Tag Archives: Arabian Gulf

Park Bench Stories

Standard

It’s been a while since I had a story to post. This one’s a sequel. Something I haven’t done before. It was sparked by a Facebook post that popped up thanks to their algorithms that remind you of a post three or five or more years ago. This one was called The Park Bench, based on a prompt given by Shauna Nearing Løj. This story has been particularly popular and has twice been released in Spain, courtesy Gerry Wright.

Fast forward to two days ago when a friend from the Bahrain Writers’ Circle, Veronica Selvarajan, read the story and made the comment, “I am going to be wondering if she ever reciprocates….” Well, of course that possibility wouldn’t leave me alone untilI had written the sequel and decided if she’s ever going to reciprocate. Well, Veronica, Cynthia, Charlotte, Joy, Malini, Gerry, Ajoy, Pam, Aruna… and many others. I’ve become a romantic in my old age.

The Guy at the Park

by Rohini Sunderam

She’d never really forgotten him. The young man at the park bench who always asked her if she’d ‘found a young man’. There had been a marked electricity between them. It was palpable through book after book that she read almost every workday afternoon. All he ever did was chew a fresh blade of grass and look up at the sky. There was a quiet confidence in his cocky voice and silence. He lived in the moment. Enjoyed the breeze, the birds in the sky, the clouds, the trees. Over the years they had developed a silent, comfortable, companionship. It was a quiet hour every workday that she kept for herself, before she took the bus home. They had hardly ever even had a conversation. He had grown strong and grown up since that spring so many years ago when they first shared the park bench. She had never learnt his name, nor what he did for a living.

And yet, all these years later, she remembered the look on his face the day she told him she had ‘found a young man’. He wished her well. But his eyes went dull grey like an autumn sky suddenly robbed of the sun.  And something in his face crumpled. But he didn’t say anything to her when she broke it to him. She wondered, ‘was all that electricity just in my head?’ She’d risen from the bench and had disappeared from his life for twenty years in the big city.

Twenty years, she said to herself. Why did I put up with ‘my young man’ for that long! There’d been that early euphoria of being married, being in the financial centre of the country, of looking after a house. But she and Bill had never really had much in common. He constantly wanted to go to this party and that restaurant, spend a fun time with his friends, anything but come home to an evening of quietude, an hour of  reading or listening to music.

He’d come back from work and it was, ‘Right, where are we going tonight?’

Her responses, ‘but I’ve just cooked this lovely dinner, I thought we could enjoy it together,’ were usually overruled.

Occasionally he’d agree and then it was a sullen silence they shared, nothing calm and companionable like it was with the guy in the park. That was a magical hour; the park was a Tom Thomson painting, the colours fixed and immutable. Instead, the meal she had so carefully prepared was wolfed down without a word of thanks and then he’d want to go out for a nightcap. Being a lawyer meant he could afford all that as well as the house. After a few years he went out on his own. Leaving her to her still pool of solitude that bordered on loneliness and her books that transported her on their magic carpet pages to other possibilities.

The miscarriages hadn’t helped either. Her mother had assured her things would improve once a baby or two arrived. After the first two losses, when she felt her world had been wrenched from inside her, her soul and heart shattered into a myriad shards of glass that cut her every time she saw a couple with a baby in a pram, Bill had grown more distant. The doctors said she wasn’t likely to have any more. Bill’s night-time forays became more frequent. Then there was his affair. Secret and sly, sordid and so typically with his secretary. Sinning is hard only the first time, so it wasn’t long before there was another affair and another.  Finally, the divorce and when her mother died, she decided to move back to the small city. The house was hers and she could easily get a job, perhaps even her old job at the library.

It was a cloudy day in November when she thought of going to the park with her book. ‘For old times’ sake’ she said to herself, he’s probably not even there any more. The years had flown like the clouds overhead. She was as nervous as a teenager as she walked in her high boots and her camel trench coat down the path towards where she remembered the bench used to be. It was four o’clock, her usual time from force of habit.

There was a man on the bench. Sitting where he used to sit. He looked at her. Her face implacable she looked at him out of the corner of her eye. She made a small harrumphing sound as she settled in her corner of the bench. He turned and looked at her again. Then he looked away. She was sure it was the guy. The same sinewy arms. That firm jawline and clean-shaven face. His nut-brown hair was streaked with silver. A small smile twitched at the corner of her lips. Then she whispered, “Did you never find a young woman, then?”

His voice was hoarse, as he all but whispered back, “Don’t be silly, I don’t want a young woman…” and then almost inaudible but she caught the last few words, “I only ever wanted you.”

