Archives for posts with tag: India

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The Bubble Gum Effect
by Vandita Dharni

Relentless efforts of the caregiver have spawned atoms of resilience and kept dad sprightly and positive despite battling with the immobilizing Parkinson’s disease. This short-statured, unassuming lad regales his patient by administering tidal waves of laughter to combat the avalanches of depression that would have otherwise surfaced.

Raj can heave up a patient almost five inches taller than him like a professional WWF wrestler. He is a true companion, taking dad for regular walks within the periphery of our home and keeping him well-groomed with a meticulous sense of hygiene. He keeps a track of his doctor’s appointments, medication schedules, and physiotherapy despite Dad’s restricted movement due to his age, the Parkinson’s disease, and now the fear of contracting the ghost virus that stalks us.

Since the onslaught of Covid-19 in April, Raj has voluntarily taken up lodgings at our home as commuting everyday would put the family at risk, especially our 80-year-old dad who has low immunity and a B-12 deficiency, the result of his strict vegetarianism. Our Man Friday ensures that the diet contains adequate nutrients to prevent osteoporosis and further complications. Fruits, salads, and cheese have fostered Dad’s immunity and kept the doctor away and depression at bay so far. Raj’s comforting presence soothes Dad’s irritability that often stems from dementia and childish stubbornness, particularly his insistence on wanting to venture out despite the hazards of the deadly virus.

I often find them laughing at ludicrous jokes on the phone or when our handy man is tickling a funny bone that erupts in guffaws. Seeing Dad happy, evokes a sense of relief that in these challenging times, we still have love and laughter sticking to us like bubble gum.

PHOTO: Selfie snapped by Raj.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Covid-19 has crippled the lifestyle of people across the globe, including the city of Chandigarh, India. However, we are blessed to have a wonderful and compassionate caregiver for our dad. Our dad is an 80-year-old army veteran grappling with Parkinson’s disease. Raj has been a constant companion who keeps motivating dad to be positive, and so far we have been able to ward off the threat of the virus. Raj has worked as a Patient Care Assistant at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), a medical and research institution in Chandigarh, a leading tertiary care hospital of the region that caters to patients from all over Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Haryana.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vandita Dharni is an acclaimed poet, scholar and, a gold medalist from the University of Allahabad, India. She has a Ph.D.  degree in American Literature from the same university. Her articles, poems, and stories have been published in many journals, including Criterion, Ruminations, GNOSIS, HellBound Publishing House, as well as International magazines such as Immagine, Poessia, Synchronised Chaos, Poleart Albani, Sipay, Fasihi, Guido Gozzano. Her books include The Oyster of Love,  Rippling Overtures, and Quintessential Outpourings, and she is the proud recipient of the Poetic Galaxy Award 2018, the World Poetic Star Award 2019, and the Rabindranath Tagore Award 2020. Her work recently appeared in Our Poetry Archive.

DHARNI 2

Crossing the Rubicon
by Vandita Dharni

The lockdown happened quite unexpectedly
however, it has impacted our lives
making us rethink and restructure our lifestyle
so that we can perceive the intricacies of life and people
around us that make a difference.
There have also emerged
philanthropists fortuitously who strive
to create a positive atmosphere,
to serve and serve wholeheartedly
and render help and emotional support to families
sans jobs, sans homes and sans health services.

Pascal, a dear colleague of mine has brought relief to hundreds,
He is undeterred by the green, orange and red areas
that cause a clear divide—
between certainties and uncertainties
between faith and doubt
and between indifference and compassion.

Igniting hope amidst adversity,
he serves tirelessly in the farrago of
rehabilitating the less fortunate,
replacing grief with cheery smiles
and all this is done in his inimitable style.

Every conceivable area in Mohali is mapped
for mass distribution of food, medicine and masks,
jobs are procured for those with
no means of sustenance let alone safety gear.

