Category Archives: Memories

Shenanigans gone awry

Standard

When I chose to work in advertising so many years ago I had no idea at the time that it would prove to be so much utter, unmitigated, idiotic fun. Someone, somewhere looked down on me and decided that I needed to come out of the shy shell (yes, those of you who know me now mayn’t believe it but I was once painfully shy) in which I enclosed myself. It was a self that smiled and giggled internally. The giggling I must confess sometimes burst out of control. And then I laughed with such abandon that those around me joined in even when they didn’t know what I was laughing about.

School friends, classmates… you remember. don’t you? In fact recently I met an old friend who asked me, “What happened? When did this personality change take place?”

Blame it on advertising. Blame it on the Creative Department. Read the rest of this entry

Solitude

Standard

Some poems take a lot more out of me to present to the public. This one was written more than thirty years ago. It lay among my papers, then I had to “de-clutter”, so I transferred, those I was somewhat partial to into soft copy versions. It was one of those pieces that I kept coming back to wondering if it was “naff” or okay. Finally last year, it was  published in Robin Barratt’s collection of prose and poetry titled Lonely. It’s also available on Amazon.

Robin approached me and asked if I wanted to write for his rather sad, but cathartic collection. Along came this poem and three others all written at roughly the same time.

I guess it’s time to share it here.

solitude

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such solitariness I have known

Total. Complete.

The satisfaction of being myself

And me alone.

The breezes were my playmates

The rains were made for me

Who else had I need for

And who had need for me?

 

But then a yearning filled me

Strange and hitherto

Alien to my soul.

A disturbing thrashing around of my spirit.

I searched

I called

I wept

To the unfeeling skies above me

Surely, somewhere

There was someone else like me!

This solitariness I too have known

That I live and die

Alone.

light2

Lest we forget

Standard
A painting by my friend Serena Stevens

A painting by my friend Serena Stevens may she rest in peace she battled cancer as valiantly as any soldier

November is a month to remember. Loved ones lost to all kinds of battles… on the front in war, of course, but there are other battles that some folk wage against disease – that dreaded, insidious, cancer; stroke victims, who wage a daily battle with bodies unwilling and unable to respond to the simplest of their wills; so many other ailments and conditions that render folk dealing with pain on a sub-chronic daily basis, the list is a long one. This November I’d like to remember them all.

I can’t name them, but they are all my heroes.

You and you and you, who see

Life ebbing by in slow degrees

For whom there was a time, I know

When nothing ever went so slow

Today your speech is locked behind

An uncooperative mind.

And you, why half your body can’t

Respond to anything you want.

And then there’s one who cannot turn

For pain that through his body burns

And there’s another one who, while

Her spirit breaks, yet she can smile.

Some have lost their limbs to bombs

And still they somehow all limp on

We know not who has been in war

But this we know, and know for sure

There are brave soldiers everywhere

Who need to know that we do care

For them, our poppies red

We wear and still a tear or two we’ll shed.

Fight on you brave immortal souls

The day will come, you’ll reach your goal.

And for those who are thinking of loved ones lost in war I have this to say in remembrance of ‘Poppy Day’.

The famous poem by John McCrae is reproduced below:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

With so many wars that have been fought since that poem was written, I’d like to change it around a bit

Forget that quarrel with our foe

‘twill only lead to e’er more woe.

And who is foe may in the end

Turn ‘round and some day be a friend.

The only faith, that we need keep

Is, to try and end each day in peace.

 

Let the poppies, sweetly blow

Lest we forget those laid below

And should our leaders want a fight,

And rant and rave about what’s right,

Let’s hide the guns and send them in

To face each other in the ring.

Note: This post was first published a year ago. I have reworked it for the reasons above.

Memories

Standard

In search of material from the past one comes across a mood that suddenly finds resonance in the present. It’s not prophetic but it stirs an old emotion and I wrote it when I first knew we were going to Canada. I was apprehensive at the time, not knowing then, what I know now, that I was embarking on one of the best times of my life.

