Tag Archive: questions


Album cover from Google







With apologies to Robert Zimmerman.





Why does the sun dry up so many scattered tears,

Slipping down the coarse cheek of a million hushed fears,


Where no one is scalded though the searing fog clears,

While prayers are mutely spoken even as the end nears.





We shatter and scrape on demented knees,

Blindly begging for mercy as it silently flees,


Searching listlessly for salvation drowned in the breeze,

That spits at the soft rose suffocated by a wheeze.





I know now what I need never have known,

Of hope that was trampled before it had flown,


Into a wasted sky filled with hate that could drown,

The giggling of the crowd and the crying of the clown.





A hope so fragile its wings were of brittle glass,

Ripping the veneer off the sewers of class,


Twisting the fabric of the weighed and costed mass,

Who numbly waited hoping that it too may pass.





For when shards of that hope in all hearts scurries away,

To a darkness where crowded night is emptied off the heaving tray,


’Tis then when sewn eyes behold that doleful day,

When all shall tear at each other while on demented knees we still pray.





For a lifting of the veil of that wilful deceit,

That’s wrapped up in a flag swollen with conceit,



While the limbs splinter in the claw of a winner’s defeat,

Yet still the drums roll for the ill-fated souls chose never to retreat.





From that drenched battleground where blood flows through a sieve,

And love’s lost song plaintively begs for a reprieve,


From eternal loss which into raw emotion does cleave,

Only to slip through the fingers and like grains of sand leave.













Poster from Google
art from google





A Ha-Ha Hee-Hee Scribble: Redux



1.



a soul lies strewn aside,
a rotting mangled heap,
a putrid heart decays inside,
a will too dehydrated to weep,
a festering me, aching to hide,
a mind too splintered to sleep.




a severance from the here, the now,
a life of constantly needing to bow,
a torn wail of pain, wailed somehow,
a frigid heart with nothing to endow,


a stench reeks from each guilty bow,
a stream of hot tears on blinded brow.




what happens when the mind itself claws, scratches, and mercilessly
lashes,


what can you do when the soul itself
shatters, and is slayed by the blade
that slashes,

it’s all a barren pantomime of unending dread,


it’s all a freak-show until everything is dead.



2.



it’s all just the ha-ha-hee-hee of cacophonous gibberish,



It’s all just the ha-ha-hee-hee of festering rubbish …







The Whip” by Banksy
Quote from google
Message of condolence from President Nelson Mandela to my father on the day of my mother’s death from ALS in Johannesburg April 2008
My mother reuniting with Comrade Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 27 years in jail with Comrade Nelson Mandela and other Rivonia Trial accused. (Photograph taken by me in Stockholm, Sweden mid-1990). On the right is Comrade Winnie Mandela (who along with Nelson Mandela was friend and comrade of the family dating back to the 1950s) and in the background on the left is my father
My mother addressing an anti-apartheid meeting in New Delhi mid-1980s, alongside the wife of the Amvassador of SWAPO of Namibia and Mrs. Margaret Alva

For my mother, Zubeida Moolla, and 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 women fighting for human dignity the world over

My mother meeting President Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison 27 years after they last saw each other. (Photograph taken by me in Stockholm, Sweden, in the summer of 1990)
My mother meeting President Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison 27 years after they last saw each other. (Photograph taken by me in Stockholm, Sweden, in the summer of 1990)
My mother with President Nelson Mandela's mother, alongside South African women of all races protesting the imprisonment of their loved ones who were thrown in Apartheid South Africa's jails as political prisoners. (Photograph from The Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg)

My mother with President Nelson Mandela’s mother, alongside South African women of all races protesting the imprisonment of their loved ones who were thrown in Apartheid South Africa’s jails as political prisoners.

(Photograph from The Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa)

My mother addressing an Anti-Apartheid meeting in New Delhi – mid 1980s
South African Struggle Poster


✊🏾 For women everywhere ✊🏾




Pregnant, your husband on the run, your daughter just a child, a few years old,


they hauled you in, those brutish men, into the bowels of Apartheid’s racist hell.


They wanted information to sell your comrades out, you gave them nothing, these savage men, who skin just happened to be lighter,


You did not cower, you stood resolute,


you, my mother, faced them down, their power, their ‘racial superiority’, their taunts, their threats.


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 and for women fighting for human dignity the world over


South African Struggle Poster
South African Struggle Poster
South African Struggle Poster
South African Struggle Poster
My mother and my then 7-month old sister Tasneem, following the arrest of my father under the infamous “90-day Detention Law” raids against anti-apartheid activists in 1963
art from google



The letter from President Nelson Mandela to my father on the day my mother passed away.

My parents were comrades of President Nelson Mandela stretching back to the 1950s




For a Mother …



She left me,
with only the thoughts of her embrace to warm me,


in frigid mornings of tomorrows yet to come.




She left me,
with her words of tender truths to shroud me,


in the coming evenings of stabbing sleet and hail.




She left me,
yet she stays forever within me,

in my waking dreams
and in my restful thoughts,

she stays forever within me,

she remains an abiding part,



of the love,
the pain,
the tears,



and thusly,


we shall never, ever be truly apart.








( for my mother, who passed away on the 4th of April 2008, after a long battle with Motor-Neurone Disease or ALS, and for every brave soul battling ALS and other illnesses across the globe )



Zubeida Moolla (1934 – 2008)





My Mother – A True Story.





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




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


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



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



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



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



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



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



One afternoon my father fell and broke his leg.



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



The neighbour was an elderly Punjabi lady.



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



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



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


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



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



The elderly lady broke down and wept uncontrollably.



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



Hope.


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






(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)


Zubie & Mosie, Delhi (mid 1970s)

Our shared Strands

Quote from Google





Our shared strands ...




Our shared strands of light,

of hope.


Afloat on tendrils of starstuff,

whispering warmth
-

hoping hope may be found.


Sketching memories, painting tears,

falling like leaves,

etching reminders of less warm times -

hoping hope may be found.


Time tenderly infuses hope,


cajoling me,

urging you,


caressing us all,

to embrace
the here,

the now -

for hope to be found,


somehow.







Quote from Google

Hope Redeems.

Picasso’s “Peace Dove”








Hope Redeems.




Hope redeems.

No,
hope refuses.


Hope refuses to flee,
entwined around each raw nerve,

hope refuses to abandon me.


Hope toils,
labouring in my barren nights.


hope recoils,
hope does not blather on,

hope is stubborn,
hope rebukes my excuses,
hope rebuffs all perceived slights.


Hope redeems.

No,
hope promises nothing,

hope offers no promises to fracture,

hope offers no vows to break,

hope stammers no oaths to me,

hope simply refuses to flee.



Hope remains within me ...

... hopeful
.








Picasso’s “Dove of Peace”

my lifetime of lies …

quote from google







my lifetime of lies ...




... murmurs of this life's memories, curl like wisps of smoke,


fading into the ether, leaving the poison of all the lies I have wrapped around me,


my own infected cloak ...


... every blurred image from that long lost time when I was young,


not a single day has passed into night, when I have ceased spinning the lies that I have spun,


leaving every soul, everything that ever was whole,


flushed down into the tentacles of poisoned sewers, my every reeking breath throttling each being, into my putrid void,


of all goodness devoid,


yanking everyone to drown in a bottomless hole,


leaving nothing left on the carcasses from whom I pillaged and stole,


each breath breathed, throttled in lies that I have sheathed,


with words easily sputtered, vows and promises vilely muttered,


into ears I have nibbled and kissed,


each promise an oath betrayed, my forked tongue camouflaging all the bile I have hissed,


leaving those who chose to know me, to love me, to hold me in their hearts,


leaving them all battered, victims all of my poisoned darts,


taking and taking and taking, and then taking some more, consumed by my wretched greed,


then casually discarded, when left with nothing more to quench my revolting need,


each soul a person,
every heart a gem,


my caressing fingers thrusting thorns in each tender stem,


and now, after a lifetime of suckling, I see them all in my reflected face,


I feel them all in every crevasse, my willful deceptions impossible to ever erase,


while the mirror now reflects my eternal shame, desecrating all like mere pawns in my carefully crafted game,


leaving a sludge-filled trail of long overdue arrears, as I shamelessly weep yet more crocodile tears,


bleeding more and more for more and more,


then banishing each one on an empty shore,


having gutted them all to their very core,


till they see me as a person no more,


just a repugnant man, who has never given a damn,


yes,
finally,

and at long last,


they can see me for what I really am ...









quote from google

my confession …

street art from google





my confession ...




my ceaseless deceit, my puffed-up conceit, reeking of what i am, of what i do, of my pathetic charade, my sacharine parade - coiled in an infinite loop:



a conscienceless repeatedly repeating repeat ...



... juggling halves,
my polar mind skids, with no traction on this seesawing slide,



as it scurries off to hide,



behind effortless lies,
spewing forth with a phantom innocence in my eyes,



throttling the urge to feel honest emotions,
soiling all meaningful ties,



strangling the surge of a feeling so fleeting, so devoid of all meaning,



while by the by,
my desecrated soul rips and shreds,



fleeing like rotten cowardice, up and away into the grieving skies,



with nothing but putrid detritus left behind,



stinking up the paths i always seem to find,



and always, always,



always concocting spurious excuses, blaming it all on the chemicals misfiring between the crevasses of my unkind mind,



while getting away with it all for the briefest time,



shivering with stunned fear,



knowing, always knowing,
i shall be exposed,



no matter how craftily i regurgitate each and every scribbled rhyme,



as i desert the purest ones who truly care,
the truest ones who have never hesitated to share,



as i tread with crocodile smiles, upon the hearts and souls they have with love laid bare,



while by the by,
i feel nothing as i abandon them with scarcely a goodbye ...



... and so it always goes, as it has always gone, and as it will always go,



my heart frigid, my soul inured,



hardly sparing a passing glance,



as i leave in my toxic wake, the shattered trust,



an epic of reeking untruths, spun in my web of feigned love, of all goodness pummelled into dust,



blow by excruciating blow,



yes, it is i,



who leaves nothing but a snaking pyroclastic flow ...



