convenient,

to spout platitudes,
to harrumph,
and to point our self-righteous fingers of blame,

here and there and everywhere,

but to question caste, religion, culture,

well, how many of us,
would even dare,

and until then,

why, we might as well,
like spectators,

continue to impotently stare

Tempus Fugit

Memories are imprinted,
through moments,
and fleeting minutes,


they fade like polaroid stills,
dimmed by the flight of time,
caught between,
the banal and the sublime.

Years trickle by,
stubbornly trudging ahead,
straining to embrace echoes of nostalgia,

yearning to hold them near,
seeking new memories,

carved by the trail of a lonesome tear.

Tomorrow may not arrive,
as it lies at the mercy,
of time’s fickle flight,

and as it slips under the blanket of night,

it flees into the arms,
of a hope, warm and bright.

The flight of time sounds its warning bell,
with smug assurance it beckons all,
to hear the tale it has to tell,
knowing someone must heed its call.

Time flies, and rapidly too,
teasing us with promises of days yet to be born,

and so we linger, wasting slices of precious time,

as we walk on,

numb and in an anaesthetised trance,

devoid of all passion,


ever weary to take the plunge,

or to hazard a chance.

(for Malala Yousafzai, 14 years old, in a critical condition after being shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban, for her work as a young activist advocating the rights of girls to attend school)

When hot lead tears the flesh of a 14 year old girl,

ripping through her skull,
leaving her to bleed out and die,

does Allah not recoil in horror,

to see His child whimper,
to see His daughter cry.

Where is the indignation,

the anger that often boils over and manifests itself as flags and books and videos are burnt in mass orgies of hollow piety,

where are the voices that scream so loud,
that denounce all but their own creed,

where are the men, the impotent men who crave for nothing more than their fascist egos to feed,

where are the voices that so loudly proclaim,
enemies here and enemies there, always quick to condemn,

where are those voices when the enemy walks amongst them.

14 year old Malala Yousafzai was shot in cold blood,

her crime?

Advocating the rights of girls to an education.

Shame on you, men of bigotry and men of cowardice.

Shame on you, silent and mute accomplices in this carnage.

Shame on me,
for my inaction,

Shame on us all,
who proclaim lofty ideals,

yet are conspicuously silent,

when a 14 year old girl is shot in the head,

by fascist fundamentalist bigots who only worship bullets of hot lead.

Not in my name!

Not in my name,
shall the cowardly men rain down abuse,

Not in my name,
shall the bigoted men light the communalistic fuse,

Not in my name,
shall Malala Yousafzai be shot in the head,

left to bleed out,
while countless mothers’ tears are shed,

not in my name,
shall religious murderers,
be left to wander free,

not in my name,
for I dare all believers to open their eyes,
to see!

To see,
the innocence of a 14 year old girl,
wanting only an education,

as the men of the cloth,
prance around with their pathetic self-righteous indignation.

I write this today,
the anger raging in my veins,

yet I fear,

that I shall write more of this,

unless we stand up and say ‘no more’,

I fear that I shall be writing this again,

until we all,

reclaim the true principles of humaneness,

until we silence the voices of bigotry,
of rage,
of fanatical insanity,

I fear I shall be writing this again,


until the muck-ridden bile,
is not excised,

I shall continue to say,


Or else I shall have nothing,

but my unending shame

the crushed skulls

and the

torn-off legs

and the

single shots piercing countless heads

women, men, children
young, old, everyone just a human being

when will we tire of the senseless killing which we keep on impotently seeing

the gaping wounds soaked in blood

dismembered corpses piled high in some humid make-shift shit-stenched mortuary

who will remain to someday write, war itself’s final obituary

for the killing goes on in the name of tribe

and the vested interests above all

but who really hears the whimpering sobs of a 4 year old’s call

for her mother, father, brother, sister

as she lies dying, bleeding out like a gutted animal, on the stinging gravel

while we deliberate and engage and while to geneva we always travel

to sign some scraps of papar that merely postpone the killing for a while

while the putrefying carcasses of human beings lie side by side, mile after bloody mile

war is ugly, they tell us

but necessary too

and we go to war for peace

while the generals and the money-men and the politicians drink and dance and screw

