Tuesday 28 April 2009


(for Mary)

Who is it?
Right outside my door
Footsteps getting nearer
then silence once more.

What do they want?
Right outside my door!
Peering in at me
through the shuttered blind
Here I am!
Have you come to find

Footsteps thundering
when the alarm bells ring
they run, then stop,
laughing hysterically -
What relief!
The patient breathes!
And all is quiet again.

No, I recognise no-one's feet
Right outside my door
Are they friendly feet?
Or scary feet?
Will they want more

Oh how I wish I had a twin
Who could stand guard outside my door
and whisper when they're coming in
and when I can ignore
the clicking, the tapping,
the shuffling, the stop
and starting
of strange feet
my door.

Saturday 25 April 2009


( A friend visited, and did not like to see the tears in my eyes, my tiredness. "I am a river of sadness, " I sighed. "Well you can't be," he said sternly. "There's no such thing. Rivers move and change and take things away with them and pick things up, like flowers and happiness. Write me a happy poem!"
So Giles, here is my happy poem. It is the story of my first walk in too many weeks to count.)

Under a blanket of sky
We walked, my brother and I
down to the field of gold.
You pulled up a blue chair
I sat like a queen
in the path of bees
and butterflies
and seeds.
I wiggled my toes
in the cool fresh grass
and unfurled my wings
a little, at last.
You plucked me a flower
Pink on the rim, yellow within
Oh magical hour
Walking in the light
Under a blanket of sky
My big brother and I.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Cherry Tree

I have missed the flowering
of the cherry tree
Falling petals rain down on me
A carpet of white and mossy green.

I am soaring high
to the furthest trees
with the kissing bees
and the singing birds
and swooping down
with the lowering sky
to brush the earth
with clouds of skirt.

april 10th 2009

Sunday 19 April 2009


(for Udai, Rahul, Mira and John)

I felt an angel
Tread gently on my heart
And perceiving numerous ripples
Withdraw the tender touch

I heard an angel
Whisper gently in my ear
And beholding my disbelief
Feed silence to my fear

The angel saw me cry
And smiled despite my grief
For the angel saw diamonds
Falling from my cheeks

When we were children growing up on Westfield Estate, in the heart of Bombay, my brothers and I were fortunate enough to be part of a great big gang. Evenings were for playtime and birthday parties were the best fun - and once when someone had conjunctivitis, all of us were wrestled on to the bed and forced to endure eyedrops by my strict and careful mother. Oh how those eyedrops stung!
One member of our gang was Udai - the most vibrant, funny and naughty one and naughtier still when teemed with my little brother. One day he came running into the house and shouted to my father, "Uncle! Irfan fell out of the tree! Uncle! Bone is sticking out!!" The household jumped into action - my brother was tenderly carried in and laid on his bed. My father, the anxious doctor, carefully examined the precious limb, while my brother whipped into a frenzy by Udai, moaned and thrashed around. Of course there was no bone sticking out, and the boys were soon back in the garden playing hard. But the story has stuck forever.
Udai passed away six years ago today. I think of him and draw strength from his spirit, wherever he is. And all of us can still hear his laughter ringing in our ears. Bright merry boy, we miss you.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

April 14

I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on.
- Joni Mitchell 'River'

I am a river today
a river of sadness
Does a warrior cry?
Where do tears come from?
Don't cry Don't cry
Be happy Be happy
Oh how tired I am today
I am a river of sadness today
But I am sitting up today
in the corner chair by the window
staring at the white white bed
and straining for the first sweet refrain
of birds.

April 12, Easter Sunday

Now Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"
But he himself was broken
long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom
like a stone.

And you want to travel with Him
And you want to travel blind
'Cause you think maybe you can trust Him
'Cause He's touched your perfect body
with His mind.

- from 'Suzanne', Nina Simone

April 12th, Easter Sunday
Day 40. Forty days and forty nights. Wasn't Jesus tested for forty days and nights at Gethsemane?
The central line tubing in my jugular was placed successfully but the three access tubes connected to the main catheter weigh heavy on my neck. The last four days have been so unbearable that I too felt that I have been abandoned and forsaken by the One I trusted to watch over me and ease my suffering.
Today it is a little less unbearable inspite of the high fevers, mouth and throat ulcers, necrotising lymphadenitis, glaucoma, pericardial effusions, heart murmur, thrombophlebitis, left axilla biopsy...
Just writing all that makes me smile (don't worry, I haven't lost my mind) - because I am proud of my own intelligence! Proud to string together sentences which contain words like 'axilla' and 'jugular'. And so very proud to have been able to explore medicine under the aegis of a man like my father. Not only a highly respected consultant in Bombay and a skillful diagnostician, but a man whose faith runs deeper than space or time.