... and blah-dee-blah,



and so it always goes, as it has always gone,



and as it will always go ...






art by banksy

art from google

Racism + Silence = Complicity ...






racism stalks the cities, slimy and rotten,


memories of Apartheid, of segregation, so conveniently forgotten.




racism infects the home, reeking and vile,


memories of discrimination, of slavery, bubbling up like bile.




racism must be fought, in words, in thought.




racism must be defeated,


lest its repugnance be continually repeated

quote from google

from google



the parallel lines of love ...





i sometimes fear that i can never be yours,

the sinking feeling of facing closed doors,

where there is no space for me,
where there is no space for you,

in this cruel world where these truths are excruciatingly true.



i often think of this path we have chosen,
fingers slipping away as we slip on the cold earth so frozen,


where i shall always be the outsider, forever more,
a stab that strikes at my deepest core.



i wonder how i shall traverse these thorny alleyways,
knowing you and i shall love each other always,

but what becomes of a love akin to parallel lines that will never meet,
with just this ink pouring words on an empty sheet.



we are torn apart by this gaping hole,
you are where you are, i am where i can never be whole.



i sometimes fear that i can never be yours,

for wherever i look, i end up facing closed doors ...






from google

art | equation from google



love and silence …






you and i,
shielded by silence.


barred from ourselves at times.

exiled hearts,
building ramparts.


a wall
that may fall.


so,

my friend ...

lay your head on my chest,
letting my fingers run through your hair,

lulling you gently to rest, as we share our silences,


for life is far too short anyway,

to squander even a day.





art | equation from google

art by banksy




accepting blame - i know that you cannot forgive me ...




... as a thousand searing thoughts scald me in this sleepless night,


i flail around for you, because you told me that you would always hold me close, and closely warmly tight,


but you left me in the sleet, and you threw me into the stabbing rain,


and i feel around for you, because you said that you would share my joy, that we would share the pain,


so tell me, where are you now, as you left me in the vacuum of this hollow dark,


yes, you left me to crawl and scrape and bow, and your lies are now so jarring and so stark,


and as i lie desolate in this bed we left unmade, i know it was never your fault,


because it was me who fled into the passing plastic parade, and in all truth it was i, who scratched your wounds with jagged coarse salt,


so i ask forgiveness of you, but i know you can't, for all the fresh grass is shorn and all i do is water all the weeds that i plant,


and now as the lightning flashes, i lay alone,


all alone,


alone with nothing but the wretched terror of wounded putrid gashes,


so forgive me if you can, but I know that you can't,


because all i ever did was burn it all down, whittling your smile into a scarred and tortured frown,


so as the thunder crashes,

i know,

i know that it was me,
who refused to see,


the gentle love in your gentle loving eyes,


yes, it was me,


it was me who lit the fire that left our love in a pile of forgotten ashes ...





art by banksy

Sunset at Baobab Tree” by Errol Norbury

The Traveller and the Baobab Tree …



1.


A summer breeze,
drifts down lonesome pathways and byways and alleyways,
touching worlds,
torn apart.
The breeze engulfs,
a pristine sky of blue,
while,
scattering the murmuring clouds,
that blanket the blazing African heavens,
in swirls and immaculate shrouds.


2.


A passing shower,
of gentle misty rain,
settles,
on freshly scented-earth.
It soothes,
it caresses,
the exhausted thoughts,
of,
a weary traveller,
who sits,
alone, all alone,
under a Baobab tree.


3.


The traveller walks alone,
at peace with the fragrant soil,
collecting memories of smiles embraced along the way.


4.


Finally, the wandering soul,
seeks rest,
finding peace at last,
yet,
knowing its price,
is to let go –
each memory,
and every smile,
that once burned true,
but now,
awaits release,
from the ache of the lingering past.

Rhino at Sunset with Baobab Treeby Errol Norbury

art from google


August 6th, 8:15 AM, 1945, Hiroshima







The flying machine, a harbinger of death, flew across oceans, a beast in the morning calm.



The Enola Gay*, and Little Boy** silently sliced the skies, roaring ever closer to ground zero.




Hiroshima bustled, the sound of birds, of children, of mothers preparing breakfast, of fathers shaving their one day old stubbles.




Dogs barked, cats tucked themselves in corners, children skipped, vegetable stands ploughed the streets.




The Enola Gay flew nearer.




Hiroshima's people oblivious of the hell that awaited them, the fires of apocalypse that would soon consume them, laughed and quarrelled and worked and haggled the price of the fresh morning fruit.




It was at 8:15 AM, the metallic beast prowling above released Little Boy.




Little Boy fell, down towards the city, to fracture its people, in the hubbub of early morning.




The Atomic Bomb exploded, its light blotting out the morning sun, its deafening roar bursting eardrums.




The payload was delivered.




The Generals at Command Centre were triumphant.




The Enola Gay flew away, leaving a mushroom cloud rising higher and higher as it rained down unspeakable horrors, indescribable destruction.




It has been said that in Hiroshima that day, and in the weeks and months that followed, the living envied the dead, their skin peeling off as they roamed their city, their home, consumed by the sickening howls of pain from every quarter.




Little Boy exploded as it fell, releasing a heat that burnt people, searing their shadows into walls, preserved till today, a ghastly reminder of that savagery that befell all.




Radiation from the Bomb creeped into flesh, scorching innumerable innocents, as nuclear ash fell all around.




Man had created a weapon of such savagery, such indifferent brutality, a bringer of horrors, grotesque and merciless.




Man had used the weapon, not once, but twice, for three days later Fat Man*** was unleashed on Nagasaki.




I could write on, attempting to describe the indescribable horrors that rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.




I could write on, about the deformed babies being born, decades after those two days in early August of 1945.




I could write on, about the inhumanity man visited upon fellow human beings.




I could write on, about the stockpiles of nuclear weapons - tens of thousands of bombs - far, far more powerful than those that reduced Hiroshima and Nagasaki to radioactive ash.




I could write on, about the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons housed in the silos of those who preach peace, of those who crow on about democracy, of those who let their people starve while testing the means to carry these weapons of hell across oceans.




I could write on, about the hypocrisy, the money spent on machines of destruction, as most humans of this world go hungry each night and day.




I could write on, and on, and on.




But what more can anyone say, as the wailing, the shrieking screams of the victims echo across time,




till today.





_________



* Enola Gay - the plane that carried the Atomic Bomb.

** Little Boy - the code name for the Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

*** Fat Man - the code name for the Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945.


art from google

would you walk with me?




would you walk with me?



would you walk with me through the wildest storms, wracking distant fields of green,


beneath raucous whirlwinds, under the lightning shrieks of night,

where yearning aches,
where my heart splinters,
where this cold world wounds,

would you take my hand in yours,
taking flight,

to soar in the haunted shimmering
of fractured moonlight.




would you take my hand - and with me disappear?

from this cesspool of hurt,
from this cauldron of fear,


to our pastures of peace,
not so far away from the now,

and

not so removed from the here.




would you lay your heart,

to rest
beside mine?



sharing

ceaseless laughs and

tears,



sharing
our love, a reflection

of our desires, our fears,


sharing a placid calm, banishing aches and

sorrows,


for our love rejects all labels,

our love discards the detritus of this callous life,

our love dares to dream our dream we dare not dream,

the dream of many shared tomorrows.



would you walk beside me,

hoping to heal our thousand little cuts,
escaping our strewn life so casually
tossed,


to lose ourselves in landscapes etched and sketched,

with delicate hues deeply absorbed,


into a cardamom mosaic gently embossed.




would you sail with me, our hopes skipping on a moonbeam?


bathed in rain-drenched kisses,

soaring across the seas,

dancing,
hopping,

barely afloat,

on cinnamon waters,


sharing that ever elusive elixir,

sipping together, from a honeyed stream,


so that finally, and at long last,

I may hobble on,

trying to,

at long last,


my countless sins begin to redeem.





and so, and yet,


would you still walk with me?




art by banksy

Racism is Binary …

from google


Racism is Binary ...



racism stalks streets,
flowing with blood,

red blood.


not black, white, saffron, green, yellow,

but,

red blood,

like the colourless tears that stream,

down faces of all hues,

and

of every shade,

human beings all,

just humans,

who into dust or ashes do fade.



racism on the prowl,

deafening,
virulent ignorance,

embraced by those who hate,

seeping out of diseased tongues that bray & howl,

while,

humanitys’ corpse,
lies in state.



racism is binary,
soul-less,

with just a single choice to make,

so think carefully now, o’ patient reader,

cos’ racism is binary,
soul-less,

and there is only one choice that is right …


… the dazzling fusion of a rainbow,

or dull,
bland,

empty white.

from google

from google

The Wind carries his Name ...




They shot him down,
to silence a man of flesh and bone.


Even as the bullets tore through him,the wind carried his name.


Far across the weary fields,high above the stubborn peaks,over the blood soaked streams,the wind carried his name.


They shot him down,to silence a man of flesh and bone.


Yet the wind carries his name,to you and to me,to them and to us.
They shot him down,but his name resounds,as it floats on the breeze.


And,
still they try to shoot him down,to silence us all, to stifle an ideal.


But the wind cannot be stilled,

and the wind carries his name:




Che”.





( For Ernesto Guevara de la Serna )

from google
from google

the swaying of the grass ...




1.



a path leads,
to where wild grasses grow,
sashaying in the summer breeze.



2.



along the path,
solace settles within,
feeling the grass swooning,
tickling ankles,
swaying to lilting bird-song,
in a dance of intimate abandon,
brushing remnants of pain away.



3.



melodies float across fields of green,
delicately caressing my heart,
teasing emptiness to flee,
and comforting the mind,
to silently be.



4.



walking on,
savouring the peace,
a momentary respite,
casting off burdens of the now,
for all is quiet,
in a stillness cradling fractured emotions,
as the grass in the fields sway,
and dusk descends,
while shadows lengthen,


nudging the dimming light to take leave of the day …

from google

She Walks Alone …

a protest poster during the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa





She Walks Alone …




she walks alone,
barefoot in the paddies of rice,
breaking her back for some precious grains.


she walks alone,
in jo’burg town, with a black eye,
smacked around by him the previous painful night.


she walks alone,
in the streets of neon hazed manila,
along the pristine hedges of rotten london,


on the crowded pavements of lonesome new delhi,


across the rolling plains of the vast bounteous pampas,


over the winding back-ways of the sloping and grimy favelas,


on the glittering pavements of rich and sweetly-scented jeddah,


through the blindingly false boulevards of that sad los angeles town.


she walks alone,
bearing the burden of mother and daughter,of cook and sweeper and wife and mistress and punching-bag,

she walks alone,

through your streets and mine,
standing up as she is beaten more down,


loving a little as the bruises on her face turn purple,

feeding the little ones with morsels of hastily cooked beans.


she walks alone,
in factories and in mills and in buses,
in schools and in brothels and in places in-between.


she walks alone,
staying alive on the alms of the ‘charitable’,


violated by those who from the pulpit preach.

she walks alone,


my sister and yours,
my mother and yours too,
my lover and your beloved as well.


she walks alone,
caged by society in its invisible prison,
a slave of norms and culture and religion and caste,

she walks alone,
but she is the conscience of me and you,
screaming at us silently in hunger and despair,

she walks alone,
and though fearful of you men she may seem,

be warned that she may not forever be this alone,

for she too believes,

for she too needs and wants and loves and weeps,

in the silent night of complacency while impotent
mankind sleeps,

and she too will rise and in rising slay,
the beasts that in your callous hearts prowl and lay,

and she too will demand her rightful place,

for every mother and sister and lover and daughter has a real, human face.

from google
from google

from google

Apples & Spinach …

The foul odour of scarred flesh.


