Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Young, Smart & Committed to Changing The World

The Goa hub of the international World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers initiative is addressing global issues at the local level

Social media is a lot of things, chief among them being a superb out for venting. We’re always expressing our happiness, sadness, rage or disgust on the latest trending topic. But when it comes to actually getting down to doing something about it, people often pass the buck. It’s either out of their control or someone else’s job.
Not these youngsters. This group of 14 Goans has joined the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) international initiative to improve the state of the world, one project at a time. Around the world, thousands of Global Shapers are making a difference, from providing furniture and household items for displaced people in Gaza to encouraging young Costa Ricans to vote.
“These are young people exceptional in their potential, their achievements and their drive to make a contribution to their communities for building a more peaceful and inclusive world,” says Tallulah D’Silva, the curator of Global Shapers Community Panjim Hub.
With 50 per cent of the world’s population under 27 years of age and a majority in urban areas, the World Economic Forum began to look at engaging young people in the solutions to global challenges. The Swiss non-profit started this global network of people between the ages of 20 and 30 in 2011 and by June this year, more than 344 Global Shaper Hubs had been set up.
In Goa, the hub was formed five months ago after D’Silva received a call from the WEF. She then recruited youngsters she knew had the passion and drive to make a difference here.
“The Panjim Hub is involved in a number of different projects at the moment,” says social worker and photographer Fabian Franco, continuing, “One of the projects is promoting grey water recycling systems using plants and biogas systems in institutions.”
This is their G2H2O project in which they opt for plants over a conventional sewage treatment system to convert waste to clean water. Another similar project is their Trash2Gas initiative in which they hope to use wet waste to generate biogas that can be used to run a community kitchen, or light public spaces.
In Karmali, the group has joined hands with the Mitsuko Trust and the local panchayat to come up with a low-cost eco-friendly toilet to improve sanitation. The community in Old Goa is currently grappling with increasing population density, lack of water and sanitation facilities, which pollute water bodies and put the nearby Karmali Lake bird population at risk.
To combat this, the Hub’s Ecoloo Project is looking at eco-friendly, cost-effective individual and community sanitation modules with grey water recycling, minimal water usage, built with long-lasting materials, with plants grown in the root zone that can be used as food.
Recently, Viola Rodrigues, Mrinmayee Thakur and Chenelle Rodrigues assisted D’Silva with a series of nature trails to help students from city schools connect with their environment. “The objectives of the trails are to promote outdoor learning, understand local biodiversity, identify and document local flora and fauna, and connect to natural systems and understand the role they play,” the Shapers explain.
They’ve conducted two trails for students of Our Lady of The Rosary High School – one in Dona Paula and the other in Bambolim – and a third for the Little Penguins School in Old Goa.
The Hub will soon launch a Career Speak initiative for young school and college students to encourage them to choose careers that go beyond the typical ‘first choices’ of engineering and medicine. And this is just the start. D’Silva elaborates, “We are currently involved in preparing a tree policy for the city and are documenting and mapping tree avenues and different species. There are also plans to introduce urban farms in the city as a collaborative effort with Green Essentials and the Corporation of the City of Panjim.”
Goa’s Shapers come from across professions and spheres of interest – from professor Varad Sabnis, student of Environmental Studies Gabriella D’Cruz and research associate Atul Borker to journalist Anwesha Singbal, psychologist Krystal Cardozo, engineer Nitish Wagle, teacher Chandrakant Shinde, and the youngest Tarika Khan.
Being a part of the Hub is a way for them to make a change in society while also exposing themselves to the ideas and voices of youngsters from around the world. Entrepreneur Raghuvir Mahale is looking forward to using information technology to make life easier and improve daily life. “I also want to get exposed to a lot of knowledge from around the world, and learn new things that can be implemented in Goa,” he says.
The group meets every month, either at a small café or at the curator’s office, discussing ideas and making plans over hot chai and bhaji. They often work on implementing their projects on their own time after office hours, and gain inspiration from the shapers around the world who are already well on their way to making a difference.
The global community lends its support through forums and offers opportunities to exchange best practices on relevant issues – from selecting Shapers to Hub governance, and sharing insights with WEF colleagues on regional issues and pressing world challenges.
“I look at being part of the Global Shapers Community Panjim Hub as a way of helping each other with new projects, building a network not only in India but across the world and giving our community work international exposure,” says Franco.
This motley group of youngsters believes in making the change they want to see, and the next time we think of complaining about something, we might want to take a leaf out of their books first.
To learn more about Global Shapers, visit their website at www.globalshapers.org
First published in Goa Streets in August 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Singing in the rain for Sao Joao

