Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trepidation

And so I wonder what you think of me,
Of those years of the yonder that I spent with thee.

Happiness and brightness maketh me,
But does despair rear her head, doesn't she?

I trip her, I fight her, I hide her,
She snarls  at me like an angry cur.

Now I wonder what you think of me,
As I lose my face before thee.

And as you dodge my question,
You must note this suggestion:

A poetess, a songstress, you think I shall be,
But a damsel in distress you'll find in me.

- Eisha

Monday, September 15, 2014

Australiana # 17: “Jesus Was A Refugee”

For the last three months, the Uniting Church has become a part of my life. My friend, an Indian Christian, suggested we visit one so that she could put her 15-month old son in the playgroup there and he would become more confident about dealing with strangers. “If you don't mind the kids, it may be a good place to network with people from different countries.” I agreed, for I did not have much else to do. My friend took her son to a couple of churches in two of Brisbane's western suburbs – Toowong and Indooroopilly.

Unlike in India, where churches are minority institutions and thus attract almost always Christians, in Australia, they are more like community centres. I've seen Iraqi women in full burqas joining in the chatter with Korean mothers at the playgroup. I have exchanged notes with very talented and educated Iranian women about the cultural similarities between India and Iran. And I have never been asked if I am Christian (except, of course, by fellow south Asians).

On the Indooroopilly Uniting Church window


On one occasion when my friend was late, I waited outside the Indooroopilly Uniting Church. There were posters on the window. One caught my eye, “Jesus was a refugee.” Having studied in Christian institutions in India and with many Christian friends and relatives, I was surprised I had never heard of it before. I asked my friend, a Protestant from Hyderabad, and she had no clue. “We'll have to study this a bit,” she said. And so I Googled. One commentary on the New Testament says: “If we read 2:13-14 in the context of Matthew's Gospel, we realize that even in his childhood the Son of Man already lacked a place to lay his head (8:20). Disciples would face the same kind of test (10:23; 24:16). Jesus' miraculous escape here should not lead us to overlook the nature of his deliverance (compare, for example, 1 Kings 17:2-6). Jesus and his family survived, but they survived as refugees, abandoning any livelihood Joseph may have developed in Bethlehem and undoubtedly traveling lightly... Some Christians in the West act as if an easy life were their divine right, as if to imply that suffering Christians elsewhere lack faith or virtue. Yet from its very beginning the story of Jesus challenges such a premise. Of the millions of refugees and other impoverished people throughout the world (for reports, see, for example, B. Thompson 1987), some are our brothers and sisters in Christ; many others have never yet heard how much he loves them.”

The Uniting Church is a strong advocate for rights for refugees and asylum seekers in Australia and “a just response to the needs of refugees that recognises Australia's responsibilities as a wealthy global citizen, upholds the human rights and safety of all people, and is based on just and humane treatment, including non-discriminatory practices and accountable transparent processes.”

The treatment of asylum seekers in Australia has been the raging political debate over the last six months. With wars in Syria and Iraq and mounting xenophobia, many citizens view refugees as 'future terrorists'. As a developed nation with low population, Australia is obliged to take in refugees and asylum-seekers, but in a crippling phase of economic recession and the very real threat of terrorism, politicians are reluctant to do too much.

I met Soh*, a woman who fled Iran with her husband and child. She travelled on a fake passport to Indonesia and then arrived in Australia by boat. Not arrived, actually. They were intercepted by the Australian navy and shunted to the Christmas Island Detention Centre in the Indian Ocean where they waited four months to get a bridging visa that would enable them to go to mainland Australia. The bridging visa allows Soh and her husband to stay in Brisbane as temporary residents but they are not allowed to work or study. The government provides them financial assistance to cover their basic expenses. Soh hopes to get an Australian citizenship. “I love it here. I don't want to go back to Iran. We'll be put in jail for leaving the country on fake passports.”

On most days, I find Soh at the Uniting Church, volunteering to take care of the children, while mothers participate in the art, sewing or English-speaking classes the church runs for free (or for a minor donation of $4) to enable immigrants to interact and mingle with members of the community. It's a relief for her. Her life hangs in balance, but she has never felt more free.


