Tag Archive: India


​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)

for my mother (1934 – 2008)

Greater Kailash, New Delhi, Early 1070s

for my mother (1934 – 2008)


she left me, with the thoughts of her embrace to warm me, in frigid mornings of tomorrows yet to come.


she left me, with words of tender truths to shroud me, in the coming evenings of stabbing sleet.


she left me, yet she stays within me, in my waking dreams, my restful thoughts.


she stays forever within me,


of me she shall remain an abiding part,


of the love.

the pain.

the tears.


so that we shall never be truly apart …


          _________


My Family – A historical journey through the seasons …


https://afzalmoolla.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/my-family-a-historical-journey-through-the-seasons-2/


I remember her beret,

on that rainy day at the bus-stop, 


she said that she had grown tired of the pretences this world demanded,


we spoke of Marx and she smiled, for I was much younger then, wearing it all on my sleeve,


she smiled, and we spoke till she had to leave.


we met at that bus-stop many times more,


sharing our laughter, our pain, of the knots that cut deep into our core,


she always wore her beret and she was fierce, brave and steadfastly traversing the murky waters of being a wage-slave,


we promised each other we wouldn’t be like the rest, not even in our grave,


ah but that was many moons back, when life was starkly coloured white and black,


I wonder where she could be now, and I hope she is as she was back then,


when everything wasn’t just about love and light and being zen,


I wonder too were we to perchance meet, would she pull me close out of the grime stained street,


or would she walk on by, leaving me to my own devices,


after decades of being whittled down, after making all the right choices … … …

​on your skin, scribbling odes to love,
angry, lost, empty,

raucous, pristine, encompassing love.
on my heart, scribbled odes embossed, etched, engraved,
yearning, pining, aching,
for you … … …


destiny

fate


somewhere

someplace


alfoat on honeydew petals


mere strands


filaments


years trickling through

fingertips


lost whispers

dreamed caresses


awake

alive …



smouldering

ablaze in the cauldron


of


destiny

fate


of convergent wisps

sprinkling kisses


on your

honeydew lips

breathless … …

​breathless, laboured

               tortured


each breath

                     swallowed


greedily gulping gasping


each breath

                    stolen

                               without you

​your fingers

mine


sketching dreams

scribbling hopes


my fingers

yours


holding back

resistant


knowing the path ahead

littered with thorns


oblivious

knowing


the path ahead must be walked


alone at times 

but never lonely 


not with you by my side

evoking a belonging felt true and deep


inside

these interwoven veins

dna

double-helixed


microscopically

binding


me

you


us

all


through

this common

shared

truth:


‘I am because you are’*


all of us

together

as one


me

you …


… uBuntu*




  


* – uBuntu is an isiXhosa/isiZulu concept that espouses the “belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”

imagine … … …

a beach of solace


the lapping waves

tickling our bare toes


softly powdered sand caressing our feet


a carpet of palms

waltzing in the breeze


imagine …


you

i


setting sail on distant seas


far

far

away


bidding adieu to the emptiness of yesterday


sharing each other

knowing that your

smile


stays with me

within me


through

tomorrows we have still to see


sharing

our slice of peace


through

laughter

tears


through

joy

fears


to

bloom in earthy hues


when thunderstorms pass


blossoming into fiery scarlet


kneading away

our hollow suburban blues …


for ’tis in your smile

that my mirth resides


imagine …


your head on my shoulder


ready to face all

oncoming tides



imagine … 

​misty tears fall on splintered parchment


history simmers


the shackles of centuries cast off


the chains of oppression shattered


embracing new horizons


dawning

and

trusting once again

in that unfinished dream


of less famished tomorrows

scribbling verses

on her bare back


my fingers

rhyming

each flourish a caress

etching odes to hope

across the canvas


of her warm skin …



her breath

inflamed


seeking


fingertips

lips

sashaying in the evening breeze

dancing free

abandoning trepidation


what do i know

as 

fingers flutter


over undulating peaks

valleys …


softly

gently


as soul meets soul

she who is

half of my whole

she who remains


my perennial

meditation






 …





straining to hear

the thud-thudding of your heart


amidst this cacophonous crowd.



so

i close my eyes


and

i see you


floating on clouds

unfettered

free to just be


your wings spread proud

unclipped


skipping

hopping

across sunbeams


sketching your open sky


bathed in

colours vivid

alive


fiery

earthy

warm

fierce

gentle


each 

brush stroke


infused with hues


from 

the palette of your dreams …












Parched lullabies seem jarring,

gentle persuasion an assault,
quiet understanding reeking of decay,
fatigued under this skin in which I must stay.