Lift your spirits with this celebration of life

According to Christian tradition, more than 2000 years ago, St John the Baptist gave a little leap for joy in his mother’s womb when she heard a greeting from Mary, who had just become pregnant with Jesus Christ. His mother Elizabeth would scarce imagine that a strange recreation of this event would become a major part of his birthday celebrations in a tiny state on the western coast of India.
Tourists might be mildly surprised to walk through villages across Goa on June 24 to the sound of raucous singing and young men jumping into wells. The Catholic feast of São João (or ‘St John’ in Portuguese) is one of the most awaited celebrations of the monsoon season. At no other event can one splash old aunties and uncles with cold water from the well, run amok on the village roads in the pouring rain singing famous Konkani songs and get away  with it.
Villages in north Goa put a little more vigour into the festivities compared to those in the south. Across Anjuna, Assagao, Calangute, Chapora and Siolim, preparations for local entertainment programmes get underway at least a week to 10 days before the feast. What started as a local celebration has now spiralled into organised chaos, with nightclubs joining in the fun.
Throughout the month of June, pre São João events send cash registers ringing with one of the last big parties before Independence Day in August.
While some simply spruce up a regular party with the ‘São João’ – or corrupted Spanish- Portuguese mix ‘San João’ – tag, others open up their swimming pools and throw in some foam to get with the spirit of the celebration. Whichever one you show up at, generally married with suffixes like ‘bash’ or ‘shuffle’, you’re bound to have a good time.

But despite the high society revelry, the real festivities are the ones you see in villages – where boys and men wear headgear called ‘copels’ made of fresh leaves and seasonal flowers, knock back a drink or two, and distribute juicy fruit and traditional sweets to all who visit. Carlton Carvalho recalled the celebrations being much the same as they were when he was a child 20 years ago. “I used to go with the entourage through Fatorda, all of them without shirts, wearing copels woven at home. At each house they visited, they would jump in the well, and the residents would give them a drink. It was fun watching them jump into the well and then climb out of it.”
Residents keep their wells at the ready, removing meshes or covers and laying out a thick rope to help revellers out of the dank darkness. Heritage lover Sanjeev V Sardessai suggests that many of these traditions have very useful beginnings. “The custom of jumping into wells would ensure that the people’s main sources of water remained clean. No one would jump into a dirty well. Back in the day, it was their way of protecting the resources,” he said.
Not long after the prayer at the local cross or chapel, a motley group of men, young and old, make the rounds of homes in the village, playing local traditional instruments like the ghumot (an earthen vessel with one of two openings covered with the skin of a monitor lizard) and the kansallem (cymbals).
To join in the fun, you can sing along to local Konkani songs, many made popular by Goan singers over the years. Tradition dictates that ‘Viva San João’, a composition by Siolim tiatrist C Alvares, be sung with much gusto as it invites revellers to have a drink as they might not get any the next day.
It appears many take the strain “Choll-re, pie-re, tum illo ghe-re. Falean kain mevonam” pretty seriously. And all too often tragedy strikes. Not a year goes by without at least one case of drowning or near fatality. Emergency services, including ambulance teams, fire brigades and the police, are  generally on hand to avert such situations, while priests sound warnings against excessive drinking and misbehaviour. It’s hard to stay away from the fun though. Some villages, such as Candolim and Loutolim, organise a boat parade or ‘sangodd’ in which beautifully decorated boats are sailed down the nearest river to the sound of a brass band and folk songs. Villagers come out in support wearing vibrant costumes and chanting “Viva San João, viva San João”.

