In dreams we meet
a thousand times
You and I
We walk by seasides
giggling like children
Our words drifting
like sand and foam and bubbles
And the troubles
of our hearts
melt quietly aside
tide after tide
Life after life
I long to reside
This Winter too
shall fade to Spring
and green shoots
will ring true
Monday, 30 November 2009
Friday, 27 November 2009
7:45 pm. My younger brother, on his way to his best friend's wedding, phones from the check-in counter at Heathrow Airport. He is about to check in but, he says, could we check the news? A friend just rang him to say Terror Strikes in Mumbai, don't fly. But how bad is it really? Is it even true?
Panic stations. My mother, feverishly scanning the internet, her wild unhappy heart reading the article aloud, it's true, don't fly. Don't go. My brother's voice calmly interrupting, can I get an aisle seat? and the nice lady at the other end of the line gives him his aisle seat. And he checks in. Relax, he says (to us, not her), it's Bombay. By the time I get there the city will be back to normal. And anyway I have a lay over in Abu Dhabi. I'll be fine. Don't worry.
8:09pm, text message. Hey babes plane about to take off say a quick prayer for me i will call when i get to abu dhabi ok. If things are really bad i will just catch a flight home from there so tell mum not to worry.
Later that night
My older brother phones from a flat in Colaba, in Mumbai. Don't worry, he says, I'm fine. He had not gone directly to the Taj Hotel as expected; he had stopped in at a bar first, to chill with other friends. Busaba. Next to Leopold's. When gunfire exploded next door they stayed where they were. He is as calm as his brother. Just tired. It is 5am his time and he is off to bed.
My younger brother's fiancee phones from a flat in Singapore. It is 6am her time. Did he fly? My father, wresting the phone from The Women (my mother, myself), calmer even than my brothers, assures her Bombay is a civilised place and not to worry. So we are all not worrying now.
Thursday 27 November, 2008
Time crawls by, edgy and tasting strange. The phone rings. It is the younger one back at Heathrow Airport and time starts to move sluggishly forward. My father smiles a little, my mother a lot.
Later that night back at his flat, he rings again and we watch the news together.
Friday 28 November, 2008
The news is skewed to British interest. Like are the terrorists British Muslims? And it feels like the straight planes of time have just curved into a circle.
Fifteen years ago this month, we arrived in England seeking refuge from anti-Muslim riots, fire and fear. This year I am thirty years old and bearing a Muslim name gets no easier.
And I try to think back to a time when Muslim meant good. And ironically (or not) I think of Emperor Shah Jahan constructing the Taj Mahal in honour of his beloved wife Mumtaz. In the poetry of his grief he created something that has survived four hundred years of human catastrophe and destruction.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Friday, 20 November 2009
I'm crossing you in style someday
Oh dream maker,
you heart breaker,
Wherever you're going
I'm going your way...'
Monday, 16 November 2009
At the traffic lights, there was a girl, younger than me, but on the street, ages are hard to define. She was a flower seller. She was selling moghra flowers, sweet scented jasmine flowers. Was it morning, evening? Cannot remember. She smiled at me, and I smiled at her. And I knew in that moment, I would never forget her. She was my last real, true memory of the Bombay I had loved with every fibre of my being. She was staying, and I was leaving. I wanted to stay, maybe she wanted to leave? But her smile was pure joy, pure innocence - she was me, and I was her. It was a simple exchange. For her, brief, fleeting. It is not possible she has remembered me. But I, have remembered her, and will remember her, all my life.
Yesterday my mother and I watched Slumdog Millionaire. You have all watched it, no doubt, and could critique it far better than I. For it did not move me as I feared it would. The colours seemed bleached into a new Mumbai totally unfamiliar to eyes that have been faithful to the old haunts for long echoing years. Who or what was I looking for that I did not find in the film? Myself, perhaps.
Has my flower seller grown up? Has she survived the streets? Left the streets? Was she in Slumdog Millionaire? I will never know. All I know is I left a piece of my aching heart behind, with a stranger who has never felt like a stranger, in a city which was once my home, and now can never be.
Photos: Rubina Ali (young Latika); Freida Pinto (Latika) from Slumdog Millionaire
Thursday, 12 November 2009
I am remembering the first time my younger brother spoke of his true love for my sister-to-be. It was soon after I had had my own heart betrayed by a not so true love. And thought savagely that all poets were liars, and that all words were false. I was just gearing up to be a true cynic, weary and beautifully bitter... when everything changed. My brother fell in love. Fateful love. Find-you-across-the-other-side-of-the-world love. When-you-are-near-I-am-whole love. And I was undone...
Sunday, 8 November 2009
The circle opens
Monday, 2 November 2009
What more can I askof You, beloved?What more can I say?For You have heardall the wordsand shown meevery Way.