Dreams of moulting,
shedding the hubris of crafty words,
flushing away all famished rhymes,
ripping the fibres of an ink-stained past.

Knowing.

Always knowing,

that honey-soaked kisses, seem destined,
breathlessly,
never to last

Embers fade,

disappearing into the hushed night …

Petals wither,
falling on the soft grass …

Words pale,
obscured by the anguish within …

Faces blur,
dimmed by the galloping years …

Kisses lose,
the urgency of those bygone depths …

Feelings recede,
lying dormant in shielded vaults …

Love loses,
fatigued after numberless skirmishes …

Pain flees,
seeking new wounds to inflict …

Scars remain,
sentinels against,

the dilution of memory … … …

Why him, they ask her …

​why, they ask her,

why him?

she always says the

day we met

and spoke

and laughed

she felt

all she needed to be was herself



William Dalrymple’s Inscription

William Dalrymple, author of ‘City of Djinns’ inscribed my copy.

Inscription reads “from an adopted Dilliwaala to Afzal, a real one”


😊

👍

Love, Mania, and Verse


The pendulum swings,
while the mania in my head,
strips me bare and yanks me,
into the cauldron of love.

Once again,
never divining the tea leaves,
knowing, always knowing,
the gnawing knots of unease,
that curl into a fist.

My isolation is a shield,
a suit of armour,
tightly clad around my self,
once worn,
then discarded,
taking its place,
on my barren shelf.

Love, mania and verse,
coalesce, beseeching me,
with timeous forewarning,
not to tread into the quicksand,
that slippery bog of promise.

Yet,
in times past,
in moments present,
tis’ that very promise,
that I cling to.

At times I lose,
myself in the crowd,
revelling in the solitude found there,

at times I claw,
my way back to the now,
aching for the pain that stings,

the buried voice that sings,
dirges to forgotten emotions,

scribbled verse that flings,
the toys out of my cot,

while I wait,
for the mania to stop,

knowing,
always knowing,
that it shall be,

merely a matter of time,
before the other shoe,
must, as always, 
drop


my starved eyes, aching for a glimpse of your smile, ready to beguile, their thirst quenched, seeking simple joys, not million dollar toys, finally, coaxed the ocean of your eyes, to reveal the kernel of truth beneath the veneer of lies, so love me now, today, where fractured dreams are made whole by the sea spray, plunging deeper into the ocean shimmering in your eyes, hoping we may breathe, like the terror of time, high on up into blue skies, where love roams unshackled, in that ocean so deep,


in your beautiful eyes … … …

tattoo … … …

An imprint of you remains,

mingled in the blood racing through my veins,

hewn into my flesh you stay,

a chiselled tattoo from our long-lost yesterday,

deeply branded by your entire being,

rooted to a memory incapable of fleeing,

torn, and twisting inside my skin,

the pain screeches like jangling cans of tin,

a desolate nightmare this agony feels,

with a phantom whiff of your sweet breath my soul reels,

now that you are gone, lost within a labyrinth of illusions,

your voice swarms inside my desperate delusions,

scratching, clawing layers of past moments spent with you,

you are a part of me, an unfaded, vivid tattoo,

and as my dreams of you frantically race,

I am unable to erase,

the blazing picture of your exquisite face,

so let me be, and leave me to burn in this furnace of my hell,

I should have known better,

but all that matters little,

because it was for you, that I fell

A Child of War

 
as she lies bleeding,

the girl who skipped, hopped to school,

all of nine and a half years old,

with ribbons in her hair and a laugh that was her father’s pride.
 

as she lies bleeding,

shrapnel lodged in her torn stomach,

she stares at her skipping rope,

as her blood soaks it the colour of cherries her mummy buys.
 

as she lies bleeding,

she sees people all around thick black smoke,

blurred visions of scattering feet, shoes left behind,

hearing nothing but the pinging in her smashed eardrums.
 

as she lies bleeding,

she slips away and then she is dead,

a mangled heap of a nine and a half year old girl,

whose laugh was her father’s pride.
 