In Siolim, the celebrations are taken to new heights with the Traditional Boat Festival. A custom followed over hundreds of years involved residents of Chapora, Anjuna, Vagator and other nearby villages sailing their canoes up the creek, garlanding the cross with a whispered prayer and returning. It soon developed into a parade of colourful floats, following which just over two decades ago, a cultural committee got things a little more organised. “We host the parade and give out prizes for the best decorated boat. Later in the evening we hold an entertainment programme with cultural songs, tiatrs, folk dances and even fireworks at the end of the show,” said Sylvester Fernandes, president of the San João Traditional Boat Festival Committee.
Thousands of people throng the banks of the creek, spilling onto the roads, to watch the line up of innovatively decorated boats – from mermaids and crocodiles to wells and swans. Coveted cash prizes for the boat parade winners, spot prizes and famous entertainers including Francis de Tuem, Laurie and Luis Bachchan keep the  visitors coming back year after year, including some from the south. In some villages, the uninitiated might notice a bunch of revellers smacking thick hard stems of coconut palms on the ground. This symbolises an aversion for Judas, who betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver. Often, a stuffed effigy of Judas, not unlike Old Father Time, is carried about before being set on fire.
The feast of São João is also an important time for newlyweds. Known as ‘javoiache fest’ or feast of the sons-inlaw, it’s a time for families to show off the men their daughters have married. “According to this tradition, a recently married man visits his wife’s village. He is adorned with a copel of fresh leaves and flowers and joins in the celebration of jumping into the village wells,” explained historian Maria Lourdes Bravo da Costa.
At each home in which a wedding was celebrated in the last year, the daughters offer ‘dalis’ or a platter of seasonal fruit such as mangoes, pineapples and jackfruit fresh off the trees while the sons-in-law hand out that most favoured Goan beverage – a shot of feni – to keep the spirits up and the cold away.
Sardessai, who promotes the forum Hands-On Historians, believes that this tradition was connected with procreation. “Seasonal fruit provide vitamins and minerals that we might lack during that time of the year. Sons-in-law were given local fruit so they remain healthy and were able to provide a grandchild to the family. It’s a celebration of life!”
Many youngsters are now either too busy to follow traditions or find them too time consuming. It is heartening to watch those who continue to follow them, for as much as the nightclubs might call, it is the joyous manifestation of faith, the comfort of culture and joie de vivre typical to Goa that is bound to keep the São João tradition alive.

First published in Goa Streets

Monday, June 2, 2014

48 Hours In Panjim


Somewhere along the way you suddenly find yourself with two days to spare and the feeling that you really don’t want to do your chores. Kick off the mundane and don’t settle for reruns of Breaking Bad and How I Met Your Mother. Instead, get out and rediscover those memories of skipping class for hot samosas, pedaling furiously down back lanes or sneaking off with a teenage crush to a quiet spot. This time, we’ve picked Panjim.

Day 1:
Morning
Kick it off with some puri bhaji at Café Tato in the beating heart of the city. Everyone’s got their favourite spot for bhaji, but with Tato’s you can’t really go wrong. Follow it up with a plate of mirchi bhajis. As one of the city’s oldest and most popular cafés, you’re sure to spot someone familiar.
Take a walk around Panjim – you don’t have to go too far to browse through the stores. You would agree that the shopping here is far from the best, but you never know what new belt or random t-shirt with a quote about feni might catch your eye.
You could either walk down 18th June Road and enjoy the bustle under tree-lined streets, or weave your way through Fontainhas and São Tomé. It is evident the early fathers didn’t spare much thought for the traffic of the future and the cramped lanes in Panjim’s Latin quarter could make walking a slight hazard. But frankly, it’s quite worth it.
You’ll find some interesting curios at the Velha Goa Galeria to add to your collection, and the walk up to the Maruti Temple provides a neat view of life below. Cycling around these streets is even more enjoyable as it lets you cover greater distances without missing out.
Stop at the General Post Office and send some snail mail to a long-forgotten friend.

Afternoon
The perfect start to an afternoon could only be in the centre of Fontainhas with some delicious home cooking at Viva Panjim. It’s best to sit inside on a hot afternoon, particularly when you’re not too keen on having a local whiz by on his bike inches from the al fresco seating. The food here is reasonably priced and unpretentious, and will bring back dozens of memories of the times you have shared with friends and family. If you’re lucky, they might still have a tipple or two of this year’s urak.
Spending the day off at home in Goa is made fulfilling with an afternoon siesta. If you live close to the city, sneak home for an afternoon kip. If not, head to Miramar beach and you’re sure to nod off under one of those palm fronds. Catching up on reading at the beach makes for a delightful way to spend the afternoon alone.

Evening
When the heat has dissipated a little, it’s time to bring out your swimmers and hit the beach. Make the most of the closing of the summer, taking the short drive to Vainguinim beach at Cidade de Goa in Dona Paula for a few hours of wading in the shallows.
You could join in a game of football, should some of the locals be kicking one about. Or let out your inner child and build a sand castle or sculpture. The sinking sun steeps the myriad faces of stress out across the darkening sea and there’s nothing like a swell dinner to make the rest of it magically disappear.
Panjim’s latest entrant on the bistro circuit is not one to miss. Black Sheep Bistro has made the cut and raised the bar with some fine twists on Goan classics and a nice selection of spirits and wines to go along. It’s open for dinner, and keeps it home grown by using only locally sourced ingredients. So you might want to take a rain check on that beef roulade craving since most of our buffalo meat comes from out of Goa.
Dinner done with, hop across only a furlong away to Café Mojo for some groovy tunes and a few drinks. If you’re looking for somewhere a little less cramped, Butter in Patto has a little more elbow room.

