Monday, May 28, 2012

Forgotten Heroine - Part One

Malalai sat in a corner of the tent, her knees to her chest, chin resting on them. A long scarf covered her head veiling her face from any evil eye. Commotion of activity surrounded her with women of all shapes and sizes rushing, lifting, organizing, cooking, arranging. Through her veil, Malalai spotted her mother spewing orders in her strong, husky voice. She hobbled from one corner to another, assembling clothes, jewelry, dishes, and many trinkets to pack in a trunk as her voice vibrated through the tent.

A grand feast was expected at this daughter’s wedding. It was not just the joining of two young lives, not the union of children of two chiefs or just a wedding ceremony. It was an alliance, the tying of knot between two large families, of two prominent nomadic tribes.

Malalai watched with her greenish gray eyes through her veil from under lowered lashes. Her feet fidgeted in front of her as she adjusted her seat on the sandy ground, moved her chin from one knee to another or crossed and re-crossed her arms around her shins. She itched to get up to help and move about but her body was weighed down. Large oxidized silver earrings with lapis insets dangled down to her shoulders, stretching out her earlobes. A delicate silver chain pinned to the top of her head ending with a tear drop ornament. It hung from her forehead, maroon gemstone sparkling within, just above her round eyes that were thickly lined with kohl. Intricate enamel beads in blues and maroons linked together in a geometric pattern and sat splayed above her chest dangling by a silver chain around her neck. A choker with thick colorful beads strangled her around her neck, making it appear longer. A long necklace with elongated beads and gemstones suspended in elaborate patterns down to her chest, layered in several chains. She brought her hands to her foot to attack an itch under the delicate anklets but her wrists jingled with the collection of bangles and bracelets drawing attention and a glare from her mother.

Malalai helplessly watched from her corner unable to move, tears wedged around her kohl-lined eyes. Her mother had told her how brides were like princesses and must enjoy their special day all adorned in silken clothes and special jewelry. If it was up to her, she would be right in the middle of the commotion, arranging, packing, cleaning, helping, or playing outside and dressed in comfortable clothes. She had no aspiration to be princess or bride or to leave her tribe to belong to another. Her place was with her family she had known all of her 16 winters, discovering new lands, meeting strange people, trading wares from all over.

Lost in her wishful thoughts, Malalai’s ears perked as she heard her father’s growl outside her tent. She raised her head and cocked her head to listen. He was shouting orders for the young men to gather and ready their arms and ammunition. Malalai had seen this in the past when a tribe fired shots in the air to welcome honored guests. She saw her mother straighten up, listen and step out of their cocoon. In a short moment she returned flustered, churning out orders to the younger girls. Everything was hurriedly put away, the center of the pavilion cleared where buckets and water containers were assembled.

Malalai knew what this meant. She discretely started to remove her jewelry pieces one by one lightening her load. Unnoticed she slipped behind a screen and changed into her comfortable daily clothes of long shirt, loose pants and extended chador scarf covering her head.

To be continued…..

Monday, May 21, 2012

After he is gone...

From your mind’s eye you look
after he is gone…

You see the smile diminished with years
sadness set in without tears
loneliness imprinted on his face,
as he walks through the empty rooms in a daze.

From your mind’s eye you look
after he is gone…

You observe a lone meal at the long table
self-prepared at 94, for he was able
with small bowl of green chillie and salt
the spread he set out, but then halt
admiring the yakhni, the rice mound, the haak
looking around the empty chairs for someone to talk

From your mind’s eye you look
after he is gone…

You remember him leaned over his desk
manuscripts sprawled as he looked for the best
correcting and refining, writing in the forgotten script
pausing for sheer chai to take a sip,
conversing on paper with those who parted their ways
moved to lands far, returning to visit after too many days.

From your mind’s eye you look
after he is gone…

You see a happy old man, who’s brought up his brood
a proud father leading his flock to as far as he could
now like headless chicks, the three carry his legacy to lead
holding their newfound heads high, doing their deed
of spreading the word, “He was a great man – our father,
he is with us no more, but is with our mother.”

From your mind’s eye we will continue to see
for the man he was, not what he could have been
for each generation from here on to admire
for each descendent to learn and aspire.

Monday, May 14, 2012

ADRIFT - Part Three (Final)

After a restless night with tossing and turning, Mia woke up with a start. Bathed in brightness by the morning sun beaming through a long window, she found herself in a strange bed in the middle of nowhere. The events of the previous day started to trickle back and she realized that they were not a terrible dream but worse. No land line or cell signal available, she had no choice but TO wait for the inn keeper to return.

Coffee cup in hand, she walked out of the cottage through the patio door and followed a narrow path into the wilderness. Birds chirped happily around her fluttering from branch to branch as if playing a game of catch. Squirrels played the same game of running and chasing scurrying through her path or up on trees. Arriving at an opening she discovered a world of paradise. A stream flowed peacefully down gurgling over smooth pebbles with colorful blooms decorating the banks amidst thick green foliage. Mia breathed in the fresh aromatic nature, found a rock and made herself comfortable on it. Her feet dangled soaking in the cool and clear water and their feeling somehow transcended into her mind.

