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…

 

Victor, vanquished

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I have often wondered what happened that day

That made me behave in such an uncharacteristic way-

Was I so jaded that my sensibilities were blurred

Was I so disillusioned that it never occurred

To me that on opposing sides were we

Fighting for our respective causes, similarly

Except.

My army was the victor, yours vanquished

On your own soil you were lying in anguish

When I heard your feeble voice calling for water

And I, be-numbed by indiscriminate slaughter

Approached you with caution, out of habit

Bloodied you were lying, by a bullet hit

My gaze caught your insignia, I realized right away

That you were in the enemy camp, but the way

You were lying defenceless, without a weapon nearby

Wounded perhaps fatally- here I don’t want to lie-

The idea of claiming one more life as a victory

Did cross my mind, but was tossed out in a hurry

Maybe there was an ounce of mankind left somewhere

Within me- or victory had made me generous- I am unaware

Of the exact reasons why I decided to help you-

You, from the enemy camp- it was dangerous too

 

I dragged you to my hideout, gave you water to drink

Dressed your wound, mechanically, I could not think

Or plan my next step, I was afraid, you know

To be seen helping my enemy so..

**

I had a heart that was dead, when the war was won

Yet something came alive each day under the sun

That I nursed your wounds, watched you grow stronger

Fed your body, nourished my soul, was afraid no longer

Of being seen with the enemy, because something told me

That this was the only way out of misery 

For both of us- regarding punishment, who cared anyway?

When we were dealing with nightmares everyday

**

We went separate ways, once you had recovered

I built a new life, never whispered a word

About what had transpired at the end of the war

Why dig controversies, when I had come so far

Privately, I continue of think of that experience

As a key instrument for my sustenance 

After the war, when a walking corpse I had become

Being with you had that lifelessness overcome…

**

My eyes are tearing up as I read today

Your moving account of what happened that day

You sent me the first draft of your memoir

You wanted me to see it before any publisher

Could set his eyes on it- it was an honor

For me to read this- from you, a published author

I had not known where you were, never thought

I would see you again- look where destiny had brought 

Both of us- the way we mutually saved each other

Does make a capital story, my enemy brother!

**

I am so excited to meet you tomorrow

To share our happy moments, and our sorrows

Drink to the day when we defeated the war

And made humanity emerge the victor!

(Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/idaney/random-acts-of-kindness/?lp=)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wandering Mind

“Let your mind wander in the pure and simple. Be one with the infinite. Let all things take their course. – Chuang Tzu”

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One of the lessons that I have been taught

Is the value of focused industry, tinkering is not

For maximal productivity, quite conducive

Giving a hundred percent to your work is the way to live

So when my mind wanders away like an aimless itinerant

I chide myself for lack of focus, I tend to resent

Those who are able to fully attend to the tasks at hand

They are the ones who rule the world, as I understand..

**

So I was intrigued when the concept was introduced to me

That letting your mind wander can boost your productivity-

May be not in tasks that are mundane and repetitive

But a vagrant mind belongs to a person creative

New solutions to problems surface subconsciously

When the mind is allowed to wander aimlessly

**

My mind protested- I am not in a creative profession

In fact, focused practice and dedication make a physician

My hours of the day should be filled with work that is constructive

I cannot idle away my time, surely I have much more to give

To the society by toiling away night and day

I don’t think I should let my mind wander away..

**

This is what I thought, until I realized

The truth staring at me, and it left me surprised

My problem-solving was best in the day

After exercising, since my mind had been wandering away

While the rest of the time I was trying to tame

My roving mind to pay attention, subjecting it to blame

Each time it derailed- while getting my daily exercise

I let my thoughts drift away, turns out I was wise

**

Letting your mind wander is a form of rest to the brain

Rest rejuvenates, as we know, and once again

I was reminded of the value of random thoughts

Without which, my creative space would exist not!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The six yard wonder

“The six-yard wonder” refers to a saree/ sari, the traditional garment of India.

