Tag Archives: Bahrain Writers Circle

Clap your hands and we are gone

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Flipping through my “work” notes I came upon this poem. Procrastination hits my work assignments too, sometimes. Many were the mornings I’d play a game of solitaire on my computer or do the cryptic crossword to get the cogs in my brain moving. In Halifax a young friend, Crystal, taught me how to do the ‘Cryptoquote’ a good solid brain-teaser, perfect to start the creative juices flowing. And now what do I find among my notes…

We are stardust, we are ephemera
Is that why our lives are so shallow in every way?
Unconsidered, unthought out, unplanned
There was a time when spontaneity
sparkled, lit up our unplanned lives
Today it’s lost its sparkle
Today everything sparkles
Flat, planned permanence and stability
Rock-solidity are spurned
Labelled boring, dull, unexciting
So we chase another dream
And yet another
Flickering flames of fantasy
Chimera
Forever just there
Just out of reach.
And so we are forever running
Like Alice, twice as hard
Not realizing that Time and Space
Run with us
So we get nowhere
Our eyes always on tomorrow
We don’t see today
Nor realise that the here and now
Are a gift
That the ancients called
The present.

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La Blue Luncheonette

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By Rohini Sunderam

Louise stepped out of the door of her home and was caught by a blustery wind. She buttoned her coat down to the last button and was glad she’d thought to wear warm stockings. There was a glimmer of sun and a blue sky above. As she entered the path to walk down to her job at the dockyard she saw the first crocus in the flowerbed poke its cheeky lavender head out of the snow. It was going to be a lovely day.

Yesterday she had noticed a handsome young man, a new worker at The Blue Luncheonette standing outside smoking a cigarette. They had locked eyes for a brief moment and Louise had looked away.

Today, there was a lightness in her step as she hurried down to her work and she knew it wasn’t just the crocus that had put it there.

She saw him, leaning against the doorpost, the restaurant sign hung above his head, silhouetted against the early morning light. She wanted to see him again but she didn’t want him to catch her doing so. She thought she’d walk quickly past him, check him out through the corner of her eyes, and see if he was really as handsome as she recalled.

“Bon jour!” he said, stepping in front of her, bowing low, and doffing his cap.

French! Louise thought and blushed, “Good morning!” she replied, “I don’t speak French!”

“Oui, I..I..know.” He hesitated fumbling with the words, as he continued.

“Tu et jolie,” he said, his hazel brown eyes crinkled at the corners and his light brown hair fluttered in the wind as he straightened up replacing the cap on his head.

She knew enough school French to know he thought she was pretty. She couldn’t contain her amused delight and laughed. It was a clear bell laugh accompanied by a bright open smile that lit up her face and eyes.

That laugh and that smile were like rays of warm sunshine to Jacque. They were the first expressions of warmth and frank friendship that had greeted him in this cold grey outpost of the place they called Haaalifax. He’d practiced that ‘Ha’ till his breath steamed in the cold air. His natural tendency to say ‘Alifax had finally been tamed.

This place was to be his new home at least until the war was over. He had wanted no part in that and certainly didn’t want to be conscripted into a battle against an enemy he didn’t know. He promised his parents that he’d return or send for them from across the ocean when the time was right. And then he took that arduous winter journey across the choppy Atlantic, paying his way by working as a cook in the ship’s galley. He’d arrived barely two months ago at the pier in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He had never experienced such bitter cold as he had on the journey across. Then he’d arrived in the middle of February to a city covered in ice and snow. Thanks to his knowledge of cooking and his experience on the ship he had found work at The Blue Luncheonette along with board and lodgings in the attic.

Now, here was this beautiful vision laughing and smiling at him, spreading her wholehearted affection to him, a stranger, inviting him with that beautiful smile to be part of it all.

He continued, “Je m’appelle Jacque,” he said, holding out his hand.

Louise shook his hand, smiled and nodded, she could feel a deep warm blush as it crept up from her neck, coloured her cheeks and suffused her face, “I have to rush to work,” she said abruptly, adding ‘work’ again as she quickly released his hand and hurried on without looking back.

What had happened to her! She was behaving like a giddy schoolgirl. The electricity that had passed between them was so intense it had taken her aback. She rushed on, her face gradually cooling down.

“Votre nom s’il vous plait!” He called after her. Please, he thought, I can’t have this vision of beauty disappear from my existence like dew in the morning sun. I must see her again! I must know her name.