Day 2:
Morning
You certainly cannot be expected to wake up bright and early after a night on the town. But for those of you who are supernatural and do hit the road running, take a walk on Miramar beach, or by the fields – the last of them anyway – in Taleigao.
If you’d like to get reacquainted with a higher power, a visit to the chapel at Raj Bhavan in Dona Paula is a beautiful way to start the day. Even if you do forget to register your car number in advance, there’s a lovely look-out spot close to the entrance of the Governor’s Palace where you can soak up some energy.
The Goa Marriott Resort and Spa lays out a lovely brunch on Sundays, the ideal way to squeeze out any remnants of a hangover. You could also opt for the much more reasonably priced offerings at Not Just Omlettes on 18th June Road.

Afternoon
A good brunch could either perk up your spirits or slow you down. For a case of the former, pop into the gaming arcade at Caculo Mall in St Ines and unleash your bowling skills at the alley, drive like a maniac in the bumper cars or try your luck at pinball.
To cure a case of the latter, you could catch up on some reading at Kala Academy or under the shade of the trees in the Campal garden. There could be an interesting play or tiatr being staged at Kala Academy, so you can buy a last-minute ticket and enjoy a bit of Goan entertainment.

Evening
As evening jogs on, take a slow walk down the Panjim promenade. Look closely at the heritage buildings as you pass by – the old Goa Medical College, the State Bank of India building, old Secretariat – and visually wipe out the present. Imagine life in black and white when residents mostly walked and the annoying sound of today’s vehicle horns were replaced by the chirping of birds.
Close the evening with a ride on the ferry across the Mandovi River to the rooftop tables at Terry’s. There’s not a sight more beautiful than the twinkling lights of a city you have called home, served alongside the wash of the river down below and some fresh catch from the sea.

First published in Goa Streets

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bhutan: Trek to Tiger's Nest


Tiger's Nest, Paro

I put Paro on the itinerary only because of Taktsang Valley. Ok, and because it is one of the more historical towns in Bhutan and looked pretty in pictures. If we hadn’t entered Bhutan in a bus (or truck or smuggled ourselves across the border), we would have flown into the country’s only international airport in Paro.
In any case, by the time we hit the town, we’d already been to Thimpu and Punakha. It was a Tuesday, which was Pedestrian Day in Paro. From the gate of the town, we walked several hundred metres to the square. I was certain we were in the wrong place, that there was somewhere else we would have to go, somewhere more, ummm, populated.
A small tower stood in the main square, surrounded by a garden, where little children squeaked in excitement after school. There was an archery tournament in a field nearby. We would have to check it out sometime, and try not to get pierced in the bum accidentally.
The hotel was cheap, decent (ish) and served by a restaurant downstairs. We got a ride to Taktsang the next day. At the base of the hill were the obligatory souvenir stalls selling prayer beads, flags and other knick knacks. Piles of pony dung peppered the rocky ground and the pungent smell of the animals and their faeces hung in the air.
A 40-something European gentleman and his wife were selecting rides. We were young and full of vigour; surely we weren’t going to take the ponies to the half-way mark. Five minutes into the walk and I thought, ‘hell, this is easy’. Then came the uphill climb. While it was nippy getting there, I ought to have been smart enough not to wear my sweater. After all, exercise does make you work up a sweat. I bore it out.
The path was probably hewn into the rock over the ages. Taktsang or ‘Tiger’s Nest’ Monastery was built in the 1694, but held sacred for centuries earlier. Legend has it that the revered Guru Rinpoche flew to this location on the back of a tigress to meditate sometime in the 8th century. Seated precariously, on the edge of the cliff-face, the monastery with its four main buildings, chortens and caves, was rebuilt after a fire in 1958.
Taktsang through the trees
We plodded on. Up ahead, the European gentleman was not on his pony anymore, but instead behind it, urging it forward. On and off he would climb onto its back, helped by the guide, but the pony seemed to want the day off.
Between the trees on certain turns of the path, glimpses of Taktsang peek at you. It’s a good way to motivate you on, particularly if you start having second thoughts about the walk. Soon, we were at the little restaurant where you can tank up with water and a bite. The next point at which you can get the strange tasting butter tea the Bhutanese love is at a little kiosk run by a toothy, smiling old lady along the steps to Taktsang (It’s free and served out of a mug).
The road gets nastier here. I realised how much more fit I needed to be (or turn miraculously into Heidi of the hills) as elderly Germans passed us with their hiking sticks, a senior Japanese lady bent forward to tie her shoelaces and continued on, and Bhutanese pilgrims raced by with barely a heavy breath.
We strung up our prayer flags, took a few mandatory pictures and began climbing down the stairs. Already I was dreading the walk back. Stairs have never been my best friend.
But the view from Taktsang is worth every uphill climb, every second thought, every penny spent getting to Bhutan. Chilly wind from the valley whips at your face, threatening to tear off your nose. The wood panelled rooms are comparatively warmer, and because you were on too tight a budget to afford a guide, you sidle up to the ones speaking English and catch snippets of their stories.
As usual, I got lost, roaming room to room for at least half an hour before I was heated up enough to grunt ‘where the hell were you?’ when I finally found my travel buddy at the ‘Personal Belongings’ desk. We chatted with the sentries, who like most Bhutanese were dressed in traditional ‘gho’s.
We trudged back up the stairs, stopping to take pictures by the waterfall as a web of colourful prayer flags fluttered maddeningly in the wind. I couldn’t help but wonder how they tied them across cliff faces like that.
The Dzhong we saw the previous day had nothing on Taktsang. Sure it was beautiful in its own right, majestic and royal with its pretty wooden bridge across the pebbled river and gilded tops. Truth be told, visiting Bhutan had always been a wish, but it was Taktsang that actually yanked me there.
A dzhong

