Saturday, November 29, 2014

Australiana #21: The Storm's Coming

On November 27, Brisbane was hit by a cyclone, the worst in 30 years causing as estimated damage of A$ 200 million. We had no power for 24 hours and the city was littered with fallen trees and broken roofs. I wrote this poem:

The Storm's Coming

From my balcony
I capture a picture,
gold and red,
the shades of sunset.

I bask in the fading light
as day turns to night.
I watch the horizon,
the lamps' incandescence.

On the east I see,
a black haze
smoke, dust
or clouds maybe.

Like an invading army,
their pace quickens,
the sun disappears
darkness descends.

Then comes the wind
speeding and howling,
sends out a warning:
The storm's coming.

The gusts, the rain,
I watch curiously
till a ball of ice
falls by my side.

Nature smiles
a knowing smile,
a crooked smile,
a devious smile.

She pelts me with hail,
breaks the glass;
a deafening noise
I cower, I shudder.

The storm's come,
the trees have fallen,
the roofs have blown,
the cables broken.

In the darkness,
the damp and heat
I sit and wait,
hold my breath.

The storm blows over,
a city destroyed.
How many more
will Nature conquer?

TV crews and reporters,
bloggers and scribes,
broken homes and spirits,
they describe.

As night turns to day,
a male bowerbird
surveys the damage,
Nature's rampage.

In his tiny beak
he carries with care
a glass, a brush,
a straw, a screw.

He builds his bower
with care and precision,
hopes a mate will come
and make a decision.

I find the bird's bower,
the glass, the brush,
the straw, the screw,
a picture, pretty and new.

- Eisha

Brisbane-based artist Jane James has spent two years researching bowerbirds in Australia and Papua New Guinea and come up with a series of awe-inspiring artworks. Check out her works on

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Birds in sand

I learnt the art of sand-painting from aboriginal artist-cum-sports instructor-cum army reserve personnel, Marda Pitt who hails from a remote village in Cape York, the northern tip of Australia. My bare hands worked the sand-glue-paint mixture on canvas.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


A blank canvas,
a splash of paint,
a human form
takes shape.

Yellows and reds,
like dawns and dusks,
like fires and flames,
like vapours disperse.

A silhouette emerges,
dark and distinct,
as midnight's demons
consume my wishes.

Strokes and blends,
lines and waves,
a quivering hand,
a mind untamed.

- Eisha

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Australiana #20: How much of history shall we remember and how much can we forget?

I finally visited Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia. The area that is now called Melbourne was explored in 1835 by Batman. Yes, you read it right! Jon Batman negotiated a purchase of 600,000 acres with eight elders of the Wurundjeri tribe, a tribe that had been inhabiting the land for around 40,000 years. So Melbourne was born and with the discovery of gold in Victoria, grew into a huge port and a bustling metropolis. If there's a city in Australia that might remind you of Mumbai, it's Melbourne.

Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne (Pic by: Eisha Sarkar)

While taking a tram down the St Kilda Road, I noticed a pyramid-like structure rising from manicured lawns. It turned out to be the Shrine of Remembrance. Unveiled in 1934, the Shrine of Remembrance was established to commemorate the soldiers from Victoria who had died in service during the First World War and is now a memorial to all Australians who have served in war. The sanctuary contains the marble of Remembrance, upon which is engraved the words "Greater love hath no man".

What captured my attention was this ode Rudyard Kipling had penned down on 11 November, 1934:

"So long as memory, valour, and faith endure,
Let these stones witness, through the years to come,
How once there was a people fenced secure

Behind great waters girdling a far home.

Their own and their land’s youth ran side by side

Heedless and headlong as their unyoked seas,

Lavish o’er all, and set in stubborn pride

Of judgment, nurtured by accepted peace.

Thus, suddenly, war took them, seas and skies

Joined with the earth for slaughter. In a breath

They, scoffing at all talk of sacrifice,

Gave themselves without idle words to death.

Thronging as cities throng to watch a game

Or their own herds move southward with the year,

Secretly, swiftly, from their ports they came,

So that before half earth had heard their name

Half earth had learned to speak of them with fear;

Because of certain men who strove to reach,

Through the red surf, the crest no man might hold,

And gave their name for ever to a beach

Which shall outlive Troy’s tale when Time is old;

Because of horsemen, gathered apart and hid,

Merciless riders whom Megiddo sent forth

When the outflanking hour struck, and bid

Them close and bar the drove-roads to the north;

And those who, when men feared the last March flood

Of Western war had risen beyond recall,

Stormed through the night from Amiens and made good,

At their glad cost, the breach that perilled all.