Louise stopped, turned around and called out, “I’ll tell you tomorrow!”

“Ah!” He somehow understood that. Tomorrow was always a time of hope. So she would come this way again. He watched her as she walked down the street.

Louise was a tall, well-built girl with dark, wavy brown hair that tumbled down to the middle of her back and was held in place against the flirtatious breeze with a barrette and a simple beret. Her tan swing-back coat was both practical and smart. It swung saucily with each stride accentuating her waist and hips. She was acutely aware of his eyes on her.

Jacque was transfixed. “Tres belle!” he said to himself. Those eyes, “Mon dieu!” They were as dark as just-roasted coffee beans. Her smile, just thinking of it made him smile again. It was sunshine and warmth, it was love and hope, it was the scent of summer in a field and warm fresh bread. It would take almost too long for tomorrow. But, she had said, she had promised… tomorrow. He could live until then.

The next morning there was a row of crocuses all winking at Louise. This time she picked up her pace. She’d added a dainty brooch to the lapel of her coat and a small touch of lavender perfume to her wrists.

I have barely said hello to him! She admonished herself. But there was no denying that her heart was beating faster as she walked to work.

He was there!

Leaning against the doorpost of The Blue Luncheonette a casual stance that belied his own thundering heart. Would she come, the beautiful lady with a smile that would send him to paradise? He heard her footsteps. He had been dreaming of those footsteps all night long. They came to him and left as suddenly. A dream, a nightmare, a dream.

She was there! Despite the overcast skies, she was there and all at once the world was beautiful. He could hear the birds singing of the promise of spring. He could see the leaves pushing their way through the branches. He could smell the earth as it slowly nudged winter away. She was there!

He stepped into her path. Today he would not let her go until he had her name. It would be something to whisper to himself in the lonely bed in the attic. It would be a word to caress his mind and his fevered forehead. Her name.

“Good morning!” He said deliberately. He’d been practicing it in his head for a few minutes.

“Good morning!” She beamed back at him. “You learn quickly.”

He grinned, his eyes lighting up. “I practice,” he confessed. “But…please your name?”

“It’s important?” She teased him, her eyes twinkling.

“Oui. Trés important, for me.” He smiled again looking into her eyes this time.

“Louise,” she said lowering her eyes not able to hold the frank look of admiration in his.

“Louise!” He exclaimed, “Ai! C’est Français! You are not French?”

“No! Canadian!” Louise replied.

He was confused. “How? Louise?”

“Calm down,” She laughed, that laugh that sent him to heaven and back in a second, “My grandparents are from Italy.”

“Ahhhh!” He flung his hands up and shrugged in Gallic comprehension. “Louise,” he said again, this time it was a hoarse whisper. He held out his hand.

And she held out hers, with the glove removed.

He raised it to his lips, “Louise.” He said, inhaling the perfume of her, drawing her into his being, his life.

Louise it was the most enchanting name in the world. It was the name for him. He could take that name and this girl and hold her in his arms till eternity.

Their eyes met.

“Jacque,” She said, his name a burr of honey on her lips, “Jacque.”

They could say no more. Their names hung in the air and slow as the mist of their breaths they met, came together, and became one.

 

– end –

Forty two years they were married, their home was a place of laughter and stories, of never learning French and fumbling with English. It was a home of Italian dishes and French flair a truly Canadian home… A home where the first word of the day was always love and the last word, je t’aime.

(Note: This is based on a friend’s story about how her parents met. It is not entirely factual and names have been changed, but I thank her for the inspiration.)

Twig & Leaf

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All I need is a compliment… I posted a fragment from this piece on Facebook and one person’s reaction prompted me to reproduce this dramatic little dialogue that I wrote many moons ago when there were fewer high rise buildings in Bahrain, when our apartment in Muharraq looked out to the sea where dhows lounged on the beach and the causeway to the Diplomatic area was a quiet passageway and the country was asleep by ten at night.

A TWIG AND A LEAF

A bird introduced the story. It twittered: “This is the story of leaf and twig. Of self and self. Which destiny is yours dear listener? Which road to dusty death would you take?”

Twig:   “The wind blows and I move.”

Leaf:   “The breeze breathes and I dance. I quiver with its tiniest breath. Silver. Golden green. The sunlight warms me and I glory in its warmth. The moonlight shimmers on me and I play a dainty game with moonbeams. But you, you are stiff and angular. Your movements are scratchy. Scritching. And scratching. And squeaky.”

