Tag Archive: exile


​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 Tanzania. 



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 ’72.



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)

( apologies but had to rewrite this piece )



the stench of xenophobia …  … …



1.


when rancid racism strikes,

in cocooned fungal minds, narrow, superficially deep,

an insidious venom begins to seep,

into our consciousness as we sleep.




2.



racist beliefs held so true, so deep,

stripped of feeling,

empty, hollow, feigned, designed, branded as compassion,

feeds the conceit in chests swollen and rotten with self-righteous passion.




3.



the racist xenophobia once firmly entrenched,

envelopes all, not unlike a comforting shawl,

needing more and more bluster to fester, and to mutate,

into doctrines of superiority, bigotry, and new fashioned  hate.



4.




are we guilty of succumbing to this virulent plague?

sipping martinis, and shovelling more, always more onto our heaving plates,

falling, slipping into inebriated stasis, without care,

as the stench of hate, prejudice, gay-bashing,

as the proliferation of anti hindu, muslim, christian, buddhist, and anti people of african and arab heritage and anti-indigenous and anti-semitic and misogynistic drivel and xenophobia,


continues to belch into the polluted air.

image

ANC President Cde. Oliver Reginald Tambo & Indian PM Shri Rajiv Gandhi (Delhi 1980's)

image

Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, Mosie Moolla (New Delhi 1980's)

image

The Good Native

may I never bow,
kowtow,

do the jig that’s expected of me,

a wind-up toy,

the good native who knows just how to act, talk,

how to be

seeing | looking | feeling | knowing …

seeing,
through fading eyes,

looking,
yet unable to see,

feeling,
suffocating fears,

knowing,
these are not to be the last of the tears …

barefoot on a talcum beach,
alone, not lonely,

with the breath of the ocean a caressing balm,
soothing pained memories away,

to the swaying of a solitary palm.

barefoot on a talcum beach,
alone, not lonely,

feeling the brushing away of all past turmoil,

on a quest for solace, ever so hard to find,

yet comforted by the crashing of the waves,

as the tide cleanses all pain,

and leaves despair far, far behind.

barefoot on a talcum beach,
alone, not lonely,

drenched in a sea-breeze of mist,

that hushes the ache of bygone moons,

tasting the salty tang on my lips,

as the burnished sun,
over the distant horizon,
swoons,

and dips.

barefoot on a talcum beach,
alone, not lonely,

searching, ever searching,

for a slice of solitude,

as memory bids a final adieu,

reaching under the sea so vast,

and seeking comfort in the depths,

while embracing,

the tomorrows to come,
wishing that they be true.

barefoot on a talcum beach,
alone, not lonely,

seeing my truths drown,

as they slip beneath the turquoise waters,

feeling my heart ablaze,

with a passion that rarely falters.

barefoot on a talcum beach,
alone, not lonely,

yet knowing that I am home at long last,

wishing the waves would wash away,

the defences that once stood,

like an impregnable wall.

barefoot on a talcum beach,
alone, not lonely,

I have found,
at long last,

my final port of call …

The Immigrant …

The Immigrant …

Seeking solace.
Seeking a home.

The immigrant finds,

rotten prejudice.
Fungal anger.

The immigrant,

alone, hoping for,

A solitary chance.

To belong.

The immigrant,
alone, always,

an outside entity.
Eternal outcast.

A viral threat.
A reeking odour.

The immigrant,

ever alone,
and alone knowing,
that no place exists,
but that lost home.

effortlessly soaring into abandoned flight,

yesterdays’ pain surrenders,,

drawn gently by,

departing moments’ caressing ebb and dreamy flow,

seeking only sanctuary,

to finally rest,

where wild grasses grow …

The Hissing of Time …

1.

time hisses,
the threat perennial,

needling sounds
stowed away,
tucked-in,

silent …

2.

time hisses,
the threat perennial.