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Six yards of fabric draped around me

Six yards of tradition and history

Six yards of connection to my roots

Rebelling against my boring dress and boots

Six yards that make me travel back in time

To the mirror in front of which I would mime

My mother, exuding her kind of confidence

Wearing a saree was the best form of “grown-up” pretense..

Six yards that marked the rite of passage

Of finishing high school, of coming of age

Draped in gauzy silks for the farewell party

Similar to prom, yet as unique as it could be

Snapping photographs in the era before

Instant sharing on social media came to the fore

Six yards of elegance in a muted hue- 

Personality enhancer for my first job interview

Pressed and pinned, perfectly pleated

A business-like look, not often repeated

Six yards of brilliant silks that accompanied

Me on my journey to wedded bliss indeed

In shades of bright red threaded with gold

With henna, jewelry and adornments bold

Captured in still photography and moving reel

Six yards that made me like royalty feel

**

Six yards of resplendent silks lying tucked away

That I found while cleaning my closets one day

Relics of a past that in my life at present

Seemed to have, I admit, limited relevance

No occasion to don those six yards, or flaunt

My Indian roots, yet at that moment my heart did want

Me to drape the fabric, and pretend to be

An Indian diva in all her finery..

**

So, while my husband and child were away

I decided to dress-up and play

With various clever ways to drape

The six-yard wonder, and escape

Into the past, in the land of my origin

Loving the feel of smooth silk against my skin

Of course I was decked up when my family returned

The admiration in my husband’s eyes made me learn

That he liked my ensemble, much more than I had expected

My son was amazed, as the ornate “pallu” he inspected

**

Since then, whenever I want to feel a connection

To my roots, I go through my expanding collection

Of the six-yard wonder, that never fails to put a smile

On my face, I recreate my country in my exile..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Translator

25299154_10155906710596241_8737651808013923264_nShe loved words, this was no secret at all

They played in her head, to her they called

Voraciously she read, mostly in a language

She had adopted to be active on a wider stage

 

Well-versed was she in the vagaries

Of English language, loved the imagery

That brought alive in her head tales countless-

Words were magical-she could confess…

**

Words she loved, and longed to write

Yet despite all her insight

Into the world of words printed

She could not conjure a story, instead

She spent her time chronicling reviews

Of books she read, she would choose

With care how she reviewed each one

Yet she felt unfulfilled, this was not fun..

**

One day in a flea market that she frequented

She came across a book, quite nondescript

In her native tongue- it was unusual

To find books in languages regional

In the United States, for who would read

A book with limited readership indeed?

For a quarter, it was an investment quite good

She was its rightful owner, read the book she could

She settled down in her reading nook 

Proceeding, without expectation, to read the book

**

Halfway through the book, she was spellbound

It was a masterpiece all around

A well-spun yarn, though in India based 

The story was universal, it could have been placed

In any corner of the world, it would still resonate

With its readers, this she could confidently state

**

She finished reading, then googled immediately

The author of the book, out of curiosity

Very little existed on her on the web, but she did persist

An idea was forming in her head that she could not resist

What if she translated the author’s work into English?

It would be a way for her to fulfil her wish

While  exposing to a wider platform the regional author-

Yet the first roadblock was how to find her..

**

Consumed with her idea, she traveled back

To India, with some ingenuity she managed to track

The whereabouts of this elusive writer

Then managed to schedule a meeting with her

Turned out she had written much more

Though few read regional literature anymore

The writer was nonchalant about her proposal

At least the idea was not greeted by a refusal

So with her permission she proceeded to translate

The first book, to her it was pre-ordained by fate

**

Words came alive as she continued to translate

Embellishments she added, but did not deviate

From the essence of the story, she was done

In a remarkably short time, THIS was fun!

**

That first translation launched a career

For her in the literary sphere

A renowned translator for her language she became

Her translations brought indigenous writers fame

She still marvels at the serendipitous discovery

At the flea market- that wrote her success story!