 

as she lies bleeding,

for even in death she bleeds some more,

shrapnel wedged in her torn stomach,

stealing the light from her bright little eyes.

as she lies bleeding …
in jallianwala bagh in ‘19,

leningrad in ‘42,

freetown in ‘98,

soweto in ‘76,

jenin in ‘02,

hanoi in ‘68,

beirut in ‘85,
raqqa now,

aleppo still,

gaza too.
 

as she lies bleeding,

a little nine and a half year old girl,

whose laugh was her parent’s pride,

we know she’ll bleed more,
tomorrow and in many tomorrows yet unborn,
with shrapnel in her stomach,

ripped open and torn.
as she lies bleeding … …

‘normal’

​they said she was opinionated, they said that she was loud,

they said she was too feisty, less prone to being a ‘normal’ woman, to listen and to keep her views to herself, they said she was too independent, less ladylike, far too manly.

I loved her because she was opinionated, loud,

I loved her for being feisty, less prone to being a ‘normal’ woman, to speak her mind and to shout her views to the world, I loved her for her independence, for who she was.

she was fierce, not macho, strong not manly,

I loved her for all of that and more … … …

mired in the bog … … …

​mired in the bog, unseeing eyes staring into the fog,

what becomes of a soul so filled with strife, that all of life, seems with tension rife,

what becomes of the soul that yearns to be whole, clawing at the freshly dug hole, a tomb of dreams torn apart, the cemetery of joys meant only to depart,

what becomes of the heart, swirling in the maelstrom of regret, cursed by the burdens of not being able to forget,

what becomes of the man, desolate and empty, devoid of yearning, as day turns to night, and night to day,

what becomes of it all, when hope scurries away … … …

you and i

​waiting for you, with quickening pulse,

desirous, anticipating the brush of your lips against mine,

kiss me deeply, i shall do the same,

today, and in our tomorrows yet to be teased out of time … … 

​weathering storms of fate, walking boulevards smooth as slate,

the hurt remains, the pain jabs, the emptiness sheaths,

while in the corner the beast of apathy growls, pants, and breathes … … …

​walking on shattered splinters, crushed glass piercing my soul,

your tender touch offers respite from the pain, freeing my soul,

to be once again,

whole … … …

Veils

Embroidered smiles, chiselled conversations,

banal, hollow,

the cacophony of practised apathy,
smothering,
whispers of the forgotten,

as smiles abound,

with coffee and croissants 

Searching,

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

Searching,

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

Searching,

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

Searching,

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

Searching,

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

Searching,

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

Searching … … …

love | found

​hold me tight, she said, let us leave the cruel fates behind,

we embraced, clinging onto a love once too rare to find … … …

life turns … … …

​life turns, a coiled  tightening spring,

shattering souls, tormenting hearts,

life turns,

and all vows do hollow ring … … …

😼

l o v e  | y o u

​she told me that she cried a lot, she said there is a hole in her heart, she said this vacuum she could not plug, is the force that is tearing me apart.


and when i asked her what it was that plagued her so,


she said not casting out love, not losing that sliver of hope,


of never letting go of the imprint of love, of always holding on to you … … …

evening falls

evening falls,

thoughts of her swirl,

caressing each waking breath,

in the shade of her hair, gently rolling in the breeze,

beginning softly to unfurl. 

