Tag Archive: religion


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, 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.

TO BE CONTINUED…

The Burning of Manuscripts

1.

The hubris of religious bigotry,

is chilling,

ancient manuscripts are torched,

and,
burnt to cinders.

 

2.

The searing furnace of fanaticism,
rages on and on,

while,
history itself vanishes,

amidst the smouldering embers.

 

3.

The arrogance of prejudice,

in all its countless incarnations,

runs amok,
ablaze with self-righteous conceit,

 

and the smoke billows,

smearing a greying sky,
with the ashes of history,

above a library in Timbuktu.

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

tied crudely

to belief

 

bound vilely

to faith

 

blindly floundering

in the forest of thorns

 

tethered and bound and tied

to cold belief and frigid faith

 

god knows

they say

 

who knows

god knows

i say

Epochs apart, yet,
bound by conscience,

Buddha, 
Jesus,
Moses,
Muhammad,
Ram.

Enduring the whispers of time,
through creeds professed,
sermons preached,
and a million sins confessed.

Though,

the essence,
of these banished revolutionaries,
is ceremonially muted by ritual,
and gleefully crushed under,
grandiose edifices,
that serve Religion Inc.

“And the meek shall inherit the earth”,
an incendiary thought,
conveniently discarded,
for the pie in the sky that must be sought.

The tragedy of the banished revolutionaries,
stings.
stabs,
whispers still,
for us to hear,
through the din of the cacophony of prayer.

Buddha,
Jesus,
Moses,
Muhammad,
Ram.

The tragedy of the banished revolutionaries,
persists,
each day that we choose,
to shun the meek,
and mouth conscience-salving prayers,

for yet more silver,
and yet more silk

When,

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

and,

the silent dagger of fascism plunges deep into the soul of a world bereft of hope

and,

the long knife of embraced apathy twists and turns in the backs of the weakened ones

then,

maybe we’ll open our eyes

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

and maybe only then will we whimper in mock shock and oblivious surprise

for,

the festering hate that spirals around us

in the fertile minds of quasi-intellectual bigotry

is unafraid and speaks in the loudest baritone

yet,

we accept

we acquiesce

we wish it all away

but,

there will come that time when the lines are drawn

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

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

what then,

I ask, will we do that day?

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 he who is without sin cast the first stone”

 

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

appear 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 and of aloofness and of hushed 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

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

to smell the stench of hate & prejudice & greed wafting in the cool evening air.

Between the folds of faith and belief,

tucked neatly in cushioned corners,

lie the seeds of acceptable hate.

Through quaint pleasant rituals,

and joyously hummed words,

dumbed down thoughts

and dazed faces exude,

righteous sweetness.

Belief wrapped in glistening foil,

faith painted in gaudy colours,

concealing the murmurs of hate,

of embraced intolerance,

and welcomed bigotry.

The seeds of acceptable hate flourish in damp fungal minds,

as indifference flowers into the silence of frozen apathy,

with blooming petals of finely measured howls of rage.

All the while the ever smiling faces beam with deep pride,

drenched in all the pious tears they’ve cried.

And so it is that the viral seeds of acceptable hate

thrive among the genteel folk that quietly gaze,

in silence at the slow creeping of the horror.

As more seeds of hate are sown with manic zeal,

and in the shrieking of this cowardly silence,

the seeds of acceptable hate,

continue to thrive,

and to germinate.

when tyrants tremble
at the fury of those who tremble no more

their veneer of stability seems rotten to the core

when the trembling ones shake off their long-hushed fear

the trembling ones
tremble now with a rage that injustice everywhere can hear

when tyrants tremble
as the dispossessed shake their foundations of tyrannical conceit

tyrants tremble
when the common ones expose the phantoms of tyranny’s deceit

when the trembling ones
refuse to be cowed and bowed and beaten down again

the trembling ones
scream their vehemence as they have little to lose and freedom and dignity to gain

when tyrants tremble
their trembling resounds and echoes around the world

tyrants tremble
then in each far-flung tyranny at the peoples’ flag being unfurled

and finally when the trembling ones
take back the citadels, the streets, the squares, and the parks

the trembling ones
send a message to power that revolutions may be triggered by the merest of livid sparks

and that tyranny may reign for a decade or a generation or even two

but tyranny must eventually succumb to the rage of the common ones that appears suddenly out of the bright clear blue

this isn’t a warning or a threat or a declaration of ill intent

this is a sober lesson in history for the peoples’ history with oppressive stasis can never be content

when tyrants tremble
they should know that there will someday come a trembling surprise

for the garbage heap of history patiently awaits each tyrant’s wretched demise

again…

when i feared that you were slipping away

i feared more for myself, in truth I say, than for you

again…

you came back to us

again…

your light shone, ablaze

reaching inside of me with the warmth of your dignity

with your infinite gentleness

with your effortless peace

with all that makes you, you

again…

soothing me as you soothed a nation

and a people, and people everywhere

of every hue

and of every creed

and of the human spirit itself

again…

you gave of yourself

92 and frail and weak and alive

oh yes alive!

