Category Archives: Poetry

Experimental in a workshop with Inua Ellams

One of the most random pieces written while in a workshop with Inua Ellams in Karachi turned out to be not-so-random after all. Maybe some of you can try this out for yourself. Take a random number of equally random words (around 10 to 13 in number), start free writing and fit them in without really aiming to think too hard. (Yes, press yourself for time – 5 to 10 minutes: just the bit of time taken to complete the entire writing process). Try and guess which words Ellams gave us workshop participants here. I have listed the words below. Here is the unedited version. 020


In the Light of God

the rainbow spreads

its wings of dreams

and heartfelt springs as the touch

of dawn on the windowsill

brings forth the sounds

of the morning’s drill.


There in the shade

that traveller sits, speaks

in hushed ash-tones that drip

like dust onto evening’s bowl;

the ashtray of that open door

infused in delight.


Itchy, scratchy flea bites

rancid odours, rhapsody of the sand.

Hardly a moment passes by

when struggle spaghetti-like snakes

sinuously into freedom’s hands.

He does extol the mighty how,

who far off in their love of land

sit perched upon their thrones of gold

forever more garbed in purple.

Royal blood of royal kin

and bound to earth still.

Wicked kin. Look down

Look ahead and then look no more.

The dreams are surprised

by heaven’s snore – that noisy menagerie

of traffic here

that din of sound undying

and clear; restful, wistful passersby,

Destiny may unhindered cry.


(The random words: God, ashtray, itchy, spaghetti, extol, purple, restful happen to be the only ones I even remember at this point from the exercise. If there’s a writer’s block, free writing can be magical, if used correctly)

Smiles in Cracked Ice – Dedicated to Parveen Rehman (architect, selfless humanitarian and social scientist who lost her life in a brutal target killing on 13/03/2013 in Karachi, Pakistan)

(The brutal and cold blooded murder of architect Parveen Rehman today has most of us in a state of shock. That smiling face and graceful aura is gone forever and in what a way! From earliest days as a child listening to her discussion of her work with my father to later days seeing her as a spirited, animated individual exuding her usual warmth and smilng demeanour… she was… undoubtedly a model of selfless determination. Death is inevitable but when it is the result of violence it hits emotionally and it hits hard. I feel completely stunned and angry at the murder of a lady who gave her whole life quite literally for the welfare of the poor, the needy and the helpless. Today we look on – each of us as helpless and as poor as the ones she worked for – as we watch yet another humane soul succumb to the madness that surrounds this once peaceful city of Karachi. May Allah raise her to her heavenly abode where she truly belongs and bring her killers to justice. Parveen aunty, you stood up for what you believed in and brought light to the lives of several who were a part of the Orangi Pilot Project. I can hardly bring myself to believe that such efforts, tremendous as they are, go in vain in the end – the light, hope and courage along with selfless determination must and shall live on in other forms come what may. You will truly be missed. Inna lillah e wa inna ilaehe raajeoon.)


Blood buckets to wash the road

the earth to sketch the sky

eyes that tearless stare

and bullets endless supply.


It was another city in that lifeless book

where roses blooming grew

now the red velvet drapes luscious dew

on selfless souls. The look

still haunts – that glassy stare

of wide eyed wonder evermore

and destiny weaves its untold plot

 while we all count the score.

One, two, a thousand pleading eyes

beseech through tomorrow’s door

but drool frames what it loves the best,

Greed’s open corridor.


Love to mask the hate

soft voices to dim the noise

irony moves the cattle herd

and idiocy rules the wise.


To the Walls of Silence

Gather these droplets

while you may

the waves, to these shores

come today.

Who knows the bang,

the slip and crash

of muddy wall

and rocky crag

that tomorrow brings

and empties wall like

on sight, on flight

on the climber’s hike

who windward borne

on fantasy’s wings

careens away…

this tomorrow brings

thus tomorrow wins.

Spirit in Spirit Land


Once upon a time in spirit land,

there dwelt a spirit free.

She danced upon the dewy grass

and swayed with every tree.

The ways of nature

unknown to most

were songs for her heart

and slowly

through reds and browns

her story began its sprightly journey –

a past that blossomed free…

She looked wonder eyed at the world

the drops of rain in puddles fall

the mynah singing in the wind

the ants that turned each corner yet

called out to friends as they sped along –

All was the tapestry weave of love

the care that sprinkles from time to time

through water, sand, the caressing hand

on barren land.