(*name has been changed to protect identity)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Song of the Lord and Flow - River Legends from India in Sakal Times


"Speaking of the legal framework with regard to e-books, Eisha Sarkar, a freelance journalist and communication consultant based in Australia who has published two books The Song of the Lord and Flow — River Legends from India online, says, 'You can copyright your works like you do for any other digital content — DVDs, portals, etc. Most platforms force registrations and pay-ups before downloads so that you are safeguarded. Kindle makes it very difficult for you to pass on a file to someone else unless Amazon has approved it. As for people copying or plagiarising your work after they have downloaded it by physically typing the whole book, it’s a risk you have to go with'."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

You and I

I met a friend after 11 years and we have been trying, through conversations, to fill the gap in our memories and lives. During the course of these conversations, some words just stayed with me. I started listing them, hoping to do a Haiku, but the poem kept getting longer with each conversation. Here it is:

At Mandarmani, West Bengal (Pic courtesy: Eisha Sarkar)


You and I

You and I,
Eleven years,
A thousand memories,
A lost time.

Skype calls,
Confessions,
Judgments and
Conversations.

Perceptions,
Remarks,
Natures,
Complexes.

Barriers, walls,
Broken and built.
Wires and fences,
Boundaries reborn.

Do I know you,
Or not?
Time slips,
Falters and Falls.

Demons,
Duels,
Shadows,
Myths.

Light and hope,
Morning-afters,
Empty glasses,
Broken bottles.

Beeps,
Messages,
Anticipation,
Dismay.

Words,
Formed,
Unformed,
Unsaid.

“Poetry in motion,”
Lost emotion,
Prejudice,
A soul tormented.

Darkness,
Suffering,
Guilt,
Devotion.

Poetry, plague,
Rhythm and motion.
Life and blood,
Tears that flood.

Crying,
Laughing,
Rolling,
Falling.

Marriage,
Wisdom,
Gay,
Abandon.

Preservation,
Relief,
Self-deprecation,
Belief.

You and I,
Eleven Years,
A thousand memories,
A lost journey.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Shadows



In bright and glow, I make friends to show,
In darkness, I disappear into the crevices of despair.

In spring, I take flight with my new wings,
In autumn, I withdraw to the house that's my cage.

In the shadows, I live, I breathe, I pray,
From dawn to dusk, from night to day.

Words can't describe what I have to say,
My tongue loosens but falters on its way.

The light steals my vantage, I worry and run,
There's no more shadow, only the sun.

I skip, I turn, I trip, I fall,
Time passes, not willing to stop.

How soon will I find my shadows there?
A question on the lips, my visions blur.

- Eisha





Monday, September 1, 2014

Australiana #16: Coolangatta and A Poetic Tribute to the Legend of Kirra

After three days of being off bounds because of the stormy sea, the Gold Coast beaches were reopened to tourists. On a rare weekend of good weather in Brisbane, we took off to Coolangatta, the sourthernmost beach of the Gold Coast City and a lesser-known tourist destination and about a 100 km from Brisbane. It was named after a schooner (a sailing vessel) called Coolangatta which was wrecked there in 1846. Here are the pics:






On a board was a poetic tribute to surfing legend, Michael Peterson (1952-2012) of Kirra by Daniel Carmichael:

"His name is Michael Peterson and Kirra is his home,
sitting deep inside the barrel as he rides upon the foam.
You'd swear he couldn't make it but you knew he wouldn't quit,
then you'd hear the MP whistle come from deep within the pit.

"The wave would rifle down the point, come out you thought he wouldn't,
then he'd shoot out with the spit and turn where other surfers couldn't. 
Some would cheer while others were restricted to a hush, 
MP's canvas was the wave and the single fin his brush.

"MP already had the reputation in the surf,
when Falzon shot a film about 'The Morning of the Earth'.
It only took 3 minutes for the surfing world to see,
from the barrel to the cutback, there is only one MP.

"There's been legends like Curren, Slater, Irons and Tommy Carroll,
but the legend started years ago deep in Kirra's barrel.
Although he's now passed away and laying down to rest,
even Kelly Slater said himself that MP was the best."