Friday, 28 February 2014

How The Temple Came To Be

“Why, Master, why?” asked the plump little myopic woman. She sat reverently at his feet, gazing adoringly up at his shining face (for it was a hot day) and waited for his answer.

He did not answer, and simply closed his eyes. She waited. A few moments of waiting meant nothing to her, for her search for him had been long and hard. It would have been even longer and harder, had she not known, before she set out on her search, that the one she sought was male. It would have taken her twice as long if she had had to sift through both males and females. Fortunately, she had a real good optician so despite her myopia she considered herself a fairly well-read woman, and she already knew that all the answers to all the questions lay only with those of her species blessed with external genitalia. 

After several minutes of waiting for Master’s eyes to reopen, she pondered for a second if her search had been long and hard enough. Would something longer and harder have been more satisfying?  But no! No! She berated herself. One must not ask questions! She knew this to be true, for Master himself had told her so. Her soul cringed. It was a weakness, she knew; a weakness to be kept hidden and silent like the complicated and somewhat messy bits of her own interior and inferior genitalia, that, like her, was born only to be a vessel to receive.

“Forgive me, Master,” she murmured, and he opened his eyes. 

“Oh, all right,” he said. “And because you recognise your faults, I shall,” he paused for emphasis, “I SHALL answer your question!”

The plump little myopic woman and many around her, huddled at Master’s feet, gasped in unison, and in awe, and also in curiosity. A few who had not really been paying attention gasped a moment later, once they realised that what was what everyone else was doing. Then they all leaned forward to better hear what Master had to say next.

“You ask me why,” Master said, after taking a sip of green tea. He paused to savour the added flavours (all natural) of lemon and honey. “You ask me why it is that people who follow different paths cannot live in harmony with one another. You ask me why it is that people who have been taught to lead good and charitable lives cannot fully extend their goodness and charity to those who follow different paths and worship different gods, although their gods bear similar messages.”

“Yes,” the plump little myopic woman muttered miserably, wishing she could have a cigarette right now, but it was not to be.

“It is a good question,” Master said. “Or a good paragraph of questions.”

The plump little myopic woman was relieved. She still wanted her cigarette, but she supposed it could wait.

“It is a good question,” Master repeated. “But it is an unnecessary question.”

The plump little myopic woman and all those around her were stunned into absolute silence. They did not know what to say about this, mostly because Master had not yet taught them what to say. He continued.

“You say that people on different paths cannot live with one another. Yet here and all over the world, they do. They are held together by an unseen force that will never be blighted. Though they may try, this unseen force will always ensure that they can never get as far away from each other as they’d like.”

“An unseen force?” the plump little myopic woman asked. “What is this unseen force, Master? Tell us of it.”

“I like to call it Gravity,” Master replied gravely. “Yes, Gravity. This is the unseen force that holds people together. Without it, the world would be a mess of strings and cables and chains and ankle weights. Gravity it is, that keeps our feet on the ground and our heads in the air. This is as it should be.”

The same afternoon, they began construction of the temple to Gravity. It was to be made of the wood of an apple tree. No, wait. Several apple trees. Here they would sing praises to Gravity. Here they would bow their heads to bring themselves closer to Gravity. Here they would make weighty offerings to ensure that Gravity would never be displeased with them or forsake them, leaving them footloose and fancy free in the dark  infinities of the universe. 

Master saw that it was good, and decided to take a nap.

The plump little myopic woman decided that Gravity would be pleased with her if she put on a few more pounds, and ate a chocolate-covered doughnut. It was good. Then she sat down to record Master’s words in writing, so that future generations could see for themselves these written words, for everyone knows that what is written must be true.


Irrefutable evidence that good opticians can be real, though they be expensive, 
and come with no guarantee that thou shalt thereby be a more beautiful person:

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Friday, 14 February 2014

No love in my heart.

And none in yours, either.  We've known for the longest time that this is not where love lives. Why are we still pretending that our emotions reside in our chests?

Perhaps it was the racing heartbeat in a moment of desire, or the warm security of a mother's breast, that first made humans think that love was somehow associated with the heart. Lovely in a symbolic sense, but we're in the twenty-first century now, we really should make better use of our brains. And after all, that is where the love is. It's all up there in our brains:  our passions, our desires, our pains.