Having said that, I feel that those of us who come to the Middle East, even if we put down roots here, imbibe something from the shifting sands that enters our spirits and stirs a restlessness within us that eventually makes nomads of us all. Where, beneath this great dome of sky, will I eventually pitch that tent that never needs to be unpegged again? I have sand in my toes.

A Farewell

Goodbye people of this clime

It’s time to leave you

My watch is over

The grains of rice

Destined for me, are eaten.

No more grains on these plates

Come with my name written on them.

 

I have drunk deep

Of your waters, and long.

A thirst in my heart

Has been quenched.

And now a gnawing hunger

For other pastures

Feeds at my soul.

 

I must leave

The writ has been sent

Am I manumitted now?

Or do I go to another master

Another slavery?

 

The only freedom I yearn for

Is the final escape from life

When I will hunger no more,

Nor thirst.

 

I see your trees your wastelands

Your messy beaches, your prim hotels

I know your petty interests

Your magnanimous natures

I’ve grown to love them all

And I’ve grown to love them well.

 

But I must leave now

For I can hear the sirens calling

Midnight beckons

With its own sweet, soft music

Which I must follow

Towards the harsh light

The unforgiving break of day.

Visions of sugarplums

Standard

dreamstime_s_62745608Once upon a time I had a nephew, he is still my nephew, but no longer the little boy he once was, with wonder in his eyes and a lively curiosity surging through his mind. He’s all grown up now and it’s a rare thing to occasionally see that old spark of amazement at the miracle of life flash through his eyes.

Age is the Scrooge of life that takes away our sense of awe, the ability to see a world in a grain of sand and hold infinity in one’s palm. Back then my nephew believed in witches and wizards, in magic and the truth of Santa Claus.

As often happens a day came when he challenged the existence of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas and the vision of sugarplums crashed to the floor. He was rather young for that to happen so soon and I wanted so much to see his sense of wonder again.

“Of course Santa Claus is real!” I declared.

“How can he be everywhere on the same night?” he challenged me, “I know Papa or someone dresses up and pretends to be Santa.”

I was afraid those sugarplums would never dance again. So I put on my best storytelling hat and looked at him in earnest. “I’ll tell you a secret,” I whispered. “It certainly appears to be that Papa, or your grandfather or someone seems to dress up as Santa, but here’s the thing. As they slowly wear those clothes, something happens deep inside their hearts and minds. When the inside vest comes on, they’re smiling, thinking ‘Oh what fun’, but by the time the red warm flannel coat is worn and the big black belt is strapped on, the spirit of Santa Claus enters their minds and then they are no longer Papa or someone else, they become Santa Claus. Just look into Santa’s eyes tonight and tell me if there isn’t a different twinkle in his eyes.” With that I left him to think about it.

Santa arrived to the family’s raucous renditions of Silent Night and Hark the Herald. Of course he couldn’t come down the chimney in India, so with a thumping on the door and a jingling of bells he called out, “Have the children here been naughty or nice?”

I caught my nephew’s eyes; they were shining like stars of wonder. Whether he believed in Santa or not, he was excited about his Christmas gifts. The jolly old man entered and was feted. His voice was loud and booming, his belly shook like a jelly. And then it was time for the magic… presents!

I hugged my nephew, “Look in his eyes,” I reminded him. When his name was announced he rushed up and gave Santa the obligatory kiss on his cheek but he did look in his eyes. He rushed back to show his present to his parents – no it wasn’t his dad that year.

Then he came across to me. “So who was it?” I asked.

“Santa!” he said, a wonderful smile spreading across his face, his eyes sparkling, “It can’t be papa, he’s here!”

“Did his eyes twinkle?”

“They did!”

“Do you think the spirit of Santa was in him, then?”

“Yes!” he declared.

And for another year at least, Santa was real.

It is many years since that Christmas so long ago and he probably doesn’t remember this little story of mine, but the other day he posted a photograph with his baby son in his arms. And I swear I could see sugarplums dancing in his eyes again. dreamstime_xs_34782724

 

Some day I’ll be a writer

Standard

It started a long time ago. This aching need to write. To have my name attached to a work, such and such title, by Rohini Singha. That was my maiden name. I sometimes thought I’d be mysterious and have a penname. Everyone would wonder, “Who is that writer?” Critics and reviewers would declare, “Once again the mysterious author, Madame X, has captivated her readers with a scintillating tale of intrigue.” I was a great Agatha Christie fan in the days when my dream of being a writer was still limpid in its new-born vision. I was also unclear about what genre of story telling I would pursue. Madame X was the popular appellation for a woman of intrigue.

