Tag Archive: poetry


Memories of a Mother

letter of condolence from Comrade Nelson Mandela to my father when my mother passed away on April 4th 2008


reuniting with Nelson Mandela after 27 years – photo by me in Sweden 1990



The Valiant Women.





(for the countless women, names unknown, who bore the brunt of Apartheid, and who fought the racist system at great cost to themselves and their families, and for my mother, Zubeida Moolla)







Pregnant, your husband on the run,

your daughter just a child, a few years old,


they hauled you in, these brutish men,

into the bowels of Apartheid’s racist hell.




They wanted information, you gave them nothing,

these savage men, who skin just happened to be lighter,


and White was right in South Africa back then.




You did not cower, you stood resolute,


you, my mother, faced them down, their power,

their ‘racial superiority’, their taunts, their threats.




You, my mother, would not, could not break,


You stood firm, you stood tall.




You, like the countless mothers did not break, did not fall.




You told me many things, of the pains, the struggles,


the scraping for scraps,


the desolation of separation

from your beloved children, 


by monstrous Apartheid, by brutish men,

whose skin just happened to be lighter.




You told me many things, as I grew older,

of the years in exile, of the winters that grew ever colder.




You were a fighter, for a just cause,

like countless other South African women,


you sacrificed much, you suffered the pangs,

of memories that cut into your bone, your marrow,


you resisted a system, an ideology, brutal and callous and narrow.




Yes, you lived to see freedom arrive, yet you suffered still,

a family torn apart, and struggling to rebuild a life,


all the while, nursing a void, that nothing could ever fill.




I salute you, mother, as I salute the nameless mothers,


the countless sisters, daughters, women of this land, who fought, sacrificing it all by taking a moral and principled and valiant stand.




I salute you, my mother, and though you have passed, your body interred in your beloved South African soil,


you shall remain, within me, an ever-present reminder,


of the cost of freedom, the struggles, the hunger, the toil.




I salute you!




Viva the undying spirit of the women Viva!






(for the brave women of South Africa, of all colours,

who fought against racial discrimination and Apartheid)







Comrade Nelson Mandela’s mother and my mother protesting the arrest of political prisoners

with Comrade Winnie Mandela, an old friend and comrade of my parents

my mother reunited with Comrade Nelson Mandela after 27 years

Anti-Apartheid slogan and poster from the 1980s

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http://m.polity.org.za/article/the-judging-of-nelson-mandela-2018-09-12

from google



The Judging of Nelson Mandela.




1.




It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die“, said the resolute prisoner in the dock.


He stood firm in his revolutionary convictions, potentially facing the gallows of Apartheid tyranny.


The prisoner and his comrades were sentenced to life imprisonment on an island of shame with Robben Island its name.


They endured the hell of Apartheid’s abyss for 27 long years.




2.




Nelson Mandela walked free on that early February day in 1990.


His years of incarceration did not dilute his revolutionary ideals.


His beloved organisation, the African National Congress with him at the helm now dealt with an enemy hell-bent of sowing the seeds of mayhem.


He stood resolute.

He stood principled.


Nelson Mandela and his comrades negotiated the path which realised the objectives of a free and non-racial and democratic South Africa.


Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress had to make many compromises, in the quid pro quo of negotiating with an enemy busy in the process of fomenting a civil war.


This did not make him a sell-out.


This did not render him toothless.


This did not mean he had capitulated on his revolutionary ideals.


Nelson Mandela and his comrades faced a stark reality – a negotiated peaceful settlement with the Apartheid state or the prospect of further bloodshed and the implosion of South Africa.


This did not render him impotent. 


This did not temper his revolutionary fire.




3.




Nelson Mandela and his comrades realised that the white minority regime would not simply relinquish power.


The Apartheid state was already actively engaged in the stoking of wanton acts of violence in order to derail the process of transforming South Africa into a democratic country where all human beings regardless of race would be granted the right to vote and to be no longer being relegated to second class citizens in the land of their ancestors.


There were difficult compromises to be made, there were bitter pills that had to be swallowed.


The enemy would not simply give up the privileges of the white minority without a fight.


Nelson Mandela and his comrades understood that reality. 


The cold harsh reality of facing a protracted war of attrition or the birth of a new democratic South Africa from the clutches of Apartheid hegemony. 




4.




Nelson Mandela and his comrades in the African National Congress made the hard choices.