The reeking decomposition.



Bodies once animated, once so alive,
Now strewn across the moist ground.



The surgical strike.



The pin-point accuracy.



The smartest weapons,
Deployed,
To decimate the bad guys.



Black and brown people,
More often than not,
Pummeled to a pulp,



Black and blue.



While LCD screens miles away,
Surveil and scan for potential targets,
The unknown other.



The evil doers,
As mothers & daughters,



Pick out apples and spinach
In a market-place in the cross-hairs.




from google
art by banksy



Greed is Good* …

brands and little tender hands,
sewing and sweating,

in dinghy factories and in smoke-clogged stands.

Haute-couture and ostentatious labels,
black and blue whiskey on heaving sushi tables.

Greed is good,


it ‘enhances’ free-market competition,
as we blindly scamper from mall to mall,
devoid of a scintilla of compassionate vision.

Greed is good,
oh and it feeds,
on complicity,
apathy,
as we reap the rewards,
of the sowing of hypocritical seeds.

Greed is good,
yes it is,
as long as we can buy and buy and buy and buy,

and

as long as there’s gourmet coffee to be had,

and,

as long as there are oysters we can lasciviously shuck,

ohhhh yessss,
greed is good,
so we sew our mouths shut,
as we frolic,
as we party,

and,

as we fuck …





art from google


( * – title borrowed from Oliver Stone’s film ‘Wall Street’ )

A Tribute by Afzal Moolla

Published in “The Centrifugal Eye – Autumn 2012.” Edition.

Edited by Eve Hanninen

For Pete Seeger, Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter & Woody Guthrie …

It was a long time ago,

when you put your words into song:

‘this machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender’ you scribbled on your old guitar,

and you wielded that banjo and guitar as weapons,

fiddling out a hail of truth,

of solidarity,

of angry, vehement calls for peace.

You said of leadbelly, that that huddie ledbetter was a helluva man,

you sang and spoke through dust clouds and relief lines,

you taught us all, to seek out hope wherever we can,

and when they tried to call all of you goddamned reds,

you sang on ever louder and louder, rattlin’ their prejudices as they slept in their plush beds,

you rode and you rambled and thumbed your way around,

the land that is my land and your land too,

for you believed all this earth was shared common ground,

and when you sang of overcoming one day,

the injustice and pain that you witnessed along the way,

they further branded you a commie, a pinko or a nigger-lover or a jew-lover, or an enemy of the state,

while your banjo and your guitars continued to surround their blind hate,

‘this machine kills fascists’ you etched on that guitar as well,

but they were all deaf, for they could not hear the tolling of the bell,

‘the bell of freedom,

the hammer of justice,

the song of love between your brothers and your sisters’,

and they knew not that they were the ones who would sizzle in their own bigoted hell,

and then came the marches and you were there too,

with Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma, and you faced their spit, their venomous rage, their clubs and sticks and knives, but you always knew,

that your cause was just and that the truth must one day prevail,

however long it may take, you never gave up, you sang and you marched and you strummed yourselves, victoriously, into their jail,

and then they shot him, they shot Dr. King dead, as they burnt and lynched many more,

yet you stood firm, you never wavered, your blood was red after all, and they could not tarnish the truth’s core,

and so it came to pass, that Woody went on his way, to his pastures of plenty up in the sky,

and Huddie too, said his last and final goodbye,

and you were then one, and you may have felt alone and overwhelmed, by the battles and with all that was wrong,

but then you saw that the people were with you,

as they had been, all along,

and so you continued to fiddle with that old banjo,

dragging it through Newport and Dar-es-Salaam,

and through countless unknown halls in numberless unknown towns,

across this earth, turning, slowly, putting smiles of togertheness, on faces that were once pock-marked with disillusioned frowns,

so …

today as I jot down these poorly scribbled words for all of you,

for Woody, Huddie, and Pete,

ido so in gratitude, for after all the travails that you’ve been through,

I know that you know that this world still has its fair share of hate, and of loss and of injustice and of gloom …

… but I also know that you know that though all the old flowers may have gone,

there always will be,

as there always must be,

fresh flowers ablaze somewhere …

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

(January 15 1929 – April 4 1968)

1.

You had a dream, of pastures of peace,

where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.

2.

They silenced you, yet your dream
resounds louder still,

in pastures not yet of peace,

where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.

3.

You said that you had been to the mountain top,

they tried to strangle your voice as you saw the promised land,

those pastures of peace,

where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.

4.

Today your dream is glimpsed in pastures,

not yet of peace,

for though they tried to silence your voice,

your spirit in our collective hearts does rejoice.

5.

Your spirit, your dream,

mingles in the winds of all those pastures,

over the valleys, in the oceans, across the mountains,

in every flowing stream.

6.

Today, your dream lives in the wind,

seeding the prairies, the steppes, the savannahs, the pampas,

pastures of peace,

where children of all hues mingle like rainbows.

7.

We remember you today,

with a shared pledge to nourish those pastures of peace,

in each of us,

where your dream may thrive,

blossoming into our shared dream,

bounteous, and alive.

8.

Your dream realised shall then seem,

where children of all hues mingle like rainbows,

when we give life to the promise of the radiance of your beautiful dream …

“Usilethela Uxolo” – “Nelson Mandela Brings Us Peace” by Stompie Mavi from the documentary “Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony” by Lee Hirsch

✊🏾

“Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony”

✊🏾

from google

✊🏾

The Stench of Prejudice …

When silent prejudice strikes,

in living rooms with plumped-up sofas,

a quietly insidious venom begins to seep,

into the consciousness of the chattering ones as they sleep …

The beliefs held so true and so deep,

are stripped of all feeling,

empty and hollow and without compassion,

as the conceit grows in the chests of those with righteous passion …

The prejudice once firmly entrenched,

is worn like a warm and comforting shawl,

needing precious little to compound and to mutate,

into the doctrines of superiority, racism, misogyny, gay-bashing,

and of intoxicating hate …

We are all guilty of succumbing to this silent pervasive plague,

as we sip martinis and laugh and shovel more food on our heaving plates,

as we slip into pleasantly inebriated moments we dare not care,

to smell the stench of hate and of prejudice and of greed wafting in the cool evening air …

✊🏾

“Stimela” – “Coal Train” by Hugh Masekela – from the documentary “Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony”

✊🏾

from google

✊🏾

art by banksy

The Markets Are Down 2% …

Banish the hubris,
Toss away the choice words
Spoken by rotten, broken tongues.
Silence the chorus of appalled shock.

Shred the sermons,
Burn down the gory edifices:
The churches, mosques, temples
And the muted Gods they mock.

Drain the sewage.
Flush away the insidious odour
Seeping up from malls, homes, carnivals.
Put it in a closet and weld the key in the lock.

Shut it all off.
Turn out the lights.
Pull the damned plug.
But hold on to that blue-chip stock.

art by banksy

youtube.com/watch

Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit
from google

wearing masks,

shrouding each mood …

… facades

gnawing at raw wounds.

 

wearing masks,

veiling each feeling …

 

… charades

snapping at open sores.

 

wearing masks,

mimicking the other …

 

… masked facades,

veiled charades,

shrouded screens,

masquerading as truth.

 

Truth lies in wait,

beneath the mask,

under the veil,

behind the screen,

through the shroud …

… truth lies in wait,

 

and waits …

waiting.

“Billie Holiday” by banksy
Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit

Poem Series – In your Eyes …

all art from google

Poem Series – In your Eyes.

1.

In your Eyes #1.

in your eyes, a maelstrom of emotion,

in your eyes, whirlpools of desire,

beckoning, inviting me to plunge, into the celestial waters,

of your eyes.

all art from google

2.

In your Eyes #2

whittling down reason, drawing out a rhyme,

searching for the truth,

hurtling through time,

in your eyes, i find my answer, my refuge from the incessant rain,

in your eyes, i sail upon the ocean, devoid of pain.

all art from google

3.

In your Eyes #3.

As another day recedes,

enveloped under the shawl of night,

allow me to drown,

in your eyes.

Moments fleeting,

fickle hands of time unseeing,

allow me to seek solace,

in your eyes.

The trodden path littered with each shard,

regrets this heart wishes to discard,

so allow me to seek refuge,

in your eyes.

I have walked through twisting boulevards of life,

seeking simple joy, away from desolation, strife,

so allow me to find peace,

in your eyes

all art from google

4.

In your Eyes #4.

I find,

the gentleness left behind,

away from superficial smiles,

away from fatigue of the walked mile.

In your eyes,

I feel,

at home at long last,

your love caressing away the restlessness of the past,

stepping out of the shadows to embrace pure contentment,

though a bit player,

in your life’s theatrical cast.

In your eyes,

I touch,

the flame of promise radiating through your loving light,

that is why,

I no longer dread,

the vacuum of encroaching night.

all art from google

5.

In your Eyes #5.

in your eyes,

marmalade swirls,

candyfloss twirls,

draw me ever deeper,

as another day unfurls …

all art from google

6.

In your Eyes #6.

I have plumbed the depths of truth,

in your eyes,

I have found rejuvenated youth,

in your eyes,

I have seen my future, and my now,

in your eyes,

that so effortlessly soothe.

all art from google

7.

In your Eyes #7.

clasping onto hope,

fragile strands of sanity dispelling unseen phantoms,

lost amongst the suffocating crowd,

cloaked in your invisible shroud,

fortitude restraining you from crying out loud,

still your fire rages, crackling embers testament to your dignity,

your insolent defiance, ever steely, seeing through the lies,

your quiet strength resting deep,

in your eyes.

all art from google

8.