war is ugly

it is indeed

but so are we

if we fail to see the humanity stripped away

and peeled off the skin of that 4 year old girl

and if her cries for help we do not heed

war and guns and bombs and the very latest smart nuke

sickens me as it should us all
making us retch and puke

but who gives a fuck about the bomba falling far away

we’ve got chores to do, margarine to buy, and take the family out for the day

war is ugly

so they tell us

while loading the magazines without much of a fuss

war is ugly

and cold and brutal and evil as the hounds of some distant hell

but who gives a fuck for we have sneakers to buy and stocks to sell

war is ugly

but so are you and I

for we remain silent

as the bombs fall incessantly on

out of the open sky

shame on me and shame on us all, that much I believe is true

for our silence in the face of misery is tacit acceptance

and try as we might to innure ourselves

I am as complicit in it all

as are you…

no more this and that as
the sweltering pain distills empty chit-chat

in the clarity of the dawn
while blinded lovers fawn

the words that are spoken are mostly broken

meant not in truth but merely as a consolation token

of placating shredded hearts with lie upon lie

while weaving tales high up in the unreachable sky

torn and twisted truths clung onto so tight-fisted

but as the smoke clears the truth sears

through the gurgling blood flowing down the years

and after hour upon hour of salt-drenched tears

while long suppressed fears springs forth and reappears

as feelings shift gears and as it all in a flash disappears

and though yesterday was gentle and the passions elemental

today its all just slipped away

beyond reach of even tomorrow as emotions faltered and began to sway

and so wrath wraps itself in doleful cloth

silently despising all movement yet resenting all weary sloth

wheezing past the denizens of the glorious ivory towers

seated on fences that expose all defences

stripping away the layers of dismembered senses

and in the end the one that breaks is the one that refuses to bend

to yield and lower the mock shield

stamping its bitter verdict inside an emptiness that is within a vacuum sealed

so awaken to the realisation that all that was has been forsaken

while idle moments seem ripe to be taken

through thick and thin and the bluster and the din

of feeling the agony of being kicked in the shin

and cast aside, off from the always treacherous ride

with nowhere left to go

and no place safe to hide

…walking down this deserted street

on rock-hewn shards tearing into blistered feet

the journey may be arduous and so very long

and the will may falter, the resolve may at times feel less strong

but the journey proceeds ever on

waging battle after minor battle, while the war of attrition rages on, never to be won

the destination, the culmination of the tortured soul’s journey may never be attained

yet the spirit is infused with the strength, that from bitter lessons have been gained

thus the walk continues, the ceaseless trudging through this at times meaningless life

in joy, in misery, in the short moments of abundant plenty, and in the cold times of wretched strife

so it may come to pass on some distant, faraway day

when under the ground, in ashes we may lay

what then is the consolation of things accrued and possessions kept

when into this earth we shall return, to sleep like we have never slept

so picking up the pieces from here and there

the good, the bad, each one to share

and then leaving this realm to finally depart

back to the place where the whole saga may once again start

thinking not of morbid thoughts, no, none of this is that way meant

merely grasping the moments left, and in grasping them, to pause and think on how wisely they may be spent

for once the end knocks as it shall inevitably upon the door

and once the theatre of life’s curtain drops to the stage floor

the grand truth may be something beyond what these eyes can see
yet the small truths may be the release that eventually set the caged soul free…