All this gradually became something of a private joke for me. By the time I’d read more complex, character and philosophy-driven work, the desire to write mysteries gave way to some day writing the great transformational novel. The imaginary nom de plume was replaced in my mind by my own and eventually my married name. It was still something that would happen “some day”. Through the years, although it was never pursued with any intensity, the dream was also never abandoned.

I’d potter away at the writing, late at night. After various domestic and motherly chores were completed, when a particular kind of silence enveloped the house, everyone was asleep and I was still awake. That’s when the draw of pen and paper, a phrase or comment I’d heard earlier in the day, or a look in the eye of a passer-by would nag at my brain. Like a sailor drawn by a siren’s song I’d steer my thoughts in that direction, embark on a tale and let it carry me wherever it wished to go. Oh the magic of those nights when I wasn’t reading another writer’s work!

It’s not to say that I never explored the possibility of publishing. Back then it was an arduous process. No Internet. No Google. I’d submitted manuscripts to publishers and agents and never heard from them. Finally we were in the Internet era. E-publishing was a reality. I submitted yet another story without much hope but with unfailing enthusiasm to an online publisher in the USA. Several months later she emailed me, “I like your story – Desert Flower and will publish it…” I read the message three times. Tears of joy welling up and spilling over.

After all the excitement settled I looked more closely at the publisher’s site. OMG, as they say today. Romance had a broad interpretation, and, although I haven’t read it, I suspect even Fifty Shades of Grey would pale into several shades of white at the list and variety of romance on display. I couldn’t possibly have my real name attached to this! I decided on a penname for Desert Flower – Zohra Saeed. My name, Rohini is Venus, the morning star, and that’s what Zohra means. Saeed, was taken from my old guru and mentor’s first name Saeed.

There’s a whole other story to this. That publisher eventually closed down, the rights reverted to me and Ex-L-Ence agreed to republish it. For those of you who have been following my outbursts of delight, it has done rather well over the last month or so, at one point it even reached #6 on the Kindle store. In the meantime Ex-L-Ence Publishing came into my life and published my collection of poems – Corpoetry – with my real name attached.

Two dreams have come true.
Corpoetry_cover_Page_02

Screen Shot des flower at6

Desert Flower at #6 on Amazon, UK

The birth of Corpoetry

Standard

About eighteen years ago a chance remark from a colleague at the Chronicle-Herald, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, sparked off a buzz that has now eventually found expression in a collection of fifty poems that I’ve titled Corpoetry.

We were discussing an ad concept, when we heard that extra boisterous forced laughter that one associates with laughing to please. “Ah!” my colleague and friend said, “Corporate Laughter”. I found the phrase amusing and apt. But it entered that odd space that exists inside our minds where tunes get trapped, phrases beep-n-bop around, lyrics of songs we don’t even like buzz and we can’t get rid of them. So ‘Corporate Laughter’ bumped around inside my head.

I tried to dislodge it by listening to old music. Next I recited old nursery rhymes. Nope. It was still there. Grinning like a gremlin, ‘Corporate Laughter’ it said and hooted into my sleep, my dreams, my quiet space. Nothing helped until I sat down and wrote the first poem in what is my now published collection: Corpoetry. Then, like a deflated balloon it shrank to nothing.

The ‘thing’ didn’t disappear. But, I had found its weak spot – to write it out of my system in a poem – please understand I use the term: poem, loosely. These poems aren’t your highly artistic, searching-for-the-meaning-of-life poems. They’re just fun.

After that, every so often I’d see a situation that gave rise to another poem and then another. During my lunch hour, I’d sometimes use the clip art available and mix and match it with word art to create doodles to complement my poems. I had so much fun doing these that I soon began to see more and more situations, office dynamics, gossip, etc. that gave rise to ever more poems.

