Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Fullest Moon

I am here
Watching you from afar
Trailing in the dust
of my memories
Awaiting your command.

I was bound to you
Time before Time
And will be true
for Eternity.

Judge not my actions harshly,
I am but a simple handmaiden.

Will He deem me fit
to be your bride?
Do you notice I am missing
from your side?

The earth you crush
beneath your feet
is nearer to you than me
but the dust of your presence
rains on my heart
And love is not forsaken.

- Shaista

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


(Rituximab, Open Infusion Bay, James Ward)

The first drop
takes a long time to fall
down the endless tube
that feeds into me.

I glance sideways
at the man
in the adjacent chair
Lucky he does not
see me stare
at the Medusa
tattoed on his arm
His needle penetrates
her charms.
What would they say
if I suddenly stood
and burst into song?
Would they applaud
and encore for more?

Or bury deeper in despair?
What if the pious stood
and offered up a prayer?

It takes a long
time to heal
As long as the
slow drip
that slips down
to steal
my free B cells

The anatomy
of a human disease
has no real
Just a careful
of medical
and military rhymes

While the heart's
for more time.


Monday, 25 January 2010

Jodha Akbar

These images are taken from a film called Jodha Akbar starring Hritik Roshan as Akbar, the great Mughal Emperor of 1555-1605, and Aishwarya Rai Bachhan as his wife Jodha, a Hindu Rajput princess. The marriage was allianced for the sake of a peace treaty between Hindustan and her Mughal rulers, but the Princess, in true Rajput style, had two pre-nuptual conditions. The first was that she must never, under any circumstances be made to convert, and secondly, that a temple housing her idol of Lord Krishna be built within her chambers. Akbar, a little stunned, and very impressed, acquiesced. The mutual respect, trust and devotion between Conqueror and Consort sowed seeds of racial and religious tolerance all over India.

Today, 25th of January, is my parents' 34th wedding anniversary. Theirs is a Jodha Akbar story for our times. Marriage with a Muslim, no matter how handsome and splendid a doctor, was no easier for my mother, a true Zoroastrian, to agree to, than it was for the Rajput princess five centuries ago. It was a leap of faith that I for one, am very glad she made!

Today, inspite of the media hungrily devouring stories of racial and religious intolerance, I breathe deeply into time, and remember love that conquers all.
Happy Anniversary Perveen and Chotu!!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Bombay Dreams

For reasons I have not yet fathomed, there has been some sort of 'Indian Winter' season on UK television... further promotion of Slumdog Millionaire perhaps? However, I am not complaining! My favourite programme has been an entertaining documentary following a three week cooking extravaganza, from Delhi to Kerala, by chef Gordon Ramsay. He travelled to parts of India I have never been, and despite his colourful language, seemed to draw friendliness and compassionate curiosity from every person he met. It was such a joy to see Indians just being themselves, with no focus or emphasis or slant on religion or poverty, just on the joy and bliss and skill of cooking food. Whether it be ant chutney in tribal areas, slow cooked meals in the desert, or the unexpected inclusion of papaya and coconuts. Or whether its origins be Syrian Christian, Malabari Muslim or vegetarian Brahmin. Ramsay's distaste for vegetarian food underwent an incredible change and he was scolded and teased by eminent chefs from Lucknow to the slums of Dharavi. I did love watching it!

My little collection of photographs for this post are all thieved from my brothers' visits to India. I know they are thinking of me when they take these vibrant, evocative pictures. And I try not to bite my lower lip in envy, but it is hard. Fourteen years away from India and it seems everyone, including Gordon Ramsay, considers it their second home!
I shall return soon, I hope, but in the meantime, it is back into hospital for more Rituximab, and I can only carry these Bombay dreams with me.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Continuation Day

How does a part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?
- Rumi

The passing on of family and close friends is an acute loss none but ourselves can experience. The passing on of strangers, at all moments, in welcome and unwelcome places, requires a more ephemeral and amorphous understanding. Some of us are more aware of death than others, some of us find it easier to pray. Buddha taught that the death of the human body is but a manifestation and that on the day a person dies, we wish them Happy Continuation Day, for surely they will manifest elsewhere, if only in our hearts. I wrote this poem many years ago in memory of David, a dear family friend who passed away, and today, on hearing the news of another passing, I decided to post it.