She bent down to pull up a blade of grass, then turned to look at him as twenty summers and winters, autumns and springs melted away like snow. “But you never said anything.”

“What could I say? We hardly knew each other. I still don’t even know your name, young lady!” He grinned and the old cocky look came bouncing into his face.

She smiled, a clean, honest, unguarded smile. “We can rectify that, it’s Louise.” The first fat raindrops began to fall, “what’s yours?”

He grabbed his jacket and flung on the hood, “Al, for Alistair. And we’d better find some shelter soon. Before the wind an’ the rain carry you away, eh?”

“We’d need quite a strong wind to carry me away,” She laughed.

“Oh, aye,” he said like an old friend. He put his strong arm around her waist and they hurried out of the park. She realised he was a good bit taller than he appeared when he was seated. She liked the way his pace matched hers. And then they dashed across the street to a café.

“This should be fine for now.” He said as he led her, still clutching her book and bag, to a table near the window.

For the first time, she was sitting across from him. He had grey-green eyes and that unstoppable slightly amused, cocky expression; crow’s-feet eyes probably developed over the years from staring at the sky. His hands were strong and slightly calloused. ‘What did he do for a living?’

The coffee arrived, hot and steaming with a doughnut on the side. She was grateful for the steam that arose between them. It allowed her to look at him more closely.

“So tell me about yourself,” he said after a long deep gulp of coffee and a swipe of his cuff across his mouth.

“But, I want to know about you,” she said fingering the edge of her book.

“We have enough time for that later. What happened to the ‘young man’ then?”

Between sips of coffee and the doughnuts that the café boasted were amongst the best in the country, she sketched a quick outline of her life. “Now, it’s your turn.” She said.

The cocky smile and the amused look in his eyes deepened. “I’m a plumber by day,” he said.

“And what do you do at night?”  A nervous tremor caught at her throat.

By now he was grinning, “I write.”

“What? Books? Articles? Stories?”

“What kind of books do you like to read?” He asked getting up.

“All kinds,” she replied, “but that doesn’t tell me what kind of books you write!”

“Doesn’t it?” He grinned again. “I really do have to rush now. I’ll see you at the park again, tomorrow?” And he was gone. Striding down the street in the opposite direction of her bus ride home.

‘What do you like to read?’ What kind of a mysterious response was that!

When she got home, she was still mulling over it as she opened her book where she’d left her bookmark. It was another tale of lost love and might-have-beens. Her favourite kind. ‘What do you like to read!’ No! It can’t be. A. Hunt. She’d always assumed it was a woman and there was nothing about the author’s life that suggested plumbing.

-end-

Drinker of the Wind

Standard

Untitled design

Some time ago when I was at the ad agency in Bahrain, I worked with some very talented artists and illustrators. One was Linda Strydom – who created the illustrations for Corpoetry and among so many others there was Francis Tiongsen, his brother David Tiongsen who is nothing short of amazing and many others who do so much more than computer graphics. If you check out their portfolios in the links provided you’ll know what I mean.

All that is by the by. Just thought I’d give some friends a plug!

This poem came about because Francis loved horses and at the same time we were doing a brochure for a real estate project created around the theme of horses, in particular the Arab. He’d created some captivating illustrations which then prompted this poem based on an old Bedouin legend.

 

 

 

 

DRINKER OF THE WIND (sharaab alrreh)

He was Erebeh, he was mystery,
The Arab steed that flew
Across the desert sands
Chasing the storm
His hooves thundering a warning
To those who had sinned
He was the first Drinker of the Wind.
His mane was midnight,
His eyes were the stars
The light from his hooves,
Four galaxies that shone from afar.
One look from him, one shake of his head
The other steeds followed wherever he led
He ruled the old dunes,
He ran wild and free
And his sinews were limned
With good honest sweat:
The Drinker of the Wind.
Long was he hunted,
Hard was he sought
And the Bedouin tribes
Over him once had fought
His was a spirit born to be free
A being not to broken, nor ridden was he.
But legends tell us,
One wild winter night
A lone Beddu approached him,
So humble, polite
And our Arab stallion
He pawed the hard dunes
And took unto him a mare
Pale as the moon
Then he left as he came
That dark winter night
Like a vision, a dream,
A mere flicker of light
Never again seen by mere men
For he truly was 
The first Drinker of the Wind.
Some say they saw him
Against the dawn sky
Some say they hear him,
When the wind rumbles by
But the Bedouin know
And their legends declare
The Drinker of the Wind
Can’t be seen anywhere

For he left as he came
On that wild winter night
When the sky was a mantle
As dark as could be
And the wind moved the dune tides
Like waves on the sea.
No moon, not a star
Shone that magical night
When the Drinker of the Wind
Disappeared from all sight
He flew up to the heavens
The night sky took him home
Where, as he was meant to
He still freely roams
The first Drinker of the Wind.