Twig:   “Just because I am more firmly set it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the wind or the sun. Or that the silver moonlight does not make dramatic patterns with me. I am strong. And you are weak. Too emotional. Too full of movement. Too light. You dance today. But all too soon that loving sun will make you wilt and you will fall and be crushed.”

Leaf:     “Drop I shall some day. But not before the sun and the wind have caressed me into the most exciting hues of green and yellow and russet, a russet that would rival a sunset. Colours that have made poets sing. What poets have sung of you, Twig?”

Twig:     “No. That is true. No poets sing of me. I am the coarse, unlovely of the world. The bark grows hard around me. It shelters me from the sun and the wind of life. But it constrains me too. Confines the sap that flows within. Warm sap that longs to leaf sometimes. That aches to dance.

And, yet I know that if I were a leaf, I would dread the day when I should fall. Having metamor­phosed from glorious green and yellow on to russet and hectic red. Fall and be crushed. Stamped out. And forgotten. No. I would rather be a twig. And never live or love so much, so close to life that some day I shall, I must be turned to dust, ignominiously…under the foot of some uncaring, unthinking, unloving passerby.”

Leaf: “Perhaps. But twig, dear twig, to love is all. Why should it matter how you leave this world? We must all be crushed and torn some day. So live. Live and love and laugh and dance today!”

Twig:   “No. No. I cannot… And yet, should I? No. I must not. For I support the leaves.”

Squid

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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.

Extract from a work in progress

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I am at last working on a story I had started way back in 1994! It’s also my first novella set in Halifax. I have written one short story set in Lunenburg County in Nova Scotia, and you can read that here, it’s titled A Rhyme and a Reason, the first thriller I have ever attempted.

And now, here’s a peek into a tale to be…

As she approached Scotia Square, Meera looked around seeing everything afresh. She marvelled at the old buildings standing amiably next to newer glass and concrete structures. The red brick and the sombre grey, articulated doorways with raised eyebrows looking forever down their noses at the large plate glass of some upstart new high-rise. Thankfully, there weren’t too many high-rise buildings here. There was an olde-worlde charm she hadn’t noticed before. It’s quite a beautiful old street, she thought. I’ve never really looked at it properly. A bit like Calcutta. Almost straight out of Dickens! Then she smiled, trust me to think of Dickens. I used to think it was a dreary grey English sort of street, which it is, but now I have a job and it takes on a romantic air. I am so, so, lucky. It’s been less than three months since we arrived and I have a job. Part time too, the most wonderful part of all. I can fix dinner, do the housework, make lunch… the plans started to fall into place. I’ll tell Ajoy that now we must do the laundry just once a week. Oh, God! A number two. My bus!

She almost shouted out aloud. Then lifting her sari slightly, displaying silver anklets worn over skin-tone knee-high nylon stockings, she ran to catch her bus. ‘I have a job’ the chorus in her head came to a crashing crescendo as she clambered up the steps and tossed the coins into the receptacle with a flourish. I’m an expert at doing that already. How Canadian will I get? She wondered. Will I ever wear pants? I may have to when it gets really cold. A dress? Never! It must be so strange to have all that cold air going up your legs, oof! She shuddered at the thought of it.

When she reached her stop, Meera almost ran up to the strip mall on at Lacewood and Vimy, where Ajoy had recently established their video rental store. She pushed through the door, he had a couple of older customers and was deep in conversation. so she wandered to the side and looked at the list of videos on offer. Through the corner of her eyes, she watched him speaking with animated gestures to his enchanted audience. Her heart skipped a beat, he had grown old so suddenly. The hair at his temples had begun to grey and there was a thinning patch at the crown of his head. His large soulful eyes, usually edged by laugh lines, had begun to droop in the three months since they had come to Halifax.

Excerpt from ‘Five Lives One Day in Bahrain’

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Until another author friend sends me something to share with you, here’s an extract from Five Lives One Day in Bahrain published by Ex-L-Ence Publishing. Check out the site for many good reads.

Rosita is late:

Rosita had been so exhausted that after her six o’clock Skype call to her mother that morning she’d gone back to sleep and had slipped into such a deep slumber that she’d gone past her softly buzzing alarm and her roommate Wendy’s door-banging departure. She woke with a start, “What time is it?” she exclaimed aloud, rubbing her eyes and yawning all at once. She reached out and looked at her large wristwatch, which she’d set on the small table near her bed. “Oh No! Nine o’clock! How did I do that? Now I’ll have to take a cab, and I was hoping to catch the bus.” The unnecessary extra expense upset her rhythm. But she knew she needed to look good, have all her certificates ready and arrive at least fifteen minutes ahead of the 12:30 pm appointment. No way could she catch a bus now.

