The Bird and the Bonsai

The bird flew in from the vast blue haze

He spotted a Bonsai in a pot or a vase

(He couldn’t quite tell)

He perched on the edge and wept bitter tears

For the sad fate of the Bonsai in a vase

“You poor thing,” the bird said

“In your prison with no fun to be had”

“Always, cramped in your little space”

“No place to grow or dream or be free”

And he shed more tears near the vase


The Bonsai stared at the bird in a daze

“But I am free,” it said with a chuckle

“Of chilly winds, raging storms and pesky nests”

“And when sunbeams warm my being and the waters fill me just right”

“And when I am cared for with so much love”

“I sit here in my cozy home and think of beauty, freedom and inner sight”


The bird gazed at the Bonsai in shock

Shook his head with a sad sigh

Spread his wings and flew into the blue haze


We will never know which one was right

For both of them died and became star dust


Liann and the odd Island

Liann grabbed a mangrove to stop herself from falling flat onto the muddy sand as she stepped out of her boat. She felt relief flood over her whole body as her two feet sank into the sandy coolness, her headache began to ease and her eyes began to adjust to the shade after hours of exposure to bright sunlight. She wandered inwards looking for water to quench her thirst and perhaps some fruit.

She was faintly aware of the fear that accompanied her. She touched her seashell and cormorant feather robe for assurance.

The vast trees seem to whisper a constant melody that was far different to the roar of the ocean. A bird perched on a thick vine flung across trees and preened its feathers oblivious to Liann’s presence. A velvety brown spider skidded across its web and Liann heard the dead leaves rustle under the weight of a serpent. She caressed the string of turquoise and pink seashells in her robe for comfort.

She was exhausted but the shade from the trees and the unfamiliar sense of ease helped her reenergize. She wrapped her seashell and cormorant feather robe around herself firmly.

Further inside the island, a brook gurgled.

Liann hurried towards the sound. It lay between two rows of tall grass and a scattering of trees. Liann fell to her knees and began drinking from the clear waters. A yellow flower floating in the brook paused near her cheek to murmur a gentle welcome. Liann lay down on the pebbles with her elbows resting on the banks and let the water soak up her aching body. She felt the placid currents wash over every part of her seashell and cormorant feather robe. Her thoughts wandered to the rough seas she had left behind, the rocks, clashing waves, hungry fish and the sea birds, beautiful sunsets, coral gardens, carcasses and floating debris that stank. The constant struggle to stay afloat, the beauty and the ugliness of it all.

After what felt like days, Liann began to be aware of the music.

At first it was loud like a roaring sea storm. Rocks took a beating, sand whirled in mad patterns and the heavy splashes made the seashells in her robe clatter and bruise her even more. She stirred and sought comfort in the gentle ripples of the brook. Slowly, the music assumed a calmer tune and began to flow in rhythm to a deep truth that was hard to grasp.

Liann kept listening until her whole being became part of the music. There were no more roars, splashes or whirling sand, only moonlight that shone bright and covered the rocks with a soft glow. The seashell and cormorant feather robe disappeared.

“Respite” whispered Liann.



A sea of thoughts and recipes…

Evil Hope and Pandora’s Box

Hope waited deep inside the box

That Zeus gave to Pandora


Scheming with all its might

Suffused with seductive charm

It waited


It tried once

Twice and then thrice

And on the fourth


It won the game of wills


Seduced and blind

She opened the box


Letting Hope escape


With a grin and a half

Hope let its children


Its many children

Named envy, sickness, hatred and disease


Knowing that they could not survive

Without its warmth and delight

Hope climbed out last

In its cloak of charm


And to this day

Buried inside the box are its last whispers

Let it be known that

From hope sprang

All the evils of the world

The spirit and the bucket

There once was a spirit who carried a heavy bucket

Filled to the brim with gems of sorts

One by one she picked out the gems

They shone bright in the spirit’s gaze

Held each one with tender care

Savoured the warmth and the brightness rare


With each chime of the clocks of the world

The gem in hand lost its sparkle

Not to be undone by the clocks of the world

She dropped the first gem back in the bucket

And picked up the next one, shaped like a fruit

It shone bright in the spirit’s gaze

(She let the brightness fill her up)

Only to lose the shimmer,

 To the chime of the clocks

The game went on for chimes and chimes


The spirit reached for the first gem once more

It shone bright in the spirit’s gaze

The clocks of the world chimed again




Misogyny is a shape-shifting monster

My friend the misogynist

Holds meetings in his head

Bashing the women in red

For being feminists

 Heeee should go soak up the sun

Stop telling everyone to be


I wrote these lines following a chaotic meeting inside my own head. The words are passive aggressive and offensive, I admit. I am no better than ‘my friend the misogynist’ who is probably just as confused as I am about the gender roles we all grew up with.