In your Eyes #8.

in your eyes, I see,

desolation flee,

in your eyes, I know,

is a humanity that shall always flourish, ever grow,

in your eyes, I see, a fiery need, passion ablaze, mirth set free,

in your eyes, is where I wish to be.

all art from google

9.

In your Eyes #9

in your eyes, I see,

waters of turquoise,

pearls in the deep,

in your eyes, I drown,

swept by the currents,

banishing my sleep,

in your eyes, I feel,

a yearning for peace,

beyond the tears we weep.

all art from google

10.

In your Eyes #10.

consumed by the crowd, deafening silence assailing my ears too loud,

slipping away from the raucous row, the din of moments, the savagery of the now:

finding you,

my open sky so blue,

seeking peace, elusive,

rented out on a married lease,

give me a kiss, honest and true, deep,

in your eyes, finding the peace, that renders me a bore,

exhausted, fatigued,

needing only you, in your arms a restful sleep.

all art from google

11.

In your Eyes #11.

your light blazed bright,

a comet slicing through the moonless night,

enveloped by your sight, dimming the pangs of my darkening plight,

I found my peace, in the blue open skies,

of your eyes.

all art from google

12.

In your Eyes #12.

darkness enfolds night,

suffocating, cold, empty,

I stare, unseeing,

alone, desolate,

till I see,

the light in your eyes.

all art from google

13.

In your Eyes #13.

in your eyes,

spices swirl, dark chocolates whirl,

awake beside you,

your breath against mine,

waiting, as you sleep,

for your eyelashes to unfurl.

all art from google

14.

In your Eyes #14.

in your eyes,

seeing the pain i touch and feel,

in your eyes,

the ache of having to scrape and kneel,

in your eyes,

beholding the fire of your wandering soul,

in your eyes, I see,

the promise of being whole.

all art from google

15.

In your Eyes #15.

May your embracing warmth,

be forever by your side,

may you walk the soft beaches of the fates, at the coming in of the tide.

May life shower you with love, laughter, truth, peace, health,

your spirit be a wellspring of ceaseless wealth.

May your dreams be boundless soaring through hopeful skies,

the open skies residing,

swirling, bubbling,

in your eyes.

all art from google

16.

In your Eyes #16.

Walking along these bending alleys of life,

the promise of meeting a fellow-traveller was deemed far too remote,

and so,

I shut down my heart,

severing all loves’ ties,

but then again,

that was before,

before I gazed into the ocean of your fiery, gentle, irresistibly enticing eyes.

all art from google

17.

In youe Eyes #17.

Your eyes sketch skies,

a silken canvas.

Your touch,

the smell of your hair,

seduces me,

in an avalanche of curls.

Our kisses like tributaries fanning out, eroding life’s cold hard stone.

In your arms,

in the shadows of your form,

I am whole,

I am never alone.

all art from google

18.

In her Eyes #18.

Drowning in her eyes,

eyes chastising me for looking away,

till my gaze got caught, in her eyes’ captivating sway.

“I fear I would drown in your eyes”, I said in a whisper,

“drown”, she murmured.

all art from google

19.

In your Eyes #19.

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.

all art from google

20.

In your Eyes #20.

I need no pity,

no earnest sympathies,

hearing the birds singing in the trees,

enough to raise these spirits to the skies,

sans pain, sans beholding eyes.

all art from google
from google

Hardly a Poem

Splinters embedded under my skin,

each memory a shard of stinging glass,

I see that I see it all now,

the infinite regrets meandering,

down foggy alleys of yesteryear,

as decades and moments come to pass.

Wearing my many masks as I cascade,

leafing through my conscious betrayals,

of gentle hearts once treasured,

now left to decay, in the empty cold.

Seeing my treasures turned to stone,

while wearing the blues like a convenient coat,

untrue to most, I stand accused,

in the dock, the fragments of my past,

are all that I am able to hold.

Where do I go from here,

as I stand ashamed, rooted to this spot,

my sins are countless, my excuses fickle,

the lies have been many,

and all the untruths have already been told.

Was it not just a fortnight ago,

when I was younger than I am now,

you loved me completely, you told me so,

while I slithered inside my thick skin,

shutting you out,

and embraced comforting desolation into my fold.

Now the momentary tears have all been shed,

the wounds of time too, have silently bled,

and all beseeching prayers have been said.

I stagger on, my reflection a mirage,

my heart and soul battered black and blue,

still, grasping onto the tendrils of hope,

if not, then I am truly dead.

from google

from google

DISCLAIMER:

Thank you ever so much for all the kind words and sentiments expressed here.

My scribble is just me moping a lot and wallowing in some irresistible self-pity.

I have caused far too many good and kind people far too much pain and hurt and I have been untruthful as well as being many other not nice at all things to those who have been the nicest to me.

So my moping here is just that – moping.

Thank you yet again for your warmth and kindness and to all fellow WordPressers for all the kind words shared by us in this wacky but lovely WordPress family.

from google

I am broken,

fractured, lost amidst the folds of well-meaning words spoken.

I am torn,

splintered, numbing myself in that vain hope of a new day yet to dawn.

I am dead,

inured, feeling no pain even as the flowing of red-hot crimson blood is bled.

I am nothing.

I am nothingness.

I am choking,

flailing, churning in the maelstrom as my life lies in cinders, silently smoking.

I am moulting,

discarding this sorry skin in which I feel unbearably revolting.

I am without place,

a dandelion seed on the thermals that scald my innerspace,

I am without place,

a shell of a man who can longer bear to see his own face …

from google

“Ode to Joy” – Beethoven 9th Symphony sheet music from google
“Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

Poem Series – Vincent van Gogh and Ludwig van Beethoven #1 to #10

1.

Vincent and Ludwig # 1.

“Do you know, my dear Ludwig, that I’ve sold just one of my paintings?”

“Yes, Vincent, do not despair, my friend, they cannot, will not, fathom the flower that reveals its petals before their eyes”

“I suppose you are right, old friend. They cannot, will not, hear your ‘Ode to Joy’, though it is you who are deaf!”

“But my dear Vincent, you do hear my ‘Ode to Joy’, deep in your soul”

“Yes, I hear it, I feel it, Ludwig, flowing like liquid paint through the canvas of my veins”

“My dear Vincent, I too feel your brush-strokes, and in each swirl of colour I hear your joy, and I can touch your pain”

“What does that make us, my friend? Two men cast adrift on the bluest seas, leaving nothing behind, yet heading nowhere. What does that make us then?”, asks Vincent.

“Human”, replies Ludwig, smiling.

“Human, yes, dear Ludwig”.

“And that is enough”, says Ludwig, almost to himself.

“It is enough”, smiles Vincent.

“To be human. It is enough.”

Vincent laughs, as Ludwig watches a gentle wave caress their toes, through their tattered shoes.

Symphony No. 5 sheet music from google

2.

Ludwig and Vincent #2

‘what inspired you to write your 9th?’, Vincent asks Ludwig.

‘madness, dear Vincent. Distilled, concentrated madness’.

‘wasn’t it madness that drove you to sketch starry nights above a sea of Irises?’, Ludwig asks Vincent.

‘madness it was, Ludwig. A madness of the soul. Restless, frantic, maddening madness’, whispers Vincent.

‘what does that make us, my dear Vincent?’, Ludwig murmurs, leaning close to Vincent.

‘sane’, says Vincent.

‘yes, Vincent. Sane’, responds Ludwig.

Vincent reaches up and feels around for his phantom ear,

Ludwig smiles, touching his ear that once could hear.

“Irises” by Vincent van Gogh

3.

Talking with Vincent #3

Alone,

in conversation with Vincent, we talk.

‘loneliness got to me’, he says with a smile.

I smile. I know.

‘I tried, I honestly tried’, says Vincent.

I know. I tried as well.

‘I tired, eventually I just tired’, he said with a wink.

I am tired too, I said.

‘I know’, replied Vincent.

art from google

4.

Vincent and Ludwig #4

“we are mere vagabonds, scraping here and there, never belonging anywhere, and never wanting to belong somewhere” said Vincent to Ludwig.

“yes my dear Vincent, we walk this earth with tattered shoes, our madness binding us in friendship, feted now and then, yet mostly left to ramble through our lonesome lives” Ludwig says, looking down at his weather-beaten boots.

Vincent and Ludwig share a smile, each knowing the feelings felt when sinking deeper into the depths of despair.

“your ‘sunflowers’ always bores a hole into my heart, my dear Vincent, your flourishes live in the swirls and your warmth and love for humanity shines through, tearing at my insides” Ludwig murmurs to Vincent.

“just as your ‘ode to joy’ bores a hole into my soul, with your unselfish, transcendent love for all living beings, alive and resounding in every note” Vincent says, looking into the distance.

“what are we, my dear friend, tortured by our inner demons, left to rot by the wayside, torn and broken by this harsh world all around us” Ludwig asks Vincent.

“we may be mad, and maddeningly so, my friend, but why do we see the smiles washed off the faces of the sane, why do we we tears trickling down from far too many eyes” Vincent says with a rueful smile.

“yes, my dearest Vincent, it often appears that this whole world, this whole veneer of civility, these people who have enough yet always clamouring for more, while those who have nothing hunger for just scraps” Ludwig says, almost to himself.

“and we see it every day, in their greed glazed eyes, their grubby grabbing hands, their world they call sane” Vincent mumbles.

“what are we then, Vincent, in this world of naked oppression, in these places of vulgar ostentation, in the midst of all this madness” Ludwig asks, looking to his friend.

“we are sane, my friend” Vincent says tugging at his phantom ear.

“sane, yes Vincent. sane” Ludwig says with a smile, his fingers feeling his ear that once could hear.

“sane“

Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh

5.

Vincent and Ludwig #5

Vincent stared at the early evening sky.

Ludwig looked at his friend.

“why do we feel so alone, dear Ludwig, just look at this canvas, it bathes us, blankets us, and is filled with flashes of light” said Vincent.

“flashes of light, soaring like an orchestral crescendo, a blanket shared with a friend, yes, and yet, my dear Vincent, ifeel desolate”, whispered Ludwig.

“do you see the empty space between the flashes of light, my friend, that space is what your music colours“, Vincent said.

Ludwig looked up, smiling, ” yes, the space your colours infuse with hope, with every stroke of your brush, hope for those caught in all the empty spaces“.