Finally, there’s hope and a reason to smile
albeit Covid-19 that is still rampant
and it is heartwarming to know that
life will go on with a bang and not a whimper
as the tireless Samaritan crosses the rubicon
only a few would attempt

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Pascal Daniel’s photograph was clicked outside Phase 7 Mohali by a co-worker and is used by permission. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Pascal Daniel is a colleague and works as an educator at St. Stephen’s School in Chandigarh (India). His relentless effort at rehabilitating people during these perilous times has been remarkable and praiseworthy. He along with the “Mohali Helpers,” a voluntary organization focused and engaged in rehabilitation of the downtrodden, started their mission on March 21, 2020. They were instrumental in each day distributing 500 packs of cooked meals and 200 packs of rations. They covered areas like Jagatpura, Burali, and Kambali villages and Phases 1, 5, and 7 in Mohali. They also delivered medicine to people with health issues who contacted them, as they were afraid to venture out of their homes for fear that they might contract the virus. AT the Mohali Railway Station, they  distributed more than 1000 packages of food to laborers boarding trains to return to their villages. These laborers were bereft of livelihood, as they had been retrenched by their employers who could not offer remuneration due to lack of funds.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vandita Dharni is an acclaimed poet, scholar and, a gold medalist from the University of Allahabad, India. She has a Ph.D.  degree in American Literature from the same university. Her articles, poems, and stories have been published in many journals, including Criterion, Ruminations, GNOSIS, HellBound Publishing House, as well as International magazines such as ImmaginePoessiaSynchronised Chaos, Poleart Albani, Sipay, Fasihi, and Guido Gozzano. Her books include The Oyster of Love,  Rippling Overtures, and Quintessential Outpourings, and she is the proud recipient of the Poetic Galaxy Award 2018, the World Poetic Star Award 2019, and the Rabindranath Tagore Award 2020. Her work recently appeared in Our Poetry Archive.

DHARNI 2
Behind the Iron Bars
by Vandita Dharni

Every morning I wake up to a familiar clattering sound. It’s the sanitation worker with the black mask. I wince—he always arrives a tad early to collect the garbage.

I flinch at the iron bars that distance me from the macrocosm as I watch him, and yet I don’t, vanishing into its folds. Then in a fleeting second, he reappears, offering biscuits to a black stray dog that eyes them hungrily—well, so do the ravens that perch on a tree above him every day. I know why he does this, for black is always lucky. The garbage van trundles towards the B-2 block where the road forks near the containment zone of our sector. The containment and non-containment zones are distinguished by yellow and black bags used for waste disposal, later transported to a compost yard in Sector 38. Pending electricity bills and crumpled clothes peer at me while I pour a cup of black coffee that has been brewing with my musings.

I often peer into the black bag he carries from a neighbour’s yard each day—the same vegetable peels, crunched paper balls, and household trash. I hear him instructing co-workers about safety guidelines and black bags that must be handpicked from collection bins and yellow bags which contain biomedical waste that needs to be segregated.

Our area has now reported twenty positive cases. The fences frown with boards restricting entry. He also collects trash from these locations. A week later, I notice him coughing incessantly. The iron bars of my heart bleed into ink that reads: “Two sanitation workers in the yellow bag area have tested positive.” My black coffee brews with thoughts whether black is still lucky or not.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There has been an escalation of Covid-19 cases in the city of Chandigarh, with the toll rising to 1092 active cases, according to today’s statistics. Twenty-two cases in my sector have been reported so far, and no fresh cases have been detected for a few days. We adhere to the norms of social distancing and venture out only if it’s really necessary. During these challenging times, I have been confined to my home most of the time and do my work online. A lot of people who provide us with essential services have impacted me, and one such worker is Charanjeet. ¶ This particular sanitation worker has always been very positive and does his duty with a smile. He picks up refuse every day without fail, as do the other sanitation workers in Chandigarh. His family lives with him in Derrabassi, a tiny village on the outskirts of Chandigarh, and he has to support them financially. India is a progressive, yet poverty-stricken country, and Charanjeet is making both ends meet to give his family a respectable life. He had a bout of viral fever recently, but thankfully it was not Covid-19, and is he is back on his feet now, which is a relief for all of us who really salute front-line workers such as him.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Charanjeet’s photograph was clicked outside my gate by me and is used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vandita Dharni is an acclaimed poet, scholar and, a gold medalist from the University of Allahabad, India. She has a Ph.D.  degree in American Literature from the same university. Her articles, poems, and stories have been published in many journals, including Criterion, Ruminations, GNOSIS, HellBound Publishing House, as well as International magazines such as Immagine, Poessia, Synchronised Chaos, Poleart Albani, Sipay, Fasihi, and Guido Gozzano. Her books include The Oyster of Love,  Rippling Overtures, and Quintessential Outpourings, and she is the proud recipient of the Poetic Galaxy Award 2018, the World Poetic Star Award 2019, and the Rabindranath Tagore Award 2020. Her work recently appeared in Our Poetry Archive.

