Archive for January 20, 2013


Tempus Fugit

Memories are imprinted,
through moments,
and fleeting minutes,

as,

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,

and,

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,

and,

until the muck-ridden bile,
is not excised,

I shall continue to say,

NOT IN MY NAME!

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
faith
race
religion
caste
sect

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.

…freedom

…tahreer

…inkululeko…

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

exhausted

of being bludgeoned

by the jackboot of suppression

 

the demand is simple

 

change

 

for the better

 

not the hollow, empty rhetoric of ‘freedom’

heard in the corridors of power

 

the demand is simple

 

change

 

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

inflamed

by the ceaseless abuse of power

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

 

‘change’

 

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

 

‘change’

 

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

hopeful

of the promise of a new dawn

the future is a blank-slate lying amidst the debris

 

for if the rising of the people

prevails

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

prevails

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

prevails

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

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