Tag Archive: religion


​a true story …




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



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



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


I was born in New Delhi a couple of years later in ’72.



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



one afternoon my father fell and broke his leg.



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



the neighbour was an elderly Punjabi lady.



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



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



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



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



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



the elderly lady broke down and wept uncontrollably.



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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



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


never.








(for aunty Lata’s late-mother, my mother’s ‘sister’ and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi, India)

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I am Man







Us men,

almost always,

men,


myopic, impotent men,


our manliness oozing, seeping,

dripping,

soaking,


in swathes of red,

scarlet blood on infant skin,


hardened,

caked,

dried on cold, dead flesh.





Who am i,

a man,


myopic, impotent,


my swagger puffed on conceit,


my country right or wrong,

my god not yours,

my culture your caste,

tribe, sect, ideology … … …




Who am i ?


a man ?

knitted into,

shared humanity ?




Perhaps ’tis time,

to let this rotten, festering,

glossy, botoxed, tucked, trimmed, diseased skin,


moult,


laying stark this sham,

this theatre,


these lies, the maggots burrowing deep,


into man,


chiselling, smashing,

beheading, hanging,

shooting, bombing, drone-ing, killing, raping, torturing, killing, killing, killing,


excising man,

ripping man out of humanity.




Yes,

i am man.

Buchenwald – 1979

walking towards horror,
my seven year old eyes,

were sewn open on that day at Buchenwald.

the reeking stench of death
was by now,
lost to the winds,

and ahead,

stood Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

Never Again!

we have said,
over and over,

and over and over,
but, but,

as Erich Fried* wrote,

it happened,

it is happening now,

and it will go on happening if nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again** …

    ____________________

* Erich Fried 1921 – 1988.

http://allpoetry.com/Erich-Fried

** taken from and inspired by Erich Fried’s poem “What Happens”

http://poetrypill.blogspot.com/2009/04/what-happens.html?m=1

afzaljhb@gmail.com

a child of war

image

a child of war.

as she lies bleeding,
the girl who skipped, hopped to school,
all of nine and a half years old,
with ribbons in her hair and a laugh that was her parent’s pride.

as she lies bleeding,
shrapnel lodged in her torn stomach,
she stares at her skipping rope,
as her blood soaks it the colour of cherries her mummy buys.

as she lies bleeding,
she sees people all around thick black smoke,
blurred visions of scattering feet, shoes left behind,
hearing nothing but the pinging in her smashed eardrums.

as she lies bleeding,
she slips away and then she is dead,
a mangled heap of a nine and a half year old girl,
whose laugh was her mother’s pride.

as she lies bleeding,
for even in death she bleeds some more,
shrapnel wedged in her torn stomach,
stealing the light from her bright little eyes.

as she lies bleeding …

in jallianwala bagh in ‘19,
leningrad in ‘42,
freetown in ‘98,
soweto in ‘76,
jenin in ‘02,
hanoi in ‘68,
beirut in ‘85,

raqqa now,
basra still,
gaza too.

as she lies bleeding,
a little nine and a half year old girl,
whose laugh was her parent’s pride,
we know she’ll bleed more,

tomorrow and in many tomorrows yet unborn,

with shrapnel in her stomach,
ripped open and torn.

as she lies bleeding.

N O T
          I N
                M Y
                       N A M E …

A Poem for Jawaharlal Nehru

image

Pandit-Ji*

1.

The moon cast an enveloping shadow over the teeming multitudes,

as they made their tryst with destiny**,

with you as the bearer of the light,

and at the stroke of the midnight hour,

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

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

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

as the gaudy glare of empire began to pale.

2.

Today,
you live,

within us,
though not amongst us,

and,

your discovery,
your glimpses,

smoulder within me,

your immortal words,
my compass.

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

that have,
found utterance.

I am now,
me.

I am now,
finally,

free.

       _________________

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

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

image

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,

&

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,

& there is only one choice that is right …

… the dazzling fusion of a rainbow,

or dull,
bland,

empty white.

peace | love | uBuntu

Kobane has Not Fallen …

Kobane has Not Fallen …

Kobane stands,
the resistance firm,
the resolve resolute.

