Compliment

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My daughter, to you I must apologize

For the compliment I gave you the other day

When I called you “pretty in your dress”, I did not realize

That years of conditioning had made their way

Into this seemingly innocuous comment of mine-

A comment that flawed perceptions did validate

Calling you pretty was an unmistakable sign

That from societal norms I find it difficult to deviate-

In that moment I thought about you in your outfit

Though you were going out for a mathematics quiz

I realized my folly soon- this did not sit

Well with me at all, therefore the self-analysis..

I let you down (and myself too)

I should have focused on your intelligence

Instead I thought about your beauty, it’s true

The wrong attribute again took precedence

To your brother I would not have said

Something similar, my comment would have been

Geared towards his mental capability instead

Yet this is the discrimination I’ve seen

Over and over again, all around me

This behavior is so deeply ingrained

For a female, we think of her outer beauty

First- before we remember she has a brain

Next time I decide to pay a compliment

To a girl- in my choice of words I shall be conscious

I shall think of each field in which she is competent

Only then on physical attributes shall I focus

This is what I shall endeavor to do, my daughter

And if I fail, give me a gentle reminder..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refugee

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I think about this every single day

Why did my life have to turn this way?

 

Don’t get me wrong, I know I am in luck

I am still alive, I am no longer stuck

In the hellhole that my country has become

Fortunate to get asylum are only some

Here I am in a land that has accepted me

On its soil, albeit hesitantly

Beggars cannot be choosers, you might think

Yes, the war did bring me to the brink

Of begging for my life and freedom

To knock at doors of anyone who would welcome

A refugee fleeing from the horrors of war

I cannot believe I have come so far

From the respectable citizen I used to be

Before my country was thrown into savagery

 

Yes, I am living, and my family is well too

Considering everything my people have gone through

Yet something in me is broken, beyond repair

I find it hard to see beyond the veil of despair

I was a manager, now I work in a store

For minimal wages, to feed my family of four

Yes, I am grateful that a job I could find

Yet thoughts of despondency cloud my mind

I am afraid that my feeling of insecurity

Will continue, throughout life, to haunt me

 

Then there is the survivor’s guilt I cannot shake

From my mind, news from my country threatens to break

Me into pieces, each time I hear stories of horror

Of innocents dying, including young children and mothers

If prayers have some power, fervently I pray

For this madness to stop, every single day

 

Yes, I think about it constantly

How the senseless war has torn my country

Forcing countless people like me

To be labeled “refugees”

But I am alive, I remember with gratitude

As I set out for my job with fortitude..

(Image: The Global Refugee Mural by Joel Bergner:  https://myhero.com/action_ashe_global_refugee_2011)

 

 

 

 

 

Change of Heart X 2

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I am here to share with you my history

I am grateful for the lesson life has taught me

To recount my story, finally I feel bold

Because the consequences of it remaining untold

Would weigh heavily on my rather fragile heart

I am not proud of it, but let me start…

 

Growing up I took my privileges for granted

Living in a wealthy neighborhood, whatever I wanted

Was mine- world travel, university education et cetera

Membership of exclusive clubs, which came with perks extra

Even though much of the world I had seen

There were places close by to which I had not been

In those circles, imperceptibly I acquired

An air of superiority and some biases undesired

I am ashamed to say that I once believed

In white supremacy, yes, I was a racist indeed…

Yet back in those days I did not realize

Any of this, because invisible to my eyes

Were people of color, they inhabited worlds different

That I could not imagine, to which I never went..

 

I must admit, that unfortunately, I did not set

The best examples for my children, I let

My prejudiced notions be passed along

To them, never thinking that I was wrong

Somehow they turned out much more liberal than me

For which I now thank God immensely

 

I know you are curious to know what led to

The “change of my heart”, I am coming to that too-

In my middle age, I developed cardiomyopathy-

A weakening of the heart, as bad as it could be

A heart transplant was needed for me to live

For that I needed a once living soul to give

Me a young healthy heart after an untimely demise

After months on the transplant list, I got my big prize

I received a change of heart, literally so

From a donor whose identity I could not know

(Complete anonymity between the donor and recipient

Of a transplant is maintained, it is a requirement)

 

Fast forward a year, having recovered remarkably

I was curious to know the donor’s family

I reached out to them following the established protocol

The donor’s mother and I decided to meet following a brief call-

 

While for an emotional encounter I was prepared

This short journey took me where I would not have dared

The address was in a decrepit part of the town

As we drove to the appointment, I could not help but frown

We stopped before a ramshackle tenement

And entered an even more dilapidated apartment

 

The lady who greeted me was considerably younger than me

She smiled, then started weeping inconsolably

She told me how her eighteen year old had died a year ago

In senseless gun violence, even though

He had been a bright kid, the first one in his neighborhood

To have been accepted to college, he was that good

Then she dried her tears and made the sign of the cross

As I mumbled uncomfortably how I was sorry for her loss

She replied she was grateful to see various recipients

Of the organs of his deceased child, it gave her strength

To go on living, because one thing she knew

Her son had been noble in his death too..

 

I had a second change of heart that day

Color distinctions in my mind melted away

Had I met my donor in life, I would not

Have associated with him- this thought

Now made me shiver, here I was, alive

Without his heart I would not have survived!

