Category Archives: People Portraits

SWORDS AND ROSES

There nestled two villages –

on opposite sides of

a majestic mountain

but never had the twain –

seen each other.

 

There nestled two villages –

idyllic and as pretty as could be

heady with the fragrance of roses but –

Red in one and White in the other.

 

There nestled two villages –

with beauteous women and men

that strutted with chests puffed and swords –

that gleamed and glistened.

 

And then one day, there arose a rumour –

skies darkened and lightning struck

and blood thirsty cries rose  –

in a thunderous and murderous chorus.

 

“How can Roses be Red?”

“How can Roses be White!”

“How can that possibly be true?”

“Kill those liars! Kill for ’tis definitely untrue!”

 

And so, they disbelieved each other and cried –

 “Sharpen your swords! Get on your horses!”

“Kill those liars! And save your souls!”

“For our truth is the only Truth!”

“For it cannot  –

otherwise be!”

 

And so they clawed and clambered

to the top of the majestic mountain

and fought and fought and fought

and their children and their children –

too fought.

 

And killed and killed and killed

For their truths –

Roses could only be Red!

Roses could only be White!

How could it possibly be otherwise!

 

And they continue to disbelieve each other –

And continue to fight

their bloody and brutal fight

and trample upon Roses both –

Red and White

And now there are Roses –

No more.

 

And now there are children –

no more.

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Filed under Life, Meditation, Mindfulness, Peace, People Portraits, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, Spirituality, War

THE MASKED

photo 5

Men and women in masks
Marionettes that dance
Fake smiles in bright lights
Brittle and brazen in fights
With holes in their souls
How do they get by
With hideous grasping
Greedy and grabbing
Stripping the world bare
With an ugly stare
Beautiful carcasses
Designed to deceive
In shadows they live
Without masks
They cannot breathe
Such is the world
A stage –
of masked
Strangers.

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Filed under Life, People Portraits, Pictures, Poetry

AN UNTOLD STORY

For a moment our eyes met
and a million questions arose
behind a veil, a story peeked
and waited to be told.
So many faces, so many stories
so many worlds colliding with
each other for moments to unfold.

Every moment that collided,
intersected and intertwined
drew a venn diagram of life
an intersection of separate lives
lived intensely and infinitely
as one, only to have to go on
living in separate worlds.

And our story
had no beginning and so no end
just for a moment had our eyes met
and so for now, my story and yours
will have to wait
to unfold.

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Filed under Life, People Portraits, Poetry

THE LOST

(My work brings me in contact with people who have suffered devastating tragedies in some way in their life. This poem is ‘inspired’ – am not sure that’s an appropriate word – by one such tragedy.)

 

He stood shivering

wet skin and dry eyes;

He jingled

jangled tunes

breaking through

torn pocket

wounds.

 

He lived rough

and pretended to be

oh so tough;

Meagre possessions

in a broken cart

a blanket, cigarettes

and a burnt out heart.

 

Where will he

sleep tonight?

Underneath the

plastic sheet

behind the

garbage bin

fiddlin’ with

her frayed picture

he’d gambled

with life

 

And

didn’t win.

 

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Filed under Life, People Portraits, Poetry

COURAGE

The world today is so competitive, cut-throat and dog eat dog. Everybody is running faster, needing more, wanting more. And the more we get, the more we want. The more we want, the more we run and the more we run the more unhappy we become – proverbial hamsters on the wheel!

And in all this wanting, it’s so easy to forget all that we do have – all the gifts that we take for granted. And one of the greatest gifts that we can have is healthy children. What a miracle it is that most are born perfect, beautiful and healthy – isn’t that alone a cause for infinite happiness?

But like most it wasn’t something I had thought about consciously – it was brought home to me, when I volunteered with children having Cerebral Palsy and their parents. I had previously written about ANAND who had Cerebral Palsy and who had inspired me and today I am reminded of my wonderful friend Jyotsna who is the picture of grace and courage, given her special challenge. She is the mother of beautiful Anandita, who has cerebral palsy. Jyotsna writes about it on her blog ‘Learning Disability and Special Needs’ (http://myjourneywithanandita.blogspot.co.uk/).

The one thing I noticed the most in Jyotsna and in most of the parents I met, is their lack of self-pity and bitterness. They don’t wail – why me! Instead they get on with the business of life with even more determination, patience and courage. There’s is a hard path, but just like Gold is smelted and burnished before it gleams – these parents gleam Gold – by their very tough experiences. Jyotsna’s cheerfulness, her willingness to help others (she now mentors other parents) is simply amazing!

I have learnt so much from them and been humbled by their courage and inspired by them – and the next time my child doesn’t come at the top of his class, I will not berate him or run him down. Next time I feel like complaining, groaning and moaning about life – I will simply remind myself of the wonderful gift I have.