How I got to Bhutan:
Flight from Goa to Calcutta, train to New Jalpaiguri, rickshaw to Siliguri, bus to Phuentsholing

Where I stayed:
Thimpu: R Penjor Lodge (spacious, clean, nice views, neat café attached with free wi-fi), Hotel Tandin
Paro: Hotel Peljorling (the walls don’t quite keep the cold out and the bathroom is a bit dingy)
Punakha: Damchen Resort (lavish for my standards)
Phuentsholing: Hotel Bhutan

What I ate:
Ema datshi (chilli and cheese, Bhutan’s favourite dish)
Pork (with lots of fat)
Chicken rice with cheese and chillies

Points to note:
Indians are one of the very few nationalities allowed into Bhutan without a visa and on a pre-arranged tour. However, one must obtain a permit, easily available in Phuentsholing, for five days, extendable only in Thimpu. Carry photocopies of all your documents and keep your permits with you at all times. They will be stamped at every check post.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Coonoor: That little slice of paradise



I felt like an explorer travelling an unknown land. Unending undulating grass-covered hills, punctuated by tree cover, silence enveloping the scene, wild buffalo grazing contentedly by the pool of clear cold water.
Parsons Valley
Zooming in as far as my camera phone would allow, I pressed down to capture the scene. The click shattered the silence, in unison the wild buffalo snapped their heads towards me, eyes full of confusion.
Of course I wasn’t the dreaded majestic tiger that roamed the Nilgiris, or the cunning panther that stalked them in the underbrush. I was a stupid weak human who would shit bricks if they took three steps towards me. The big male at the head of the herd looked at me threateningly. I wanted to somehow melt into the wet grass under my feet.
Dorai was unflustered. He stood with his hands behind his back, his lungi loosely knotted to allow the chilly air to whip around his sinewy calves and looked at the scene before him. If the short elderly guide was laughing in his head, his face did not show it. Perhaps this had happened before.
We quietly moved on, me hoping we could get as far away from the herd as possible. The big male watched us until we were out of sight. At that moment, I felt adventurous, even a little brave for facing off a herd of two dozen buffalo like that. In truth, there was nothing brave or adventurous about it. I wasn’t chased by bison, startled by a leopard, harassed by a band of rambunctious monkeys or even attacked by a swallow and lived to tell the tale.
I was simply getting a lesson, just the basics, in being one with the wild.
It was my first time staying in a national park, hopefully not the last. Parsons Valley is part of a cluster of valleys, reservoirs, and wildlife sanctuaries that make up the Nilgiris. Spanning 2,479 square kilometres, the Nilgiri Hills are huddled in the westernmost part of Tamil Nadu, near the borders of Karnataka and Kerala in south India.
They are home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including large pockets of eucalyptus trees that give them the name ‘Nilgiris’ or ‘The Blue Hills’, and the largest concentration of tigers in the wild. Sambar deer are much larger in real life than one would have thought, even at 200 metres away. And they are very nervous. Flinch, and they scamper off to hide.
Rows upon rows of pine trees seemed to have the only man-made affectation. The government could have planted them randomly to give the hill-side a natural effect, but this is just nitpicking.  
Here the grass gave way to a soft carpet of dead pine needles. On my left, a few foxes ran up the hill and then paused to observe us. We ducked under a low branch to enter an archway of sorts made by another species of tree.
The path was obviously used, but there was no one in sight. How in the world did a wild cat pick its way through the twigs without snapping one? Here I was announcing my arrival to all and sundry with an orchestra at every step. I gave up trying and hurried along, keeping my eyes on Dorai.