There was too much riding on this job! Her very own section for hair styling, a salary of two hundred and fifty dinars plus sponsorship and the lady, an English woman married to a Bahraini, seemed to be kind and understanding. How was she going to get to Budaiya in time? All this buzzed through her mind as she hurriedly showered and sprayed herself with both a new deodorant and the Kenzo she’d used so sparingly and carefully ever since the American marine Ricky had given it to her three months ago. That was something else she’d kept from her mother and the girls at the Red Rose Salon in Juffair.

You can also buy the book here.

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Excerpt from ‘An Appropriate Act of Love’

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Lynda Tavakoli is the first of my author friends to share an excerpt from her book of short stories, Under a Cold White Moon.

Thanks Linda, that sent chills up my spine.

One evening my father failed to return from work. The house had been, as usual, quiet during the day, my elder siblings having by then dispersed to lead more normal lives elsewhere and I now wonder how I never noticed their leaving or indeed how long it had been since I was the only child remaining. The food was on the table; bacon, sausages, tomatoes, potato bread and two eggs – all fried as he liked it and now coagulating on my dad’s plate. Mother sat across from me at the table, hands tidily on her lap; mine stuffed in the pocket of my sweatshirt making bigger the hole already there. Where is he?

For an hour, maybe two, we sat like dead fish frozen into an icy lake and still he did not come. Beyond the window of the kitchen light was being sucked slowly out of the day and finally the grey gloom of evening started to invade the room. A fear was beginning to gnaw at me and although my mother had moved not an inch during that time I regarded the subtle change in her manner with growing panic. The eyes that for so long had scorched her resentment into my soul had taken on the look of a hibernating tortoise reluctant to accept the onset of its awakening. They were dead eyes to match the dead words that finally slunk out from in between her teeth,

“Now are you happy?”

To read her book click on the link above or visit her publisher here.

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Slow down, Life!

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Some time ago a friend sent me this poem in Urdu, which really touched a chord. Time is the highwayman that steals our lives away and when a poem like this comes along it must be shared as widely as possible. It is attributed to the well-known poet, lyricist and film director Gulzar, but I’ve had those who know more about Urdu poetry and poets than I do tell me this isn’t so. I don’t know. Whoever wrote it, it is beautiful in its original:

Here is a romanised version of the Urdu:

Ahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baaki hai.

Kuch dard mitana baaki hai, kuch farz nibhana baaki hai.

 Raftaar mein tere chalne se kuchh rooth gaye, kuch chhut gaye.

 Roothon ko manana baaki hai, roton ko hasana baki hai.

 Kuch hasraatein abhi adhuri hain, kuch kaam bhi aur zaruri hai.

 Khwahishen jo ghut gayi is dil mein, unko dafnana baki hai.

 Kuch rishte ban kar toot gaye, kuch judte-judte chhut gaye.

 Un tootte-chhutte rishton ke zakhmon ko mitana baki hai.

 Tu aage chal main aata hoon, kya chhod tujhe ji paunga?

 In saanson par haqq hai jinka, unko samjhaana baaki hai.

 Aahista chal zindagi, abhi kai karz chukana baki hai.

 

And here’s my attempt at translating it:

Slow down, Life, slow down; there’s so much more I have to do

Some hurts, still need to be assuaged, and some commitments too.

Walking at your pace, you see, some were rebuffed and some slipped by

Those I snubbed I must placate, make others laugh who once did cry.

Some desires I need to satisfy, some duties I have yet to do

Some wishes lie within this heart, these I must bury ‘ere we’re through.

Some friendships I have made and broken, some in the mending, cracked again

Those I’ve broken, battered, hurt; their wounds, I need to heal their pain.

You go ahead, Life, I’ll follow you, what will I gain by leaving you?

Those who have a right to my breath, they need an explanation too.

Slow down Life, slow down, there’s so much more that’s left to do.

Nothing

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So here’s another old, “dark” poem. It was written to inspire a story and then I never wrote the story!

nothing-2The silence had enveloped her

In its warm black anonymity

She was safe.

No rasping voice

No sound

Penetrated it

A gag order

On insanity.

A restraining order on life.

She buried deeper into it

A mole, escaping the light. Read the rest of this entry

Solitude

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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.

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