Time bides its time,

stowed away,
tucked-in,

silently knowing,

all that we shall all come to know,

in time …

The Anonymity of the Shade …

beyond words,

mere paltry scribbled verse,

rolls across empty streets,

while today crawls to a fade,

as night descends,

offering comfort,

the solace of anonymous shade …

raindrops …

raindrops,
like celestial nectar,

drench my winter coat.

i stagger,
wounded,
half-blind,

though no longer filled with dread,

for i walk on,

unsure,
oh yes, most certainly so,

yet filled with murmuring promises,

as i welcome the myriad paths that lie ahead …

sweeping the remnants of bygone yesterdays,

under the carpet,

festering,
stewing,
mutating,

time scampers,
whispering lullabies,

teasing slumber,
surrendering to the night,

embracing the cocoon of the dark,

shedding the detritus of the now,

soothing and gentle as the softly departing light …

Wasted Moments …

squandering moments,

precious, few,

lost in the twisting maze,

work,
play,
consume,

walk around in a inured daze …

while,

by the by,

life’s moments sit idly by the wayside,

tiring of the inertia,

yearning to flap their unclipped wings,

into the soaring sky,

and …

liberated at last,

simply fly …

Song for Bruce …

Song for Bruce Springsteen …

” … so you’ve been broke, and you’ve been hurt, show me somebody who ain’t … I know I ain’t nobody’s bargain, but hell a little touch-up and a little paint, I ain’t lookin’ for praise or pity, I ain’t searching for a crutch, I just want someone to talk to, and a little of that human touch, just a lil’ of that human touch …”Bruce Springsteen, ‘Human Touch’

do you revisit those sultry summer nights,

sweet sweat pouring off your skin,

your hair fanning an eternal fire,

toasting deep within,

ever since I saw you, standing at our old train station,

wearing your red beret,

and paging through a book by Emma Goldman,

somethin’ ’bout the tragedy of women’s emancipation,

we stood there in the pouring rain,

wishing we could race down the cobblestones on a renegade lane,

to take us away, from the stasis, the bruises, and the pain,

we laughed, we cried,
we held onto each other,

yearning for freedom,

from the straightjackets they tried to wrap around everyone’s brain …

Well, that was all those years ago,

when love meant something more than a ten buck stage show,

now the guys at the watering-hole tell me that you’re a big deal today,

it looks like you’ve packed Emma Goldman, and all your other books away,

perhaps they remind you of our younger selves,

it’s a pity that you’ve grown so large that there’s no room left for me on your neatly lined shelves,

ah but I still remember the woman that you once were,

but now you’re  weighed down by your pearls and your faux-fur …

I wonder if you even think of me at all,

the boy who promised to be beside you,

always,

f you ever were to stumble, or to fall,

or has your new gucci-clad crew,

stripped you of your soul,

as you laugh and drink and screw,

I wonder if you even remember my name,

or have you buried me along with all that you once were,

out of sanctimonious shame …

… I’m still here, where you left me, festering in this rotting old town,

unemployed since the years when those stock-tickers went plummeting down,

today as I stand in line for my warm bowl of soup,

the TV on the homeless shelter wall says it’s going to get worse,

cos’ even the banks have flown the coop,

well, I think of you often, as I lay my head on the cold ground,

tasting your soft lips as our tongues waltzed around,

but tonight I kiss my bottle of moonshine,

that keeps me company while the sophisticates wine and dine …

I know you’ve forgotten all about me,

cos’ you’ve got futures to trade,

blue-chip stocks to sell,

so sleep tight tonight, my darling, in that penthouse where you dwell,

I’m used-up now, there ain’t nothing more I can say or do,

I’ve run out of yarns to spin, I’ve exhausted all the stories I once could tell,

so all that I can offer,

is a silent fare-thee-well

Strands …

Strands …

a warm cup of tea,

a smile,

those bread and butter sandwiches,

wolfed down,

on so many a restless night.