They laid to rest the prospect of a civil war, while making gut-wrenching decisions in order to achieve the first goal of bringing to fruition a free and democratic South Africa.


Many were displeased. 


Many were embittered. 


Many thought this the abandoning of the true principles of the struggle.


They were not wrong. 


They had good reason to believe that far too many concessions were made.


They who fought on the frontlines were not being unreasonable.


They faced Apartheid’s bullets and truncheons and torture for years.


Yet Nelson Mandela did not shut them out, but brought them in and invited them to be a part of the hard work that lay ahead in the creation of a new democratic country.




5.




Today, we look back.


Today, we judge Nelson Mandela and his comrades for a revolution denied.


Today, with the hindsight of history, we damn the negotiated settlement.


Today, the failures of the democratic governments that have followed Nelson Mandela’s one term as President, are coldly and conveniently laid at the feet of Nelson Mandela.


Nelson Mandela did not crave power nor status. President Nelson Mandela was a human being, a man of flesh and blood, with his share of faults.


Nelson Mandela never shied away from acknowledging his faults.




6.




Today we dismiss Nelson Mandela as one who sold out the revolution.


Today we condemn Nelson Mandela for the greed and corruption that keeps millions in poverty and the majority of the population who have no access to dignified health care and education and housing and employment.


Today we judge Nelson Mandela as the one who watered down every ideal and principle of the struggle for freedom and for human emancipation.




7.



Nelson Mandela stepped down as President in 1999 after serving one term in office.


Today we are in 2018.


How convenient to subtly paint Nelson Mandela as the one who sowed the seeds of all that is wrong in our country today.




8.




How very convenient.




9.




Nelson Mandela was not the prisoner-set-free to to assume the Presidency of the African National Congress and rule by dictatorial edicts and by personal decree. 


The African National Congress and its National Executive Committee (NEC), the ANC’s Armed Wing Umkhonto-we-Sizwe (MK), as well the ANC’s Tripartite Alliance partners, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) played an integral part in the negotiated settlement that resulted from the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA).


Leaders and political activists like Walter Sisulu, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, Cyril Ramaphosa, Jacob Zuma, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and many other individuals who spent years in Apartheid prisons and in exile were part of the decision making process. 


To hold Nelson Mandela solely responsible for the negotiated settlement that led to the creation of a democratic South Africa in 1994 is both disingenuous and ignores historical facts. 


The African National Congress structures on the ground were part of often heated debates as Nelson Mandela and his comrades navigated the treacherous waters of negotiating with a government that was in power and had the army at its disposal and was conducting bloody covert operations in order to derail the efforts to reach a peaceful solution for the dissolution of Apartheid and the birth of a new South African nation.


If Nelson Mandela is to be regarded as a ‘sell-out’, then he cannot be honestly judged alone for the failures of successive ANC governments from 1999 to 2018.


It is a simplistic reading of history to come to the conclusion that Nelson Mandela stood alone as a “sell-out” while once again conveniently ignoring the many other factors that played a part in the transition of South Africa from a racist, tyrannical state to a free and democratic new nation.




10.




Once again, how very convenient.







with thanks to the Nelson Mandela Foundation


https://www.nelsonmandela.org


from google


from google




https://www.nelsonmandela.org

my tribute to Steve Biko published:



http://www.polity.org.za/article/for-bantu-stephen-biko-2018-09-13



from google



For Bantu Stephen Biko.



Born: 18 December 1946

Murdered: 12 September 1977.





You fanned the fires of black pride,


facing down the racists trapped in their hollow white hide.




You breathed inspiration, infusing the many with renewed vigour,


though always knowing you were in the crosshairs of Apartheid’s trigger.




You never wavered, you stood tall and strong,


your words decimating the paltry platitudes of the fascist throng.


Your spirit, your courage, your words fanned the embers of resistance, with unshakeable determination,


you stood firm, always upright as you battled the scourge of racial discrimination,


and today, we as a people owe you the grateful tributes of a democratic nation.








They tortured you, they killed you, they murdered you, but they could never quell,


the conviction you instilled in a generation, the thirst for freedom and for dignity, and the tolling of the bell.


We salute you, fearless son of Africa, we remember you today, as we shall in all the tomorrows yet to come,


we shall never rest until the principled ideals for which you were killed are through our collective struggles won.