Kobane stands,
repulsing the marauding ISIS horde,

No Pasaran!

They Shall Not Pass!

For Pete Seeger, Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter and 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.

You wielded that banjo and guitar as weapons,

fiddling out a hail of truth.

Of solidarity.

Of immediate calls for peace.

You said of Leadbelly, 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,

this 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 the pain that you witnessed along the way,

they branded you a commie,
a pinko,
a nigger and a Jew-lover.

An enemy of the state.

While your banjo and your guitars wrestled 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.

You were there too.

Marching and singing with Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma.

And you faced their ugly spit,

their venomous rage,

their clubs and sticks and knives,
but you always knew,

that your cause was just and that the truth would one day prevail.

However long it may take, you would never give up.

You sang and you marched and you strummed yourselves,

victoriously into their jail.

Then they shot him down,

they shot Dr. King dead,

as they burnt and lynched many, 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 goodbye.

And you were then one,

and you may have felt alone and overwhelmed by the battles and with all that was wrong.

But you saw that the people were with you.

As they had been, all along.

So you fiddled that old banjo,

dragging it through Newport and Calcutta and Dar-es-Salaam.

Through countless unknown halls in numberless unknown towns,

across this earth,
turning,
slowly,

putting smiles of amity on faces that were once pock-marked with disillusioned frowns.

Today as I pen these poorly scribbled words for all of you,

for Woody, Huddie, and Pete,

I do 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,

that will be ablaze somewhere,

driving away the apathy and reminding us all,

that this world has for all of us,

plenty of room

I Want to Walk with You …

I want to walk with you with our heads held high,

Never cowering,
never with heads bowed,

With our feet on this blessed soil,

and our dreams reaching for the sky.

Dreams of simple joys and of peace and of mirth,

For all our fellow travelers on this delightful earth.

Dreams not of wealth or of positions of high standing or of mighty power,

Simple dreams of a walk in the aftermath of a Johannesburg evening rain-shower.

Dreams of bread and water and dignity and shelter and clothes for all,

Dreams where all fellow travelers may together walk this earth proud and tall.

I want to walk with you, my fellow traveler,

with our heads held high,

Never pandering to power, never silent in the face of its abuse,

Always firm in our convictions,

that we can all make peace if we only try.

If we try to stop and think and sometimes not to look the other way,

If we practice what our different creeds really teach,

we will surely see that day,

When we all,
fellow travelers,

may walk with our heads held high,

Never cowering,

never with our heads bowed,

With our feet on this blessed soil,

and our collective dreams reaching for the sky.

Call me silly, call me naive, call me hopeless, and if you must, call me weak,

But is this not the common good,

that our different creeds and cultures all seek?

The Infidel …

The infidel writes,
blasphemes,

rejecting cellophane sermons.

The infidel whispers,
cursing,

the benevolence of the higher power.

The infidel chokes,
gagging,

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

The infidel waits,
patiently,

for the retribution that must arrive.

The infidel casts off,
the labels of faith,

of belonging,

of sanctimonious snobbery.

The infidel refuses,

To beseech the merciful god,

And to cower,
And to kneel.

The infidel stands,

At times alone …

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

Kobane Stands …
( October 13th 2014 )

the marauders push on,

the fascist flag of hate,

limp,
flaccid,

yet conceited,
puffed – up,

its arrogance straining against the free wind,

and yet,

and still,

Kobane stands!

“I’d rather die on my feet, than live on my knees” –

Emiliano Zapata
( 1879 – 1919 )

For Malala Yousafzai …

For Malala Yousafzai …

(for Malala Yousafzai, 14 years old, in a critical condition after being shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban, for her work as a young activist advocating the rights of girls to attend school)

When hot lead tears the flesh of a 14 year old girl,

ripping through her skull,
leaving her to bleed out and die,

does Allah not recoil in horror,

to see His child whimper,
to see His daughter cry.