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Threshold of dreams
by Vijaya Gowrisankar

The blue Maravanthe Beach on one side
and beautiful Souparnika River on the other
We stopped on National Highway 66 and
I made my way down to see the scene
I stood looking at the boat moored
near the steps leading to the river

The shackles of comfort are the price for dreams

The river’s course disappeared
beyond my vision as I saw it bejeweled
with the tall coconut trees, leaning
to reflect their shadows in blue waters
Somewhere, beyond, the borders of distant
hills beckoned one to take risks with
a promise of adventure. I stood, taking
in nature’s beauty…and pondering over life

The shackles of comfort are the price for dreams

Like the boat, I had decisions to make
The comfort of excuses and fears had allowed
many a dream to go unexplored. The road to
dreams, though exciting, was also laden with
uncertainties like the river’s course and tides
Some journeys and decisions are mine to make…alone

The shackles of comfort are the price of dreams

PHOTO: Maravanthe Beach (left) and Souparnika River (right), Kundapura, Karnataka, India, by Amith Nag Photography, used by permission. Boulders have been placed on the beach to create a breakwater that protects the coast from the force of waves and prevents erosion of the shoreline.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Maravanthe Beach is located on the coast of the Arabian Sea in southwestern India. National Highway 66 runs next to the beach and the Souparnika River flows on the other side of the road, creating spectacular scenery that is considered one of its kind in India.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Time spent amidst nature allows me to reflect on life, my fears, and decisions. Nature inspires me to embrace my unique self. It calms me and often, changes my perspective of life. When I travelled to Udipi via this highway, I was on threshold in life to make decisions. This time helped me in getting a better sense of direction. I wrote this poem using the bop form.

PHOTO: A boat on the Souparnika River near Kundapura, Karnataka, India. (Photo by Vijaya Gowrisankar)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Vijaya Gowrisankar is the author of the poetry collections InspireReflectExploreSavour–Art and Poetry meetEvolve, Shine, and Unlikely FriendshipsCherish is her eighth publication, a collection that captures a spectrum of moments using a variety of poetry forms, quotes, and conversations. Her blog Grow Together shares insights from the greatest influencers and focuses on personal growth. She has been published in over 40 anthologies, has been awarded the AZsacra International Poetry Award (December 2015), and was one of the winners of Inspire by Gandhi competition, organized by Sampad, a UK organization. Visit her blogFacebook page, and Amazon Author page, and find her on Twitter.

PHOTO: The author during her travels.

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Glorious Opulence
by Munia Khan

It was all about the luxury of death
The tomb was the centerpiece of a 42-acre-complex
It was a massive mesmerizing marble structure on a square plinth
guarded by a symmetrical building with an arch-shaped doorway
topped by a moony finial and a large dome —

The eternal resting place
of the Mughal emperor’s favorite wife!

I was standing at one of the balconies
of that 16th century ivory white marble house
by the Southern bank of river Yamuna,
taking pictures of the river
not as a tourist, but as an avid thinker who came from another country
thinking about the cultural diversities of that land
where the murmuring vein-like rivers
glittered by the ashes of the leaders’ dead bodies
and at the same time decorated with the love story
of legendary ruler by framing his wife’s grave on the river bank.

Today we, the travelers from all over the world
are indebted to Shah Jahan for leaving behind
this magnificent architectural dynasty
which reminds us, the mortals, of the immortality of love

Photo of the Taj Majal, Agra, India, by Jovyn Chamb on Unsplash

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During my first visit to India in March 2018, I traveled alone to see the Taj Mahal. This historical landmark is indeed one of the world’s architectural splendors — and this reminded me of the transitoriness of life, power, and wealth.