Only then shall we honour your selfless sacrifice, your dream of an equal society for all,


Only then shall we have truly honoured your eternally defiant, your ever valiant,


your forever truthful revolutionary call.





Viva the undying spirit of Steve Biko!


The struggles continue!



from google


an unashamedly mushy scribble


“Irises” by Vincent van Gogh



an unashamedly mushy lovey-dovey scribble …




I want you in my arms tonight, I crave your touch ever gentle, ever so feathery light,


I want you to kiss me hungrily beneath our African night, I want to sip the nectar glistening on your lips so bright,


I want all of you and more, I want to pick up seashells with you on our talcum shore,


I want you to clasp my hand, your fingers intertwined with mine, I want to be dazzled by the love we share, a flame that continues to brightly shine,


I want to escape this daily grind with you by my side, deep into the recesses of our souls, where there no longer is the need to scurry and to hide,


I want us to make love, our bodies and minds and hearts becoming one, I want to feel the heat between us like the blazing sun,


I want to promise you love forever more, a vow, an oath, kept safe deep within our core,


I want to grow old with you, my love, my light,


I want to savour every moment shared together,


forever and ever, with the knots of love binding us tight …



“Wheatfield with Crows” by Vincent van Gogh

.                 .             .               .

turquoise turret

from google




turquoise turret … … …




bubblegum clouds drizzle cotton-candy floss, blurring my view,

liquorice asphalt twists, a slow burn, igniting memories of she, ashenly charred, akin to her tresses auburn,

as i peer from atop my turquoise turret, all that lies between i and she,

are walls well secured,

surreptitious defences obscured …




from google

Prejudice

from google


peace dove by Picasso



walking hand in hand in the rain,


we vowed we would fight their fascist disdain,


we kissed, tasting the salt of our tears,


the blindness of the  discrimination of love, polluted by ignorant fears,


the pain streaming down our cheeks,


torn apart by the howls of hate, by the odious stench that of prejudice reeks.




walking hand in hand, we promised each other we would take a stand,


we would affirm that love knows no barriers, no walls, no straightjacket, no jingoism of the parading band,


we would smash the narrow walls of patriarchal distaste,


that for millennia has bludgeoned dignity, fracturing it to splintered waste.




walking hand in hand, we promised each other to remain the bulwark, the vanguard against racist drivel,


but now, after the years of lost innocence, the ugly lies we sought to smash,


sprout like weeds, as principled values to the cold hard ground fall, and to a million bits fracture as they crash,


today the truths we knew once, lie catatonic in a corner, gradually into nothingness to mutely shrivel,


while all I have, is this pen, to belch out scribble after impotent scribble …



from google



from google

I am African


Madiba Lives!




uBuntu – Southern African Philosophy that espouses the belief that all living beings are connected





I am African …




Africa, my Africa,

coursing through my veins,

the tributaries of all the rivers, all the streams,


infusing my nights with hope imbibed dreams.



Traversing the open savannah, walking alongside brother and sister, mother and father,


my city alive with promise, my continent throbbing with life,


my skies free to soar, my potential a purposeful roar.



Africa, my Africa,

you are the tears I have cried, my joyous dances in the rain, the balm that cures me from my sorrows and my pain.



Africa, my Africa,

you are me and I am you, I am not, but you remain perennially true, your soul intertwined with mine, your light never ceasing to shine,


Africa, my Africa,

I am not, but you remain everlasting and true,


Africa, my Africa,

you live within me,


Africa, my Africa,

I live within you …



poster from the days of the struggle against Apartheid tyranny

Nelson Mandela Lives!

n o s t a l g I a

nostalgia ..


Bicycle rides in the deluge of the monsoon, soaked sneakers squealing underfoot, mum’s voice calling us home, sipping cardamom tea, as the streets became a torrential sea.


stealing kisses on the school bus, furtively holding hands, innocence of young love thud-thudding in our hearts, surreptitiously catching a smoke, all trying to look like young humphrey bogarts.


cricket bats oiled with linseed, all patched and chipped, the field across the suburb our home ground, recreating matches heard on the radio, always on the lookout if any girls were around.


youthful joys, young heartbreaking moments, of having to repeat a grade at school, losing the carefully crafted image, of being just so cool.


days of scribbling notes in class, school a world in itself, ties undone in an effort to look tough, ears twisted by our teachers, the principal hauling us off by our necks’ scruff.


those days now a lifetime away, yet persistently and stubbornly etched in our minds, all grown up now with realities harsh, a long way away from looking for that lost cricket ball in the marsh.


old friends lost, not forgotten though, as the decades roll past, finally realising that nothing is meant ever to last.


what would we give to smell the monsoon rains once more, miles and miles away on a distant shore, ah but the memories remain, in the deepest recesses of our hearts’ core …


bruce and little steven


( inspired by Bruce Springsteen 🤔 )

from google




A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen … …


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.



