Tag Archive: south africa

The African Rains

The African Rains …


the rains settle,

meandering over jagged faultlines of our memory.


the rains settle,

streaming through veins,

the thud-thudding of the heartbeat of Africa.


the rains that settle,

within each of us,

herald rebirth.


if you listen,

if you strain to hear,

while shedding the raucous noise of your inner turmoil.

If you listen,

the whispers of the ancestors,

speak to us all,

lending us warmth,

urging us to stand,

even though we may stumble,

even though we may fall.


my poem below has been published in an anthology of poems by Myesha Jenkins. 

The launch of the book takes place in Johannesburg on Sunday May 28 at The Orbit.

the following poem of mine appears in the book …

Old Sof’town*


In old Sof’town,

the jazz struck chords,

the jazz lived, it exploded,

out of the cramped homes,

rolling along the streets,

of old Kofifi,

in tune to countless blazing heartbeats.

In old Sof’town,

Bra’ Hugh breathed music, Sis’ Dolly too,

and Bra’ Wally penned poems that still ring true.

In old Sof’town,

Father Trevor preached

equality and justice,

for all, black and white and brown,

and all shades, every hue,

even as oppression battered the people,

black & blue.

In old Sof’town,

the fires of resistance raged,

‘we will not move’ was the refrain,

even as the fascists tore down Sof’town,

with volleys of leaden rain.

In old Sof’town,

the people were herded,

like cattle,

sent to Meadowlands,

far away and cold and bleak,

as the seeds of resistance,

sprouted and flourished,

for the coming battle.

In old Sof’town,

the bulldozers razed homes,

splitting the flesh of a community apart,

only to raise a monument of shame,

and ‘Triomf’ was its ghastly name.


In Jozi today,

we remember those days,

and those nights of pain,

that stung our souls.

like bleak winter rain.

Yes, we remember old Sof’town,

as we struggle onward,

to reclaim our deepest heritage,

and build anew,

a country of all hues and shades,

of black and of white and of brown.

And yes, we will always remember,

and yes, we will never forget,

the price that was paid,

by the valiant sons and daughters,

of old Sof’town,

those vibrant African shades and hues,

of black,

of white,

of brown.

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



​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.

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)

won’t you … ?

​won’t you … ?

allow me to take your hand in mine, fingers kneading, knotted, wrinkled, from teasing out too many a paltry rhyme, somewhat scarred from the scraping of passing time.

we may walk a while, distilling the essence of love, far away from this time, hand in hand, epochs away from the polythene grandstand.

we have seen so much, seen it all it sometimes feels, holding on to sanity, just barely grasping onto a filament of hope, when all seemed bleak, when life splintered and felt far too much to cope.

won’t you let me take your hand in mine, far beyond mere words, long past mouthed vows, sharing the silence of weary travellers, who may have seen so much before, and yet persist, hoping, always hoping for a kernel of substance at the core.

won’t you take my hand in yours, it’s yours to take and to hold, away from this bazaar where feelings are traded as commodities, bargained over, casually bought, and callously sold.

we shall share pristine moments, shutting out the passing parade, fleeing from the boulevards of excess, as far away from the fickle charade.

won’t you take my hand in yours, allowing me to take yours in mine, knowing the pathway may be littered with nettles, and knowing this too, that we will always have each other, when the storms pass, when the dust settles.

won’t you … ?

Today we celebrate our shared heritage, 

through smiles and tears, the ache of the past and the hopes of today and tomorrows yet unborn. 

Today we share our Africanness, our blood enmeshed within each other – bright red thumping through countless veins, reminding us of the spirit of uBuntu – I am because we are,

we are because of each other, fellow travellers through the travails of life, seeking not riches nor title, seeking the bright sunshine of peace banishing the darkness of strife. 

We are one people, myriad hues of the rainbow enveloping us all, 

lending a hand to each other, 

every time we stumble, each time we fall.

Mandela in Kerala

Madiba in Kerala.

A comrade from the southern Indian state of Kerala shared the following anecdote with my father sometime in the mid-1980’s in New Delhi …

… On a trip to his home state of Kerala, the comrade said,

“…I was on a small fishing boat with some other comrades, we were going to an anti-Apartheid meeting that had been organised in a small town.

During the course of the boat ride, I kept hearing the boat-man’s voice, as he was singing, and quite loudly too, a song in Malayalam,

And I kept hearing what sounded like the name ‘Mandela’, over and over again,

So I asked the boat-man who or what this ‘Mandela’ was?

“You come from the city, and YOU don’t know who MANDELA is?