 

Since then, I have had this thought-

I survived because a lesson I needed to be taught

If not for the transplant I might have lived and died

Racially prejudiced, I might have been denied

The opportunity to learn that distinctions of color and race

In the realm of humanity, have no place..

(Image source: dnaindia.com)

Life quantified

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Everything in his life was getting quantified

He loved numbers, this trend was justified

He used various fitness apps on his phone

What motivated him were numbers, and numbers alone-

Of calories consumed, steps walked, miles ran

To improve his life, he numerically tweaked his plans-

To subtract calories, add physical activities, some more

No wonder he had not been as fit in the days before

These apps came in his life- the hegemony of numbers extended

To other aspects of his life, his academic success depended

On the “number” of citations his papers had received

His TED talks were viewed by many, the number of views were perceived

As indicators of success in an era of  short spans of attention..

Each day he would scan his social media profiles with some apprehension

To see how many likes his posts, professional and private had received

The numbers could drive his spirits up and down indeed

He continued to count his “successes”, continued to go higher

On the professional ladder, numbers propelling him like fire..

**

He felt invincible, until out of the blue, one day

A sharp pain in his side stopped him, took his breath away

He had a serious illness for which treatment was initiated

Now all the counts, all the numbers were relegated 

To the back of his mind, as he lost count completely

Of  drugs, hospital visits, blood draws to which he subjugated meekly

At one point it seemed his days were numbered on this earth

That’s when he realized numbers had no worth..

**

Miraculously, the tide turned and he made a slow recovery

Getting back to a normal life was indeed a luxury

It took such hardship for him to realize

That the numbers that had been important in his eyes

Were meaningless, when quality of life was poor

Quality was better than quantity, of this he was now sure..

 

 

 

 

Musings on Women’s Day

womenI wonder often, why in this age and day

We need to celebrate women in this way

On one day out of 365, as if the rest of the year

We as a gender do not matter in the global sphere?

Forgive me if I am harsh, but I find

The need for a separate day depressing in my mind

I am even more dismayed to read

That gender parity is 200 years away, on my newsfeed

I guess this is the day to launch one more

Hashtag campaign with renewed vigor

The campaign theme for this year is #PressforProgress

The issue of gender parity it aims to address

Words cannot express how disheartening it is to me

That work of men and women is valued differently

Knowing the statistic I have no inclination

To think of this day as a cause for celebration..

And if the statistic quoted above is true

Gender parity is a distant dream too

One that I would be unable to see

Realized in my lifetime unfortunately..

**

The day draws to a close, and I shall end

By acknowledging the power of strong women!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tryst with Prayer

DSC06803.JPGWas taught to fold my hands and pray

When I was young, back in the day

 

With eyes closed and barefoot

In front of the various idols I stood

With my hands folded, quite unsure

If the couplet I whispered in Sanskrit pure

Had in my life, any relevance at all

Whether God was even hearing my call

Yet every morning I repeated the ritual

I daresay the experience was barely spiritual

**

Years passed, from home I moved away

The childhood habit of starting each day

With a prayer was lost somewhere along the way

Exactly why it happened, I cannot say-

There were no shrines the way there used to be

One at home, also, as more of the world I did see

Religion and spirituality appeared concepts inane

Grounded in reality, I considered myself sane

So I forgot how to pray, and did not realize

That discontentment with my life was on the rise..

**

Living in a land where I happened to be

A part of the religious minority

To a place of worship I rarely went 

My time in other pursuits was better spent

Then one day, in the midst of times that were trying

I chanced upon a small Hindu temple, vying

For attention at the end of a strip-mall

At that moment I heard for prayer a call

Self-conscious in my Western garb, I proceeded

To enter the temple, and then succeeded

In closing my eyes and whispering a prayer

In that moment, I felt my broken soul repair

And I wondered why I had not bothered to pray

All these years, it was as if my lost soul had found its way…

**

Now I pray often, more than once a day

I am a calmer, more balanced person each day

Prayer is an invocation to our own souls, I would say

When you lose control of everything, you can still pray..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O’ elusive slumber..

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‘Let me have men about me that sleep at night’
Said Julius Caesar, and by jove, he was quite right
For blessed are the souls who can sleep
A sound slumber, restorative and deep
Those fortunate folks who are not tormented
By demons of anxiety and such: I have often lamented
My inability to sleep well, plagued by emotions
Of anger, inadequacy, envy, dissatisfaction
That encroach upon my ability to rest
Many nights, despite trying my best
To end my days with positive vibes and gratitude
I long for the emotional stability and platitude
That would allow me to forget at least temporarily
All the slights and misgivings, real or imaginary..

Yet there are days when after putting in hours though the day
Of honest work, accumulating good karma along the way
I am able to find the elusive depths of sleep
The next day glorious rewards I reap
That follow a mind and body that wake up refreshed
I hope to continue in the same vein until my hopes are dashed
And a bad day gives insomnia as a gift in parting
I can foresee the cycle of misery restarting..

The only way I know to break this cycle (I keep trying)
Is to work harder in the day, such that upon lying
Down at night, I can channel in gratitude
And close my weary eyes with the right attitude…