FOR BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

from google

from google

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song for bruce springsteen …

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” … 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’

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_________

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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,

if 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

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from google

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from google

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talkin’ springsteenesque introspection blues …

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i have lost myself,
so often,
tripping over the tangled barbs,
here and there and everywhere i have been,

splintering me more,
each time we hauled ass,

and where once i tried to sew myself whole,

now i know,
sure,

all the random trivia,
a bit of this

but not much of much at all,

that’s the truth,
and i’ll stick to it,
go ahead,
haul me up against the wall,

but now, you see,
that now i see a little more,
cutting deep to the core,

i’ve been putting on a show,
playing the part,
cowardly,
callow,

hollow,
empty,
blind-mans bowl,

and chillingly,
effortlessly,
almost now,

clanging on,
the same old song,
the tired old dance,

but then again having strutted once,
puffy,
conceited ego,
once,

and since i have been humbled,

many times since,
this old shell has had some touch-up, and some paint,

but still,
typecast,
twisted,
playing the sad old role,

vagabond castaway,
misfit whatever,
neither here nor there,

and not that i don’t,
(pretend, at leas) to care,

i am tired of the perennial fare,

this endless fair,

playing the skin i shed yesterday,

slipping into my new skin today,

vaulting myself high,
perched up,
on the mantle,

tucked away,
between suburban pomposity,
and expected holier-than-thouness,

but now after all these years,
and after all these miles and after all these tears,

i think i am able to get through the times,
when my burden of sins,

keeps kicking me in the shins,

because one thing i know is what you said,

what you said, man, was true,

i remember it was during one of your pre-song talk-in/intro/philosophical detours on that never-ending highway,

i remember it time and time,
i’ll remember it always,
again and again,

each time i’m kicked in the shins,

remember, you said,

“… remember, in the end, no one wins unless everyone wins.”

_______________

for Bruce Springsteen

from google

Bruce and Clarence

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my Springsteen tribute through his songs

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In memory of “The Big Man” Clarence Anicholas Clemons Jr. (1942 – 2011)

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Growin’ Up in Delhi town, far away from being Born in the USA,

your words rang true to me,

nothing more so than when you sang Cover Me,

as i ached for release from my urban Jungleland,

to the rock ‘n’ roll tunes of The E-Street Band.

You made me weep with your melancholic My Hometown, as i related so deeply to I’m goin’ Down,

cos’ when you sang, you sang from the depths of your Hungry Heart, all the way across the seas from Asbury Park.

Your lyrics sliced deep, scraping away the veneer of cellophane,

stuck inside the prison of my Downbound Train.

I remember the first girl i met, with Bobby Jean stuck in my lovestruck head,

and as we walked hand in hand through the city park, all i wanted was to be, with her, Dancing in the Dark.

I believed that we were Born to Run, far away from that Brilliant Disguise,

far beyond the Darkness on the edge of Town, escaping our fragile spaces, on our Rocky Ground.

When Little Steven sang Sun City, it gave me more of a Reason to Believe,

singing truth to power, raging against Apartheid’s vile hell, for all who from racial discrimination had no reprieve.

When you sang with Tracy Chapman, Peter Gabriel, and Sting, all of you on stage for the Amnesty international concert, you carefully picked your principled fights, as we all sang Bob Marley’s Get up, Stand up, Stand for your Rights.

As i grew up, on that forked Thunder Road, you reminded me of The Ballad of Tom Joad,

your lyrics cut straight to the bone, when you belted out your sarcastic classic We take care of our Own.

You made me cry some more on the Streets of Philadelphia, while so many sweated it out in many a Darlington County, while the wealthy smiled and grabbed at this earth’s common bounty.

Oh how we joined you in the chorus, when you sang Woody’s angry This Land is your Land, while you paid homage to the countless immigrants in your powerful and visceral American Land.

