my mother’s mother.

 

i don’t HAVE a country,  i AM the stories of my life lived & dreamed,
the stories of my parents,
the stories of this life & the one before & the one before
& all that flowed in between.
India is my mother’s land.
when part of myself was part of my mother part of her mother,
i was a tiny egg in my unborn mother in her mother’s womb,
& my unconceived cells breathed the music of India,
her carnatic clamours & temple bells,
muezzin calls floating in & out of tune in jasmine-clad air,
her immense sadnesses & her knowing silence,
the sandalwood song of my mother’s mother’s skin
& her hips rolling slow in cotton sari,
wrapped around her warm belly & my unfurling mother & me- unthought of.
India is not a country to me,
she is this unspoken song always remembered.
and this is why my heart breaks every time my feet land on her noisy, dusty, impossibly contradictory soil,
& every time i say goodbye, my heart breaks once more.

To My Unborn Child : a mother writes.

turtle_beach

i was my mother’s only child, and she almost died giving birth to me.
we were best friends. the kind that bicker & argue all the time.
we were also so incredibly stubborn.

my mother died in 2013, when i was 32 years old.
we had just spent 18 months living together in an absurdly large house in Goa.
18 months with my mother and her liver tumour. (more…)

in the nearness of you

in the nearness of you,
i whittle away & erode
my diffuse soul

one moment she recoils, shrunken & trembling:
a leaf already caught up in autumn,
a relish of colour, exquisitely unsure of being alive;
and now it is time to fall,
ever so gently fall, and splay out on moist earth,
sharing breath with nightstars &
summer’s echoing of insect-dance on faded grass.

one moment she soars, laughing wildly,
wings spread out a glistening malachite,
talons painted pomegranate red,
turning, twirling, swooping, she dives up to the orbs
and rushes down, grazing the ocean’s breathing belly,
inhaling salty whalesong as she lifts up, gently,
ever so gently,
lost in harmony & sky.

in the nearness of you,
i feed you the fullness of me
& sometimes, forget to be.

Last night. Writing on a dream. Full moon weaving its watery magic.

a great-grandfather visits.

last night,
in quiet unshaped dreamwaters,
you visited for the first time.

you died so many many years before i came to be.

last night,
in quiet unshaped dreamwaters,
we sat you and i, on a rowboat,
drifting towards a dawn mist soft as silk.
your wife, my father’s mother’s mother,
sat with us.
we sang for you unspoken words in the silence,
unbroken by water and sunrise.
and then you stood up,
and on the next breath, you were no more.
dissolved into the watery quiet.

for the first time since i came to be,
i loved you.

once in a while you visit : a memory of my great-grandmother.

once in a while, you visit,
sudden, un-beckoned, always acknowledged
with a smile infinitely sad and tender
that unfolds its butterfly wings
and dragonfly depth
in the space between breaths,
somewhere between my remembering heart
and my childhood me.
once in a while, you visit,
bestowing upon the instant
scents and tastes, confetti-like,
and right now, it was a waft of Sunday and winter,
the pastel clear sweetness of dragées,
sugar cool like old-fashioned water, and sticky;
right now, it was a murmur of your smell,
honeysuckle cologne too fresh and flowery for truth,
weaved into the vaguely brittle mustiness
of your deep old-age,
and a hundred years of gazing up at the moon every night,
before sleep.

Danielle McLaughlin : in memoriam.

a tribute to Danielle McLaughlin, who was raped & murdered in South Goa on Tuesday, in the wake of Holi, the festival of colours that celebrates aliveness & love.

Danielle’s story is yet another tragedy in our seemingly endless flow of women violated, desecrated, murdered. another Jyoti Singh. another Lucia Perez. the list goes on.
this time it feels very close to home. i know the land where Danielle took her last steps very well. i have lived and loved there. mourned my mother and scattered her ashes in that patch of ocean. and like many these past days, i am moved to words, sadly aware, that even as i write them, somewhere else there is another Danielle, another Jyoti, another Lucia living through the same nightmare.

dear Danielle,

when you & i met, already you were no more,
and the world was bursting at the seams
with everything you were & would have been,
if your young life had not been ripped away from you
on that violating, murderous night. (more…)

Red & Blue.

Red:
scarlet-red branchlings-
springtime dances
in autumn colours.

Blue :
at the leafy, mulchy
foot of the red,
tiny among dormant wild strawberry,
a blue flower.

Metta meditation : a lovemaking.