Once upon a time in earthy realms

she started growing up.

The cues of nature murmured still

but had no voice

nor sudden thrill

as sudden as the peeping eyes

that gazed with wonder at her form

the tilt of chin upon her hand

the thoughts unfettered in the land

that she is grown, she has a heart

that beats and beats for half the world –

and the whispering shades of sharpened nettles

pricked the travellers’ wandering steps…

The turn of turns was when

her spirit succumbed to land lock

when silent nights were heavy and hard

and the spirit flayed within

tossing, turning, tousled head frenzy

gnashing at spite’s lithe form

restraining, holding back every inch

and smile’s war came to nought.



Once upon a time in spirit world

there was a cacophony

as new and old had gathered to see the end

to yet another story.

The beginning of ends is never alone

but watched by many an eye

serene – to sit and wait patiently

till time knocks on the window sill

calling forth with cushions of peace

to gaze one’s fill

and bide the day

as luck may soon despair

of moments in life

worse than death.

The now burdened spirit with afternoon bones

and flesh of wooden Monday blues

is still between this world and that

and the spirit world is silent yet

return to them she must she knows…

apples and oranges, pears and grapes

all wither, crinkle, add their bite

to sour lips and faces – wrinkles of time

before time has even run

she pauses and takes a deeper breath

for time’s stitch has come undone.


“I” – (A song for the Man who is always right)

Even as the story goes

all around

it’s the girl who’s wrong

and wrong and wrong.


Wrong colour, wrong shape, wrong size, wrong style,

nose too large and mouth too wide,

eyes that glitter when sparkle they should,

feet that trip when catwalk they could.


I wish, I want, I need, I, I.

Become the mantra for an industry’s supply.

Silky hair swinging side to side

Flawless skin one has ever spied.


She swings, she smiles, I hold my breath

I gasp for air when our eyes have met

I slide on the curves of Time’s refrain

Hourglass or dumbbell, they’re all the same.


I’ll guide her through what she needs to do.

Her shape, her walk, change her lipstick’s hue.

Her smile now fades, she frowns, she thinks…

Could she have a will peeping from those chinks?


She makes these statements that start with ‘I’,

she makes her point. Oh why won’t she try

to say yes and leave it well alone –

she argues she is fair and will my views condone!


Thwarted. Who me? Never can it be.

She’ll learn she argues unnecessarily.

I dub her rigid, I dub her wrong

and if she disagrees she’ll prove my song.

Ink in Progress…

You think I’ll retire at 65.

Does passion have a curtain call?

I have plans, ardour, fervour, zest

and hope that flutters flag-like in the wind,

I will resist downfall.


For the child of red dawn and burning heart,

knows marching strides from the cradle’s arms,

yet still you turn around and ask

if the tides of faith and caste and creed

will turn me back or will I go on?


I am the rolling plains of green

with a wild-flower crown of white –

If benign images are what you want, stop here –

I am the outstretched hand for truth but they grope me for my treasure chests,

while here in the dark I wait, I hope, I pray – for your love, loyalty and light.


Will you get up and hand me that torch

or will you a bonfire make?

I bide earth time to see a nation’s will, but so do the nations all.

And a good show they get from us I know,

you give Prime Time my heart, my soul… while they wait for the break.


Signed: Pakistan… (Diary entry no. 65)

Love’s Last Letter

Preview against my better judgement

that document of old,

wherein love wrote letters anew

and fantasy grew cold.


Alight Diana, from snorting steed

no knight shall follow yet.

For silken tresses and lovelorn eyes

have won battle’s fret.


Like to the trees the quivering shadows,

or new moon’s new delight.

The black crow snaps and bats screech –

the haunted canyon’s night.


A weathered page in an ancient book.

Will you mock the wise old head?

Sages and mages foretold it would

be better off as dead.

Ravine of the Hours

Diligent hands

run through the sands,

shockwaves of time

of kindred signs

fill the void

of eyes and eyes

of tears without water.


A semblance so real

though the eve be surreal,

poetry in motion

floats on air.

Deep down in the lair

a sparkle is born

not to be seen

never to be clear.


It moves in a spiral

down to the sea

born in shadows

will it ever be free?

Still the chain proceeds

and if the sea recedes

It will be,

It will be.