“hope for us all, in each of our very own, empty spaces, yes“, Vincent smiled at his friend.

“empty spaces, but infused with colours, music, and hope“, whispered Ludwig, his smile broadening.

“hope“.

“hope“

art from google

6.

Vincent and Ludwig #6

“they call us mad, dear Vincent”, Ludwig said to his friend.

 

“even as you sketch starry nights on the blank canvas of this torrid life”.

 

“yes, my dear Ludwig, they call you insane too, even as you pluck odes to joy from the depths of deafness”.

 

“they call us mad”, whispers Vincent. 

 

“mad, indeed”.

 

“I would rather be mad, than numb”, breathes Ludwig. 

 

“I too would rather be mad than what they expect us to become”, Vincent sighs as the two men share a smile.

 

“mad, yet never mere shades of ice”.

“Café Terrace at Night” by Vincent van Gogh

7.

Vincent and Ludwig #7

“i paint starry nights, Ludwig, to help me forget each torrid day”

“and i compose odes to joy, Vincent, to keep pain at bay”

“we are alike, you and i, dear Ludwig”, Vincent says as he sketches a smile

“yes Vincent, we are alike, our tattered shoes yet to carry us across so many a mile”

from google

8.

Vincent and Ludwig #8

“I often wonder how hands so coarse are able to infuse a stark, naked canvas into a symphony of sensual brushstrokes”, Ludwig says with a wink.

Vincent laughs, “as have I, wondered that is, how such a stark raving mad soul may transform a mere gaggle of notes into soaring orchestral harmony”.

Ludwig smiles, nodding at Vincent, who smiles at his bruised hands.

“Wheat Field with Cypresses” by Vincent van Gogh

9.

Vincent and Ludwig #9

“i often write to Theo, my heart dripping bloodied ink on paper, burning up the parchment. Theo is my brother, dear Ludwig, who often sends me money, to get by” said Vincent.

“i understand, Vincent, life has dealt me similar circumstances, a jangle of cacophonous silence instead of the song of even the solitary bird” Ludwig breathes.

“i sketch my own pain”

“and i compose mine”

from google

10.

Vincent & Ludwig #10

“oh to hear a bird singing perched on a fresh twig, weeping down willowy branches, into an azure stream”, said Ludwig to Vincent.

“yes, my friend Ludwig, my nightmares aren’t raucous, but silent”, murmured Vincent.

“a desolate silence”, Ludwig breathed.

“loneliness”, whispered Vincent.

“loneliness”.

“The Potato Eaters” by Vincent Van Gogh

11.

Vincent and Ludwig #11

“my dear Vincent”, breathes a pensive Ludwig.

“have you found any work as yet. I ask it rhetorically because I know the answer”

Vincent smiles, “your wit hasn’t forsaken you, my friend. Do you know that they call me a “Van Gogh-wannabe”, and I try but always in vain to explain to them that I am a van Gogh, to which the kindly people look at each other and say”,

“and look he even ‘looks’ a bit like Vincent van Gogh and the charlatan even dresses like the great artist himself. The cheek of it”

Vincent laughs as Ludwig shakes his head in what seems to be utter astonishment.

“but my dear Vincent, that’s exactly what they accuse me of being – ‘a Beethoven clone’ – alas my friend, what lesson can we learn from these bizarre happenings?”

Vincent smiles, tugging at his phantom ear,

” they barely acknowledged us as human beings during our times, my dear Ludwig, and in 2015 they accuse us of masquerading as the ‘great’ ‘genius’ ‘incomparable’ Ludwig van Beethoven and Vincent van Gogh”.

Ludwig laughs heartily and sings lines of a song Vincent thinks sounds strangely familiar…

‘… this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you…”*.

*Lyrics from Don McLean’s song “Vincent”.

Für Elise” by Ludwig van Beethoven sheet music from google

12.

Vincent and Ludwig #12

“Your ‘Sunflowers’ evokes the beauty of a sublime sonata to my deaf ears, my dear Vincent”,

“Ah! but you do hear! You hear the passions that torment my soul, my dear friend Ludwig”,

“And you paint in the colours of my dreams, Vincent, where I am alone in a field of sunflowers, as the moonlight caresses each tender stem”,

“Yes, Ludwig! Just as your ‘Moonlight Sonata’ moves me to tears, the tears that you see as delicate drops of dew on the sunflowers of your dreams”,

“Sunflowers bathed in soft moonlight”, smiles Ludwig,

“Oh yes, that same canvas of night that sways to the delicate touch of your music”, Vincent says with a wink.

Ludwig smiles again, as Vincent laughs a hearty laugh.

Beethoven Symphony 9 sheet music from google
“Sunflowers” by Vincent van Gogh

hope in dystopia

hope in dystopia …

fingers raw, bruised and sore,

masks stripped, truth tearing at the core,

feelings forgotten, discarded and rotten,

emptiness scratching at the bottom,

moments fungal, trapped in this desolate jungle,

scalding pride to ashes cold and humble,

dreams trashed, memories adrift, lashed,

wheels of lives callously slashed …

still, yet, always,

hope persists,

through life’s turns and twists,

hope never dies,

hope resists …

art from google

For Wendy Cope.

(Inspired by her poems ‘Bloody Men’ and ‘Flowers’)

1.

I may not have brought you flowers.

I know I was always late.

You tolerated my moodiness,

and my ever-increasing weight.

2.

You said men were like buses,

and you had grown weary of waiting,

Of putting up with my quirks and my fusses,

though we barely knew we were dating.

3.

Ah, but we weathered the squalls;

Your patience has always been saintly.

And now that old age palls,our tiffs are recalled only faintly.

4.

We laugh at youth’s follies and know,

the beauty we had sought unaware;

It’s as wide as a calm river’s flow,and as timeless as our years of care.

___________

(Inspired by Wendy Cope’s poems ‘Bloody Men’ and ‘Flowers’)

Searching …

Searching.

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.



I am the Heartbeat of Africa …

I am the heartbeat of Africa. The blood flowing through its veins, and I have seen much. I have witnessed the the pummelling of peoples under the jackboot of colonialism, the plunder of wealth, stripping bare the very veins I flow through. I have urged the collective to stand tall, amidst the horrors of history. It has not been easy, the tyranny of centuries has left scars, raw scabby festering sores, my thumping scarlet oozing out of myriad pores, rendering the great continent pained, hollow … but still, and yet, I course inside millions of souls, refusing to capitulate, thick with hopes for the day and the days after the day. I have placated the wounded, the multitudes forgotten, the bodies seeking respite from the loss, the anger, the deprivation of spirits undimmed by the splintered darkness of racial prejudice. I have seen so much, children torn from loving embraces, mothers holding on, as the world turns its face away, conveniently absolving itself of its crimes. I have felt the hardening of arteries, the will to fight on, despite the overwhelming odds.

yes, I am the blood of Africa. 

and I shall continue to flow, coaxing my people to rise again, to summon up the valiant spirits of the ancestors, to stand and to fight against the insidious doublespeak of tongues, silken tongues peddling instruments of death, shunning the divides that separate one from another, to rise and greet the fresh blazing African sun, each day, every day, until that day when the daily battles cease, when the battles are done. 

yes, I am the blood of Africa, and I shall flow ever on, sowing hope where desolation stalks the evenings, I am hope for tomorrows dawn, for despite and inspite of it all, the new day of peace, of renewed hope, must be, must be born …

with President Nelson Mandela and my father – Johannesburg 2008
President Nelson Mandela and my father – 1950s Johannesburg
President Nelson Mandela and my father – post Apartheid South Africa

My family – A journey through the Seasons.

Part One: Winter

There is a legend in Delhi that when a male-child is born, the parents are visited by a group of ‘Hijras’, a derogatory term used to describe the Transgender community. The troupe gather en-masse outside the home of the parents of the infant boy and sing and dance, and offer blessings to the new arrival, while in return a small sum of money is offered to the visiting party and all returns to the relative ‘normalcy’ that prevails in a home that has just experienced the birth of a child.

These were the early 1970′s, and this story was told to me in great detail by my parents, who themselves were recently arrived political exiles in India, having to leave South Africa, where my father was arrested along with Nelson Mandela and 156 others in the infamous ‘Treason Trial’ of 1956.

The ‘main’ “Treason Trial” lasted four years till 1960, though the entire trial lasted till 1961, when the 30 remaining accused (of which my father was one) were acquitted by the Supreme Court.

The outcome of the trial was that all 156 were acquitted of the charge of ‘High Treason’.

During the 5 years of the trial my father and his co-accused had to travel daily to court in Pretoria from Johannesburg, some 60 kilometres away.

The accused were all charged with ‘High Treason’ and faced the death penalty if found guilty. My father was the youngest accused at 22 years of age.

A Flash Forward –

Later, in 1963, when my father was arrested again and held at Marshall Square Police Station in central Johannesburg, my father and three fellow political detainees managed to convince a young Afrikaner warder, Johan Greeff, into helping the four escape from the downtown Johannesburg prison. He was promised financial remuneration for his cooperation.

The news of ‘The Great Escape’ embarrassed the Apartheid state at a time when it felt that it had crushed the African National Congress (ANC), with most of its leaders either in jail, or having gone underground. The ‘Sharpeville’ massacre of 1960 resulted in the Apartheid state declaring a State of Emergency and banning the African National Congress (ANC) and other political organisations.

My father, Moosa ‘Mosie’ Moolla and his three fellow escapees (Abdulhay ‘Charlie’ Jassat, Harold Wolpe, and Arthur Goldreich) parted ways and moved from one safe-house to another, until my father, heavily disguised, managed to slip through the border into neighbouring ‘Bechuanaland’, now the country Botswana.

Goldreich and Wolpe managed to disguise themselves as clerics and made their way to Swaziland, a British High Commission Territory, from where they flew over to Bechuanaland (now Botswana).

The South African authorities offered a reward of 5000 Pounds Sterling for the capture of any of the escapees.

Following the escape my father and His fellow escapees were separately sheltered by members of the ANC underground for a few days.

They then parted ways for safety reasons and Abdulhay Jassat made his way to Bechuanaland where he sought political asylum.

By the time my father made his way about a month after the escape to Bechuanaland, the two white colleagues ( my father and Jassat are of Indian-origin) Wolpe and Goldreich had flown over to Tanganyka (now Tanzania) where the ANC’s external headquarters were located in Dar-es-Salaam.