Then they returned to their desired land,

The kindly cities and plains where they were bred,

Having revealed their nation in earth’s sight

So long as sacrifice and honour stand,

And their own sun at the hushed hour shall light

The shrine of these their dead!"

Poppies to mark the fallen heroes (Pic by: Eisha Sarkar)

Outside, there was a field of poppies (artificial) as a mark for those soldiers who laid down their lives during World War I and a few lines from a poem by John Alexander McCrae called Flanders Fields:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amidst the guns below...”

The ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day are celebrated in Australia on 25 April and 11 November respectively.

Back in Brisbane, I met my aboriginal friend, Marda Pitt, who shared the story of her ancestors' first contact with the white man. Marda hails from remote north Queensland, from a village populated by 300 aboriginals who continue their hunting-gathering lifestyle as their ancestors had done for 40,000 years. 

About 200 years ago, Marda's ancestors came in contact with Dutch merchants. The Dutch grabbed the aboriginals' lands, raped their women, killed their children and brutalised the men into subjugation and slavery, with the aid of the police and missionaries. It's not a history that is taught regularly in schools in Australia. 

Brisbane Times' coverage of the aboriginal protests during the G20 Leaders' Summit on 15-16 November 2014 

During the recent G20 Leaders' Summit in Brisbane, hundreds of aboriginal activists gathered to protest against custodial deaths of their people and threats to their land rights. The protests garnered some coverage in the media, but it waned quicker than Tony Abbott's shirtfronting threat. Someone asked Marda whether the indigenous people could forget the wrongs that were done to their ancestors. She defiantly asked, “You bleed, we bleed. Are we not the same?” I get her point. If we can never forget what our soldiers went through during a war that took place 100 years ago, we shouldn't expect Australia's indigenous communities to forget their ancestors' brutal history.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Space and Time

World-weary I am,
treading along a path
winding, diverging,
with litter of the past.

Then comes an old man,
a face lined and spotted,
wise and weathered,
a good old man.

“Do I make my destiny,
or shall destiny make me?”
The old man coughs,
I wait for his answer.

“Destiny's in your hands,”
the old man tells me.
I've read that before,
but I want to know more.

“Space and time,
how much is mine?”
His lines soften,
jowls loosen.

His mouth opens,
a soundless laughter,
I see him, I watch him,
his soundless laughter.

“Scientists, astronomers,
geniuses, soothsayers,
astrologers, predictors
have tried to find answers.

“Their complex equations,
satellites and rockets,
launching and exploring,
the many universes.

“But young friend, I tell you,
Your space is where
you find your feet;
your time, the moment you do.”

- Eisha

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Says the man who lies on the bed:
"If only, should sleep consume me."
But sleep's a witch.
She saddles her broom,
waves her wand,
leaves the man, unconsumed, unwhole.

- Eisha

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Australiana #19: Alphabetically Aussie!

Scrambled words that describe Australia

Alphabetically Aussie!

Australia, Ayers, Assange, asylum;
Beaches, blokes, beers and bush;
Cricket, coffee and conversation;
Diplomacy, dollar, didgeridoos;
Entertaining evenings, exploration;
Feasting, fans, fast-lanes, flangaroos;
Gardens, grills, G'Days and 'greenies';
Highs, health, 'heaps' and handles;
Independent, inquisitive, indigenous;
Jargon, jumbuck, Japanese, jamboree;
Knowledge, koalas, kitties and Kylie;
Lust, love, life, less ordinary;
Murdoch, Miranda, Matilda, mates;
“No worries”, “nice 'n' easy”, NT;
Oz, Olympics, Opera House, opal;
Pokies' players, precious Pommies;
Quiet Queen and quarantine;
Rugby, reef, runners 'n' rowers;
Sand, sun, shadows and snakes;
Tests, tribulations, tribes, trips;
Uranium, units, Uggs, utes;
Victory, Victoria, Venus and vices;
Wine, weather, wellness, worship;
X-Men, XXXX, eXtreme;
Yarns, 'yakka', yells, 'yewies';
Zoos, Zen, zenith, zest.

- Eisha