evening falls,

thoughts of her murmur within my being,

as she remains quiet,

as she remains unseen … …

​feathery kisses, caressing air, spring scents on the breeze, the taste of salt on skin,


disjointed memories,


ravaging the soul, mangling the heart,


ripping my very being, tearing it all, bit by bit, estranged … apart

Greater Kailash S – Block, New Delhi early 1970s

walking through tombs … … …

bicycle rides to ancient tombs, stealthily traversing the bygone years,

those days and nights of delhi long ago, pluck heartstrings, a sitar being tuned, the cricket matches in the park, fetching the ball from monuments to long dead sultans,

feasting on a masala-dosa, my bike chained to the rusty pole next to the paan-wallah,

downing numberless cups of cardamom chai, in between home and school, bunking classes to catch the one song in a bollywood flick, sitting amongst the people, singing along in days and nights that used to be so full, so long,

now just a fading memory, of diwalis at the kumars, and eid feasts at home, intermingling with splashes of holi colour,

a synthesis of cultures, of faiths, of friends transcending caste and creed,

a delhite whistling beatles’ songs,

ah yes, nostalgia that sly deceiver,

be mine again, come to me in rain-swept monsoon nights, lit by a million diyas of softly flickering lights,

wear your kaleidoscope dress,

rekindling memories, stay with me, my eternal evergreen seductive mistress … … …

A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

image

Pandit-Ji*

1.

The moon cast an enveloping shadow over the teeming multitudes,

as they made their tryst with destiny**,

with you as the bearer of the light,

and at the stroke of the midnight hour,

you emerged an icon, from the long and desolate night.

Long years had passed,
since those humid evenings spent,
languishing in jail,

yet your mind remained unshackled,
putting words on paper in the dim candlelight,

as the gaudy glare of empire began to pale.

2.

Today,
you live,

within us,
though not amongst us,

and,

your discovery,
your glimpses,

smoulder within me,

your immortal words,
my compass.

I am now,
the soul of nations,
once suppressed,

that have,
found utterance.

I am now,
me.

I am now,
finally,

free.

       _________________

* – ‘Pandit-Ji’ was the name that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was respectfully called.

** – excerpts from Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on 15th August 1947

image

15th August 1947

15th August 1947

1.

the multitudes rose,
the shackles of colonial rule was at an end,

on this 15th day of August in 1947,

the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ shook off the yoke of the British Raj,

India was free!

2.

today we reflect,
today we pause,

to honour the countless sons and daughters who so valiantly gave their lives so that others could be free,

today,

on this 15th day of August in 2015,

we know the battles that lie ahead,

we acknowledge the wars still to be waged,

not against foreign domination,

no,

today our battles are closer to home,

today our struggle is to keep the collective conscience of humanity alive,

so that we all may thrive,

in a world less cruel,
less violent,
less iniquitous,

more just,
more humane,

more imbued with the simplest of radical propositions:

that we are all one race,
the human race,

that we are not free when others are still flinging stones at metallic beasts,

that we are not free when women are trapped in the clutches of misogny,

that we may never be truly free,

till we open our eyes,

and stop
and think

and see,

the multitudes hungering for a slice of bread,

the unwashed trying against tremendous odds to simply survive,

I am not free,
the chains still tightly bound,

until that day,

when hunger,
deprivation,
hopelessness,

are consigned to the trashcan of history,

and only then,
and only on that day,

when there isnt a hungry child,

to be found,

may we trumpet our victories,

and only then,
and only on that day,

may we all,
proclaim,

that finally,

we are finally,

truly free …

The Infidel …

The Infidel …

The infidel writes,
blasphemes,

rejecting cellophane sermons.

The infidel whispers,
cursing,

the benevolence of the higher power.

The infidel chokes,
gagging,

on the odour that emanates,
from self-righteous mouths.

The infidel waits,
patiently,

for the retribution that must arrive.

The infidel casts off,
the labels of faith,

of belonging,

of sanctimonious snobbery.

The infidel refuses,

To beseech the merciful god,

And to cower,
And to kneel.

The infidel stands,

At times alone …

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”Jesus Christ

For Kailash Satyarthi & Malala Yousafzai …

1.

You have struggled for the rights of children in India,

your Bachpan Bachao Andolan has been tirelessly striving for an end to,

child labour,
abuse of children,
hunger,
poverty,

for year after year,

and today,

now,

your selfless work has been recognised by the world at large,

and I am humbled to pen these words for you, Shri Kailash Satyarthi – Ji!

2.