Where is the indignation,

the anger that often boils over and manifests itself as flags and books and videos are burnt in mass orgies of hollow piety,

where are the voices that scream so loud,
that denounce all but their own creed,

where are the men, the impotent men who crave for nothing more than their fascist egos to feed,

where are the voices that so loudly proclaim,
enemies here and enemies there, always quick to condemn,

where are those voices when the enemy walks amongst them.

14 year old Malala Yousafzai was shot in cold blood,

her crime?

Advocating the rights of girls to an education.

Shame on you, men of bigotry and men of cowardice.

Shame on you, silent and mute accomplices in this carnage.

Shame on me,
for my inaction,

Shame on us all,
who proclaim lofty ideals,

yet are conspicuously silent,

when a 14 year old girl is shot in the head,

by fascist fundamentalist bigots who only worship bullets of hot lead.

Not in my name!

Not in my name,
shall the cowardly men rain down abuse,

Not in my name,
shall the bigoted men light the communalistic fuse,

Not in my name,
shall Malala Yousafzai be shot in the head,

left to bleed out,
while countless mothers’ tears are shed,

not in my name,
shall religious murderers,
be left to wander free,

not in my name,
for I dare all believers to open their eyes,
to see!

To see,
the innocence of a 14 year old girl,
wanting only an education,

as the men of the cloth,
prance around with their pathetic self-righteous indignation.

I write this today,
the anger raging in my veins,

yet I fear,

that I shall write more of this,

unless we stand up and say ‘no more’,

I fear that I shall be writing this again,

until we all,

reclaim the true principles of humaneness,

until we silence the voices of bigotry,
of rage,
of fanatical insanity,

I fear I shall be writing this again,

and,

until the muck-ridden bile,
is not excised,

I shall continue to say,

NOT IN MY NAME!

Or else I shall have nothing,

but my unending shame

uBuntu …

uBuntu …

We are here today,

and today we pause to remember those who passed before us.

We walk along many paths,

crisscrossing myriad strands that bind us as one,

strands of conscience,

painfully forged by the ancestors.

We imbibe the spirit of uBuntu,

giving thanks to those who shed blood and sweat and tears,

selflessly guiding us ever onwards,

onwards, yes,

yet ever conscious,

that we are all,

all of us,

hewn from the winds,

forged in the depths,

our jagged edges far, far more radiant,

than dead flawless diamonds.

We are here today,

and we stand as one,

together braving the thunder rolling across the plains,

soaking in the rejuvenating blessings,

bathing us in the rains,

the heartbeat of Africa,

throbbing within us all,

whispering,

guiding,

comforting us,

that,

whenever we fall,

we need only stretch out our hands,

to be lifted up again,

helped back on our feet,

to stand once again,

together,

always, always together,

tall.

The spirit of uBuntu,

flows through our collective veins,

urging us to see,

to hear,

to share the light of peace and of unity,

for we are all,

all of us,

sculpted from one whole,

one mould,

far, far more priceless,

than dead nuggets of gold.

“I am because we are”.

Ngiyabonga, Nkosiyama …

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

The Battle for Kobane…

The Battle for Kobane…

The black flag of ISIS limply flutters on the eastern outskirts,

of Kobane.

The blood flows,
through narrow streets,

a ghost – town,

it’s people fleeing from the butchers’ knives,

refugees now,

in limbo,

while the parched desert sun sets on the battlefield.

If Kobane falls,

we shall all be on our knees,

naked and exposed,

to the void that is ISIS.

May the brave resistance soldier on,

under – equipped,

under – fed,

under constant siege,

yet they fight on,

against the backdrop of toothless air strikes,

as innocent blood flows,

and flows.

LONG LIVE THE RESISTANCE!

Gandhi-Ji …

1.

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

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

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

yet you live,

you live on,

a perennial thorn in the side of tyranny,

and the voice of the voiceless multitudes,

still scraping in garbage bins for a bite to eat.

2.

