Tag Archives: Robin Barratt Publishing

Oh Woman…Oh Man!

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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 —

What is happiness?

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A prose poem by Rohini Sunderam

The following piece was written for a collection of inspirational stories, articles, and poetry produced and edited by Robin Barratt called Happy. If you want to read it or indeed buy it, do visit his website where you will also learn more about this wonderful man who is totally committed to writing and promoting writers, and whom I am pleased to call a friend. http://www.collectionsofpoetryandprose.com/happy/

“What is happiness?”

The infant gurgled in the old man’s arms.

“You are happiness,” The old man replied. “Your innocent enjoyment of every breeze. Your laughter at the sight of your mother’s smile. That’s pure happiness.”

“But, how do you know if you’re happy?” the child asked the old man.

“You don’t,” the old man replied, “But your pleasure in every morsel of food, the fact that your tongue can taste all the nuances of each mouthful, discern all its textures, its layered flavours, top notes that tell of meat that’s been braised, its delicate juices released as you bite into it. The sweet-sour melting tones of a fruit, some with the sweet blossoming just as it slides down your throat. Your ability to catch all the subtle nuances of a single grape as it’s crushed on the tongue. That’s happiness.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” the young boy said, “How do I taste things so differently than you do?”

“Your palate is young and hasn’t been tested by the acrid tastes of disappointment, nor yet savoured the bitterness of sorrow. Your lively taste buds are still easily aroused by hundreds of smells and sights. Your eyes are still bright with the hope of youth.”

“I still don’t understand you,” the young lad said. “Surely I see as you do. The sun as it rises and sets. The leaves on the trees, the fine delicacy of a bud on a twig. Granted my vision is sharper, but yours is softened by wisdom.”

“Ah!” the old man sighed, “Wisdom. That is just youth’s way of taking the edge off the blows of old age. Our faces are weathered by the winds of sorrow. Toughened to leather by the salt of our tears. Our once young, soft hands are calloused with care and our shoulders hunched by the weight of our regrets. Your youth gives you strength to handle the onslaught of life.”

“I think I now get what you’ve been saying to me,” the young man said taking a deep breath. “I now have concerns and worries, like you. Responsibilities too. I have a family and their needs overtake my own.”

The old man smiled, his eyes lit up, bright as the sun as it sinks in the west. His weathered face glowed a mellow red and the whites of his eyes had a hint of blue. “Thank you for making me happy,” he said.

The Pearl Divers’ Songs

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The following is an excerpt from an essay with poems that was published in Robin Barrat’s More of My Beautiful Bahrain

As gems, pearls hold a particular fascination for me. They come in a myriad shades and colours. When they occur naturally, they are formed by an accident. A tiny grain of sand, a little pebble, enters an oyster shell and irritates the mantle. In response the mantle secretes nacre to cover the irritant and in doing so creates a pearl. What a wonderful thing to do! What a beautiful response to an irritant. Instead of destroying the unwelcome guest, the oyster lovingly encases it to create one of the world’s most prized gems.

I can’t help think, that in some ways that’s a bit like Bahrain.

At one time the area referred to as Bahrain extended as far north as Basra and down to the Omani coast in the south1 its capital being Hajar1 . I had heard of Basra pearls even before I came to the Kingdom. So the mystique and magic of the island where the pearls came from, as well as the fact that this was the place where oil was discovered in the Middle East, added to the aura around Bahrain or as they called it, more accurately in the old days: Bahrein. That being closer to the meaning, two seas.

Long before oil became the mainstay of the region, Bahrain’s main source of income was its pearls. And, if certain sources on the Internet are to be believed, the region, if not the country, was ‘historically where the world’s best pearls came from.

As I understand it, fresh water aquifers beneath the seabed in Bahrain, contribute to the unique quality of Bahraini pearls. What made and continues to make Bahraini pearls particularly precious is the fact that back then the natural pearls of Bahrain were found and collected by ‘breath-hold’ divers. In addition, the pearl-diving season was short, lasting just over four months from June until early September.