It should be noted that a chartered plane to ferry ANC students and Wolpe and Goldreich was blown-up on the tarmac by South African agents in the early hours of the morning.

Wolpe and Goldreich then flew over on another flight. Jassat followed suit.

An Interesting Fact –

My father and Abdulhay ‘Charlie’ Jassat were both born on June 12th, 1934, and the two were arrested and escaped from prison together, and subsequently lived 30 years of their lives in exile, and both men returned to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners, and the unbanning of the ANC and all liberation movements, and the return of political exiles.

As I type these words, my father and ‘Charlie’ live a few kilometres apart in Johannesburg and meet fairly regularly – mostly at functions or events held to commemorate the years of the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa.

But more about my father in a bit.

A Flash Back –

My mother, Zubeida or ‘Zubie’, a nurse at the time, and expecting my brother Azad (which means ‘to be free’ in Urdu) was subsequently arrested and detained while having to endure interrogation about her husband’s whereabouts. Azad was born in late 1963, a few months after my father’s escape.

Thus my father did not see his first-born son till 5 years later in 1968 when my mother and young brother and sister reunited with my father on the Tanzanian border. My father had by then joined the Armed-Wing of the African National Congress, Umkhonto-we-Sizwe, or MK, ‘The Spear of the Nation’, which was formed in 1960 following the ANC’s decision to abandon non-violent opposition against Apartheid and to take up arms.

My sister Tasneem Nobandla, ‘Nobandla’ or ‘she who is of the people’ in isiXhosa was given her Xhosa middle name by my father’s comrade-in-arms and his Best-Man, Nelson Mandela, who couldn’t make it to my parent’s wedding because he was in detention at the time, a few years earlier!

My sister Tasneem Nobandla Moolla was born on October the 14th 1962

‘Nobandla’ was named when Mosie asked his comrade and Best-Man, Nelson Mandela, who could not make it to his wedding to name his new-born daughter. The two men had spent time in jail together in adjoining cells a year earlier in 1962.

Times were tough in those early years of exile, with my father off on military training with the newly formed ANC’s ‘Spear of the Nation’, and my mother having to shoulder the extreme difficulties of life in exile, in a strange country, having left her family behind, and having to essentially fend for herself and her two young children.

This led to a decision that continues to haunt my family to this day.

According to my parents, the situation in exile in those early years of the Anti-Apartheid struggle abroad was so dire, and my father being away training in guerrilla tactics and the like, while my mother worked as a nurse trying to raise two young kids, suffering from bouts of Malaria and being short on money as well, a decision was made to send my young brother and sister back to South Africa to remain in the care of my maternal grandparents, in the hope that when things in exile ‘improved’ or at least settled a bit, the kids would leave the care of their grandparents and join their parents abroad.

This did not happen, and this is one of the most difficult parts of our family’s history to write and talk openly about. Due to circumstances beyond their control, and due to a myriad other reasons, my young brother and sister remained separated from our parents, and grew up in Apartheid South Africa with my maternal grandparents in Johannesburg.

My mother, who passed away in 2008 after a lengthy battle with Motor-Neurone Disease, carried the pain and the guilt of that decision till she died. My father still lives with the guilt and the trauma of being separated from his children, and his family for over 30 years.

My brother Azad and my sister Tasneem, had to endure the unimaginable trauma of knowing that their parents were alive and on distant shores somewhere, yet being utterly helpless in joining them and living as a family, albeit a family in political exile.

The wounds are deep, and the trauma is still raw, all these years later, and my mother died broken-hearted, having to endure the separation of a mother from her children, as well as having to deal with a husband who was engaged full-time in the ANC and the anti-Apartheid struggle in exile.

It is only now that I can understand my mother’s strength of character and fortitude in remaining sane under circumstances that no parent should ever have to go through.

My siblings, on the hand, had to grow up with grandparents, and this has led to our family having to continuously grapple with the scars of a family torn-apart by Apartheid.

My brother Azad, a lawyer, is married with two beautiful young girls, and my sister, a teacher, is married with four beautiful daughters as well.

We all live in Johannesburg, and though some progress has been made in reconciling our family, it is very painful to say that there are many unresolved emotional wounds, which are completely understandable given the circumstances.

President Nelson Mandela and my mother – post Apartheid South Africa

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Two: Spring

The narrative here is neither chronological, nor is it meant to be a complete history of my family thus far – that would be highly presumptuous of me to attempt – so what you, dear reader, are reading (praise be to your perseverance!) are the disjointed thoughts and memories and anecdotal and other stories that every family shares.

I must state that the facts about my father’s internment and escape are all verifiable using a web-search engine, as are the facts about my parent’s involvement in the struggle for liberation in South Africa, and my father’s subsequent appointment by then President Nelson Mandela as South African Ambassador to Iran (1995 – 1999) and later by President Thabo Mbeki as South African High Commissioner to Pakistan (2000 – 2004) in the newly democratic country that countless South Africans sacrificed their lives to achieve.

My parents often spoke of the privilege that they felt to be alive and return to the country of their birth after spending virtually their entire lives as foot-soldiers in the African National Congress, the liberation movement that included in its ranks giants of South African history – Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Dr. Moses Kotane, Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer, Chris Hani, only to name a few, and with no disrespect meant to the many, many more that I have not named.

The ‘privilege’ my parents spoke about was that they were the ‘fortunate’ ones, the ones who lived to see the non-racial, non-sexist, democratic constitution being drafted, and a South Africa without the crime against humanity that was Apartheid.

So many comrades and friends and fellow compatriots did not live to cast their vote on that glorious April day in 1994, and to see Nelson Mandela being inaugurated as South Africa’s first freely elected black President, a President who represented the whole of South African society.

A Flash Back –

And so it was that I was born in 1972 in an India that had just been engaged in a war with Pakistan, which in turn led to the establishment of a new country – Bangladesh.

India at the time was the in midst of austere Nehruvian Socialism, and my parents who had spent the mid and late-1960′s in Tanzania, Zambia and Britain, were deployed by the African National Congress to India, where my father was the Chief-Representative of the ANC.

My early childhood years were spent in India, and I recall the sweltering Delhi summers and the torrential monsoons that offered respite, albeit briefly, from the furnace of the Indian summer.

When I was 6 years old, my father was deployed by the ANC to be its Chief-Representative in Cairo, Egypt, and to be the ANC Representative at the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO).

This was 1978, and as a 6 year old, I am afraid I have very few fond memories of Cairo – we lived on a meagre stipend and though we lived in an apparently ‘better’ suburb of Cairo called Zamalek, an island on the Nile, the flat we occupied was on the ground-floor of a high-rise apartment block and it was damp, dark, and had the unfortunate distinction of being right next to the apartment block’s garbage-disposal area!

This meant a steady stream of litter, literally being flung from the windows of our neighbours in the flats above us, and often landing with a crash of shattered glass right outside our tiny kitchen.

Cairo was also where I had to unlearn the Hindi I had learnt in Delhi and pick up Arabic, which I did as most 6 year olds do when required by circumstance to learn a new language.

I faintly remember the Presidents’ Sadat-Carter meetings around the time of the Camp David Peace Accord signed between Israel and Egypt and my days were spent riding my bicycle through the dusty lanes of Zamalek.

One memory that is particularly poignant is that of my mother, with her head in her hands, sobbing as she pined for her two children at the opposite end of the African continent. I remember many days walking back from school and before stepping into our apartment block, seeing my mother through the window of what was my room, head in hands, crying.

It is a memory that I carry with me still.

Another indelible memory is when we visited the WWII museum of the battle of al-Alamein, in al-Alamein. Walking past the graves of the fallen in the war against Nazism, we came across many South African names, and I remember vividly how my father explained to me what Fascism and Nazism meant, and how important it was at the time for the world to fight it.

As we walked through the tombstones of the WWII soldiers from all parts of the world, my father explained to me how Apartheid in South Africa was a scourge (though not in those words!) like Fascism and Nazism, and how just as the world had joined forces to fight Hitler and Mussolini, we too had to fight against Apartheid in South Africa, and that is why I was not at ‘home’ with my brother and sister.

‘Home’. That was something for a 9 or 10 year old to hear, because I had grown up always being told about ‘home’ being South Africa, which was as distant to me as the stars above the Pyramids. I was aware from as young as I can remember my parents’ sometimes angry insistence that home was not where we happened to be, at a particular time, whether in Delhi or in Cairo, but in distant South Africa.

I however, could not understand why ‘home’ was not where I was. In Delhi I spoke Hindi like a local, and had friends and felt that ‘home’ was our little flat on the 1st floor of a block of flats in Greater Kailash. But then came the move to Cairo, and in no time at all I completely forgot my Hindi, and learnt Arabic like a local, and had friends and felt that ‘home’ was our dinghy flat in Zamalek.

And then in 1982, my father was re-deployed from Cairo back to Delhi, and suddenly there I was, 10 years old, meeting my old friends and not knowing a word of Hindi!

So the idea of ‘belonging’, of ‘home’, of being rooted in a place and time was alien to me from a very young age. I remember dreading when the next ‘move’ would be, given that my parents were political exiles and often having to pack up our few belongings and travelling at very short notice. I do not want it to sound like it was particularly unpleasant in any way, because there also was the thrill a child has of the packing and the plane rides, and the new places that were so, so new to me. Cairo and Delhi probably had only the following things in common: the heat, the population, and the fact that both Egypt under Gamal Abdul Nasser and India under Jawaharlal Nehru were two of the four countries (the others being Sukarno’s Indonesia and Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia) that founded the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) during the Cold War.

A Flash Forward –

The year is 1990, and my parents and I found ourselves in Helsinki, Finland, where in November 1989 the ANC deployed my father as ANC Secretary to the World Peace Council (WPC) which had its headquarters in Helsinki.

For the 17 year old that I was to suddenly, in a matter of weeks, pack up and leave high-school, friends and a girl-friend at the time, was particularly harsh for me.

I remember spending the winter of 1989 holed up in our two-bedroomed flat in Helsinki, not knowing what had just taken place. I pined for the girl I was (kind of!) dating back in school in Delhi, and I was thoroughly shocked by the below-zero temperatures of winter in Scandinavia, and thoroughly disheartened by the short days and long, long nights. I did love the snow however!

Then it happened. We heard the news that Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners in South Africa were to be released, unconditionally, and that the liberation movements and the ANC were to be unbanned!

This changed everything.