She reflected on where she was today and what had brought her there. She was happy with Kris but why did she always run away from him? Events of the past year came rushing towards her as the stream gushed over the pebbles. She was the one who had pursued him, asked him out despite her friend Rita’s glare. They had fun times on her yacht and close to shore he had showed off his surfing skills. On land their romance had grown as they shared meals at her cabin watching the sunsets together. He introduced her to his family several months ago and they had welcomed her cheerfully. He asked to meet hers but she had always made excuses – her parents were travelling or too busy to care or what did it matter whether he met them. Over the months his insistence had grown and they had had their first fight. She had thrown him out her house in the middle of the night, and he had slept on the beach that night.

Mia looked down at her feet immersed in the refreshing water and watched the water cleanse her. She remembered as a little girl her nanny had always made her wash her feet after playing outdoors even though she always kept her slippers on. It had made her feel refreshed all over and she was able to spend the few hours of her day in the presence of her parents in a calm manner. They were impressed by her demeanor and had spoiled her with luxuries while her siblings fought for their every needs and desire. The only two things her parents could not give her were their love and attention and when she got these from Kris, she didn’t know how to receive them.

Tears strolled down her cheeks at this sudden realization and Mia sat motionless. What had she done? How could she have been so obtuse? She had been seeking the answer to her journey all over the place, out in the ocean, at the bottom of a wine bottle or in the grand shopping complexes. The answer was simple and it had been staring her in the face all her life.

Their last fight had extended over several weeks. Under a full moon three nights ago, Kris had proposed out on her beach. Without answer she had fled and locked herself in her room leaving him confused. They had reconciled and he had promised not to bring up the proposal again as long as they continued to be together. Then at the deli he had broken his promise and after a short argument, he had walked out. She had never seen him this angry before and now remembered the expression of hurt he wore before he left. Mia suddenly realized what if he had simply walked away to cool down and was coming back. It was she who had left him stranded by driving away and he would have to walk back home.

The sun had risen up higher and Mia rushed back to the inn. She had to go back, to find a ride home and to get her life back. She had had enough of the journey and now was ready for her destiny hoping it was not too late.


Saturday, May 5, 2012


"The first step in a journey is to lose your way." by Galway Kinnell


"Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures." by Ralph Waldo Emerson

ADRIFT - Part Two

A pile of rubble sat in front of Mia, blocking the road. Loose rocks and slimy mud had slid down the mountainside towards the ocean across the road. Her tires screeched to a sudden halt skidding towards the side of the cliff that hung over the ocean. She grabbed her purse and carefully stepped out of her car, walking away from it to observe her situation. Just as she reached a wider part of the road designated as a Vista point, she heard the loud explosion again. She watched in horror as a pile of rubble was happily sliding down from the same spot above but this time it had acquired a prize along the way towards its journey down to the ocean – her car. She stood with her mouth open, her hand over it as if trying to stop a scream from escaping. Her eyes widened as she peered over the cliff spotting a red door smashed up against the rocks down below. The rest of the car was nowhere to be seen, engulfed by the waves and taken out to sea.

Far into the horizon she saw the sun starting its journey down, its soft rays glinting over the expanse of the ocean as if winking at her. The view that tourists flock to see, photographers wait to capture, artists get inspiration from, that same view was beginning to spell fear for her. She was all alone in a desolate part of the island, and only minutes before darkness. Her only vehicle that could help complete her journey was now swimming to lands far from her. Even though it was a journey in which she had no idea where she was heading, she had a road and vehicle. In a sudden moment of explosion, even that had tumbled away.

Mia tried to think fast, to come up with a plan of action or inaction. Going back was fruitless she hadn’t seen a man-made structure for hours. Going forward was risky, through or over the rubble and even then no surety of help on the other side. Staying put was certain demise with unpredictable weather, torturous wind, and coal darkness, possibility of more land slide and not to mention the wild animals on the prowl at night. She shivered at all these possibilities and had to make a swift decision. The ocean below her raged, its waves crashing angrily as if to avenge the earth for its rude deposit from the land.

The dust on the debris on the road had settled and she looked more closely noticing a narrow opening in a corner on the mountain side of the road. Looking up at the top of the hill and assured that no more loose rocks were rolling down, she cautiously walked towards the pile of rubble. Not surprised to see anyone or any car stuck on the other side of this infrequently travelled road, she hurried on to find a sign of civilization.

As luck would have it, just as the last rays of the sun were beginning to take their dip down the oceanic horizon, Mia spotted a light. Her jog picked up to a run and she reached a small structure surrounded by a collection of cottages. She arrived there to find a large woman turning the key to lock up for the night. Apparently, Mia had chanced upon an Inn for those who wanted to lose themselves in the wilderness and escape from the real world. All the cottages were sitting vacant and she was going to be the only occupant for the night. She sighed, paid her deposit and walked into the cozy abode where she could collect her nerves after the dreadful day of mishaps and heart breaks.

To be continued…