Tag Archives: poem

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.

 

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.

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

To Farah


If joy could fill a tear

your tinkling laughter

would shatter the cloudy cocoon above

and be radiant in cat’s eyes.

 

Aspirations unknown

between the patterned mosaic

of life that ebbed

before the tide at dawn.

 

The heart not healed

but meant to heal

the ripples of a shadowed moonlit bed

of promising buds.

 

Rest in peace cherub

of the twinkling eyes.

Your oyster shell

remains unopened.

02/07/2011 Dedicated to my student Farah Sadia who passed away today at dawn.  May Allah bless her and give strength to all her family members and friends to bear with the loss.

N.B. The name Farah ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’. She was a good student, the proud owner of nearly 20 cats and a cherished friend for those who knew her. May her soul rest in peace.

The Fifth Day of Power Failure


 

Ramazan in the eyes of a four year old:

oozing jalebis, tangy samosas and chilled red blood,

that he likes and doesn’t.

Call of the muezzin; the call for lights off

and such sweetness are memories made of…

 

Shadows that lengthen.

The scenes fade away.

And all that remain are the spoils of that day.

 

Gathering dust, storm clouds flit to the north.

Barren rocks do not empty bellies fill but

will lightning leave its stormy drill?

The earth has treasures and so does the sky…

 

Leg shackled to the pole of power

will he look up or down?

That clot, that blot, that mortal wretch

who fifth day of loss with tearless eyes

faces the winds of change.

 

The lights go off in those selfless eyes

and he stands with shoulders bent.

The burden of a fiery spirit

chained in bliss of solitude

that has never led the feet astray.

He stays where chained,

he stays where put.

The rubber burns, the smoke rises,

the chains fall down,

he …

 

Where is he?

 

10:00 pm

24/06/2011

 

Karachi – Our Mega-Village.


DHA Karachi by twilight

I wrote a short poem titled ‘Our mega-village’ way back in 1998. I had recently found out back then that Karachi is actually technically known as a mega city in line with others like Mumbai, London, Paris and New York etc. 14 million people approximately in 1998 = mega city. It is 2011 now. Irony: My words written back then ring true more than ever today.

Case in point: My area in Karachi has been without electricity for the past 36 hours and counting… KESC (Karachi Electric Supply Corporation) workers who are happily on a strike have ‘unofficially’agreed to fix the ‘tranformers’ ‘PMTs” for Rs 200 per house. DHA (Defence Housing Authority/Society) area is the worst struck. Known as one of the ‘poshest’ areas of the city, it calls for greater attention ‘ofcourse’ as the revenue through bribery is expected to be higher than any of the others. Hence while other areas of the city function as normal – with occasional loadshedding thrown in to remind residents of the power (all pun intended), DHA residents boil in the heat. No electricity or lack of generators equals lack of water in tanks. In some areas the rates are Rs 1000 per house and Rs 20,000 per lane. Even after payment the power supply has not been resumed. Hence we have a bleary eyed me posting this page from the past of 1998 coupled with regret and a resounding echo in 2011…

In a bygone era it was a novelty,

for people who went to stay in villages,

without water, gas or electricity.

But now we can enjoy that very same state

just by living in this mega-city!

23/06/2011 Update: 52 hours and counting and no sign of electricity supply as yet. Freezer items have perished yet surprisingly enough, Man’s resilience shines through. We have learnt to co-exist. The cool sea breeze is helping as well after days and days of blistering heat as Nature seems to be taking sides here.

A colleague reported that Rs 20,000 was the price for getting the PMT in her area fixed. Even then, power supply was restored after 48 hours. Another friend reported interesting scenes outside the KESC office where all bearded and cloth-above- the-ankle workers were seen lined up for a hunger strike with another line of lemonade (nimbu pani) and rooh afza (local sherbet) selling pushcarts right beside them. If beards are an emblem of humility and God fearing attributes, I wonder why we are being told that police protection is necessary for those who want to help and fix PMT (transformers) in the vicinity?

I hear menial workers making fun of the educated, sophisticated sufferers for their stupidity in not being daring enough to step out of their homes, bash up KESC workers and set fire to tyres on main roads. If that defines ‘daring’ in this country now, I wonder what will become of the word ‘tolerance’… ?

 

Update at 23/06/2011 (10:30 pm) from the dark. A kescwala affirms that other ousted kesc workers attack those who come to fix things.

A friend from PECHS congratulates me on suffering only for 4 days now as she got electricity back after 5 days… I’m actually lucky for once. Wow!

Meanwhile things look bleak in DHA especially in Phase VII where despite repeated promises, KESC or the Darakhshan police have always managed to miss each others’ timings. Residents in the meanwhile have turned it into a war situation leaving the menfolk in some houses at the forefront and the women and children being shunted off to the cooler climes of other relatives with light. Meatless days… lightless days. All in the same boat.