A memory tugged at me
weeding in the garden
I looked up
to hear your laugh
reach the furthest branches

reminding me
though the light may dim
the birds sing on

Painting by Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Breaking (news)

Haiti hit by earthquake
Stones thrown to Malaysia
Glass splinters off
the gurdwara
and shards
find their way
to the dungeons, the brothels
of Cambodia.

There, if the earth quakes
and a million sighs escape
Death equates
to freedom.

Image from, Port-au-Prince

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A Cup of Snow

Last night while I was putting the paper bag out, the scent of snow re-awakened a memory. Not my own memory, but the memory of my favourite Uncle when he was 17 years old.
He was deeply in love at the time, and his misfortune was to be torn away from her for a family holiday in Kashmir. What could he do to prove his fidelity and steadfastness? He would bring back snow!
So on the last night, he trudged up to the highest part of the mountain in Gulmarg, and filled a bottle with fresh scented snow. He capped it, and on his return to the houseboat in Srinagar, tenderly tucked it into the fridge, awaiting its long journey home to Bombay. That night he slept the sleep of the valiant, victorious lover.

The next morning, to his utter horror, he discovered the bottle contained a mere quarter of its contents. A dribble of water. "Who touched my bottle of snow?" he bellowed. And my grandfather, equally horrified, confessed with deepest apologies. He had been terribly thirsty in the night, and discovering a bottle of cold water in the fridge, had thankfully glugged it down.

Image from the bbc website of a Kashmiri boy in Srinagar, India, carrying a bag of sand...

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Hello snow angels!!

I cannot remember the first time I saw snow in England. I remember it was pretty, and gone the next day. This yuletide snow, now this is the real thing. Disrupting the country, people unable to go to work, friends moaning on facebook about the sheer and utter boredom of Yet Another Snowman!
I love the cycle of passionate delight at the appearance of extreme weather and then the eyebrow raising monotony of it all - oh no, snow again! - it reminds me of waiting for the Monsoon, waiting, hoping to get flooded in, and then hating the trapped in feeling of weather mastering your life.

I made snow angels. I chucked snowballs. I made new friends this year gone by, did I tell you? All hospital long I gathered new names and faces in the world of mind and spirit, but then summer came and I returned home to a skittering of loneliness tugging at me. A restlessness of needing more than faraway friends. I hope that doesn't sound ungrateful. Have I ever mentioned how desperately lonely it can get tucked up and away in a little village on the outskirts of a city? And then, the young doctor appeared on the ward, and with him, in time, his wife, his brothers, their friends, and my very first New Year's Eve party... dancing and all!! (My younger brother rang the night before to ensure I went to the party, "Shaista! You are not staying home with The Parents! No guilt!")

So I went. I wore a hot little number and threw some serious shapes, and after we had all
congratulated each other on accomplishing the living of another year, I stole a candle and crept upstairs to the top of their house. In candlelight I recited some prayers to thank my prophets, my saints, my friends, my family, for their prayers, their love, the miracle of still being here. A friend joined me and she spoke of beauty and grace. She is a survivor of Rwanda's genocide, she understands suffering, and she understands grace. We shed some tears. We smiled mistily. And then, we blew out the candle, joined the party downstairs, and lit up the floor all night :)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Goodbye Christmas tree

Undecorating the Christmas tree
tier by tier
I unwrap each bauble
year after year
And name them each
in hope and good cheer.

This tree of life
Father cannot see
These pine needles
he brushes tentatively
This scent, these dreams
he gathers gently

And offers them
to me.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Year of the Spiritual Warrior

The first day of this year marks the first year anniversary of my blog. I began it then not knowing where it would lead me, not knowing the nature of the year that awaited me.
The year has passed. My feet have walked the Warrior's path, my heart has marked the beats between pain and the force of a power I cannot name, only know to be my saving grace.
You have walked beside me. Your shadows cooling me. And in the cradle of your arms your faith has allowed me to heal.
The Way of the Spiritual Warrior is the Way of Friendship.
And I thank you all for teaching me that.