random faces,
reaching out,

a nod here,
an embracing hug,

nameless,
numberless,

common – folk,
barely hanging on,

with nothing to share,

but shared humanity …

a knowing laugh,
that cigarette divided into four quick smokes,

those open arms,

priceless gestures of understanding,

though never pity,

remain engraved into my soul,

an unknown refugee,

the economic migrant,

the prisoner of conscience,

exiled,
alone,

lying dazed on that cold, cold stone …

Strands,

binding us,

you and me,
him and her,
them and us all,

embroidered by a shared humaneness,

the delicate strands of what truly,

makes us,

one …

Words …

he said that he would love me forever.

he whispered sweet nothings.

he said that it would endure.

he said all of this,
and all of that,

words that soothed,

cajoled,
promised,

the sun and the stars.

all said,

he said far too much …

Heritage Day ( 2014)

Heritage Day (2014)

1.

Reclaiming loose shards of hope,

gathering up slivers of a splintered rainbow,

today we reflect,

today we pause,

today we wrestle our collective plundered consciousness,

today is ours!

2.

Tomorrow,

the struggles continue …

Amandla!

afzaljhb@gmail.com

Hope & Renewal …

Hope & Renewal …

1.

Hidden beneath life’s undergrowth,

a flower blooms,

amidst  thorns,

a whiff of beauty wafts over desolate spaces,

deep in the thicket of my heart,

where wounds are raw,

and the world is merely a blur of worn-down faces.

2.

The solitary flower strains towards the light,

in the dim bleakness of unnamed woes,

it’s fragility,

innocence distilled,

pristine,

simple,

natural,
healing,
renewing,

reaching between the open wounds,

of this splintered heart,

caressing my soul,

with a faint murmur of promise.

3.

Hidden beneath life’s undergrowth,

life stirs,

whistling melodies,
healing my shattered heart,

offering comfort,
solace,

peace,

a wounded peace,
while gathering the pieces,

an elusive, wily peace,

yet tangible,

alive!

breathing!

Breathing life back,

as pain flees,

and as,

numbness ceases…

afzaljhb@gmail.com

The African Rains …

The African Rains …

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

Drenching,
the rains settle,
streaming through veins,

the thud-thudding of the heartbeat of Africa.

Absorbing,
the rains that settle,
within each of us,

herald rebirth.

And,
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
stumble,

even though we may fall.

scribblerofverses@gmail.com

Rains over Jo’Burg…

The parched African earth soaks up the liquid offering from the heavens,

birds sing,

ululating,

a chorus of relieved catharsis flows through my barren heart,

the steady rain continues,

elevating just another day,

transforming a dry insipid moment,

into a cacophony of jubilant life,

life!

life flowing,

streaming down the desolate avenues,

dripping like perennial teardrops,

down the cheeks of this crazy,

maddening city of gold,

moments of undistilled supreme mirth,

heralds the arrival of a new season,

a triumphant rebirth,

jubilant,
relieved,
ecstatic,

as the Gods of Africa,

and the spirits of the Ancestors,

smile down,

on us,

we of flesh,

and of blood,

and of muscle,

and of bone,

soaking hardened hearts,
dead as cold stone,

infusing new life,

amidst the fragrant scent of rain on dry soil,

while the bronze sun retreats,

seeking respite behind the dark, hopeful clouds of charcoal grey,

while the rains shower their blessings,

banishing the winter chills,

and graciously beckoning spring to stay.

The rains over Jo’Burg caress the leaves on the trees,

cleansing the accumulated baggage that only yesterday so listlessly hung,

over the dryness in my soul,

scorched by a merciless  winters’ sun,

Ah! But today,

today,

there are songs to be sung!

today,

I feel complete,

I am with the heavens,

no longer splintered,
into a thousand and three fragmented pieces,

at last I am whole,

at last,

I am one…

scribblerofverses@gmail.com

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