And that, dear friends is how Corpoetry began. You can find out more on my Facebook Page.

Corpoetry_cover_Page_02 copy

In memory of my mother

Standard

July 18th was my mother’s birthday. Every year it rolls around and every year I think of her. She was a major influence in my life and today I think I have the strength to post the eulogy I wrote for her. I wasn’t able to attend her funeral or her memorial service, so my sister read this out to the scores of people who came to pay their respects to her.

TO MY MOTHER

“Woman, behold thy son, behold thy mother.” That was one of my mother’s favourite quotations from the Bible. For son, I think we can all read ‘child’. The other was the Good Friday hymn, ‘At the cross her station keeping, stood the mother gently weeping’. For her these were like guiding lights. And, she was above all else a mother, as fiercely maternal as a Bengal tigress. I think she would have liked the metaphor – no, she’d correct me, that’s a simile. And, although many of us in our family were at the receiving end of her particularly well-honed tongue, I think I can confidently say that we had all also been at the receiving end of her maternal care. She has comforted, helped, taught and just plain ‘been there’ for more people than I think I’ll ever know. A little thing could move her from being a towering inferno to a tower of strength. And only ma could get away with combining both.

Speaking for myself, she taught me everything, from school lessons to the big one about life. Not so much by what she said as by her actions. From as far back as I can remember she embodied what today people would call ‘feminism’. She didn’t hang a name on it. She just went out there and did it. I’ve seen her playing squash in a sari. I believe she played a deft game of tennis and badminton too. She swam, unembarrassed, in a swimming pool at a time when we rarely saw other women even get into the water. She drove a car long before we saw other ladies drive, at any rate in some places in India places like Bangalore and Jamnagar way back in the 1950s. She was a strong woman with very definite views and we secretly nicknamed her sergeant major.

Thanks to her, we had boyfriends and broken hearts and she was always, I now recall, not obtrusively there, but there; with her ‘there’s many more fish in the sea’ wisdom. Afraid as we often were of her, we knew that we had no stronger champion when it came to doing something new, different and perhaps not popular with the older generation of my time. I remember her interest in theatre. She took part in a play for which I helped her learn her lines but I wondered how she could stand up in front of all those people. She gave me an interest in Art, and took us to dozens of art exhibition that we enjoyed and they weren’t school trips. Books, we shared. I recall my mother giggling out loud over a book called Aunty Mame and then laughing over it myself. Poetry. And with the passing years I’ve found myself digging around in the garden finally coming to her enjoyment of plants and the regeneration that they represent.

Today, more than anything else, that’s what she would like us to celebrate: the regeneration of her love. Growing, and like the earth, giving forth of its bounty, where our tears are merely the rain which makes flowers called Smiles, Laughter and that most beautiful rose of all, the one that’s called Remembrance.

Twenty-one again!

Standard

 

 

21 for 21

…that’s what the invitation said. That number took me back to the day I turned twenty-one. When the palate was young and my taste buds were alive to every nuance of flavour and texture. Back then, when aromas teased one’s nostrils, they imprinted olfactory memories onto my grey cells to be drawn upon in later life.

It was a time when intense was the shade of every colour in the rainbow, even those less vivid like green and yellow hidden between blue and orange. When a sunset was grist to my writer’s mill and could, on one day move me to tears and on another to revel in the joy of being.

So what has all this meandering in my memory banks got to do with an invitation from Obai & Hill and those lovely ladies Wafa and Zainab to Vapiano’s 21 for 21 press event?

Read the rest of this entry

Conversion of our Ancestors

Standard

Written by Mrs. Pritilata Singha in 1995 on a visit to Halifax, NS, Canada

This was an article written by my mother for the St. Peter’s Church Birch Cove newsletter. This is our church in Halifax. Most of our congregation found this very interesting and fascinating. I’m placing it here for my family – immediate and extended as a story about their background and inheritance.

To understand conversion in India, I feel one must have a basic knowledge of the social, economic and religious structure of our great country.

The East has always been religious and most or almost all religions have sprung up from Asia and the Middle East. Some have been born in India. Man has dominated Man by superiority of intellect, economic power or sheer physical strength.

Read the rest of this entry