Note: The Arabian Horse – 

And God took a handful of South wind and from it formed a horse, saying: “I create thee, Oh Arabian. To thy forelock, I bind Victory in battle. On thy back, I set a rich spoil And a Treasure in thy loins. I establish thee as one of the Glories of the Earth… I give thee flight without wings.”

— Bedouin Legend

(Byford, et al. Origins of the Arabian Breed)

 

Squid

Standard

A poem presented at Colours of Life 2017 – the annual poetry festival of the Bahrain Writers’ Circle.

Now I’m not vegetarian

Nor yet pescetarian

Not even a pure carnivore

I’m an eat-everything-atarian

There’s not much that I don’t adore

When it comes to the fishes

I can devour most dishes

But there is one thing I abhor

 

It’s that strange little creature

With a tentacular feature

It’s name down my throat wouldn’t slid

Although my ol’ teacher

Demanded that I just say ‘squid’

I shuddered, I quaked, I all but flaked

I felt my life, on it was staked

“Oh, please don’t make me!” I pled

 

“Why not squid, you’re so silly,” she said              

“Er…Ummm,” I so wished I were dead

“It’s so slimy, so squiggly, so terribly wriggly.”

“Oh child, it’s just all in your head.”

“No, ‘taint.” I retorted, albeit feebly

And blanched at the thought of the squid

My face on my desk I then hid

While my breath went all wheezy’n’queasy

 

Many years soon sped by

So I thought I should try

To dine on this marine delectation

So….“I’ll have calamari,” said I

With a measure of great trepidation

Along came this dish

Of the offending fish

All battered and fried to damnation

 

But…In spite of the batter

In spite of the crunch

In spite of the fact that I’d have it for lunch

The rubbery squid, it all but did

Me in… as it stuck in my throat

I gasped, I choked, I nearly croaked

And swore once more as I had before

That I’d never again eat squid!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view the live presentation please click here.

The Cactus Blooms

Standard

My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

Read the rest of this entry

In a Bay off old Muharraq

Standard

This poem was submitted to Lucid Rhythms – an online magazine – and when he accepted it, that was the first time I began to hope that there were still venues that would accept ‘rhyming’ and metric poems.

I don’t know the journey that the genre has taken ever since I last studied it, but in my humble – and not so elevated opinion – any art that needs excessive analysing and interpreting and that can’t or doesn’t connect with people is somewhere missing the point.

In a bay off old Muharraq

Lies an ancient wooden Sambuk

That still goes out on moonless nights

Searching for th’ eternal light

And the master of the Sambuk

Who’s the master of that Sambuk?

A ghost, a wraith, a memory

Singing songs like Fidjeri.

 

And who is it that sits beside him?

Playing on the double hand drum?

Drumming on the mirwas lightly

While the Sambuk skips so spritely

Across the waves out to the sea

Recalling ancient memory?

Why he too is a distant past

That’s lost forever, lost alas!

 

And what is it they hope to find

Tossed along by wind and mind?

Why it’s the lulu treasured pearl

‘Durrat’ more prized than any girl.

And so the divers scythe the waves

Seeking what we all so crave

To bury hatred, soothe the pain

So we can all be one again.

 

And all who live upon this isle

Wherever he or she may come from

Join together, hug and smile

And truly say, “Salaam alaikum.”

 

Note: Fidjeri is an old Arabian Gulf/ Khaleeji pearl divers’ song, mirwas is the double handed drum that pearl divers used on their dhows (like the Sambuk) the lulu is the word for pearl in Arabic and Durrat is a particularly highly prized pearl. Muharraq is the second major island of the archipelago that constitutes the Kingdom of Bahrain. The poem is not political but expresses the desire to recreate a more friendly unified time in Bahrain. Salaam alaikum means ‘peace be upon you’.

The Pearl Divers’ Songs

Standard
Their music was so strange and distant
From hymns they sang straight to the sea
Or praises raised to mighty Allah
Those lovely songs, that fidjeri

Above the waves of Bas Ya Bahr*
The Nahhaaam raised his melody
Along with him the clappers played
The jahlah or mirwas, plaintively.
 Read the rest of this entry