It was a chaotic and heady time, with high hopes and renewed life as the once impossible dream of returning ‘home’ was to be realised.

A very memorable trip was made by my parents and I, by ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm, Sweden. An overnight ferry-ride, the trip was magical, for we were to meet Nelson Mandela, free after 27 years on Robben Island and in Sweden to meet the President of the ANC, comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, Mandela’s old friend, law-partner and life-long comrade in the ANC. President Oliver Tambo, who had been in exile for almost 30 years was a dynamic and charismatic and intellectual giant who had built the ANC in exile from being just another liberation movement in exile into the voice of the South African freedom struggle, launching successful campaigns to isolate Apartheid South Africa from the world community.

Unfortunately President Oliver Tambo had suffered a stroke and was convalescing as a guest of the Swedish government; themselves staunch allies in the fight against Apartheid. Nelson Mandela met his old comrade in Stockholm and we met the godfather of my sister, and the would-be best-man of my father in a hall in Stockholm. I have photographs of the tears and joy as Mandela hugged my father and mother, and as old comrades including Ahmed Kathrada who also spent 27 years in jail with Mandela and the other Rivonia Trial accused, met after nearly 30 years! I was overwhelmed, as were countless others to finally meet the man who had become the face of the worldwide struggle against Apartheid.

That my parents knew the Mandelas as young friends and comrades only made the reunion on a Scandinavian day all the more special.

There was a sense of vindication, of oppression though still not defeated, but definitely in its final moments, as we acknowledged that we all stood on the cusp of something so many had not only dreamed about, but dedicated their entire lives to achieve.

We spent a few days in Stockholm and Uppsala, and then hopped on the ferry back to Helsinki, to finally begin preparations for the return home.

The trip we made was on freezing November night, when we boarded a train from Helsinki to Moscow, and then flew to Maputo in Mozambique where we spent a night, before boarding a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg.

I will never forget the stifled sobs of my mother as the pilot announced we were flying over South African soil.

My parents and I returned to South Africa on a November day in 1990, as part of a batch of returning political exiles.

I was 18 years old and met most of my family members for the first time.

My father receiving “The Order of Luthuli” in Silver from President Jacob Zuma

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Three: A Summer Digression

And now, dear reader (may your patience be praised!), I am going to steer this ship of memories as we embark on a journey of emotions – a subjective voyage through the feelings that I have felt, the emotions that I have experienced during the course of my 40 year old life.

You, dear reader, may stop reading right now if you find outpourings of emotion and wearing one’s feelings on one’s sleeve not your cup of Earl-Grey! If however, and I sincerely hope you do decide to read through this ‘summer’ of life’s memories, I assure you that what you will read will be savage honesty, however painful and hard it is to bare one’s soul for all to see the flawed human-beings that we all are.

And so it was that just past my 18th birthday in September of 1990, I found myself ‘home’ in South Africa, after 18. Years of dreaming what ‘home’ would be like and how my brother and sister and cousins and aunts and uncles would take me into their homes and lives.

I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and kindness showered on me, the ‘returning’ boy who was not really returning, but was dipping his toes into the early 1990′s, a period of South African history, just preceding the first free and democratic election in 1994 that was one of the country’s most trying of times.

The Apartheid regime, having unbanned all political organisations and liberation movements and releasing political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela and others, was still not willing to relinquish power, and had embarked on a cynical and dirty campaign of fomenting violence in the sprawling black townships in Johannesburg, Durban and other cities around the country.

There were killings and hit-squads that roamed and terrorised communities while negotiations between the Apartheid government and the African National Congress (ANC) offered hope and then broke down, and then were restarted until finally, on April the 27th, 1994, black South African, for the first time in their lives, cast their ballots which resulted in sweeping Nelson Mandela’s ANC into power, with Nelson Mandela or ‘Madiba’ as he is known becoming South Africa’s first black President.

I attended the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first truly democratically elected President in Pretoria on a crisp May 10th morning along with friends and comrades, and we openly wept as the South African Air-Force flew overhead, the flag of our new ‘rainbow’ nation fluttering below.

A Flash Back –

My early days in South Africa were ones of family dinners and visits to relatives and old family friends and comrades in the struggle. My father started work almost immediately at the ANC’s headquarters in central Johannesburg, and I attended my final year of high-school, also in central Johannesburg.

Looking back now, I see myself then as a caricature of the immigrant who just wants to fit in, always being on one’s best behaviour, and under no circumstances allowing the turmoil within to bubble to the surface.

I was born to parents who were non-religious; my father definitely more so than my mother, who ‘believed’ in God, though was never one to make a show of it.

I grew up not really knowing what religion I was born into, as my parents never, and though never is a strong word, it is applicable here; my parents never mentioned religion at home.

My mom would cook up a storm on Eid-ul-Fitr every year, the feast that is the culmination of the fasting month of Ramadaan, but then we never fasted or paid attention to religious ritual or practice. I can say that religion was absent from our home, whether we were in India, Cairo or Helsinki.

I am forever indebted to my parents for having raised me with and this may sound pompous of me to say, humane values, rather than strictly religious ones, not that the two are mutually exclusive!

I attended a school in Delhi in the 1980′s, Springdales, an institution founded by two great humanitarians, Mrs. Rajni Kumar and her husband Mr. Yudhishter Kumar, both human-beings who possessed the highest qualities of compassion, humanity, and a burning sense of the need to tackle injustice, wherever and in whatever shape or form it was to be encountered.

My years at Springdales in Delhi, though I was hardly a promising academic student (having failed standard 8!), I now look back and am forever indebted to the culture of tolerance and respect for all people, regardless of station in life, religion, caste, gender or race, that my still-beloved Springdales inculcated in me.

The culture of Springdales School and the manner in which my parents raised me, has led to a life-long aversion to intolerance in any shape, colour or form, and a strong belief in the power of rational and critical thinking.

I thank my parents again, and my Springdales, for bestowing on me this invaluable gift.

A Flash Forward –

And so I find myself, now in the teen years of the new millennium, still always feeling that I am on the outside, looking in – and I find this vantage point to be, strangely, comfortable now, I must admit.

I do not have much time for religion or for cultural affiliations. Again, this is not meant to be offensive to anyone, these are the feelings I am comfortable with. I cannot stress this enough, just how my upbringing and my years at Springdales have hewn into my consciousness, and the absolute need for the respect for all.

I am growing weary of talking about myself, as I am sure you, dear reader, are as well, and so I shall stop this monologue with the words of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara who when responding to a woman who also bore the ‘Guevara’ name and who had written to Che asking him where in Spain his ancestors came from. This was Che’s response …

“I don’t think you and I are very closely related but if you are capable of trembling with indignation each time that an injustice is committed in the world, we are comrades, and that is more important.”

Thank you, dear reader, for your patience, and for your taking the time to read these ramblings of mine.

President Nelson Mandela and I – Sweden 1990

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Four: Thoughts about Exile, Home, Identity, Belonging

A Flash Back –

I look back to that November evening in Helsinki, Finland in 1989, where the temperature was around -20 degrees Celsius, and we stood on the railway platform with our little luggage (mostly books, photographs etc) with tickets to Moscow via Leningrad (yes, it was still called Leningrad back then).

I recall my mother and father, by then already in their late 50′s, and preparing to return to their home, South Africa, after almost three decades living in exile all across the globe, from Zambia to Tanzania to England to India to Egypt to India again and then to Finland, and now following the Apartheid regime’s unbanning of the African National Congress (ANC) and other political parties and the release of Nelson Mandela and political prisoners, my parents were to return to a country they had called ‘home’ for as long as I can remember. South Africa was always; always home, no matter where we happened to be.

Whether it was in our ground-floor, bleakly dark flat in Zamalek, Cairo where we had to keep the fluorescent lights on during the day, or in our 1st floor flat in Safdarjang Development Area in Delhi, or in our cramped 2-bedroom flat in Helsinki, Finland, I was always told about ‘home’, about family and about the country that I grew up loathing (Apartheid South Africa) as well as the country that I grew up idealising, for South Africa was after all ‘home’, that mythical place where family stuck together and where my brother Azad and my sister Tasneem grew up, separated from their parents, and where finally, at long last, Nelson Mandela walked free after 27 years in Apartheid’s jails.

I often look back on my years growing up as a child of political exiles, and I am thankful, as I grew up without the hardships that so many fellow exiles had to endure.

I am also thankful, for the depth of humanity that I saw in strangers and friends and people who took us in, and loved us, and extended hands of solidarity and assistance and warmth when we were most alone.

I owe a debt of gratitude to so many people, ordinary folk, workers, labourers, academics, doctors and engineers, school-teachers and students, who chose to identify with the plight of the oppressed people of South Africa, just as they chose to support the cause of justice, of freedom and of self-determination in Namibia, Western-Sahara, and Palestine.

I can vividly remember the pain and anguish that my mother endured, being separated from her family and her children, and I remember her tears, her quiet sobbing when I used to return home from school, knowing that my father was away travelling, often for months at a time.

It is not easy to put everything down on paper, and indeed it is impossible to capture all of one’s experiences, yet I feel it is very important that I share these thoughts with you, dear and patient reader, not because of what I wish to say about myself, or even about my parents, but to honour and to remember and to cherish the strong bonds that were forged during those sometimes hard times, and to convey to all, that no matter what one hears about our differences as people, be it differences of creed, of colour, of nationality, there is a ‘human’ connection that I have seen that simply extinguishes the claims by the religiously fanatical, or by the jingoistic nationalists who seek to impose upon us a barrier, a wall, a divide that cannot be breached. I have mentioned what I am about to write earlier, and I only repeat it because I believe it needs to be repeated, so forgive me, dear reader, if I seem to be revisiting old ground.

The old ground that I feel I need to revisit now is that of a story that my mother used to tell me, repeatedly, and always with tears in her eyes, and always with her crying openly as she retold this story over and over again to me.

Let me place the story in its historical context. The year was 1971, and India had just been at war with Pakistan, and my parents had arrived in what was then called Bombay and had rented a small apartment in one of Bombay’s high-rise blocks of flats.

It is important to remember that India had gained independence only 24 years earlier, so the wounds and the trauma of the division of India (into Pakistan and East-Pakistan) were still very fresh.

My father was sent by African National Congress (ANC) to India, in order to work to further strengthen the support that the liberation movement had received from India.

My mother, who was a nurse by profession, had started working at Bombay’s Breach Candy Hospital, and my father was busy establishing links within the sizeable South African student community that Bombay was home to.