With thoughts pacing around like manic footsteps in the mind

as sanity is clung onto to keep

too tired to weep

as emotions well up
like a rising tide of tears bottled up

while feelings are suppressed deep

too tired to sweep

away the fallen leaves of each lost battle as the war rages on

left with nothing but the trauma to keep

too tired to creep

away from the suffocating weight of every moment’s cold reality

while what is needed is not a step of faith, but a leap

too tired

to continue this charade of lies

too tired

to spruce up this hollow facade

as each moment yet another tired part of me dies

and as the unfeeling second-hand of time cruelly flies

ridding me of my youth each and every agonising day

it matters little the extent of my futile efforts and my needless tries

for the well of joy empties slowly as the fountain of bliss quickly dries

and as the moment of truth impassively nears

there bubbles to the surface all the unspeakable fears

of a life squandered over buckets of self-pitying tears

and of youth wasted down the passage of the years

but now the wiser one has become and a tad more bold

for if solace were to walk on by

the eyes would quietly behold

that magic that may never be bought or sold

my voice is hoarse
from the silence of my relentless screams

my very self rots
in the darkened cave of my misplaced dreams

all of everything that once kept the knotted peace
is now tattered and in pieces

twisting in the howling wind of the futile present

wasting away with each breath that it thirstily seizes

when all is gained yet all seems sour and effortlessly lost

the remnants of each day wind up counting the dreadful cost

of an emptiness embraced and a solitude ushered deep inside

of a lost mind and a wandering soul

aimlessly stumbling for a place to hide

when thirty eight years seems far too late

to clamber out of this worthless state

and when another day seems entangled in the frayed strands of pitiless fate

it reduces the sum of all that has been lived

to a soiled emotionless moment of deadened grace

while the wandering soul drifts further away

from ports of call into emptier space

where will all this dock if ever at all

the flailing untethered emotions diving as they keel over and fall

down into the crevasse of nothingness in the end

breaking and shattering further

all that now has become impossible to mend

while the lunatic within refuses to bend

like a wound that festers ever on and on
becoming fruitless to tend

so much effort to churn out such pitiful verse and pathetic rhyme

worth nothing at all
today, tomorrow
or in a month’s time

so as this pen is laid down tonight

it is surrendered gladly
for i’m far too fatigued to fight…

Mere beings flailing through the quagmire of this life,

Embroiled in this world of emptiness so stark

Hoping against hope that we find some solace, some peace,

As we stumble along in the fearfulness of the dark

What are we if not just human…

Grappling with the incessant torturous grind,

The stab of reality that wounds us each day

While we endure and persevere and with hollow platitudes

Try to placate ourselves with the veneer of strength which we always portray

What are we if not just human…

Embracing the world with all the trappings of its convenience

Deluding ourselves that the trappings will dull the pain

While innuring ourselves to the outer truths that do surround us

As we lose ourselves within our very selves,

While we gleefully celebrate the meaningless ornaments that we gain

What are we if not just human…

Just human, simply human, nothing much more and no less

Praying and hoping for a salvation beyond this realm

As we attempt to buy redemption with our false gods and our loftily mouthed intent

While we crawl through the moments of apathy and moral inebriation

Never truly grasping the very essence of what is to be simply content

What are we if not just human…

Trying and trying and still trying some more

To make sense of the senselessness that we feel inside

While in truth the masks that we wear

Shroud us more from our very selves, for it so often seems that it is from ourselves, that we choose to hide

What are we if not just human…

Though we cling on to the scraps of hope that we find here and sometimes there,

What are we if not just human…

If we cannot stop, and think, and begin to once again simply care

What are we if not just human…

And in knowing that we are just human, rekindling the humanity that must reside in us all

That refuses to smile and stand aloof, while others around us slip and fall

What are we if not just human…
Finding our feet, as we trudge along the pathways of this life that seems so harsh and at times unbearable too
What are we if not just human…
If we cannot see in ourselves, the images of him and of her and of us all, the images of me and of you…

february the 11th…

february 11th, 1990

the prisoner walked free, as Nelson Mandela stepped out into the bright African sun…

february 11th, 2011

the power of the people of egypt, of cairo, of alexandria was felt in the coolness of the African evening

the power of the people was felt

in tahreer…

that square whose symbolism will ripple across the world

vanquishing the tyranny of generations.




february the eleventh…

a shared and joyous day

for us all

let freedom reign…

Amandla! The Struggle Continues…

…an echo of her laugh

whispers past

a simple joy, a gentle breeze

of quiet reflection that can never last

the fleeting innocence once drifting along

then disappearing into the notes of that Don Henley song

the end, he sang, of the innocence once felt

of days and of nights of serene peace

gone forever now,

for into the night’s void everything must eventually melt

though the memories and the thoughts

and the echoes of her whispers

settled this gypsy heart, putting it at ease

but that’s all long gone now

even though the echoes of her whispers

seem never to cease…

beyond tahreer…

there waits history’s emotionless scribe

pen poised to record the moment of a peoples’ collective yearning

jotting down furiously the unfolding of a revolution

as hearts are inflamed with the passion for freedom intensely burning

a passion burning with the simplest wish of all, the dream of taking charge of one’s destiny