You faced the bigots,

you stood up to narrow religious perversions,

you faced the Taliban head – on,
and though they tried to silence your voice of reason,

their bullets failed,

and today,

now,

your valiant courage has been recognised by the world at large,

and I am humbled to pen these words for you, Malala Yousafzai!

3.

India and Pakistan,

once one land,

torn apart by shallow religious sectarian agendas,

but not today,

not now,

not today,

for today,

We are all one.

We are all human.

May peace prevail!

May universal AND free education for every child be realised!

May justice prevail,

at long, long last!

copy-left afzal moolla 2014

For Malala Yousafzai …

(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

http://www.kidsrights.org/Projects/BachpanBachaoAndolan,India.aspx

Hindustan Times

New Delhi, October 10, 2014

Many would have heard his name for the first time after the announcement of the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize on Monday. But Kailash Satyarthi has been a relentless crusader of child rights for years now. His organisation New Delhi-based Bachpan Bachao Andolan has been at the head of the fight against child labour by creating domestic and international consumer resistance to products made by bonded children, as well as with direct legal and advocacy work. Through a number of training programmes, Satyarthi also helps children sold to pay their parents’ debts to find new lives and serve as agents of prevention within their communities.
Bachpan Bachao Andolan was India’s first civil society campaign against the exploitation of children. It was set up in 1980 and to date has touched the lives of 80,000 young people. One of the key initiatives of BBA is its Bal Mitra Gram (BMG) programme, an innovative development model to combat child labour, protect child rights and ensure access to quality education to all. “A few years after we started BBA, we realised that to combat child trafficking and labour we must address the source of the problem: villages since nearly, 70% of child labourers come from villages. So we decided to create an environment where children are withdrawn from the workplaces, attend school, voice their opinions and ensure that authorities hear them out,” Kailash Satyarthi, founder, BBA, told HT a few months ago.
With this aim, BBA started its BMG, which are essentially model villages that are free from child exploitation and promote child rights issues. Since the model’s inception in 2001, BBA has transformed 356 villages as child friendly villages across 11 states of India, but most of the work is concentrated in Rajasthan and Jharkhand. The children of these villages attend school, participate in bal panchayat (child governance bodies), yuwa mandals (youth groups) and mahila mandal and interact regularly with the gram panchayat. In BMGs, BBA ensures that children up to the age of 14 have access to free, universal and quality education and schools have proper infrastructure so that girls don’t drop out. It also works with local communities to address local traditions like child marriages.

© Copyright © 2013 HT Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Malala…

1.

They tried to kill her,
pumping bullets to silence this young girl.

They failed,
their bigotry could not hush her.

She almost died,
her head splintered by the hot lead of hate.

She healed,
agonisingly slow as her little body fought for life.

2.

She is alive,
unsilent and undeterred.

She lives,
a sixteen year old symbol of the thirst for education.

She continues,
her message simple, potent,

a challenge to the world,

to ensure the rights of all children,
all over the world,
to an education,

to be free from the shackles of poverty,

a freedom from fear, bigotry, misogyny, racism,

her challenge to us all,

is simple, yet revolutionary:

“…one child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world…”

The Mahatma

He walked with us,
us common folk,

&

Empire trembled as he raised a fistful of salt…

He walked with us,
us common folk,

&

Empire teetered as he weaved his home-spun…

He walked with us,
us common folk,

&

Empire was rendered impotent by his moral conscience…

He walked with us,
us common folk,

&

Empire crumbled,

&

the sun finally set…

He walks with us still,
us common folk,

&

we dare not give up the struggles…

He walks with us still,
us common folk,

&

we rise up,
we fight,

for he walks with us still,

The Mahatma*

* – Mahatma means ‘Great Soul’

Gandhi-Ji …

1.

It was your beloved Jawaharlal* who uttered these words when you were gunned down by the agents of hate,

‘The light has gone out’, mourned Pandit – Ji*,

and indeed your life was snuffed out on that 30th day of a cold New Delhi January in 1948,

yet you live,

you live on,

a perennial thorn in the side of tyranny,

and the voice of the voiceless multitudes,

still scraping in garbage bins for a bite to eat.

2.

‘The world is big enough for everyone’s need, but it isn’t big enough for everyone’s greed’, you once said,

and Bapu*, your prophetic words ring true today,

in Soweto,

Diepsloot,

Chatsworth,

Gugulethu,

Alexandra,

and everywhere,

all the time.

3.

‘India gave us Mohandas, and we returned him to you as the Mahatma*’, said President Nelson Mandela,

Madiba was your son,
Martin Luther King Jr. as well,

and today your sons and daughters across this world,

look to you again,

in a world torn apart by sectarian strife,
bigotry, racism, religious intolerance, greed,

and Capitalism gone insane,

for as long as there are mouths that hunger to be fed,

for as long as there are naked bodies that need to be clothed,

for as long as your sons and daughters struggle for the very basics,

the 99%,

trodden-upon,
dignity stripped,
dreams tossed out into the sewers …

… we need your sanity,
we need your eternal flame to light our paths ahead,

we need you,

as the parched desert needs a shower of rain,

we need you!

and we need to,

remember that we are all human,

if we are to build a new world,

less cruel,

and more humane …

       _______________

* – Mahatma or ‘Great Soul’

* – October 2nd is the birth anniversary of MK Gandhi

* – The first Prime Minister of independent India was Jawaharlal Nehru,  also called Pandit-Ji,  and endearingly Chacha Nehru

* – Bapu means father and Gandhi-Ji was often referred to as Bapu or Bapu-Ji

afzaljhb@gmail.com

#notinmyname

https://mobile.twitter.com/hashtag/notinmyname

afzaljhb@gmail.com

For Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892 – 1984)

when,

the hushed rage of prejudice rejoices in triumphant pomp and hateful ceremony,

and,

the silent dagger of complicit racism plunges deep into the soul of a world bereft of hope,

and,

the long knife of embraced apathy twists and turns,

then,

perhaps we’ll open our opaque eyes,

and perhaps then we’ll open our sewed-up mouths,

and perhaps only then will we whimper in mock shock and startled surprise,

for,

the festering hate that spirals around us,

in the fertile minds of quasi-religious bigotry,

is unafraid,

and speaks in the loudest baritone.

2.

Yet,

we accept,

we acquiesce,

we wish it all away,

but,

there will come that time when the lines are drawn,

when the purest hearts of silently smiling bigotry will hold the world in their sway,

with their cherubic, agreeable arguments sprinkled with pieces of fact that will kill, rape, pillage, and slay…

what then,

I ask,

will we do that day?

          _____________

” … First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me … ” – Pastor Martin Niemoller

A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

Pandit-Ji* – A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

 

1.

 

The moon cast an enveloping shadow over the teeming multitudes,

as they made their tryst with destiny**,

with you as the bearer of the light,

and at the stroke of the midnight hour,

you emerged an icon, from the long and desolate night.

Long years had passed,
since those humid evenings spent,
languishing in jail,

yet your mind remained unshackled,
putting words on paper in the dim candlelight,

as the gaudy glare of empire began to pale.

 

2.

Today,
you live,

within us,
though not amongst us,

and,

your discovery,
your glimpses,

smoulder within me,

your immortal words,
my compass.

I am now,
the soul of nations,
once suppressed,

that have,
found utterance.

I am now,
me.

I am now,
finally,

free.

 

 

* – ‘Pandit-Ji’ was the name that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was respectfully called.

** – excerpts from Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on 15th August 1947

(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…

hope…

(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 Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

Pandit-Ji*

1.

The moon cast an enveloping shadow over the teeming multitudes,

as they made their tryst with destiny**,

with you as the bearer of the light,

and at the stroke of the midnight hour,

you emerged an icon, from the long and desolate night.

Long years had passed,
since those humid evenings spent,
languishing in jail,

yet your mind remained unshackled,
putting words on paper in the dim candlelight,

as the gaudy glare of empire began to pale.

2.

Today,
you live,

within us,
though not amongst us,

and,

your discovery,
your glimpses,

smoulder within me,

your immortal words,
my compass.

I am now,
the soul of nations,
once suppressed,

that have,
found utterance.

I am now,
me.

I am now,
finally,

free.

* – ‘Pandit-Ji’ was the name that Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, was respectfully called.

** – excerpts from Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech on 15th August 1947

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