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A Challenged Love.

It’s ok to make war. But not ok to Love.

I will tell you a story today, not just any story – a True Story – one that broke my heart…

This goes back again to the days, when I was lecturing at a Teacher’s training college, which was attached to a school of special children. And the course was for teachers who were to be teaching special children, those who were ‘challenged’ by the ‘standards’ of this world.

One day my colleague Meena, came across Nirmal, sitting on his wheelchair, completely distraught and in a flood of tears. Nirmal was an eighteen year old, quadriplegic, suffering from Cerebral Palsy. He was able to communicate a little bit by writing and speaking a few words, though somewhat incoherent. After a great deal of trying, Meena finally learnt that Nirmal’s trainee teacher – Sonia – hadn’t come to school for many, many days.  The other trainees told Meena that Nirmal hadn’t been eating for a while now. Unable to bear the sight of Nirmal’s grief, Meena contacted Sonia and after a great deal of persuasion, Sonia finally agreed to meet her.

The day Meena met young Sonia, was the day of Sonia’s ‘Mehendi’  (I think)….There she was decked up, her hands covered in Mehendi, soon to get married. Meena told her about Nirmal…about his pain and distress…how he was refusing to eat or drink….from the day of Sonia’s absence. And none of us knew why? What had happened? Did she know? Sonia looked up, her eyes glistening with un-spilt tears…for a long time she refused to say anything….finally – after a great deal of cajoling she told Meena….

One day, as Sonia had been teaching Nirmal, one to one, sitting next to him…he had scrawled a note in his shaky, unsteady writing…’I Love You’…Sonia had thought it sweet, treating it as a small child’s declaration and not giving it much thought. And then, he said he wanted to kiss her. Sonia was thoroughly confused and frightened by this. She didn’t know what to do and from the next day she simply stopped coming to college. She thought it was horrible of Nirmal, she thought it was a great ‘Sin’. She felt ‘boys like him’ shouldn’t have ‘those’ sort of feelings. That it was all so wrong! It wasn’t her fault – it’s what she had been taught to believe, what millions like her do believe – false notions of Sin and rights and wrongs. And that children, adults like ‘them’ are allowed only to be vegetables, with no feelings or desires. They weren’t allowed! Even animals love..give and need love!

Nirmal was physically and mentally challenged – and like everyone else in this world, he felt Love, he fell in Love. It’s the one thing that makes our life worth living and beautiful! But our society denies this most basic of right, this most basic of emotions to living, breathing humans like him. And attach false ideas, of sin and morality to it – Why?

Aren’t they human? Just because they are ‘disabled’ in some way, don’t they have a right to live?

To Love?

(All names changed to protect privacy of individuals)

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People Portraits : Anand

People. It’s always about people. And sometimes it’s about children who are more grown up than adults.

No matter what your stature or status in life, no matter how rich or poor in material terms, real enrichment is because of the people who touch our lives – some good, some not so good and some utterly magnificent and unforgettable. And their impact isn’t simply because of the length of time they spend with us or even their age – it is who they are! Obvious yes? Not really. Let me explain –

Many years ago, in Mumbai, I started volunteering for an organisation for children with Cerebral Palsy – I worked both with the children and their parents. And here I came across ‘Anand’ (name changed for privacy reasons).

Anand was a quadriplegic – he had just a torso and no limbs but his brain was as sharp as razor. His eyes shone with intelligence, mischief and mayhem and their were times when I would have to discipline him like any another ‘normal’ child. But what is ‘normal’? Simply because someone or something doesn’t fit into society’s parameters of what ‘normal’ should be doesn’t make them abnormal. Nobody has the right to call them that! But I digress – let’s get back to Anand.

So this little imp Anand followed me around in school, he called me his girlfriend 🙂 – shuffling about at speeds you wouldn’t believe! He would reach out and pull my hair – whenever I would sit down next to him – with the little stubs he had (no hands), so much so that I would yelp in pain. The smiles never left his face and he made me smile too, all the time! His exuberance and joy was something to behold – that he could find ways to laugh, in circumstances so dire, was amazing and humbling.

Anand lived in abject poverty, in slums. His mother would bring him to the organisation, every single day – never losing courage or hope. His father wanted him out – wanted to leave him out on the streets – to fend for himself. It was his mother who stood courageously by her son. Both mother and son experienced abuse. There was a time when I saw cigarette burns on the child, put there by his own father. I cannot even begin to express the pain and horror of it all…

I thought – I was the one helping them – instead I came away, learning from them. THEY helped me. THEY taught what real courage was, to be happy no matter what. To always BE Grateful for what I had.

ANAND – Wherever you are, I hope you are well and happy. I will never forget you. My life is all the more richer for having spent time with you.

(Previous blog: The Glass Wall http://www.painauchocolat.blogspot.com)

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