igniting the multitudes elsewhere, with its beacon of hope and of light

as the battles in maidan-e-tahreer rage deep into the long egyptian night

and though the dictator is blinded by the shimmering mirage of absolute control

his vision is marred by his unbridled and abusive power, devoid of even a hint of a soul

and so beyond tahreer

is where the real battle may be fought

after the dictator’s inevitable departure

when the remaking of a society will be by the people sought

then as that cold and exacting scribe of history commits the momentous saga to scroll

the burden will fall on the people to mould their common dreams as a collective whole

for though this certainly is a battle for freedom

it is also a battle for bread and water and shelter and dignity

for all common women and men

and that is why

beyond tahreer

will true success or abject failure be committed to paper by history’s pen

for ‘freedom’ has been fought for and has been won in many a land this wide world around

but the true meaning of ‘freedom’ has yet to be anywhere in this wide world found

…freedom from grinding servitude, and the perpetual trampling of the poor by the rich

…freedom from the howls of hungry babies and beaten-down mothers with eyes that look at you and me, with none of us yet all of us to blame

…freedom from the endless inequalities that we accept each day, the very inequalities that should compel us all to bow our heads in shame

…freedom from the ever-tightening shackles of class and of caste and of race and of creed

…freedom from the inherited privilige of those inebriated by their unending repulsive greed

and so beyond tahreer…

may the battle begin for all of us anew

a battle that has been fought and lost countless times before

a battle fought endlessly, over and over and over again

for beyond tahreer
lies that ever elusive but always possible new world
where all people reclaim their true freedoms
and when equal dignity all of the people regain
beyond tahreer

…the struggle continues

dear mr. dictator

you still don’t get it, do you?

leave, they say
and leave now

not on a september day that’s still months away

i detected a hint of dictatorial hubris in your address to ‘your beloved’ people

let it go

the danger of being hung feet-first from that lamp-post in ma’adi may give way to the storming of your palace by ‘your beloved’ people

and then things may get really nasty.

you do remember ceauşescu, do you not?

so leave, and leave now

while you still can

ps: a friend suggested that texas or florida may be a viable destination when you eventually decide to leave, as would jeddah, of course

wistful strands slipping by

of grounded dreams

that i once believed would fly…

strewn around this emptiness

where once there soared,
dreams, not of riches

but of simple happiness…

‘both sides now’ you sang,
from within

and from a feeling of being without

you moved me so, i cried, i laughed

i wanted to run into the falling rain and shout…

‘its life’s illusions that i recall’ your voice soared and dipped and with life breathed

as every one of those words you sang

tore into me, as my very core seethed…

not with bitterness or loss or with feelings even vaguely sad

your words seethed and burned through me

igniting memories of this life i’ve shared…

with those who aren’t illusions

of those who’ve embraced me

each time i’ve slipped and taken yet another fall…

for like you…

‘i really don’t know life at all’


it was a rain-swept monsoon day

way back then, so many moons away

when i felt the music strumming in my veins

setting me free like a runaway horse without any reins

you sang of simple truths,

your verse spoke to people just like me

in my lonely, wasted, and desolately quiet night

as you screamed out tragic human wrongs, and of everyone’s plight

‘bobby jean’ spoke to me

of that girl down the street

glimpses of whom, we as innocents would furtively meet

and ‘the river’ that flowed through my ever-barren heart

led me down further roads of thunder

when slowly i finally learnt that the hardest part was fighting on

and never to surrender

to the hard-luck dreams that were born to run

while i danced in the dark

with memories vivid and stark

even as i whined like that dog who for forever lost his howling bark

and then a ‘human touch’ came along

and ‘better days’ seemed real, not just words in a song

and still you sang and swayed and spoke straight into my unseeing eyes

as gardens of secrets were opened, and as your fist punched the skies

in an anger that i too felt and in whose cauldron i too burned

as we saw murder get incorporated, while on its wobbly axis, our fragile world apathetically turned

and then suddenly i was told that i was all grown up

working on a highway of scattered ideals

and absolving myself by sprinkling some coins in a waiting cup

well, after all these years of walking along so many a thorny road

with an armour of your verse covering me, even as i hear them taunt me and even as they continue to goad

