Archive for October 28, 2018


they do not see me at all

art by banksy




they do not see me at all …




1.



They do not see me at all,


as I walk through these desecrated avenues,


of soul-deadening frenzy.



I see them rushing past me,


and no matter how hard I holler and call,


they do not see me at all.



It seems at times, that invisible am I,


for when I reach out, and shriek, 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, waving my hands all around while scribbling verses in my unintelligible scrawl,


still they rush past me,


for they do not see me at all.



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


trampling over my fallen form,


they look past my limp crumpled shadow,


as they whine on in their monotonous drawl,


and they still do not see me at all.



2.



When they look my way,


flickers of recognition crossing their faces,


I crawl back into my nothingness,


cocooned as the day begins to pall,


hoping, tired and broken,


to be back in the space,


where they cannot see me at all …






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am i human ?




you hardly spare me a glance, as you walk past me, a fellow human, whom you pretend not to see.




you send me off to fight your wars, remaining comfortably ensconced in your ivory tower, while in the trenches i shiver and cower.




you dock my pay if one of your fine bone china cups gets chipped, you withhold my wages, while the hunger in my children’s stomachs rages.




your children still call me ‘boy’ or ‘girl’, though it was i who changed their diapers long ago, but it is still i who is the recipient of the epithets that you and they hurl and throw. 




you use my body for your carnal desires, throwing some money on my stained bed, you use me as a lifeless rag, then dispose of me in a rubbish bag.




you claim to be so liberal, so open-minded and progressive, yet you ignore my plight, you discuss poverty in your chandeliered rooms, as i prepare some beans in the dim candlelight.




you send your cheques to greenpeace and amnesty, perhaps to assuage your guilt somehow, as you refuse to pay me my overtime due, your body weighed down by heaving jewellery, in red and white and blue.




you see me building your glittering skyscrapers and your glitzy malls, my hard hat pummelled by stone and dust, as i eke out a living, my dreams turned to rust.




you walk and you talk, leaving me to scrounge in the garbage heaps, for scraps of this and that, while your stocks and portfolios grow ever more fat.




i am invisible to you, to your posh and pompous kind, and i doubt your humanity will be ever anywhere to find.




you see me, a festering sore on your manicured lawns, a piece of dirt living on ‘charitable’ rations, and the first to bear the brunt of your police batons.




i am human, though only barely just, easily interred, once my purpose has been served,


i am human, though only barely just, as i get buried in a heap of dust.




am i human?



President Nelson Mandela’s letter of condolence to my father when my mum passed on – Johannesburg April 2008





President Nelson Mandela’s mother and my mother in the late 1950s or early 1960s protesting the imprisonment of their loved ones – photograph courtesy of the Nelson Mandela Foundation






my mother – a true story …




My mother used tell me this with tears in her eyes.



My mother left South Africa in the 1960’s to join my father who was in political exile at the time in Zambia and Tanzania.


My father was a close comrade and friend of Nelson Mandela and shared the cell next to Mandela during one of their periods of being jailed by the Apartheid security services.


My father later escaped from Marshall Square jail along with his comrades, Abdulhay Jassat, Harold Wolpe, and Arthur Goldreich.


The four escapees were then were spirited out of South Africa as there was a then £2000 reward for them to be captured – dead or alive. 



In 1970 my father was deployed by the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC) to India to be its Chief-Representative there.



I was born in New Delhi a couple of years later in 1972.



My mother and father spent two years in Mumbai (then Bombay).




One afternoon my father fell and broke his leg.


My mother knocked on their neighbour’s door of the apartment complex where they lived. 



The neighbour was an elderly Punjabi lady.



My mother asked the elderly lady for assistance in calling a doctor to see to my injured father. 



A Zoroastrian (Parsi) ‘bone-setter’ was promptly summoned.



My mother and the elderly neighbour got to talking and the lady asked my mother where they were from, as their accents were clearly not local.



My mother told the elderly Punjabi lady that my father worked for the African National Congress of South Africa and had been forced into exile to continue to struggle to raise awareness internationally about the appalling situation in Apartheid South Africa.



My mother also mentioned that they had to leave their two young children (my siblings, whom I met only later in life) behind in South Africa, in the care of grandparents, and that they were now essentially political refugees.



The elderly lady broke down and wept uncontrollably.



She told my mother that she too had to leave their home in Lahore in 1947 and flee to India with only the clothes on their back when the partition of the subcontinent took place and when Pakistan was torn from India and formed, due to narrow religious and sectarian reasons, whose repercussions are felt to this day.



This was also a time when religious violence wreaked havoc, and untold suffering and death for millions of human beings.



The elderly lady then asked my mother what her name was.




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




The Punjabi woman hugged Zubeida some more, and the two women, seperated by age and geography, by religion and all the things that seek to divide humanity,  wept, for they could understand the pain and trauma of a shared experience.



The elderly Punjabi lady told my mother that she was her ‘sister’ from that day on, and that she too felt the pain of exile after being forced to become refugees, and what being a refugee felt like.



Zubie and her husband Mosie (my father) and the family next door became the closest of friends.



Then came the time for Mosie and Zubie to leave for Delhi where the African National Congress (ANC) office was to be officially opened.



The elderly Punjabi lady and Mosie and Zubie said their goodbyes.



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



The elderly lady telephoned Zubie and told her that her daughter was coming to Delhi to live there, and that she had told Lata, her daughter that she had a ‘sister’ in Delhi, and that she should not feel alone.



Lata and Ravi Sethi then moved to Delhi in the mid-1970’s.



Lata and Zubie became the closest of friends and that bond stayed true, till the both my mother passed away in 2008. 



My father and I still feel a close bond with Lata and Ravi Sethi, and vice versa. 



A bond that was forged between Hindu and Muslim and between two countries of South Africa and of India, shattering the barriers of creed and of time.



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



That is why I shall never stop believing that hope shines still, for with so much religious bigotry almost consuming our world today, there will always be a woman, somewhere, anywhere, who would take the ‘other’ in as a sister, and as a fellow human being.



And that is why, I believe, that there will always be hope.



Hope in the midst of unbearable pain and hope in the midst of loss and of unspeakable suffering.



Hope.


For we can never give up hope for a better world.


Never!






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



President Nelson Mandela and my father – late 1950s or early 1960s

President Nelson Mandela and my father – Johannesburg 2000s

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