One day my father decided to jump over a railing, in order to catch a bus, and slipped and fell.

I shall now let my mother tell her story …

… Now we had just arrived in India, and though Mosie and I spoke Gujarati, we still didn’t know Hindi or Marathi (the language spoken in Maharashtra, the state in which Bombay/Mumbai is located), and here comes Mosie, limping and in pain. I am a nurse and so I took a look at his foot and it looked bad, but what were we to do? We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t have a telephone, and we didn’t speak the language. So I went and knocked on our neighbour’s door. An elderly lady opened the door and I explained in English that we were new in the apartment-block and that my husband had suffered a possible fracture. The old lady then asked me to sit. I sat. The elderly lady then asked me my name and I said ‘Zubeida, but you can call me Zubie’. I then told the lady all about South Africa, about how I had been separated from my two children, about Apartheid, about Nelson Mandela, and about how we were freedom fighters and were in exile. The old lady broke down and sobbed, and I cried too, feeling her warmth towards me, even though I was a total stranger. Then the elderly lady told me that they were Punjabis and during the partition of India, they had to flee their home in what later became Pakistan because they were Hindus. The old lady sobbed when she told me about the rioting, the massacres, the pain of leaving everything behind and fleeing with only the clothes on their backs, and then she grabbed my hand tightly and said that she understood everything, and she shared my pain, because she too had been a refugee once … (at this point my mother would be crying openly while telling me the story) … and that from then on, she was my elder sister. This from a woman who had experienced the horrors of partition, and who realising I had a Muslim name, chose to share her life story with me, and who could understand what we were going through. Anyway, we called a doctor who turned out to be a Parsi ‘Bone-Setter’ … (laughing between tears now) … and later when we moved to Delhi and her daughter Lata got married to Ravi Sethi and also moved to Delhi, she told Lata that ‘Zubeida hamaari behen hai’ (Zubeida is my sister) and that Lata should keep in touch with us. That’s how Papa and I know aunty Lata and uncle Ravi …

Hearing my mother tell me this story over and over again, emphasising that aunty Lata’s mother had gone through hell at the hands of Muslims, and still she chose to see my mother not as a Muslim, but as a fellow human-being, who shared a similar life in the fact that my parents were also refugees, having fled their country, and that aunty Lata’s mother ‘took’ my parents in, and shared a bond that cannot be described sufficiently in words, as words would only dilute the depth of feeling that the two women shared for each other, only makes my belief in the power of the humanity that binds us all together that much stronger.

Yes, there will be those who will say that those were different times, and that nowadays things have changed.

Yes, there will be many who may call it idealism, romanticism, or simply burying one’s head in the sand, but I still hold on firmly to the belief that aunty Lata’s mother and my mother shared, one person to another, regardless of religion, colour, caste, wealth, status or any of the many other ‘yard-sticks’ that people are measured by, and by emphasising our shared humanity, rather than by highlighting our differences, that we can, and that we shall, indeed, overcome, someday.

Myself and my poem “Remember us when you walk this Way” as part of the permanent exhibition at the Lileasleaf Farm Rivonia Trial Museum – http://www.liliesleaf.co.za

Remember Us When You Pass This Way.

(Dedicated to the countless South Africans who gave their lives for freedom and democracy)

Remember us when you pass this way.

we who fell,

who bled,

remember us when you pass this way,

we who fell so that countless others may stand,

we who bore the brunt of the oppressor’s hand.

Remember us when you pass this way,

leave a flower or two as you pass along,

sing! sing for us a joyous and spirited song.

Remember us when you pass this way,

we who fell,

who bled,

remember us when you pass this way,

remember us in your tomorrows,

as you remember us today.

Comrade Winnie Mandela and myself – Johannesburg

My Family – A Historical Journey through the Seasons

Part Five: Thoughts about Exile, Home, Identity, Belonging

‎‎This scribble is going to be a rambling, not too coherent piece all about my thoughts on identity, belonging, exile, and about ‘home’.

So, my dear friends, I invite you to accompany me, with sufficient forewarning I hope, on this scribbled ramble…

Home

Looking back now, I can say that I grew up with two very separate yet entwined ideas of ‘home’ – ‘home’ being both the idealised country of my parents, who spoke of ‘home’, which meant South Africa, as being the place where ‘family’ was an umbrella of safety and a source of comfort, and the other reality of what ‘home’ meant was the reason I was born in exile in the first place, the country that had become a pariah of the world, with its brutal, oppressive system of Apartheid racial-segregation.

Now this may seem odd from today’s historical vantage point, but back when I was growing up in India and Egypt, there was a definite sense that we would never see ‘home’ again.

The hopes and aspirations with which my parents lived by, and probably had to live by, was that freedom would come in our lifetime. But a lifetime can be a long time, so there was also the possibility that we may never see the end of Apartheid, and this fear, which I think is shared by exiles, refugees, and all displaced human beings, was always just below the surface.

This ever-present and often repressed fear was fuelled by the deaths of fellow exiles who passed on before South Africa’s transition from Apartheid state to democratic nation took place in 1994.

I recall an old ANC comrade, an elderly man in his 60′s, who lived with us in Cairo in the early 1980′s, and to whom I became quite close, who later took ill and passed away in a Cairo hospital.

I was 8 years old at the time, and even though my parents did not tell me that ‘uncle’ had passed away, I knew it. I sensed it from his deteriorating health earlier, and from the grave expressions my parents wore for months after ‘uncle’ ‘left’.

My parents carried their own feelings of guilt and pain, of leaving behind a young son and daughter (my siblings Azad and Tasneem whom I did not grow up with) in South Africa, who grew up with my maternal grand-parents in Johannesburg. My parent’s guilt and pain never left them, and I remember my mother as she lay bedridden with Motor-Neurone Disease almost 14 years after freedom still carrying the anguish of the separation of parent from child.

My father still carries the pain with him, and I think even more so today because of the difficulties and emotional minefields that he has to navigate through knowing that he did not share his two eldest children’s childhood, and only now, after all these decades, are the relationships being strengthened, and that too is still a work in progress.

I can only imagine the pain, emotional trauma, anguish and heartbreak that my sister Tasneem, and my brother Azad felt growing up knowing that their parents were out in the world, yet remaining separated from them.

It is a legacy of pain, of homes and of families split up and separated that remains with us today, of Apartheid’s continuing brutalisation of South Africans.

These complex and conflicting issues that we as family, and we as a nation have to deal with may still yield some measure of peace, if that is at all possible, given the weight of the past.

I have so much more to say, dear reader, but it can wait for later.

I can say that my experiences growing up here, there and everywhere have been a convoluted scattering of disjointed places, of half-remembered faces and of many a restless night spent contemplating the questions of identity, home, belonging and of what ‘anchors’ a person.

Perhaps there are reasons for the times when that vagabond exile blood gets restless and that itch, that impatience, that urge to move, to flee, to rejoin the nomadic community surfaces.

And perhaps, there are reasons too, for my ability to suppress the sometimes fiery urge to trade quiet suburban stasis for the unknown path of the unnamed exile.

I leave you, respected reader, with a poem I scribbled some time ago:

Freedom – The Unfinished Dream …

The shackles have been cast off.

The chains broken.

A people once squashed,

under the jackboot of Apartheid,

are free.

Free at last!

Freedom came on the 27th day in that April of 1994.

Freedom from prejudice.

From institutionalized racism.

From being relegated to second-class citizens.

Freedom came and we danced.

We cried.

We ululated as we elected

our revered Mandela.

President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Our very own beloved ‘Madiba’.

Black and white and brown and those in-between.

The many hues of this nation,

rejoiced as we breathed in the air of freedom and democracy.

Today we pause.

We remember.

We salute.

The brave ones whose sacrifices made this day possible,

on that 27th day of April,

24 years ago.

Today we may dance.

We sing.

We ululate!

We cry.

Tears of joy and tears of loss.

Of remembrance and of forgiveness.

Of yet to be realised reconciliation and of the ghastly memories that still torment us.

Today we pause.

We acknowledge the tasks ahead.

The hungry.

The naked.

The destitute.

Today we reaffirm,

that promise of freedom.

From want.

From hunger.

From eyes without promise.

Today we reflect.

On unfulfilled promises.

On the proliferation of greed.

On the blurring of the ideals of freedom.

Today we say:

We will take back the dream.

We will renew the promise.

We will not turn away.

Today we pledge:

To stand firm.

To keep the pressure on.

To remind those in the corridors of power,

that we the people still need to savour the fruits of the tree of freedom*.

And till that time,

when all shall share in the bounty of democracy,

We shall remain vigilant,

and strong.

And we shall continue,

to struggle.

And to shout out loud,

“Amandla – Awethu!”**

     ________________

* – final words of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu before he has executed by the Apartheid regime in 1979

“My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight”.

** – “Amandla – Awethu” means “Power to the People, and was a rallying slogan during the struggle against Apartheid.

President Nelson Mandela’s mother and my mother 1950s demonstrating against the imprisonment of political prisoners

art by banksy

the stream of life …

the meandering stream of our lives, hopping over smooth pebbles, jarred by jagged rocks, swirling down maelstroms, surfacing in placid waters, washing up all our carried detritus on tiny islands of hope, coursing through the rapids of fate, just as life races on, a perpetual journey wrestling the still waters where hope itself, seemingly lies in state.

our lives, the daily grind, the cacophony of the banal, remains afloat, seeking solace in between crevasses, welcoming the temporary respite from the incessantly onward flow, stripping our skin bare, raw wounds inflicted by the flotsam and jetsam of these travels, the travails of the many masks we wear, seeking respite in the promise of an endless sea, always just around the corner, where for once, we may moult our broken skin, and where for once, we may just be.

the rising and ebbing of the tides, leave us gasping for breath, a seemingly endless cycle of the distant beacon of joy, only to be blinded by the silt, as the stream rolls on obliviously, leaving us gasping for breath, a twig snapped in two, while destiny offers us the mirage of a peaceful shore, only to be struck by the truth, the tired realisation that the stream rolls on, evermore.

we are torn apart by the ceaseless wear and tear, the infinite tears lost in the deluge, our fleeting laughs, our vanishing smiles, being pounded against the silence of the shallows, with hope a seductive vision, prodding us to go on,

to not sink in the greying depths of despair,

while we continually fall for the falseness of the charade,

grasping for just another breath of life affirming air.

Picasso’s Dove of Peace