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

and Bapu*, your prophetic words ring true today,

in Soweto,

Diepsloot,

Chatsworth,

Gugulethu,

Alexandra,

and everywhere,

all the time.

3.

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

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

and today your sons and daughters across this world,

look to you again,

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

and Capitalism gone insane,

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

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

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

the 99%,

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

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

we need you,

as the parched desert needs a shower of rain,

we need you!

and we need to,

remember that we are all human,

if we are to build a new world,

less cruel,

and more humane …

       _______________

* – Mahatma or ‘Great Soul’

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

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

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

afzaljhb@gmail.com

A Child of War …

a child of war…

 

as she lies bleeding

the girl who skipped and hopped to school

all of nine and a half years old

with ribbons in her hair and a laugh that was

her father’s pride

 

as she lies bleeding

the warm bullet lodged in her torn stomach

she stares at her skipping rope

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

 

as she lies bleeding

she sees the people through the thick black smoke

blurred visions of scattering feet and shoes left behind

hearing nothing but the pinging in her blown-out eardrums

 

as she lies bleeding

she slips away quickly and then she is dead

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

whose laugh was her father’s pride

 

 

as she lies bleeding

for even in death she bleeds some more

the warm bullet wedged in her torn stomach

steals the light from her bright little eyes

as she lies bleeding

in jallianwala bagh in ‘19

leningrad in ‘42

freetown in ‘98

soweto in ‘76

jenin in ‘02

hanoi in ‘68

beirut in ‘85

raqqa now

basra still

gaza too

 

as she lies bleeding

this little nine and a half year old girl

whose laugh was her father’s pride

we know she’ll bleed and bleed some more

tomorrow and in many tomorrows yet unborn

with that warm bullet in her stomach

ripped open and torn

 

as she lies bleeding..

afzaljhb@gmail.com

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

afzaljhb@gmail.com

Buchenwald – 1979

Buchenwald – 1979

walking towards horror,

my seven year old eyes,

were sewn open on that day at Buchenwald.

the reeking stench of death
was by now,
lost to the winds,

and ahead,

stood Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

Never Again!

we have said,

over and over,

and over and over,

but, but,

as Erich Fried* wrote,

it happened,

it is happening now,

and it will go on happening if nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again**

* Erich Fried 1921 – 1988.

http://allpoetry.com/Erich-Fried

** taken from and inspired by Erich Fried’s poem “What Happens”

http://poetrypill.blogspot.com/2009/04/what-happens.html?m=1

afzaljhb@gmail.com

For Pete Seeger, Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter and 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.

You wielded that banjo and guitar as weapons,

fiddling out a hail of truth.

Of solidarity.

Of immediate calls for peace.

You said of Leadbelly, 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,

this 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 the pain that you witnessed along the way,

they branded you a commie,
a pinko,
a nigger and a Jew-lover.

An enemy of the state.

While your banjo and your guitars wrestled 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.

You were there too.

Marching and singing with Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma.

And you faced their ugly spit,

their venomous rage,

their clubs and sticks and knives,
but you always knew,

that your cause was just and that the truth would one day prevail.

However long it may take, you would never give up.

You sang and you marched and you strummed yourselves,

victoriously into their jail.

Then they shot him down,

they shot Dr. King dead,

as they burnt and lynched many, 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 goodbye.

And you were then one,

and you may have felt alone and overwhelmed by the battles and with all that was wrong.

But you saw that the people were with you.

As they had been, all along.

So you fiddled that old banjo,

dragging it through Newport and Calcutta and Dar-es-Salaam.

Through countless unknown halls in numberless unknown towns,

across this earth,
turning,
slowly,

putting smiles of amity on faces that were once pock-marked with disillusioned frowns.

Today as I pen these poorly scribbled words for all of you,

for Woody, Huddie, and Pete,

I do 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,

that will be ablaze somewhere,

driving away the apathy and reminding us all,

that this world has for all of us,

plenty of room.

scribblerofverses@gmail.com

NOSTALGIA: My Family: A Historical Journey Through the Seasons – Part 1 by Afzal Moola, Johannesburg, South Africa.

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