The way it was done was that the divers would pinch their noses with a short peg made from the stem of a date palm leaf. They would then be let down on a weighted rope, remain submerged for about a minute, during which time they were able to harvest an average of eight to twelve oysters. These they would put into a bag, tug the rope and they would then be drawn up by the puller – a strong hefty man, who remained on the boat. After a number of dives one lot or divers would return to the boat to rest and recover while another lot were lowered to the oyster beds. Divers were not paid wages, instead they received a share of the profits from the sale of the pearls.

Given the nature of the work, the setting sail and staying away for around four months of the year it is not surprising that a unique and traditional music was developed that was exclusive to the pearl divers. This traditional music, known as fidjeri, is an age-old repertory of vocal music sung by the pearl divers of Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar. The Nahham, or pearl diver singers, were backed up by a chorus of singers and clappers accompanied by the mirwas – a small drum – and the jahlah – a clay pot.

At one time Kuwait had, in its sound archives, some of the best collections of recordings of these aboriginal songs and music. These were sadly destroyed in the First Gulf War during what was called the ‘Fires of Kuwait’.2

To quote Bill Badley – an expert on middle eastern music especially as it relates to the Oud – ‘This music, strange and distant as it seems, is the most vivid recollection of the lifestyle of the pearl divers, singing praises to Allah, sometimes erotic poems, sometimes hymns to the sea; and with it we are able to imagine the boats and the annual pearl diving seasons, the rudimentary but elaborate pieces of clothing used by the divers that preceded the modern diving suits by many centuries, and perhaps conjure up images of the pearl divers – their hopes and dreams and their fears of the sea as well as their life, long before the oil economy.’

Water pollution resulting from spilled oil and indiscriminate over-fishing of oysters essentially ruined the once pristine pearl producing waters of the Gulf. Today, pearl diving is practiced only as a hobby. Still, Bahrain remains one of the foremost trading centres for high quality pearls.

While researching the songs of the pearl divers I was so moved by some of the material that I felt I had to write something about them. I have tried to capture the rhythms and movement of the gentle waves of the Arabian Gulf in my poems as well as subtly echo the strong drumbeat that was at the centre of the songs. In one of them I have imagined a mythical old pearl diver grown large and titanic in size beneath the waves rising one night and to his horror discovering the cause of the decline of the pearling trade – ‘cargo ships and oil tankers’, and in another I have asked the world at large and the powers that be in the Kingdom to resurrect the beauty of both pearling and this traditional music.

And here are two poems that are adaptations of the original songs,

Pearl Divers’ morning prayer

(Adapted)

Today again I sail out to dive

To the deepest blue of the sea below

Today once again you know I’ll strive

For a pearl, a pearl that I can show.

So heave you rowers heave, I say

Today is that day, today is that day!

 

O morning sun, come bless our dive

Make fortune smile on us today,

Pardon our sins and bless our lives

In the name of Allah, we do pray.

So heave you rowers heave, I say

Today is that day, today is that day!

 

Your mercy is unlimited, Lord

And from our sins we’ve turned away,

And so we pray that you afford

A following wind and a clear, calm day.

 

So heave you rowers heave, I say

Today is that day, today is that day!

 

Pearl Divers’ evening prayer

(Adapted)

From the depth of the sea

I have risen O Lord,

Twice times ten I went down below.

The date palm peg it held my nose

The weights on the rope,

They anchored my toes.

 

We thank you O Creator

That you have made our lives so easy.

We thank you O Creator

For making a generous sea.

 

Our riches and hopes and prayers

O Lord, they come from you.

Today we bring good tidings

To our neighbours and families.

 

The sun, the sea and the wind

O Lord, they sting my hands and skin.

But these are like nothing, O Lord

When we see the pearls within.

 

Reference:

1 Manama People & Heritage by A. Karim Al Orrayed

2Reference: David Douglas’ Film ‘Fires of Kuwait’ / Bill Badley Wikipedia