I imbibed your words, feeling them course through my veins when i was bruised and tender, because you spoke to me of holding on tight to hope, to the words of No Surrender.

We are Alive spoke of the many who died trying to reach The Promised Land, to give it a shot, of Working on a Dream, while crossing The River would impossible seem.

Today, as so many are still sweating it out Working on the Highway,

you never fail to infuse hope,

the eternal hope,

of Waitin’ on a Sunny Day ….

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Clarence and Bruce

p a s s i o n

from google

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Passion …

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undulating, lengthy, scorching kisses,

peppered with sensuous caresses,

with you, i am one,

a bouquet of feelings, infusing every pore,

our bodies in unison, fused at our passionate core.

scribbling verses on on your fiery skin,

dedicating odes to you, my love,

melting into a poem of desire,

burnished against our writhing bodies,

inflamed, on fire.

these nights of hungering need,

these days aching to upon each other ravishingly feed,

swept up by our orchestral crescendo,

the symphonies coursing through our veins with greed.

no scribbled verses may even begin, to convey the heat of our shared cauldron,

we become one, we are one, when the stars in the sultry nights disappear,

our sweat trickling off our flesh,

the sparkle in your eyes so crystalline, so clear.

though the years have vanished and slipped into cupboards to sleep,

though the wrinkles have imperceptibly on our brows begun to creep,

we have yet many moons to savour,

bathed in moonlight of our hearts beating as one,

within each other so immeasurably deep …

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from google

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plucking thorns, scars skin adorns, piece by splintered piece, oblivious of fate, machinations that do not cease,

extracting shrapnel, embedded in my soul, heart, lives, cauterising stemming of blood, red scarlet drops on floors no one mops,

lobotomising consciences, inured principles, devoid of heart and soul, trudging along, hapless,

the journey ebbs on, the ache to feel, once again, whole …

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sentinels

from google

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sentinels …

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thoughts whizz past, embers meant never to last,

leaving memories behind, grappling fears in spaces of the blind,

memories, with all their nostalgic tugging,

stand blurred, hazy sentinels against excessive lugging,

sentinels, silently harbouring, threads of you, and of me,

sentinels, hewn into our being, protecting the persistence of memory …

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from google

talkin’ why hope is important bluesy-blues … … …

… … … this scribble is about hope, that unweighable weighty word, often bandied about ritually, and thus its message, its voice, may be blunted by repetitive bluster, so i’ll be a-scribblin’ along, with all the gusto i may muster, since we’re talking about hope, without which the human race, us all, all of us, i dare say, would not cope, ’cause imagine an absence of something, can’t put your finger on that feeling feeling, that oftentimes rocks at our souls, leavin’ our minds reelin’, yeah that’s right, but no propagandising today, though with me, at least, i can truly say, were it not for hope, that figment, blister on indifferent fates’ machinations, that belief, that burning in the pit of ones core, gnawing, gnashed teeth muttering, that all this pain too must eventually, pale, and that’s whats a-sometime the reason for us being heartful, and or hale, its hope, raw, deceptive, lyin’, corrosive, rusted but a-shineyed up, yeah that hope that keeps my heart pumping, its that hope that keeps me alive, and its that hope upon which, may all new flowers thrive …

Art by Picasso

my mother meeting her old comrade Nelson Mandela after 27 years of him being in jail and my parents working for the African National Congress (ANC) in exile since the 1960s. Photograph taken by me in Sweden 1990

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my mother’s story – a true story …

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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 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.

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(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)

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old anti-apartheid poster

senzenina*

from google

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Senzenina*

There was a glorious moment, in the autumn of 1994, when a nation broke free of the shackles of Apartheid.

There was a hope that burned bright, there were people ululating and dancing in the streets, there was a palpable feeling that we were on the cusp of achieving something that so many had sacrificed and died to accomplish.

The fetters of political and social and economic and racial tyranny were to be cast off, with the indescribable hope of a newer tomorrow, a better more equitable future, to be built on the foundation so many South Africans gave their lives to realise.

But it was not to be. The burning conviction of so so many was diluted, and then further diluted, till the very flames of revolution were hastily doused, with all that remained being the smouldering embers of hopes and dreams banished to the marketplace of deprivation.

In the Freedom Charter, there were the humane ideals of housing and health for all, of education and economic justice for all, of work for decent pay for all, for freedom from wage-slavery for all.