I’ve seen many instances of unconscious misogyny from both men and women and it always riles me up but I keep quite because these are otherwise excellent people and I’d rather not hurt their feelings (or I am coward). We all stumble into misogyny mechanically because it seems to be the status quo.

Misogyny rambles about disguised as a popular movie, a much-loved song, a custom we must adhere to, a friendly warning to women, a compliment, an internet meme and as a simple way of being. It is a shape-shifting monster. And I’ve met it many times in its various forms.

Monster movie magic

A beautiful girl with a moon like face and long tresses captures the fancy of a young man. Perhaps he spots her graceful neck in chemistry class or she pours water on him from her parents’ balcony (her hair flies up in the air, sleek and shinning and at the sight of it his annoyance turns into mushy love). Suddenly she is the love of his life, his obsession and his reason for living. The young woman rejects his adorable but slightly creepy advances. The young man is heartbroken but his love grows to engulf him. He must have this damsel for himself of sink into nothingness. A bout of serious wooing/harassing begin. He stalks her, sings to her from tops of mountains, he carves her name and his own (two hearts pierced with an arrow) in public spaces, he stalks her friends, and he is present everywhere she goes. But he is a HERO and the moon faced damsel falls for his devotion/harassment. According to some tales, the damsel runs into his arms sobbing (her hair still flying) while he is in his deathbed still groaning his unquenchable love for her.

After a few nauseating song and dance acts the romantic hero saves the helpless damsel from evil men and influences. She, the frail and pretty excuse for a woman looks on adoringly as the poor hero battles on his own to save her. They live happily ever after in la la land.

Monster in the shape of a first crush and thwarted love (Sigh)

A scrawny girl with a short mop of untidy hair is sitting comfortably in her jambu tree, munching a juicy red jambu, lost in her dream world. She had just celebrated her 14th birthday and a throng of handsome knights have begun to invade her innocent dream world. Suddenly, she spots her neighbour and former playmate on his bicycle passing her house on an errand for his mother. He had done this many times before but this time she feels an unfamiliar stirring in her heart. He resembles the knights of her dreams and he did read a book she liked. Unaware of her change of heart the former playmate whistles his way home. The girl can’t keep a secret. She blabs to her cousin who blabs to a friend who blabs to the former playmate.

Former playmate’s response: Revulsion and confusion. He refuses to come to her house when his mother asks him to borrow some lemongrass.

His older brother’s response: “Girls are not supposed to show interest in boys first. They have to be modest. Stupid girl.”

Her cousin’s response: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

The girl retreats into her shell shamefaced.

The former playmate apparently has a change of heart a few weeks later. He and a few friends walk behind her as she hurries home. Her shoulders slouch from shame and she is guilt ridden and confused. The playmate and his friends discuss girls amongst themselves but loud enough for her to hear.

“Girls shouldn’t wear shorts. (The girl’s usual choice of attire)

“Girls should grow their hair. No one would ask out a girl with short hair.”

“Girls shouldn’t climb trees.”

“When girls act like proper girls are supposed to boys will start getting interested in them.”

She pretends to be lost in her own dream world and continues to walk away feeling miserable.

Monster in the office projector

A girl runs down the stairs in panic mode. “M M the projector is not working. I have an urgent presentation. You have to come fix it!

M, a decent guy buried deep in his own work looks up at her bewildered. “But I don’t know how to fix it. I am not a technician”

The girl: “But you must know! You are a guy! You are the only guy in this area. The rest of us are women! You must help.

The aftermath Monster in the Wariyapola incident

A group of young executives discuss the incident.

Young man: “He shouldn’t have harassed her. I can understand why she was so angry. But violence is not the answer.

A young woman: “True, she shouldn’t have slapped him so hard for so long.

Another young woman: “You know what. A man should know how to control women. He should have taken charge and hit her silly. Then she would have learnt her lesson.”



The Originality Fable of how a certain paradise still smelt of lemon after it ceased to exist

They lived in paradise, where swirls of creamy clouds tinged with rose sought each other out in a backdrop of pale bluegreen and where witches made fragrant concoctions of spices to fill the days. Their skies were blue, foliage abundant, food delicious and the weather was just right.  Their beloved or otherwise land was full ofspice trees, shrubs, vines and wild clumps of herbs. Every witch born in to this paradise dreamt of crafting the most original spice blend.