Elegy for the Victims of Bhoja Air Plane Crash

What tree, what lightning, what bloody ground,

all on board are dead.

What lament for the bloody crown,

for all on board are dead.


Fantasies may take wings and fly,

Wright brothers did not just dream,

Icarus was no Peter Pan,

Fate’s cards cannot be read.


Pine tree in Margalla’s ground,

you saw the bashful couple stroll

in shroud of white, then light, then shade

then fade… as all on board are dead.


An arm, a limb, torn from silken skin,

does it matter now what its colour was?

The hues of sunset mirror the loamy soil,

each tone a shade of red.


Grieve, the forlorn souls of yesterday,

tomorrow and then day after will come,

but never the smile, the pat, the hug,

now all on board are dead.

If I was a river…

This is the poem I almost read at this year’s SAARC Literature Festival in Lucknow, India. In the end I didn’t read it after all but ended up passing it around to others who wanted to read it. It has been a wonderful experience to recieve much praise for my spontaneous flow of emotion in verse. Since then, many have been repeatedly asking me to post it on my site. Finally I’m giving in… Read, enjoy and don’t forget to give me your feedback. 🙂

If I was a river

in the broken sands of time

I’d cut my way to the mountain top

and not flow to the sea.

But that’s just wishful thinking,

For a river i’d be

and must flow

where the plains take me

down, down to the cliff edge

merge me in with the rest

of the droplets impure.

Salt faces of white,

You think I cannot recognize

your cavernous deep

where none penetrates

and past secrets keep.

If I was a river,

I’d embrace all the stones

with softness of purpose

hewing, pinning, grating

sharpness to mould

and never give in.

Shine on in the mud

with decorations of my own,

fashioned patiently, flaunted last

in the beaming sunlight

when misty curtains pull back

with many a tragic sigh.

I’d rear my head

And rush to the fore

To kiss the hem of the rising –

the guardian banks ashore.

If  I was a river,

wild I would be

to see the seasons change

And let things be

joyful, sudden and free

between the sky and the earth.

Limitless, boundless,

leaping, I’d dance

letting leaf veils slip,

struck with glee.

But I am not a river,

and though the stones hit me hard

they stay unmoulded.

Like the river I’m bound

for destinations unfound

between the earth and the sky

a mist I descry

haunting my magical moments

it lets me twist but not away

sways in to lead astray

and I am not a river

to fix a path and go on my way.

Lit Fest Thumb Roll

White wings flap and shelter many a breeze

Above the chairs blinking at the sun

And thoughts bestir their heavy forms

In the city by the crags of roughened shore

While heads nod and silent drums roll

In carpeted corridors; awe rears its shapely head.

If a book is measure of a writer’s skill

Let the written word a drum beat be,

That for each drum beat along the walk of fame

Awe may accompany, the life that seems a mile above;

The charlatan of time and world

In glorious pen to sword structure seek

And bide clockwork like the chance

That robes kings of book-dom from dusty nooks

As picked out from the riotous rabble

They stand timorous till that purveyor of corridors

Snare drums each page, each word, each phrase

Drum,drum, drum.

Impressions from the Karachi Literature Festival 2012

Once Upon a Melting Pot

Apple of your eye, apple pie

Silken stress cut peel

I will not melt in oven strength

Or under grounded heel

Of crush stricken fantasy meet.


Melt in your mouth margarine

Sticking to the crystal boat

With pieces of my shredded shyness

Rubbed in by a rough shod toe

I slip away ashore.


Maybe still in marmalade pot

The orange will be an orange

For me to find my place

I grovel among the pleading mass

And the silver spoon thrusts me in.


Crust and crumbs I cling to you

As purveyors of the deep

As discarded survivors in the care worn dish

When fruit and nuts will mix

Yet again be whole.                   

Is it Time?

‘I believe in good’,

that was the past.

Is it time to make a change?

Do I rue the past for what it was?

Do I see in the ashes a flame?

Or is it a negative still

that shows false colours to me?

Black, blue and green

Is the world truly a better place

Than the lens lets me see?


Questions, questions,

useless rhymes.

Floating petals,

littered far.

Lick , lick the ragged fragment of sweetness

and make ashes ever more.

The dust that raised the grain of trust

will be dust and nothing more.


The autumn hues of sadness burst

and leave in place a taste

of molten gold, of coffee burnt,

of just another name.

3.50pm. 12/12/2011