Monthly Archives: February 2014

Threading the Needle

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A Bahrain Writers’ Circle Creative Workshop Exercise

Secreted from the underbelly of the moth caterpillar called Bombyx mori, it sat in suspension for thirty-five days, a single filament one and half kilometres long. The cocoon was plunged into a hot bath to loosen the glue that held the threads together. Then it was cooled so that this thread could be unravelled. The caterpillar died in the process. That fine single strand of silk, for which a life was sacrificed, then joined three other martyrs to form a thread of one of the finest, most prized fibres in the world.

It shone in the light with a gentle glow, blushing as each of its minute three-sided faces caught a sunbeam that exposed its lissom length and supple sinews. It glowed as a moonbeam caressed its tresses. And it stretched in pleasure almost to its tensile limit pleased at its own resilience as one of the strongest natural filaments in the world. Its pride was short-lived.

Before it could revel in its own existence, the thread was trapped. Caught and wound into a skein. Then, enslaved in a ring, the yarn was packed off to a fabled land, Turkey. Here in the dyer’s harem the skein lost the innocent cream of its youth and was plunged into an indigo dye.

The indigo whispered its own sad story of capture, beatings and torture. The two strangers in a strange land wept and embraced each other. As their tears mingled the indigo imbued the silk with the softest, most beautiful hue of sorrow – blue; the kind that shines bravely in the sun and glistens pensively in the moonlight.

Today, a three denier thread of that silk waits suspended, rigid with fear, as a lady’s fingers clutch its neck and aim to push it into the oval eye of a sharp metal spike. At the last moment the thread flinches and dodges the eye of the needle.

The lady looks at the thread, then gently slides it over her tongue. The wet muscular rough appendage arouses an old memory – the glue that once held each strand tight and safe in that cocoon of the Bombyx mori caterpillar so long ago. The recollection makes all three deniers cling to each other now stiff with anticipation as they fly through the eye of the needle. It is threaded.

And the slavery of the silk is complete as the metal spike pulls all three strands together through the squared fabric to form a blue daisy in the lady’s embroidery. The silk sighs as it succumbs to its eternal punishment, forever bent, never free to flow and dance in the light again except in minute parts of its length as it weeps across the tapestry.

Note: This was another exercise through the Bahrain Writers’ Circle – Creative Writers’ Workshop. Back then we had a different format: we’d do exercises and were then given homework to share at the next session.

I remember it was given to us by  Shauna Nearing Loej when, as a group, we were mendicants going from one refuge to another. At the time we were kindly granted a spot in a bookshop in Adliya. Shauna gave us us all a choice of subjects to write on. As usual I, ever the ‘teacher’s pet’, had done my assignment – the above post. It was an inspired piece although written frantically the night before we were due to meet. The atmosphere was perfect: dim lights, leather sofas and a slight chill in the air. I intoned my piece and at the time felt my voice sounded almost sepulchral, later I was told I sounded poetic! Anyway, this was met with such enthusiasm that I sent it to the Flaneur, where it still resides as a story under the same title! I’m hoping it’s okay to publish it here after almost two years. And I hope you will enjoy it.

NOW PODCAST

Thanks to Morgen Bailey, this is the first time a story of mine has been Podcast!

And, here are the links

iTunes
https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/baileys-writing-tips/id389840707

Just sharing the info… don’t feel obliged to listen to it 🙂

Other links taken from Morgen’s email to me:
I’m pleased to say that the podcast of your flash fiction is live. The direct short link to the relevant blog post is http://wp.me/p18Ztn-8Kp and long link ishttp://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/baileys-writing-tips-podcast-short-stories-episode-no-39. Feel free to use them wherever and whenever you like. I’ve also added the details to the Podcast Short Stories, Flash Fiction Fridays and Contributors pages.

The links to listen to the podcast are on the blog post but they are…

iTunes (the first item), Google’s Feedburner (scroll to the end), Podbean, Podcasters and Podcast Alley.

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Rebirth

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Shiva’s tandav nritya* the dance of destruction

He the transformer, limitless, omniscient

The holder of time the ultimate destroyer and creator

Man-woman centre of the trinity

Ever moving forward and backward

His cosmic dance

Frenetic in its final phases

We beat the drums and tablas

Dha din din tha, tha din din tha**

Urging him on to our final destruction, hoping to return

To a world reborn, renewed, refreshed

And pure as the first dew on the first day

Of the first dawn.

(*The dance of destruction
** Names of the basic tabla strokes)

First Catch

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I remember the jade green turbulence

Of the river Beas up in the Kullu valley

The summer I turned twelve and discovered rainbow trout.

When papa showed us how to bait the hook

And cast way out and stand on the rocky river bank

Making sure we didn’t stand in it as he did, knee deep in the water.

But on the side, waiting for the tug on the line

On my forefinger held against an already taut string.

Not for us the expensively bought silver flies

Imported from the UK because they didn’t make them here

And children learning to fish could so easily lose them

The Beas is a hungry river and runs almost as quick as thought.

And yet, we learnt to feel the fish as it nibbled squirmy worm

Painstakingly threaded onto the hook

Papa did that because the hooks might hurt our soft girls’ hands.

Stand still and quiet not a word, not a breath

The fish can hear us and will swim away

Instead look at the pines and the deodar silver green

Climbing silently up the Himalayan hillside smirking at us.

We watched them in the hush of nothing but the rushing river

And learnt to feel each breeze, listen to the birds

And the crickets in the growing evening light

And pay no heed to the insect that’s biting my thigh

A stern look from papa because I scratched

And then that creeping thrill when I first felt that other nibble

The one at the end of the line, different from the impatient tug of the river

The rainbow trout was having his last meal.

Tug, tug and reel it in, not all at once but slow

In the excitement I could wait no longer and pulled it all

Rod, line and fish arching over my head in a kaleidoscopic glitter

It caught the setting sun as it flew overhead scattering

Beas water clear as diamonds that came showering down on me

The trout landed on the grass behind

I ran to catch it

Papa at my heels – when did he reel in his line?

Now he was near me so that I wouldn’t try to get my trout off the hook.

Our first catch of the day was all of six inches long

And it was mine.

Palpitating gills and wide eyes.

We put it in a bucket of Beas water to keep it fresh

Later mama fried it along with the others we caught

Right there on the riverside in a pan on the primus stove

Everyone had a bit of my trout

The best fish I ever tasted, salted with success.

Note: The Beas is a river in the northern part of India that rises in the Himalayas and flows for some 470 km (290 miles) to the Sutlej River in the Indian state of Punjab.

Kullu, where my father took us on several fishing holidays, is located on the banks of the Beas River in the Kullu Valley. This valley, formed by the Beas, lies between two cities – Manali and Largi – and is famous for its majestic hills covered with Pine and Deodar Forest. Today, The Kullu valley promotes itself as a popular destination for trout fishing.  It is also the starting point of several trek routes into the Himalayas, white water rafting on the Beas river is also becoming popular. Back in the early 1960’s it was relatively undiscovered and as far as I recall, there weren’t any suitable hotels and so we camped in tents higher up the hill and walked down to the river every day in order to fish.