View from Parsons Valley Retreat
He had a peculiar sense of fashion – white lungi and white shirt, a suit coat (yes, you heard me right) and gumboots. Every so often he would unhitch the second knot of his lungi and retie it to maintain the knee-length that is so common with working south Indian men.
A panther had made a kill only a couple of days ago, he said. Perhaps the carcass was still there. It was close by. Images of Animal Planet flashed by – the stench, buzzing bluebottles and swarming flies, coagulated blood. I sniffed the air, bracing myself for the onslaught. Nothing.
Dorai pointed but I couldn’t see a thing. Suddenly we were almost standing on top of it. I had never felt so stupid before, having watched endless hours of television shows on the subject. I could make out the spine, but that’s something a baby would do. There was a mass I thought could have been the head, and some stringy stuff that was presumably a few entrails left behind.
The panther had done a fair job of cleaning up. You could smell the carcass, now that you were so close, but the rain had probably subdued it. The cat could have still been in the vicinity – the pickings of wild boar, sambar, buffalo and rabbits seemed great.
We climbed up an embankment and suddenly it looked like one of the views I had travelled from Goa to see. It didn’t look like the pictures, simply because the image online was of Avalanche Lake and I was on the banks of the Mukurthi reservoir. But it was breathtaking all the same.
I zipped up my jacket against the chilly wind and we sat there, soaking in silence and the greenery. Not a honk, not a wail, not even the tinkle of a cow’s bell. This was perfect.

How I got there:
From Goa to Coonoor: Via bus (KSRTC) from Goa to Mysore to Ooty and a local to Coonoor
From Coonoor to Parsons Valley: Four-wheel drive (they send you one if required at extra cost)

Where I stayed:
Parsons Valley Retreat (Rs1800 per person per night including breakfast, lunch, tea + snacks, dinner). They made a bonfire and put some logs in the cabin so we wouldn’t freeze to death.

What I ate:
In Parsons Valley: delicious array of south Indian food
In Ooty: Chocolates from Modern Stores

Published in the Navhind Times Panorama: http://www.navhindtimes.in/panorama/breathtaking-parsons-valley

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

'Cry, the beloved country'

The Woman pushes the baby born
From a suffocating drowning world
Into a one with air
Thick with pollution

And She lies writhing on the floor
Her lungs screaming for air
Her body drawing rasping breaths
While She struggles to live
For Her children
Without race, religion or caste
Bigotry, alliance or prejudice
She is all
She is none


Yet we are delivered
A race apart, a religion apart, a caste apart
From the brother born with us


While She dies, crying
We draw Her blood
As we fight to live to die


Love the people. They are the country, the nation India.

My cold shadow

A cold shadow hangs over my shoulder
Watching everything I do
But more importantly,
Remembering everything I say.
It's a reason to be mute
To think only thoughts
Never out loud
Silently hoping they will go away.


But mostly they never do
They stay there long after they're forgotten
Coming back to say "They hate you
Remember what they did."
Even if most of it was supposition.
Leading me to sometimes hate a sharing world
A loving and caring world
Where I let loose all I carry with me.


It's hard to say things when they hurt
When I want it to be hard to hurt when they say things
When I say things, when anyone says anything.
To be cold and insensitive
But I am drawn to live in a 'civilised world'
With rules and boundaries
Sometimes good, sometimes bad.


I must behave like this or do things like that
Wear clothes like this and sit like that
Eat like this and not drink like that
Be a friend like this and not an enemy like that
My cold shadow sees all I do and hears all I say
And tells me I'm rarely doing right.

How funny, to be myself, I really must be somebody else.