I remember her beret,

on that rainy day at the bus-stop, 

she said that she had grown tired of the pretences this world demanded,

we spoke of Marx and she smiled, for I was much younger then, wearing it all on my sleeve,

she smiled, and we spoke till she had to leave.

we met at that bus-stop many times more,

sharing our laughter, our pain, of the knots that cut deep into our core,

she always wore her beret and she was fierce, brave and steadfastly traversing the murky waters of being a wage-slave,

we promised each other we wouldn’t be like the rest, not even in our grave,

ah but that was many moons back, when life was starkly coloured white and black,

I wonder where she could be now, and I hope she is as she was back then,

when everything wasn’t just about love and light and being zen,

I wonder too were we to perchance meet, would she pull me close out of the grime stained street,

or would she walk on by, leaving me to my own devices,

after decades of being whittled down, after making all the right choices … … …

​on your skin, scribbling odes to love,
angry, lost, empty,

raucous, pristine, encompassing love.
on my heart, scribbled odes embossed, etched, engraved,
yearning, pining, aching,
for you … … …





alfoat on honeydew petals

mere strands


years trickling through


lost whispers

dreamed caresses


alive …


ablaze in the cauldron




of convergent wisps

sprinkling kisses

on your

honeydew lips

we shall always be many more

we who roast in your designer factories

our brows dripping salty sweat

we who forgive but shall never forget

we shall always be many more

we reek of cheap moonshine

we stagger and often stumble

our stomachs never ceasing to rumble

we shall always be many more

we polish your fine bone china

our pay gets docked if a cup gets chipped

our children to wars get shipped

we shall always be many more

we clean up after your pretty children

our kids are hungry, naked and callously swept

into bowels of desolation, as mothers’ tears are wept

we shall always be many more

we do your dirty work every day

you treat us like vermin, foul and rotten

our dignity always forgotten

we shall always be many more

we will rise up, seizing the standard of hope

reclaiming what is common for daughters and sons

always squarely in the cross-hairs of your guns

we shall always be many more

and there shall be many more of us to come

to rid you of your smug arrogance, endless greed

yes we too have children we have to feed

we shall always be many more

‘and the meek shall inherit the earth’

or something like that though we no longer care

for we shall rise up demanding our common share

we shall always be many more … … …

( with thanks to Ken Loach’s film ‘Tierra y Libertad’

breathless … …

​breathless, laboured


each breath


greedily gulping gasping

each breath


                               without you

​your fingers


sketching dreams

scribbling hopes

my fingers


holding back


knowing the path ahead

littered with thorns



the path ahead must be walked

alone at times 

but never lonely 

not with you by my side

evoking a belonging felt true and deep


these interwoven veins










this common



‘I am because you are’*

all of us


as one


you …

… uBuntu*


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

imagine … … …

a beach of solace

the lapping waves

tickling our bare toes

softly powdered sand caressing our feet

a carpet of palms

waltzing in the breeze

imagine …



setting sail on distant seas




bidding adieu to the emptiness of yesterday

sharing each other

knowing that your


stays with me

within me


tomorrows we have still to see


our slice of peace








bloom in earthy hues

when thunderstorms pass

blossoming into fiery scarlet

kneading away

our hollow suburban blues …

for ’tis in your smile

that my mirth resides

imagine …

your head on my shoulder

ready to face all

oncoming tides

imagine … 

​misty tears fall on splintered parchment

history simmers

the shackles of centuries cast off

the chains of oppression shattered

embracing new horizons



trusting once again

in that unfinished dream

of less famished tomorrows

scribbling verses

on her bare back

my fingers


each flourish a caress

etching odes to hope

across the canvas

of her warm skin …

her breath





sashaying in the evening breeze

dancing free

abandoning trepidation

what do i know


fingers flutter

over undulating peaks

valleys …



as soul meets soul

she who is

half of my whole

she who remains

my perennial



straining to hear

the thud-thudding of your heart

amidst this cacophonous crowd.


i close my eyes


i see you

floating on clouds


free to just be

your wings spread proud




across sunbeams

sketching your open sky

bathed in

colours vivid








brush stroke

infused with hues


the palette of your dreams …

Parched lullabies seem jarring,

gentle persuasion an assault,
quiet understanding reeking of decay,
fatigued under this skin in which I must stay.

Dreams of moulting,
shedding the hubris of crafty words,
flushing away all famished rhymes,
ripping the fibres of an ink-stained past.


Always knowing,

that honey-soaked kisses, seem destined,
never to last

Embers fade,

disappearing into the hushed night …

Petals wither,
falling on the soft grass …

Words pale,
obscured by the anguish within …

Faces blur,
dimmed by the galloping years …

Kisses lose,
the urgency of those bygone depths …

Feelings recede,
lying dormant in shielded vaults …

Love loses,
fatigued after numberless skirmishes …

Pain flees,
seeking new wounds to inflict …

Scars remain,
sentinels against,

the dilution of memory … … …

Why him, they ask her …

​why, they ask her,

why him?

she always says the

day we met

and spoke

and laughed

she felt

all she needed to be was herself

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