 

i sleep as you sit
half-lotused on wooden floor,
my eyes are shut
my heart is a little quieter now,
still, even in sleep,
my shoulders are hunched
against the world,
saddened by her saddest tales.

now i sleep a little deeper
as you sit half-lotused on wooden floor,
a breath comes and goes
a breath comes and goes
a breath-
it flows over me
like the softest whispering,
tender like a mother’s touch & quiet as a cat,
rushes from my ankles up along my spine
& dissolves on my face-
i sit up
all at once asleep,
wondrous, smiling, squinting, heart abeat,
‘were you in metta just now?’ i ask,
your eyes are open,
watching me being born anew
breath after breath
as you sit half-lotused on wooden floor,

& then you smile.

When a young man was raped. A poem.

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dedicated to Theo, Jyoti Singh, Lucia Perez, and all the victims of sexual violence.
#JusticepourTheo

i am sharing this poem once more, because on this grey wintry morning, my heart is still filled with ache.
i ache with and for Theo, whose life will never be the same again. 2 weeks ago, this young Parisian man was at the wrong place and at the wrong time, and from one moment to the next Life-as-he-knew-it collapsed: he was racially abused, attacked, beaten up, and brutalised by police officers and one of them rammed his truncheon into Theo’s anus so violently, that he required emergency care and had to be operated on.
there is burning anger on the streets of Paris.
and i although i am sitting warm and quiet in my tiny flat in southern Sweden, i am also there, and all of it. i am the person who cried with tears of pain and anguish hearing Theo’s harrowing words. i am the person who quickly changes the channel because thinking about it is too much. i am the person screaming on the streets. i am the person burning cars.

i am Theo, and his desecrated body.
and i am all the young people, named and unnamed, who are continuously being violated, abused, destroyed and desecrated by life, by people in power and authority, by their neighbours, by strangers, by family.
the youth of our world are the hope of our world.
we have a duty to nurture, respect, honour and protect our youth.
and i believe we also have a duty to practice compassion, in thought, intention, speech and action.
because whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, whether we are Theo or the police officer who beat him up and raped him…compassion is our essence and our purpose. this is who we are. this is our aliveness.
Theo, what happened to you is unjust beyond words. and i hope you will know how to make sense of it, for yourself, and eventually turn your suffering to healing.

Here is the poem that birthed inside of me when i encountered your pain: (more…)

When my DNA results arrived on Valentine’s Day…

I got a very unexpected Valentine’s Day present today: the results of my DNA test!!!

Two months ago i ordered a DNA test from 23andMe, spat into the test-tube, packed it back and sent it. Then i registered my personal bar-code online and waited. And waited. It was an expensive purchase, and i was nervous something would go wrong along the way. It took weeks simply for my spit to travel halfway across the world and get to the testing lab. I was not meant to get my results before the middle of March, but my inbox told me otherwise this morning. ‘Your results have arrived’ it said, and still-not-fully-awake, i clicked on the link:
https://www.23andme.com/en-eu/ (more…)

Valentine’s Day : Nagukunda, a lovelorn song in Spanish made in Rwanda.

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(Nagukunda; guitar & vocals: Bizi; accordeon: Estelle Lannoy; lyrics & vocals: Arusha Topazzini)

Nagukunda means ‘i love you’ in Kinyarwanda.
I recorded this song in Kigali in 2008, when i was visiting my mother who was living and working there, training journalists at a newly set-up radio station. (more…)

Last night : a meditation.

Something absolutely unexpected happened last night.

I sat in meditation, brain-tired after another day in front of the computer.
I was buzzing with words, thoughts and images. My mind and heart worn down from the onslaught of ‘headline’news:
The earth is crying for our attention, but the mighty everywhere, in their palaces of weaponry, money and executive orders prefer spreading fear and anger.

the man with the funny hat : a poem

he was called Fernando. my grieving buddy extraordinaire.
we met down the road from where my flat used to be, on a tiny cobbled street squeezed between a tiny park, a big new church and a ring-road, on the northern edge of Paris.
i was sitting at the local cyber-cafe which looked more like India than Paris and felt so familiar after 18 months of living in Goa.

i noticed his violin first.

O vento : a song-poem

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(Guitar & percussion : Michel Ongaro ; lyrics & vocals : Arusha Topazzini; mixed by the one and only Jacktone Okore)

on a rain-tinged evening i wrote the following song-poem, thinking of the many times when i, a young child visiting family in Bombay, watched other children walking up and down the seafront by the Gateway of India.

they were about my age or older, some barely had any clothes on, their skin was coated in traffic and sea-air dust, their hair matted, and their eyes, faraway.  i was a child watching other children, and seeing no part of life-as-i-knew-it reflected back. i knew something was very wrong, but i was too young to understand it fully in my mind. i understood it in my heart and my child-eyes instead. (more…)