The brain is where it all happens, so what's with all the heart stuff? Sure, it's a pretty icon in any colour, not just red, and it looks good on everything from tattoos to t-shirts, greeting cards and playing cards. A brain would be more accurate, but if I remember correctly, it's lumpy and pinkish grey. The heart's not just prettier, it's more recognised, worldwide, as the symbol for love. So should we just shut up and keep hearting the heart?

My concern is this:  are we perpetuating an untruth? How many of us are taking it for granted that love comes from our hearts, simply because our world and our media show it that way? How many children have absorbed this fancy as a fact, rather than the pleasing fiction that it is? Is it wrong to let that happen? Is it an acceptable wrong? I don't know. But I do know that if we still had pleasant fancies about falling off the edge of the world, there would be a bunch of people out there still believing that the earth is flat.

Keep hearting, by all means, if it makes you happy (or rich, if you sell Valentine's cards). Me, I shall give credit where it's due. So to those of you out there who I know and love, I have to say:  I don't heart you any more. But don't worry about it too much, because I brain you, people! I brain you!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Take a walk when the rain is gone

Take a walk when the rain is gone,
when the clouds hang uncertainly in the sky,
and the trees stand with bowed heads.
Soon the sun will return
and with a gentle hand
lift their faces up to him.
The earth breathes easily:
damp, challenged, refreshed,
and the evening sky speaks to me of heaven.

All around me is beauty born again and again.
When I am faced with my own frailty,
knowing this brings me some peace.
I shall have to die one day,
but the sky, the earth will thrill, will soothe other hearts.

I wish you shelter from the storm.
A warm mug of coffee, clasped in your palm.
Someone to love you, nestled
in the crook of your arm.
These are the things I wish for
you and everyman.

But may you also be content
to bear the brunt of a storm
or the dull dry weight of a windless day.
To take the bad for the good that may follow,
the hard that will with time be easy,
the cruel that might teach you to be kind.
May you take from life what you can.
Laughter and sunshine, thunderstorms and tears.


This poem was inspired about 25 years ago, by Daniel Day Lewis (yes, "Lincoln", and no, I don't actually know him personally). On my first and only and absolutely fabulous holiday to London, my friend Akila took me to the National Theatre to see Shakespeare's Hamlet. Lewis played the title role. He was brilliant. He BURNED. And then two days later, it appears, he burnt out:  collapsing on stage and having to retire to recover. When I heard about this, I felt such pain, huge waves of it. I'm still not exactly sure why. And then I sat down and wrote this poem.

P.S. This is a reworking of the original (from Dec 13th, 1989!), that I did tonight.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Bad citizens.

You will only appreciate the delightful if slightly demeaning humour in this if you have seen the recent public service announcements on Indian TV, encouraging people to vote.

If you are not familiar with it, or with the little black dot of silver oxide that gets put on Indian voters' index fingernails, or with Indian pronunciation, sit back, have a glass of vine and forget about it. If you are outraged, make it a glass of wodka.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Where did our dignity go?

Where did our dignity go?
I saw it once in an Englishman’s movie, so it must be true
that once we were noble and driven.

Perhaps it is hidden under a lump of complacence
rotting on our streets with the garbage
your maid threw there this morning
so that your house could start the day clean.

Perhaps it made it down the rubble that we call a pavement,
hesitating on the corner, too scared to cross
like the old man waiting for someone to slow down
and give him enough time to hobble over to the other side of the road.

Perhaps the price was too high
and it couldn’t pay, so it couldn’t get admission.

Perhaps it was the wrong caste, or no caste at all,
or perhaps it came barefoot,
and a young mother told it to get off the swings
that are meant for better-dressed children.

Perhaps it lost hope and drank itself into oblivion
like the middle-aged daily-wager passed out on the median
under a statue of Dr Ambedkar.

Perhaps it is low on a to-do list
and will always be set aside for tomorrow.

Perhaps it was a New Year’s resolution,
and we all know what happens to them.

Perhaps it is asleep,
or pretending to be asleep,
safe under the covers
so that the monsters cannot come out to get it.

Perhaps it does not know its own potential
like a woman kept indoors for her own safety.

Perhaps it cannot survive on its own,
like a child who needs a caring parent.

Perhaps the parent is us.

Perhaps it died, but 
we are a nation fond of reincarnation, so
perhaps it is wombed in our skulls,
waiting to be born.