Friday 10 April 2009

Soul Quakes

There it is
At high noon in wintry cool
I am behind the curtain, breathing ever so slightly
Watching the wind rip the grass
and sunlight dance through my hair
making chestnut waves in a black rainbow

How do you accept that there is the hot sun
and yet you are freezing?
How do you learn that to smile is to live
and to doubt is to die?
How we burn and lie and cringe
Crying that we are suffering
as we feed our hungry demons

And between soul quakes and tremors
the beloved waits patiently
aching and starving

I don't know when this was written. The page lies open on Shaista's desk at home. Untouched since she went into hospital 5 weeks ago. Things continue to get harder for her. They've finally given up on trying to inject anything into her arms and have moved on to other even more painful places. The pain and discomfort continue - invasive causes mixed in with internal ones. Talking is getting harder and so is focusing on things being read out. And so we all wait.

Thanks for all the comments and messages. As ever, keep them coming and we'll pass them on. Much appreciated. Rizwan.

Monday 6 April 2009

Fire and Brimstone

Fire and clay and brimstone
Something has changed in me
have wrought through
and through me.
I am changed.
I am becoming
Something I once knew
would be me.

Sunday 5 April 2009

In My Two Hands

(A poem by Thich Nhat Hanh)

I hold my face
in my two hands
No I am not crying
I hold my face in my two hands
to keep my loneliness warm
to cradle my hunger
shelter my heart
from the rain and the thunder
Two hands protecting
Two hands nourishing
Two hands preventing
my soul from flying
in anger.

I hold my face
in my two hands
My hands cupped
to catch what might fall
from within me
Deeper than crying
no, I am not crying
I am in my two hands.


Thay wrote this poem when bombs were falling on his beloved Vietnam, and he had to take care of his anger in solitude. I love this poem. It is set to music and sung beautifully by the nuns.

My soul is not leaving me in anger, but my body is in trouble. The first round of I.V. immunoglobulins has not worked, and another round is planned for next week.

In the meantime I am spiking high fevers every night and spend my days working slowly and mindfully to cool my body. Ice water, paracetamol, breathing, smiling.

Yesterday I asked my mother to bring some pictures from my bedroom wall at home. So now when I turn my head to the right, my teachers, my healers, are close beside me. Prophet Zarathushtra, Jesus, Sai Baba, Thich Nhat Hanh. On either side of the wall are windows, blinds drawn for my photophobic eyes, but all day long, some light finds me.

Back to my ice water cloths. Bless you all for reading me and writing to me. The depth and kindness of your comments soothes, comforts, and cheers my parents and my brothers too.

Sometimes, when I ask myself, "Is this real? Is this really happening?", I think of my creative blog, the connections beyond myself and I stay purposeful.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Dear Readers,

Today is 1st April. April Fool's Day! If any of you have a good joke you have played on someone I would love to hear it:) Today also completes one month since I was admitted.

I am experiencing a pang of hunger as I write. This is entirely new for me as I have been on a chemotherapy drug called Methotrexate for a decade, and hunger and appetite long deserted me. But the Methotrexate was stopped this admission by the very lovely Dr. Shweta Bhagat who also organised for me to have 12 bottles of ImmunoGlobulins. Her arrival in my life is only one of the many, many miraculous things that have happened this admission.

I am using every resource and skill I have acquired since my first hospital admission 12 years ago. I was a different girl then, at 18. She thought she was on the brink of something dreamy and romantic; instead she got needles, toxic drugs, a diagnosis of Lupus.

I am fighting to pull through, gripping my vine of light. And I wanted you to know that every prayer of yours, every good thought and wish for me brings something good to me - a special doctor, nurse, treatment, kindness.

Some things go horribly wrong, like they did today, but they come right. This is the hardest hospital admission of my life, and the most important.

And I want you to know that I know I am not alone.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.