Tag Archives: BWC

Oh Woman…Oh Man!


This first appeared in Robin Barratt’s collection of prose and poetry titled What Women Really Want, it’s been re-published under the title The Challenges of Finding Love: and why men sometimes get it so wrong. I hope reading this inspires you to download the book. It’s enlightening, amusing, provocative, and even heartbreaking.

For now, enjoy this one.

What do women really want?

How does one answer a puzzle that’s supposedly haunted humanity from the dawn of time?

Looking back as I can, to more than sixty years of memories, loves unrequited and imagined, friends and their amours, apocryphal stories from legend, lore and gossip, I do believe that the answer to the question has not been found.
How can there be one answer to a myriad minds?

Look through the kaleidoscope of life. Turn the scope. What do you see?

The well-known tale of King Arthur, Sir Gawain and the old witch, who ostensibly solved the puzzle by saying a man should “give a woman her autonomy”.

Turn the kaleidoscope again and look at it in the mirror of today:

What’s that autonomy thing? When was it taken from Woman or a woman? And by whom?

Am I allowed to believe that most modern women – barring those who live in severely disenfranchised communities (and for them I feel we need to campaign) – are self-thinkers, self-determiners and strongly independent? It’s a feeling I get when I look around and see so many women in so many parts of the world – in top jobs, in construction, driving taxis, striding in high-heels and smart corporate style suits as they catch a bus or a train or glide through automatic doors prepared to smash glass ceilings.

Assuming that that is the demographic that we’re addressing, the answer is as multi-faceted as women.

I think we all, men and women, go through phases.

At some point – once we’ve moved away from the parental aegis – we rely on someone else. Or perhaps a group of ‘others’. Depending on our levels of self-esteem that reliance could range from self-affirmation through that individual, fitting in with a group we feel drawn to, sometimes subordinating our sense of self in order to find acceptance. And here is where a problem could begin.

If a woman subordinates her ‘self’ to such an extent that she loses focus of it, then she starts to have issues. Now I’m no psychologist but through observation of human nature and looking back, clinically at my own life and the lives of those to whom I have been close, I can state that this is the crux of the trouble.

Turn that kaleidoscope. We have another image.

Is it love when a woman is so ‘in love’ with a man that she thinks pleasing him in every way is her raison d’être? I’ve also seen men equally besotted.

Is it love when a woman leaves everything that she holds dear to be with one man?

Is it love that drives her or anyone – to pace the street on which the loved one lives? To forget all else and wait only for his call? To be blind to all else and deaf to all other sounds?

That is passion. And it has its place and time; its flaring moment – the firestorm on which many an epic has been written.

The good news is, that that’s a phase too.

Put the kaleidoscope away. Look at life in all its beautiful reality.

Most people outgrow this ‘desperately in love’ passionate phase and learn to start loving themselves. And that, as all the pundits and gurus, Cosmo type magazines and pop quizzes will tell you, is what you must do in order to truly love another person and realise ‘autonomy’.

Now to the issue of two people sharing a life together. If a man is looking to ‘please his woman’ through reading a book like this, my first suggestion is change your attitude. She’s not ‘your woman’. She’s a woman with whom you wish to spend the rest of your life. Stop possessing each other and start recognising each other as individuals.

Be honest, but not rude. Sometimes what you say mayn’t make her happy, but that isn’t the end of your life together. Share your concerns with her. She wants to be a partner. Don’t leave heavy decision-making to her alone either. As every self-help column and book states, discuss things together. Don’t make decisions that affect both of you without consulting each other. That goes for women and men.

And as for those joke questions that women are supposed to ask men to which they profess they’re so nervous they feel there’s no right answer: “Does this dress make me look fat?”

If it does make her look fatter tell her. But really look at her and be honest. If it’s a special evening help her with the decision-making earlier in the day so that you’re not going through wanting to say ‘yes’ just so that you leave the house on time.

And to women I’d say, stop asking men silly questions. If you want ‘autonomy’ start making decisions yourself. He looks at other women? Sure! You look at other guys, don’t you? You can agonize over this question or keep the following poem in mind:

Khalil Gibran On Marriage:

“You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,

And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

 Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

 Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.

For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart,

And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”

Now, toss a coin. What do women really want? It depends on the day, the time of the year, and the time of her life.

Your guess is as good as mine.

— end —


Clap your hands and we are gone


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
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.

La Blue Luncheonette


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.)


Drinker of the Wind


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)



Twig & Leaf


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 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.”


Extract from a work in progress


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’


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.



Excerpt from ‘An Appropriate Act of Love’



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.




Slow down, Life!


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.




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