but now i can feel myself fading away, into the bleakness of this coming night

just like the ghost of that old tom joad…


they do not see me at all…

as i walk through these desecrated avenues

of soul-deadening frenzy

i see them all rushing past me

and no matter how hard i try to holler and to call

they do not see me at all

it seems at times, that invisible am i

for when i reach out, and shriek out, and when on my knees i crawl

they rush past me

for they do not see me at all

i have tried to raise their ire, i have taunted and goaded them, till exhausted and fatigued, to the cold damp ground i fall

still they rush past me

for they do not see me at all

i stand mutely then and wave my hands all around while scribbling verses in my unintelligible scrawl

and yet they rush past me

for they do not see me at all

they rush past me, knocking me over without ever looking back

and then trampling over my fallen form, they look past my limp crumpled shadow, as they whine on in their monotonous drawl

for they do not see me at all

and when at last i see them look my way, and as a flicker of recognition crosses their faces

i wish to crawl back into my nothingness

where they cannot see me at all

Listless days of summer slip through my fingers

as afternoon ragas of the pandits and ustads settle a mish-mash of thought,

that tear at my soul and morosely lingers

‘shanti-mantra’ of pandit ravi shankar at the kremlin weaves through this day’s stillness…

…as ustad zakir hussain and ustad sultan khan’s ‘kithe meher ali’ brings consolation, when peace begins to pale,

filling up my empty of chalice of hope with a rich, heartfelt fullness

“…kaise karoon kahan karoon main khanjar ko istemal, har seene aye-bashaar main nihaal tera roop hai…”

“…for what shall I wield a dagger, o lord? What can I pluck it out of, Or plunge it into. When you are all the world?…”

and though one feels wrecked and wretched when it all seems futile

these are the moments of distilled clarity

where truth is often an elusive rarity

yet still we stand and still we walk

on and on and on

but not today, for today i sit

with only the ustads and pandits to offer me some solace

sans idle chit-chat, sans empty talk…


 the obscenity of the banal

gores into our being


becoming so vulgar and common-place

rendering us blinded and unseeing


the obscenity of a 14 year old girl

sold for her virginal flesh and smooth skin


the obscenity of a 76 year old man

beaten down and trampled by his own kin


the obscenity of the banal

renders us mute and impotent and to blame

for all the obscenities we turn our heads away from

render us all culpable in the ledgers of humanity’s shame


the obscenity of the banal

is pock-marked with our complicity


the obscenities we accept each day betrays our own duplicity


the obscenity of the 35 year old woman slaving like a hog

cursed at and spat on and thrashed by the filthy rich man’s excess


the obscenity of the 9 year old boy who is the man of the shack

bound and gagged by a society too blinded by its own image of its success


the obscenity of the 47 year old single mother of three

trying against impossible odds to feed and clothe and shelter them all


the obscenity of the 17 year old teenage boy who must drop out of school

in order to assist his ailing mother as she works from dawn till dusk pushing her fruit stall


the obscenity of the banal

makes me sick in my stomach each and every time I see

my own face in the mirror for i am as complicit as you or she or he


the obscenity of one-thousand dollar shoes for elegant feet

the obscenity of a malnourished baby suckling at his mother’s dry teat


the obscenity of the glitz and the glamour and the sweet-smelling suave-talking chap with the perfect tan

the obscenity of the dead-eyed 14 year old whose innocence is plundered by that same charming moneyed man


the obscenity of the banal

is there for us to see day in and day out

the obscenities around us that we choose not to care a hoot about


the obscenity of the powerful as they wreak havoc sans morals, sans shame

the obscenity of the religious ones who hack and kill in their blind god’s name


the obscenity of the banal

is a shameful truth that we all must know and we all must see

but we have been blinded by our greed as we fuck and party and work-hard and play-harder and buy and sell and raise a hue and a cry for ‘our’ people to be free


the obscenity we witness in your town and mine

in your village and his

in her street and yours

in that alley and in this hotel and in that and in this without end

is a scar on our so-called morality which we passionately defend


the obscenity of the banal

rips open the veneer of our silence and exposes our wretched disgrace

revealing a rotting carcass of ugly truths that we will choose never to face


the obscenity of the banal

continues as we work and fuck and play and dance and meditate and pray

while the daggers of our complicit silence rips even more as we feast and slay


the obscenity of the banal

will never ever come to an end in this day or the next or in some far-off morrow

for we have become so self-absorbed that we cannot even acknowledge the others’ sorrow


for who are they, these ones of which we speak?