PHOTO: The author during her visit to the Taj Mahal in 2018.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Taj Mahal is a marble mausoleum on the southern bank of the river Yamuna in the Indian city of Agra. The monument was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who reigned from 1628 to 1658, to house the tomb of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The construction project employed 20,000 artisans and cost 32 million rupees ($916 million in 2020 U.S. Dollars). In 1983, the Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as “one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” (Source: Wikipedia.)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Munia Khan is a poet, author, and editor of multiple books and anthologies. She has authored seven books, which include collections of short stories, articles, poetry, and a nonfiction inspirational book titled Attainable. Her works have been translated into many languages, including Japanese, Romanian, Urdu, Italian, Dutch, Croatian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Albanian, Finnish, Greek, Indonesian, Turkish, Hindi, Bengali, and Irish, and have been published in anthologies, literary journals, magazines, and newspapers around the world. Visit her Amazon author’s page and find her on goodreads.com.

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As doomsday approaches
by Subhankar Das

Stay at home they say
Stay safe they say
But no one says who will buy me
Groceries .

All the malls are closed
I have to venture out to see
If any roadside small shops are open
At 7 in the morning,
Before the police take control of all the roads
Lanes bylanes dead ends of this downtown.

Masks have become mandatory
The moment you are outside,
And I have no mask to hide behind.
So covered myself with this thin cloth towel
Most people are laid off
No money to buy food
Hospital beds are full
Doctors and nurses getting infected.
All the wine shops and cigarette shops are closed
Of course trading is still on in the black market
At a much higher price.

Stay at home they say
And go crazy behind a mask.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Subhankar Das is a poet and publisher of Bangla experimental stuff. He has 30 published books of Bangla and English poetry.

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Green
by Smitha Vishwanath

Our city’s divided
In colors
Like our flag
Red, orange, green
We are in the green
That is what it says — the circular
From tomorrow we can roam
A reward for being good
For staying indoors
Except

Occasionally
When we step out
To pick bread
At the gates.
For that is where we asked them to keep it —
The delivery boys who get the bread
We do not know their color or who made it or how
We are strict when it comes to rules — our apartment block
We wear our masks and our gloves and no outsider
Can cross our gate

Seventy-one days as of tomorrow it shall be
Since we stood at our windows
Watching —
Trees changing color from green to orange to flaming red
Birds: pigeons, crows, kites, and some others
Whose names I do not know
A few rule-breakers
And dog walkers with their dogs
running free with no leashes — Golden retrievers, Huskies, and Boxers
But all that shall end

For tomorrow we shall be free
For we are in the green
That is what the circular says — the one from the Ministry
We talk excitedly
About how far we will go
About our shoes
If we remember how to tie our laces
Our masks lie ready
Tomorrow is the big day
A few more hours to go

The guard’s feverish
The one who sits at the entrance to the garden
Nay, it’s not the excitement that has made him so
If only it were
Our gate dons a mask. It reads — “Containment zone–Sealed”
The circular says we are green
It is an hour outdated.
That is all it takes for a storm
A quake, a fever
And to move to red from green

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We had been under lockdown in Mumbai for 68 days, when  the government decided to open the city in phases. A plan was unrolled and all places in the green zone were scheduled to open on June 3rd. I looked forward to my walks, and as a family we discussed our plans over tea. Later in the evening we learned that one of our security guards had taken ill. This news came as a rude shock — like a punch in the face — because we would have to continue under lockdown. I just had to write about my feelings, and having written the poem I feel so much better.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Smitha Vishwanath is a banker-turned-writer and a management professional, who embarked on the writing journey in 2016 with her blog, lifeateacher.wordpress.com, while still heading the regional cards operations of a bank. After working for almost two decades in senior roles in the banking industry in the Middle East, she quit and moved to Mumbai, India, in 2018 with her husband and two daughters. In July 2018, she co-authored Roads: A Journey with Verses, a book of poetry. Other than writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, painting, and going on long nature walks.

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Juggling
by Shelly Narang

My hands have become pinball flippers.
We’re going crazy in here.
In the evenings
juggling balls pop
from my palm to the air,
back to the palm.
I assign them their names.
One ball will be fear.
The second will be love.
The last persistence.
So much up in the air always,
but the mask blurs my eye.
Fear is in the air,
The love of fear
and the persistence of fear,
so much unknown, to be caught
Or to catch.
I hold fear repeatedly
Dropping persistence and love.

I have dropped love,
woken up and found it
when de-masked.
It is lying in the rooms,
up the liquid flowers,
and in the beautiful faces around.
But every time I grip the mask,
I grip fear too ,
and persistence rolls
under the couch.
The fabric sucks in
as I hold my breath,
offering a little boy
to juggle them who stands
so far away.
He looks at me smiling,
Holding persistence of love,
letting go the love of fear,
and the fear of persistence.