The smell of dried red chili induced energy and sneezing. Cumin soothed the body and ushered in sleep. Nutmeg relived pain and blew the cobwebs away. Cloves promised eternal youth and freshness. Beebells, dainty red flowers with a piquant touch increased sexual prowess and left you slightly dazed. Cinnamon was a rare find and a much sought after bark in many recipes for a number of charms.

In their folklore each recipe held a part of the key to truth, peace, joy and universal acceptance. Exceptional recipes gave birth to poetry, adulation and mass worship.

There was just one problem with paradise, they were all jaded in general. The witches had tried out all the possible combinations and there was nothing left to do but pressure the up and coming witches for original recipes. That was the only solution to the mass ennui that had settled over the population. So, they pressured their young. The generation of pampered witches were in for a shock. They had to raise the bar of spice blends to an unprecedented level, in order to pay for all the positive reinforcement theyhad received from babyhood.

One young boy with a red eye and a mole on his upper lip, tried his best. As a young boy, he had been one of the best students, a little eccentric but not too much, a little out-of-the-box-thinker but not too much, a little blue but not too much, and most importantly he possessed a lot of heart and stomach for spice blends. His teachers predicted a bright future for him.

The red eyed, mole sporting boy expected instant success and much praise for his first spice blend. He braced himself to receive both with the correct blend of humility, dignity and creative genius.

But, Alas! The paradise was too jaded for his ‘genius’.

“The same old mix in a different bottle”, reported the nation’s widely and wildly circulated news.

“Though I applaud the work he has put into the recipe, I can hardly conceal my disappointment at its banality,” aired one famed critics, rubbing his ancient beard that touched his pot belly.

A woman in green with short cropped hair, tasted a sip of his concoction and shook her head in dismay. “I expected better from such a bright young mind’, she said.

Grumbles hung in the thick air of paradise like a bad odour.

The red eyed, mole sporting boy hung his head in shame. He soaked his wounded heart in a haze of age old spice blends that promised to send one to blissful oblivion. He lost his heart and stomach in a land of vivid colours and dreams where spirits roamed telling him he was the best.

One fine day, while he rambled on a lone path filled with misty spirits, the red eyed, mole sporting youngster came up with the most original recipe of all.

A pinch of beebell, a thorn from a star fruit, a dash of cumin, a handful of heartbleed, all the root spices and flowers of spice trees and a jarful of lemon juice is all I need,’ said the young bright mind. I will concoct the one and only, pot full of dreams, smashed into one ball and soaked in sour lemon. I will invite all of them to taste my pot full of dreams, smashed into a ball and soaked in sour lemon. They will love the smell and I will let them approach my chef d’oevure and let it explode, annihilating all of them, along with paradise. And I will smell the lemons in the air afterwards.’

Victim Blaming

Conversation with people who hold a different world view tightly, fondly and with conviction can be thought provoking and sometimes slightly embarrassing. It can leave you feeling melancholy if you are not in a position to voice the world views that you hold dearly with less conviction. I’ve been having a number of such conversations lately and I resort to poetry to express all the emotions I am forced to bottle up during these interesting discussions.

Victim Blaming

They spoke of murder

By a man

Who took his wife and child

On a walk on the beach

It was strange

Their talk left a question mark and indignation

Like a cloud-hole

Empty, chilly and confusing

The man is invisible

He murdered his child

Attempted to drown his wife

But he is invisible to them

Because criminals are negligible?

Or is it because he is a man?

The wife/mother is visible

Blindingly visible

For trusting her husband

To go for a walk

In the middle of the night

In their talk

They blamed her

And not him (Not even once)

For going for a walk

On the beach with her husband and child at night

They blamed her for lack of perception

For not sensing her husband’s

Murderous intent

Do they not know the manipulative power

Of some men and women

How lovers will be blind

To dangers ahead

Of journeys and letting go

You and I scampered along

a path of bliss and learning

In the shade or the burning heat

Your hand in mine


Mine in yours

We climbed up a hill or two

Slid down a grassy bank

to land on a beach

Where sea shells shone,

Where waves were tame giants

in a cradle of rocks strong

A breeze calmed

Trees lulled

Beyond the rocks

Monstrous waves roamed

Hungry and restless

You sought a ship to

Play with the alluring

Monster waves

But I chose

To make my home

On the beach

And let the

Gentle waves

Rock me to sleep

Gib – It starts with Oranges

Gib stared at the swirls of pink and orange tinged with gold against a pale blue background in amazement. He sank his feet deeper into the soft and slightly moist stuff he was standing on. His uncut mop of hair flew in the air, each strand playing ‘tangles’ with the others. The strong, unruly body of water in front of him thrashed and crashed in tune to a vaguely familiar and a stirring rhythm. Gib took a timid step forward to reach for the rolling water. His feet hit a jagged edge of something buried beneath the soft stuff he loved. Gib winced in pain, cried out and aimlessly hit at the beeping sound coming from his left.