again…

you breathed my fears away

you embraced me as you have always done

again…

you made me cry

weeping tears of joy for you

for your light to shine on through

again…

you shined so brightly

as I basked in your warmth of you being you

again…

you cradled my shaken being in your hands, lined with age and with wisdom and with a pureness so bright

that just knowing that you are back home, smiling that fatherly smile of yours

was enough for me, to slip into the waiting arms of this warm and joyous night

and again…

though i know that you cannot be with me forever more

you came back to me on this night

and just knowing that you are still here with me now

is enough now, for within me, you will reside forever more

just knowing that you are resting and recovering at home

filled, and fills me with peace and with joy

with the peace and the joy that has been your gift to me, and to us, one and all

shaking me to my very core

as you have selflessly done

throughout my life, and on countless occasions before

He is home

you are home

and

i am home with you

as your light of life continues to shine

now and forever

warm and dignified and forever true

Viva Nelson Rolihlala ‘Madiba’ Mandela Viva!

as you continue the struggle some more, today for life…

‘it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die’ you said, all those years ago

as you stood in the dock awaiting the sentence of death

they locked you up instead

for 27 hard and long and arduous years

you stood firm
you never wavered
you gave hope to us all

and then when they could no longer keep up their unjust tyranny

you emerged into the light of freedom

your hand raised in a defiant fist in the february Cape Town air

– Amandla!

you then weaved and bobbed and fought some more, the boxer in you always present

you fought for peace in our land

for us all you fought

and then came that glorious day

when you were our president

and we laughed and we cried

and you fought for us even more

today you fight a different fight

for life, and we are helpless

we, who you fought for all along

have only hope and prayer and song and wishes of life for you

today, you fight some more

may you fight for life some more, Tata Madiba!

and may you prevail

for you are our father

and father, your children call out to you once more

with wishes
prayers
songs

your children wish for you, to remain here with us some more

and though helpless your children may be

in this battle that you wage for life today

and though frail and old your body is

your indomitable spirit smiles that inimitable Madiba smile

your spirit resides in each of us

your loving children

amandla!

 

you are our eternal inspiration

our hopes
our dreams
our conscience

you gave everything of yourself
so that we may live and love and laugh and dream and breathe the air of freedom, dignity and liberty

you lead us through the darkest days with your unshakeable principles and your belief in us

you brought peace and freedom to us

and when at times we felt all was lost

you stayed with us as a father would

you lent us your wisdom
and you chastised us too

and we are here today because of you
you stayed with us, Nelson Rolihlala ‘Madiba’ Mandela, through all the crests and valleys of our turbulent times

you stayed with us, father
today, we hope and pray and wish
that you, our father Madiba
stay with us still
stay with us, Madiba
stay with us…

to see…

the clarity of beauty between the murky folds of life

to see…

the simple truths of living
between the horror and the endless strike

to see…

the innocent smiles of the children at play
while the elder preach hate and division and continue to slay

to see…

the endless yearning for that simpler better place
away from the hollow emptiness of this ostentatious space

to see…

the open vistas of this pale blue dot
the soft reds and fruity greens as this home is all we have got

to see…

the tears of the dispossessed who have been cruelly cast aside
and while we look the other way from their tears we may never hide

to see…

the endless hunger and despair and killing and greed
in the name of God or of ideology or of some or the other creed

to see…

and to see it all

and still stand tall

to hold on to the humanity

that resides deep within us all

may be our only saving grace

and though all of this sounds quaint and saccharine sweet

I need to remember all that I’ve said

the next time I look into a teary-eyed desolate face

to see…

that being human is simple if we only look beyond ourselves and see

that we are all one, him and her and them and us and you and me…

it seeps in through gradual osmosis

and soon is ingrained in pliant minds

it mutates and thrives in tunnels of vision

and then is fused into the fiber of unreason

the quiet hypocrisy that drips of the tongues

spouting broken words of unfathomable callousness

the mutilated reeking carcass of cynicism

obscured by the veneer of polished discourse

stinks of inaction and of insipid rationalization

the probing and prodding and splintering of each thought

curdles the shallow layer of feeling

interring the basic simple and only humanity

that is gleefully ripped into isolated fragments

the quiet hypocrisy of battles fought and of causes embraced

is plain to see in the faces of the earnest

as they cling onto their bitter loathsome prejudices

whilst buying redemption under a placard of well-meaning

the quiet hypocrisy of these selective battles waged under the flimsy pretense of caring

stinks to the highest heaven promised in mantras and duas and prayers and chants

as the spectacle of the apartheid within the mind is worn on each tailored sleeve

the choosing of these battles in the name of faith and clung onto simply because of a common creed

is a pathetic spectacle of segregated thought

buried under the folds of righteous bluster

so before you jump on that bandwagon of indignation because ‘your’ people are in pain

take a look at the hidden fascism that simmers just below your holier-than-thou sudden spurt of heartfelt rage

for the quiet hypocrisy that is unknowingly imbibed

is apparent for all to behold

for when the ‘other’ endure the injustice carried out in ‘your’ peoples’ name

you stand mute and silently complicit for your indignation simply melts away

as the quiet hypocrisy that is firmly rooted in you

exults in pious pretences while ‘your’ own continue to hate, rape, pillage and slay

it saddens me that so much vitriol drips off my pen in such effervescent times

but I cringe as each moment another quiet hypocrite rants about the despotism of the ‘other’

while smiling complacently and smugly and soaking in the quiet hypocrisy of remaining mute about ‘my’ peoples’ own crimes

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?

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