Photo found at homeofthepoi.com (a site that sells juggling balls). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written over a few days, as I spent the lockdown evenings in the balcony and watched the neighbours’ son juggle some balls.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Narang is a citizen of Chandigarh, India. She is an academic and a poet. She attended Department of English and Cultural studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh, for her Masters Program, which she finished with top honours. She wrote her thesis on South Asian Women Writing for her Doctoral Degree, and was shortlisted for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship at University of Texas, Austin, in 2008.  The editor and contributing author of the bilingual poetry collection Resonating Strings (Authors press, 2015), her poems have appeared in numerous international anthologies and journals, notably The Muse, Parentheses, Indian Literature, and several others. She has been working as an Assistant Professor in Chandigarh for a decade, and has taught courses such as British Poetry and Applied Linguistics to postgraduate students.

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The Highway
by Uma Gowrishankar

I have said this so many times to my son
I want the front door removed
so that I do not have to answer the bell.
Then our home will become an open passage, he argued,
something like a road where everyone can walk by.
Isn’t it one already, I asked, not just a road, a highway?

My grandfather lived in a rambling house
dark and deep like the tunnel of memory,
divided into five areas of living and utility, open
for every acquaintance, he called family.
The front door made of heavy wood
was not meant to be closed during the day.

My grandmother a fragile asthmatic woman
could not move the iron latch weighing
five kilos from its tunneled slot — she depended on him
for that. Out of the open door wafted
the smell of food: she cooked pots of rice, simmered
lentils in juices of vegetables for those who visited —

an open door is an invite.
What if you remove the bell instead
my son suggested pulling me out of my thoughts.
Do not answer the door, pretend nobody is in.
I do that now most of the time, remembering the days
my grandmother shut herself in, mind sealed
behind the opaque cataract of forgetfulness.

Photo by Shiva Subbiaah Kumar.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I wrote this poem I kept going to the thought of how the front door remains shut now, no one enters. We fear the invisible intruder as the news seeps through the walls of localities in the neighbourhood becoming containment zones. There was a time I longed to have my home for myself, not to have to open the door to share the space. Now that I am forced into such an existence, I recall the time when people like waves came through the door, and regret that I had foolishly desired for self-isolation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Uma Gowrishankar is a writer and artist from Chennai, South India. Her poems and fiction have appeared in numerous journals, including CityA Journal Of South Asian Literature, Qarrtsiluni, Buddhist Poetry Review, Catapult Magazine, Curio PoetryPure Slush, and Postcard Shorts. Her first full-length collection of poetry Birthing History was published by Leaky Boot Press.

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Never-ending wait
by Priyanka Mukherjee

A ball rolled in through my open front door
No one was there to take it back
I wished to see the tiny hands again
Ones that played with me long ago
Through the open front door
The emptiness deep within my heart
When they left for greener pastures far
Never returned to play with me again
My front door still awaits their return
The mornings are misty and the grounds soft
The seasons changed but never the time
My lined eyes eagerly await
To see the innocent grin again
Of the one who played with me all day
Through the open front door of mine
The nights are dark and lonely too
The wind outside rages a battle
Against my front door that stands guard
My only soldier of this war
It had seen the happier times
When the doors of my heart were ajar
Now no more I wish to wait
The hands are gone that made me play
Alone I stand and look outside
Through the window at the back
I do not wait for the ball anymore
I have closed forever, my big front door.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In my country, many sons and daughters leave their parents and go to distant lands for a better future. Sometimes, the children never return and the aged parents are left to fend for themselves. They keep awaiting the return of their offspring and sometimes pass away with this wish. The aged parents also miss their grandsons and granddaughters, and the time spent visiting and playing with them. My poem is for those who have stopped waiting and are trying to deal with their lives in a different way.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Priyanka Mukherjee is the mother of a six-year-old, a wife, a doting daughter to two sets of parents, and a teacher. She is an avid reader and a passionate traveler. Home quarantined, she is reviving her writing hobby and penning down her thoughts. Some of her poems will be published in an anthology in the coming months. As a teacher, she loves guiding young minds and tries her best to inspire her students to become avid readers. For more, visit her blog and find her on Twitter.