‘Beep Beep Beep’ it made a racket.

Gib hit out even harder to make it stop. He opened his eyes as his hand recognized the cool metal touch.

Gib rubbed his eyes and looked up at the plain white ceiling of his bedroom. He felt his hair to see if it was still long. It wasn’t. His short cropped hair was intact. Gib felt a twinge of sadness, a feeling which usually accompanied his recurring dream.

“Gib go and get the oranges. You don’t want to be late for school do you?” His mother screamed from somewhere inside the house.

Gib got up, threw on his day robe, picked up his basket from the hallway and exited.

The lone orange tree stood in a corner of their 3 perch garden, amidst a sea of clean cut blue-green grass. Gib tapped the tree trunk three times and held out his basket. The orange tree shook a branch and dropped three oranges neatly into Gib’s basket. Gib looked up in surprise. ” There are four people, I need one more” but the tree just ignored Gib and raised a branch to wave at an official who was riding a grey angry cloud towards Gib’s place.

The official looked stern; his face was just as grey as his cloud. ” Give this letter to your father” he said handing Gib a letter and hit the cloud pretty hard. The startled cloud flew away leaving behind a startled Gib.

His father paled and then blinked hard when he finished the letter. He handed the letter to their mother without a word. Her small eyes widened when she finished the letter and she looked as grey as the official had looked.

“When was the last time you saw Zeb?” she asked Gib.

“Last night, when we said good night to you after the story.” Gib replied.

Gib’s father pushed a red button on their dog and ordered it to look for Zeb. The dog made a few beeping sounds and put up his screen. It showed the map of the whole world. But no dot marked a place indicating Zeb, he had vanished.

“Eat your orange and get ready for school. You can’t miss school. It will look even more suspicious.” Gib’s father announced.

“But Zeb?”Gib began but his mother silenced him with a look. But she peeled his orange for him and poured extra honey over it before handing him the orange on his favourite plate.

Gib went to school as usual. An unfamiliar hollow sensation accompanied him in Zeb’s place.

His future wife, Mea didn’t seem much pleased to see him that day. “Father told me about Zeb. It’s a disgrace.” She said haughtily. “Poor Zain” she added as an afterthought.

Zain was supposed to have been Zeb’s future wife. Zain’s cool grey eyes and the impassive face remained the same as she went about her work with an air of nonchalance.

“She didn’t even make a single mistake in class today.” Mea reported to Gib during lunch. She sounded impressed. Mea and Zain were training to be gift makers and attended the same classes. Lunch was a difficult occasion. Zeb’s and Zain’s empty places at their table looked out of place in the full cafeteria. The other children kept glancing at them curiously but were too scared of the watchful teachers to ask questions.

“What will happen to Zain and where is she?” Gib asked Mea.

“An official came and took her for questioning after the presentation tricks class. They’ll take you too. Just tell them you know nothing.” Mea ordered.

“In any case that is the truth right?” She inquired with a note of anxiety creeping into her steady tone.

“True, I know nothing.” Gib replied in a dull voice.

They finished their platefuls of stew and sipped their milk in silence. Mea spilt some of her milk attracting some unwanted notice from a teacher for her trouble. Gib tried to help her but she brushed him off and wiped the steel table top with the cloth that the teacher handed her.

“Pay attention to what you do always.” The teacher warned her.

Mea nodded acquiescence timidly.

The teacher glared at Gib. “Finish your milk young man. We do not waste food and beverages here.” Gib swallowed the rest of his milk in one gulp.

The rest of the day was uneventful.

However, the hollow feeling inside Gib increased and continued to get worse as he realized his classmates were avoiding him. Mea was the only one who spoke to him during the play hour. But she spent most of the time piling up advice on Gib on how to behave when the officials questioned him.

“Don’t panic. Just act normal and say you knew nothing out of the ordinary. And don’t mention your dreams to them. If you do, we will all get into trouble.” She commanded. Then she added in a softer tone, “If you do they might separate us. I don’t want to be paired with another boy.”

Gib felt an urge to stroke her soft black hair but he fought the impulse. Such behaviours were frowned upon. He didn’t want to attract more trouble.

When they parted that day, Gib gave her his prized silver marble with the blue eye.

“Why are you giving me this?” Mea asked, her voice clenched in fear.