How hurriedly were these ideals buried.

The dreams and hopes and aspirations of generations seemed to have been consigned to the dust heap of history, as someone once said.

The South Africa of 1994 was not a country with a failing economy, and was in fact a wealthy country blessed with precious metals that had the potential for so many of the ideals of the Freedom Charter to be finally realised where the obscene wealth of the few would be more equitably shared by the overwhelmingly masses of the country.

It is was not long after the advent of democracy when the warning flags started popping up. The mad dash for power and influence and the feeding of greed began rapidly eroding the ideals that our leaders spent decades in prison dedicated their lives to achieve, the far far too many who were tortured and killed, who were forced into political exile, and the vast majority of people who bore the scars that the jagged edge of tyranny inflicted upon them.

The warning signs were there for all of us to see. The graft, the tenders for pals, the insatiable acquisition of personal wealth by a fraction of a fraction of the people of the country, exposed ominous signs that the noble ideals so many sacrificed for were being gradually consigned to oblivion.

Today, twenty seven years since freedom dawned, we have little to be proud about.

We have not alleviated poverty adequately so that the poorest of the poor citizens of South Africa still go to bed hungry, and often sleeping on newspaper sheets under gleaming highway underpasses. The scourge of unemployment means that those seeking to find work cannot do so, at least not for a liveable wage. The vast majority of the children of freedom still commute great distances and bear long hours in order to access a meaningful education. The “there shall be housing for all” words contained in the Freedom Charter has become a cesspool of substandard tiny homes being built, mostly even without doors or windows.

The elderly who are sickly have to endure hours of waiting in gradually decaying hospitals with more often their dignity being trampled upon by underpaid and understaffed nurses and doctors.

There is much much more to mention.

The saddest thing of all is the crushing of the hopes of the many, more often than not, by the few.

This is not the country leaders such as Madiba and Tambo and Hani and Biko and Sisulu amongst countless more had envisaged.

We have failed our selfless freedom fighters.

We have and continue to fail the vast majority of our fellow citizens.

This is now.

This is today.

Could there still be hope for tomorrow and the tomorrows yet to come.

It is up to all of us.

________

* “Senzenina” is an anti-Apartheid song which means “What have we done” with the implication “what did we do to deserve this?”

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from google

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your name

from google

hewn into my being,

carved across my heart,

weaving through my mind,

embossed in my soul,

it remains –

a persistent reminder:

your name

from google

Myesha Jenkins’s – “To breathe into another voice : A South African anthology of jazz poetry”

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my poem appears in Myesha Jenkin’s book To Breathe Into Another Voice: A South African Anthology of Jazz Poetry

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Old Sof’town*

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1.

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In old Sof’town,
the jazz struck chords,

the jazz lived, it exploded,
out of the cramped homes,
rolling along the streets,
of old Kofifi,

in tune to countless blazing heartbeats.

In old Sof’town,
Bra’ Hugh breathed music, Sis’ Dolly too,
and Bra’ Wally penned poems that still ring true.

In old Sof’town,
Father Trevor preached
equality and justice,
for all, black and white and brown,

and all shades, every hue,
even as oppression battered the people,
black and blue.

In old Sof’town,
the fires of resistance raged,

‘we will not move’ was the refrain,

even as the fascists tore down Sof’town,
with volleys of leaden rain.

In old Sof’town,
the people were herded,
like cattle,
sent to Meadowlands,
far away and cold and bleak,
as the seeds of resistance,
sprouted and flourished,
for the coming battle.

In old Sof’town,
the bulldozers razed homes,
splitting the flesh of a community apart,
only to raise a monument of shame,
and ‘Triomf” was its ghastly name.

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2.

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In Jozi today,
we remember those days,
and those nights of pain,
that stung our souls.
like bleak winter rain.

Yes, we remember old Sof’town,
as we struggle onward,
to reclaim our deepest heritage,
and build anew,
a country of all hues and shades,
of black and of white and of brown.

And yes, we will always remember,

and yes, we will never forget,

the price that was paid,
by the valiant sons and daughters,
of old Sof’town,

those vibrant African shades and hues,

of black,
of white,
of brown.

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from google

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* – Sophiatown was also called ‘Sof’town’ and ‘Kofifi.’

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https://www.myeshajenkins.com

from google

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