Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Once in a while you come across writing that touches your soul. It’s rare and precious and so cries to be shared. So here I am, sharing it with the one and half people who read this space.

Shailja Patel is a Kenyan poet (a performance poet, her bio informs us) I stumbled upon in one of my frequent blog-hopping jaunts. Her one-woman performance of ‘Migritude’ in the US has got some rave reviews.

'Schilling Love', her ode to her parents in a humbling telling of an immigrant experience is honest and searingly intense.

They never said / they loved us
Those words were not / in any language / spoken by my parents
I love you honey was the dribbled caramel / of Hollywood movies / Dallas / Dynasty / where hot water gushed / at the touch of gleaming taps / electricity surged / 24 hours a day / through skyscrapers banquets obscene as the Pentagon / were mere backdrops / where emotions had no consequences words / cost nothing meant nothing would never / have to be redeemed
My parents / didn't speak / that / language

And then again,

Something / is bursting the walls of my arteries something / is pounding its way up my throat like a volcano / rising / finally / I understand / why I'm a poet
Because I was born to a law / that states / before you claim a word you steep it / in terror and shit / in hope and joy and grief / in labour endurance vision costed out / in decades of your life / you have to sweat and curse it / pray and keen it / crawl and bleed it / with the very marrow / of your bones / you have to earn / its / meaning

Read the poems here. And check out her blog. Magical!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Earliest memories

Splashing around while being bathed, taking great care to not look up at a big round black hole in the ceiling. A hole that was threatening and scary and led into a nightmarish unknown. A strange memory, because my mother does not remember the terrifying hole. Maybe it was imagined, but the feeling of fear it engendered in me was not and is vivid still.

A grey frizzy-haired teacher in a frock. Rapping my knuckles with a pencil, for some alphabet-writing that went wrong. God bless her, wherever she is, my nursery teacher. The alphabets she taught me have given me immeasurable joy ever since.

Carrying a neighbour’s baby brother and inadvertently dropping him to the floor. And being frozen with fear and guilt, with everyone around looking at me as if at an evil witch. Babies have never endeared themselves to me since then.

For a tag by Musings

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


The warmth of a cozy bed

A loved body nestled close

Stretching out time just a little bit

And a lazy interlude in a busy day

Green red and yellow beneath my knife

A heady leafy smell on my fingertips

The whirr of grinding spices

And the timeless act of everyday creation

The giddy tang of a sweaty body

Ache of muscles unused

Racing heartbeats pumped up blood

And body and mind pulsing to a perfect place

Words that strike a chord stop your breath

Hold you beyond time and place

Quiet evenings lost in alien worlds

And language more real than life itself

Silent conversations stolen moments

Gateways to buried thoughts

Introspective questions contemplation

And the joys of hushed solitude.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Shorts II


The gritty wet city was rich with a million stories. Clandestine love under the bright blue umbrella; the giggling schoolgirls postponing the inevitable homework in front of shop windows; the drunk outside the seedy country liquor bar wasting a perfectly good life; harried working women with plastic bags hurrying home to be superwomen; the earnest man with an umbrella getting wet in the rain trying to keep his indifferent girlfriend dry. The gleam of the street lights on the puddles on the roads had an outlandish beauty. Even the lines of traffic had a kind of symmetry to them. The poetry in the city night was there for all those capable of seeing. It broke her heart that he was not one of them.


She is stunning in a way that makes him breathless. And the beauty is tantalizingly within grasp. He can feel that instinctive primal need to possess, to make her his for the world to see. He knows he is deserving, worthy. What is he waiting for, he thinks, stretching his hand out to feel that rich silkiness. And draws back. Temptation is a superfluous stain in his middle class soul.


Do you feel sometimes like the world was terribly alive and bursting with so many lives to be lived? And that you have only today to live them all? That the flame had to burn so brightly because it had so little time left to burn? That anything left untried was a life lived incomplete? That today nothing deserved a no even if it meant you had to pay for it with tomorrow? Is this feeling what growing old was all about?