“You were the only one who spoke to me today. Keep it for the night. You can give it to me tomorrow.” Gib replied.

Mea nodded and walked away.


The officials came for the whole family that evening. They were escorted into an enormous steel building surrounded by round pillars. A special agent took Gib into a separate room. It was decorated with miniature circular pillars and globes in silver. The agent took a sample of Gib’s blood and urine and conducted various examinations on his body. Satisfied the agent began asking questions.

” Did you talk a lot with your brother?”

”Did Zeb speak to you about anything strange?”

“Was there anything different about Zeb during the past month?”

“What kind of games did you play?”

Gib told them what he knew. He and Zeb always went to school, did their home work, played with their friends, and shared their meals with their future wives, talked about being excellent medicine makers, just like their father. The agent looked satisfied and led him towards his parents.

When they returned home that night Gib’s mother made redpepper dip, vegetables and meat rondelles, Zeb’s favourite. His father gave her a withering look when he saw the dishes but helped himself to a big plateful without a word.

“Zeb would have licked the plate clean.” Gib volunteered.

“Gib, I do not want to hear that name mentioned again in this house or outside!” his father said coldly.

His mother cleared the table in silence.


A week later the officials brought a charred body. They said it was Zeb. They said he has gone to a steel worker’s house. They said he had tried to work the steel machine there and that he had got burned to death. They said this happens when you go out of your own territory. A medicine maker could never work a steel machine. The governor gave a special speech on TV.  He talked about the tragic story and how it should be a lesson to everybody. They buried the remains. Gib’s father forebode his family to ever speak of Zeb.

Gib’s mother customary shout of, “Gib go and get the oranges. You don’t want to be late for school do you?” continued each morning. But her voice grew terser with each passing day. She hardly looked up at Gib when she spoke to him.

Gib still got up in the morning at 7 o’ clock sharp. He went out for oranges. He went to school with Mea. In school he went to the medicine class alone.  He bumped into Zain occasionally. She was with another boy, a future engineer with a square, serious face. So she snubbed him whenever they met. Mea took the snubbing as a matter of course and continued to stand up to Gib whenever some busybody mentioned Zeb.

During the break he shared a table with Mea. Played with his class mates during the break, headed for the showers afterwards and took leave of Mea every day at the school gate.

On Wednesday afternoons he went to see a movie with Mea and watched heroic deeds of every day warriors who contributed to the common good and were exemplary citizens.

Everything continued without Zeb. But Gib was beginning to feel funny inside. He was not sick he just felt hollow inside. He sometimes wanted to throw away all his books and run out of the class. He wanted not to go to the movies on Wednesdays with his future wife. He wanted to step on the oranges and squash them on the ground. He wanted to slap everyone around including himself. Most of all he wanted to find Zeb. This was strange because everyone else seems to have forgotten Zeb. Even Mea hardly ever spoke of him. She was busy planning for their graduation.

Whenever Gib wanted to talk to her about Zeb, Mea’s pretty brown eyes glazed over. She seemed not to hear him and went on talking about her blue robe for the graduation and the shop she planned to apprentice in.


Gib’s life became difficult with each passing day. The hollow grew stronger with time and refused to budge no matter how hard he tried. He knew he shouldn’t feel that way. But he did.

Nights became the worst time of the day for Gib. He just could not sleep. The hollow inside him grew heavy, stuffy, dark and unbearable.

One night, Gib found it impossible to go to sleep. He stared hard at his pillow. He just wanted the hollow feeling to go away so that he can get on with his life. Slowly it began to loosen up. To his amazement Gib saw something like water drop onto his pillow. It came out of his eyes. For a moment Gib panicked. May be he too was dying. This must be life going out of his body. But what he saw next pushed all else from his mind. Letters began to appear on his pillow. He recognized Zeb’s handwriting. Gib let the water flow out of his eyes.

Dear Gib,

If you can read this it means you are- ready to hear about the new world I found. The water drops that come out of your eyes are called tears in this world. It’s natural. And nothing to be afraid of. In this world we can choose our jobs. You don’t have to be a medicine maker if you don’t want to. Things are different here. We don’t know who our future wives or husbands are. We don’t know what we are going to be. It’s not easy but it’s beautiful.

Remember the dream you told us about. I’ve seen that place. It exists here. It is even more beautiful than you described.

Gib kept on reading.

Outside the orange tree swayed in the soft breeze, a dry leaf fell on the ground noiselessly. An automatic vacuum reached for the leaf like a snake and sucked in the leaf leaving the grass beneath spotless and orderly. A stray cloud concealed the sickle of a moon briefly and drifted on its way.