the humanimals who beg and steal and who of cheap and stale urine reek


and thus the obscenity of the banal will forever stay with us

until we clean out our minds that have become so filled with apathetic pus

and when the people rise


of being bludgeoned

by the jackboot of suppression


the demand is simple




for the better


not the hollow, empty rhetoric of ‘freedom’

heard in the corridors of power


the demand is simple




for the better


a better life

devoid of the tyranny of rampant power

without the imposition of mores and norms

free of the shackles of the party-line

the religious diktat

the militaristic hammer


and when the people rise


by the ceaseless abuse of power

as the old-guard refuses to see the writing scrawled across the wall




a simple demand


for the better


a better life

for the living and for the ones still to be born


the writing scrawled across the wall, and walls across the world


is simple




for the better

a new way to forge the future

with fresh ideas and the opening up of the boulevards

of opportunity for those who have remained outside for too long


and when the people rise


of the promise of a new dawn

the future is a blank-slate lying amidst the debris


for if the rising of the people


a beginning may be written anew

out of the seed of change which into a tree of promise grew


a new beginning may be written afresh

with the values of simple humanity and gentle tolerance

so that what has passed and what has been endured may never

be visited again on those to come, and on those who bear the wounds on their flesh


for when the rising of the people


the road ahead may be fraught with thorns and more pain

for change is pock-marked with the scars of the past, and the memories do indeed remain


so when the rising of the people


the hope is for the common good, for the tolerance of the one and of all


the hope is for a better, more just today, and a tomorrow where the ideals of justice and of truth are firmly rooted, never to be shaken


the hope is that in the name of peace and humanity, may the new oath be taken


a simple beauty

in the tinkling of ankle bells

treading across the fields of grain

amid earthy fragrances of the first drops of rain


a simple beauty

in the bitter-sweet song of the nightingale

calling out over the trees and across the plain

teasing the morning air with its wondrous refrain


a simple beauty

in the shimmer of the morning dew

clinging to the wings of the wildest crow

awakening gently as the cool dawn winds blow


a simple beauty

in the smiles of the children as they play

their pleasure so pure as their beaming faces show

the radiance of bright sunshine melting into a dazzling rainbow


a simple beauty

in the joyful celebration of life

breathing in the essence of being alive today

alive! with yesterday a mere memory and tomorrow a lifetime away


the simplest beauty

is all around us, if only for a moment

we absorb the innocent laughter of those children at play

perhaps then we may feel again, and with feeling, embrace each new day



Hate like silent venom flows

spewing forth in dribs and drabs


how will the wounds ever heal

with such vitriol tearing at the scabs


we shudder at the words of hate

and wonder will it ever cease


but hope springs forth for

we know it begins within us, now, today


with the simplest acts of human compassion

so that gentle love may banish the hate away


the morning dew glistens on feathered petals

alive with promise


the moments past, having past, are soaked up by

the streaming rays of sunshine


the wounds of yesteryear are soothed and wrapped

in fresh layers of quiet peace


all my aching yesterdays are quietly consigned

to the deep recesses of memory


haunting me no longer and tormenting me no more

as i shed the weight of the cross i so reluctantly bore


for tomorrow is alive with new hope


of gentle laughter

with quietly sipped joy

of sweet memories yet to be woven

and whispered songs yet to be sung inside

of scribbled poems yet to penned

and joyous tears yet to be cried


for tomorrow is alive with new hope


of sweetly scented roses blooming all around

and murmurs of delight in moments yet to be realised

of warmth and depth and freedom from pain

and of lost touches of myself once again sought after and found


for tomorrow is alive with new hope


of a new beginning devoid of the guilt of past decay

and of freshness in the very essence of this new day


with lilting melodies floating on the silken breeze

while banishing all pain and setting the mind at ease


for tomorrow is alive with new hope


and this very hope is what keeps the gloomy nights afar

for the emptiness is lit up with the shimmering of a solitary star


and its this very hope that i hold onto with my dear life

never to give in again to bleak thoughts of mental strife


and so hope it is, and hope it must always be

that keeps the sanity within and sets my soul free

%d bloggers like this: