Tag Archive: nostalgia


for Delhi-waalas everywhere

bunking classes in school, trying too hard to seem too cool.

those lazy humid summer days, nodding off on the bus ride home, with Delhi feeling like a greenhouse dome.

shedding our school bags, racing to round up the friends, the 40° heat never even an afterthought, batting and bowling in our small park, till bad-light caused us to gather in the dark.

my buddy and i, singing Beatles’ songs loud enough for the two girls we had crushes on, “Can’t buy me Love” belted out till we were hoarse, surviving the glaring looks of the disapproving  grannies of course.

those were the days, of cycling to the cinema, to watch “Sholay” for the umpteenth time, sitting in the 2-rupee seats right in front, rattling off the dialogue line by line.

racing back home to catch a few songs on “Chitrahaar”, sitting up close to our ancient black and white telly, the picture quality akin to snow, not that it mattered, this was after all our most coveted tv show.

getting our ears clipped at times for coming home late, the joyful sounds of laughter from our friends who were en-route home to a similar fate.

lighting clay diyas as Diwali approached, stuffing our faces with malaai burfi from “Bengal Sweet House”, downing sweet lassis as autumn upon summer encroached.

“borrowing” friends’ dad’s scooters, the wind in our hair, inhaling the pollution without any care, off to Connaught Place for an ice-cream at Nirulas, and to stock up on our filmi music cassettes from the ever smiling Sikh man at Palika Bazaar, till we emerged above ground, each of us smelling like an incense shop from afar.

stopping off in Defence Colony, to savour some gol-gappas and ganne-ka-ras, the only word never uttered those days was “bas”.

gliding down the streets of our colony, as if we were kings, with the brash swagger that being a teenager brings.

enjoying the Diwali nights, friends exchanging sweetmeats, as Delhi resounded with firecrackers and rocket streaked skies, having our fill of never-ending chais.

winter came along with its polluted fog blanketing the freezing early morn, our pleas of “only 5 minutes more” falling on deaf ears as from our warm beds we were torn.

when spring hopped along, we waited for Holi, to sing countless a filmi-song, with our pichkaaris, and water-filled balloons, aiming at all, giggling like buffoons.

if nostalgia is a seductive liar, as I somewhere once read, then allow me to be seduced, again and again, after all these years and all these miles that have been tread.

to be taken back to the Delhi of yesteryear, ignites a fierce passion, and I crave a coconut dipped syrupy meethha paan,

for after all these years inbetween here and there,

it’ll always be “meri Dilli, meri jaan”




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Glossary:



Sholay” – A popular Bollywood film of the 1970s.

Chitrahaar” – A musical television show.

Diyas” – small earthen lamps lit during Diwali.

Diwali” – the festival of light.

Malaai Burfi” – A popular sweetmeat.

Lassi” – A popular yoghurty drink.

Connaught Place” – the centre of New Delhi.

Palika Bazaar” – An underground shopping complex in Connaught Place.

Nirulas” – A popular fast food restaurant.

Gol-gappas” – A popular fast food

Ganne-ka-ras” – Sugarcane juice.

Defence Colony” – A suburb of New Delhi.

Bas” – A Hindi word meaning ‘enough’.

Chai” – Tea

Holi” – the festival of colours, heralding the arrival of spring.

Pichkaari” – A toy like device to spray water. Commonly used on Holi.

Meetha Paan” – sweet Betel leaf filled with syrup and other fragrant spices.

Meri Dilli, Meri Jaan” – literally meaning ‘my Delhi, my life”

Dilli” – Delhi

ode to delhi … … …





taste of gol-gappas,

drowning tongues,

in dreams of monsoon-marinated dilli,


of cycle-repair stalls,

sweet-lime soda hued shawls,


dtc at minto bridge stuck as always,

see how tragedy binds us still,

to the olden days,


nostalgic kisses, quivering lips brushing each other,

during stolen moments,

on friends’ fathers’ “borrowed” vespas,


aur phir Diwali would announce its imminent arrival,

smog-filled galiyaan, diyas alight in the pre-winter night,


and then, sheher ki roshni dazzled us all,

( not very acceptable, granted, in this eco-age )


and we danced into the chilly autumn night,

barely touching each other,


yet our souls,

hearts,


the sum of our desires,

our innocent yearning,


seemed sated at nights end,


and to that,

that feeling, hardly ever felt since:


contentment.


enoughness.


that,

keeps me dreaming these nostalgic,

spicy dreams,


of leather against willow,

setting fields,

the sight of middle-stump toppling,


memories etched,

engraved, tattoed into my being,


along with you,


my constant,

fellow traveller,


mere humsafar,


and though dilliwaalas are known to spin a yarn,


let’s leave it as it was,


meri dilli, meri jaan.



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 … … …

on forgetting

on forgetting.

these days, these nights,
slicing to the core,
momentary joys, buoys,

merely afloat as beacons,
for lost travellers on the waters,

in flight,

holding on,
onto, clutching close,

hugging,
clichés aside,
holding on for dear life,

while days turn into more nights,

nights into years,

passing us by:

spectators,
ground down on rehashed tales,

finally, feeling the waft of fresh air,

knowing at last, at last,

the past would really, truly,
be the past

for delhi

for delhi
( meri dilli meri jaan)

image

in anticipation,
of a touch, a caress,

something tugs, straining,

luring me,
back through the smoky mists of bygone days,

magically transporting me,

my memory,

to monsoon drenched days in ol’ delhi town,

your hand in mine,
hidden in plain sight,

lost in the starburst,
of many a shared diwali night,

summers of,

‘borrowed’ scooters,

gol-gappas in the connaught rain,

bicycle rides to the melas,

rewinding that one song over and over again,

after racing to your home:

(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight.

and i have been dying a bit,
little each day,

since you,
& i,

journeyed as we all must,

you, remaining stoic, still,

as

still
i make my own way …

why him, they ask her

why, they ask her,
why him?

she always says the same

that
day
when we met

and spoke
and laughed

she felt i felt
all i needed to be me
was me

dreams of you …

in dreams of you

your kisses slip

falling

fluttering as petals do

washing over me
caressing away pain

as gentle as the jo’burg rain

morning tugs at the monnlight,

another night slips and slides,

winding through hazy dreams,

to finally embrace the oncoming tides …

panning through marshes of  twisted roots,

scrounging for a handful of promised truths,

thawing wounds aching afresh,

discarded emotions gnawing into now catatonic flesh …

we walk on, ever on,

fleeing the tumult of yesterdays sorrow,

we walk on, ever on,

thirsting for a glimpse of that liberating tomorrow,

to finally rid the heaving heart of the weight of the past,

content no more with brief, tenuous ceasefires,

but hungering instead for a peace that shall last …

Dreams like Acid Rain …

slithering down the drain,

knots of bygone pain,

emotions disposed off,

to slip away,

like dreams of yesteryear,

washed – up,
wasted,

tracing vanished suns,

tasting like bitter,
acid rain …

Port of Call

Port of Call
 
 
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 Beach of Promises

The Beach of Promises

1.

Fingers entwined, barely touching,
turquoise waters teasing your dancing toes,

strolling along that serene deserted beach,
our promised dreams within aching reach.

2.

Hands clasped, holding on,
sea-breezes tickling the nape of your neck

walking together, alone, vowing to never breach,
the dreams dreamed on that faraway velvet beach.

3.

Hands in my pockets, alone,
traces of you linger, teasing,

lost in my scribbles, your memory fading out of reach,

my thoughts ablaze, now and then,
catching a whiff of your fragrance,

wafting through alleyways of nostalgia,
your hand in mine on our pristine beach.

Your Whisper

You whispered in my ear,

a breathy secret, hushed.

 

“I love you”, you murmured.

 

I said nothing,

lost, in your arms,

I found a home. At last.

 

“I love you”, you said,

I said nothing,

lost in my thoughts,

I found peace. At last.

 

“I love you”, you said,

words failed me then.

 

They still do

Where Wild Violets Grow

Where Wild Violets Grow

Scribbling these verses,
caressing your bare back,
simple rhymes,
flowing from my fingertips.

Scribbling verses,
sprinkling odes to fragrant promises,
your smile lightens the burdens,
off my heavy heart.

Scribbling verses,
soaked in countless kisses,
the moonlight waltzing on your skin.

Scribbling verses,
feeling you,
your love never ceases to flow,

through the streams of my mind,
to a place of our own,
where wild violets grow.

The Nameless

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Slipping through the sieve of history,

the nameless rest.

Not for the nameless are roads renamed, nor monuments built.

Not for the nameless are songs sung, nor ink spilled.

The nameless rest.

Their silent sacrifice,
quiet ordeal,
muted trauma,

remain interred,
amongst their remains.

The nameless rest.

Not for the nameless are doctorates conferred, nor eulogies recited.

Not for the nameless are honours bestowed, nor homages directed.

The nameless rest.

They rest within us,
they walk with us,

in every step that we tread.

They rest within us,
they walk with us,

for their spirit is not dead.

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“Your name is unknown, your deed is immortal”

– inscription at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier WWII in Moscow

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Special thanks to my dearest elder sister Tasneem Nobandla Moolla, whose conversations with me about life as a non-white person growing up in pre and post-Apartheid South Africa prompted me to write this dedication to the countless, nameless South Africans of every colour, whose sacrifices and dedication in the struggle against Apartheid tyranny must never be forgotten.

My sister’s middle name ‘Nobandla’ which is an isiXhosa name and means “she who is of the people” was given by her godfather, Nelson Mandela, my father’s ‘best-man who could not be, as Nelson Mandela was unable to-make it to my parent’s wedding as he was in jail at the time in the old Johannesburg Fort. This was the 31st December 1961.

My Madness, Me

Madness

Confined by this straight-jacket,
strapped in, numb and dumbed,
a washed-out, has-been, also-ran,

body, eyes, the equilibrium of mind,
rattling like stones in an old tin-can.

Still, I am,

I am,

and I am unchained,

my dreams taking flight, soaring,
above these claustrophobic walls,
of synapses, and dungeons of stone,

swooping through green valleys,
taking a detour to savour the joys,

soaked in torrential, evergreen memories,
of a younger man, with passion in his bone.

I am.

My wings unclipped, unshackled, free,

I am, and though I am unable to see,

I am.

At long last,

me.

The Sound of Distant Ankle Bells

Memories of those delicate tinkling bells,
casually fastened around calloused feet,

take hold of my waking moments,

and fling my thoughts back to a distant time,
where folk-songs were heartily sung,
joyful, yet hopelessly out of rhyme.

I barely saw her, a construction labourer perhaps,
hauling bricks, cement, anything, on a scorching Delhi day,
while in the semi-shade of a Gulmohar tree, her infant silently lay.

A cacophony of thoughts such as these swirl around,
yanking me away from the now, to my cow-dung littered childhood playground.

Now, a lifetime of displacement has hushed the jangling chorus of the past,
to a faint trickle of sounds, as distant as an ocean heard inside tiny sea-shells,

and,

I know, that the orchestral nostalgic crescendo, rises, dips, and swells,
as tantalisingly near, yet a world of time away, as were the tinkling of her ankle-bells.

She

She smiled, gently,
her warmth infusing me,
with a serene stillness of time.

She settled, slowly,
in my waking thoughts,
a soothing balm of simple joy.

She remains, scribbled,
on the walls of my fractured heart,
memories of happiness that once breathed…

…and is no more

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The Petty Posh-Wahzee – Liberation & Ostentation

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The Not-So Distant Past:

The fallen fighters for freedom, are unable to turn in their graves,
their battered, fragmented bones, mixed with a handful of torn rags,
are all that remain, a mute reminder of their selfless valiant sacrifice.

They endured brutal Apartheid harassment, detentions without trial,
torture in the cells, and mental anguish when loved ones disappeared,
they left their homeland, to continue the struggle against racial bigotry,
while countless others fought the scourge of white-minority rule at home.

Nelson Mandela and many, many others, spent their lives imprisoned,
on islands of stone, and on islands of the cruellest torture, yet they stood,
never bowing, never scraping, they stood, firm for ideals for which they were prepared to die,

and many, many comrades did die, at the hands of the callous oppressor,
and many, many comrades perished in distant lands, torn from their homes,
while the struggle continued, for decades, soaked in blood, in tears, in pain.

The Present:

19 years have passed, since freedom was secured at the highest of prices,
delivering unto us, this present, a gift of emancipation from servitude,

a freedom to walk this land, head held high, no longer second-class citizens,
in the land of our ancestors, whose voices we hear and need to heed today.

I do not care much for fashion, Lewis-Fit-On and Sleeves unSt.-Moron,
yet the ostentation that I witness baffles even my unsophisticated palate,

our ancestors’ plaintive whispers are being dismissed, left unheeded, as
we browse the aisles for more and more, always for more and yet more.

Asphyxiated by the excess of the Petty Posh-Wahzee, we find ourselves,
perched precariously on the edge, of a dissolution of all that is humane,

babies go hungry, wives are battered, our elders left in hospitals for hours,
I cringe as I scribble these words, perhaps too sanctimonious and preachy,

yet I know, deep in the marrow of my brittle bones, I know, I know, I know,
this tree of freedom planted by the nameless daughters and sons of Africa,

needs to be shielded, nurtured, protected from our very own baser impulses,
so that the precious tree of freedom, may bear the fruit that may feed us all,

for if not, then we are doomed, to tip over, and into the yawning abyss, we shall fall.

The Tears of the Clown

A veil of smiles,
worn effortlessly.

Tuning out the blurring din,
alone in the cackling throng,

never hoping to belong,
though pining to fit-in.

Peeling off the thin facade,
feeling the pained charade,
melting into the dim parade.

Trickling effortlessly down,
over the strained contours,

of a spurious laugh,

the tears of the clown,

rehearsed, rehashed,

form an unending cold stream,
dissolving the lingering traces,

of this simple boy’s dream

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