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Excerpt

Poetry of Love & Longing by Abhay K

Title: Monsoon: A Poem of Love and Longing

Author: Abhay K

Publisher: Sahitya Akademi

1

I wake up with your thoughts

your fragrance reaching me                           1

all the way from the Himalayas

to the island of Madagascar

.

brought by monsoon

from the blessed Himalayan valley                 2

to the hills of Antananarivo[1]

on its return journey

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I dream of you every night, the shimmering dawn

snatches my dreams but the morning breeze comes  3

whispering your name, permeating my being

with your thoughts, only your thoughts, my love

.

I’m far away in this Indian Ocean island

yearning for your touch, gazing at the Moon,         4

Venus and myriad star constellations,

hoping you’re gazing at them too

.

I wait for the monsoon to be born[2]

to send you sights, sounds and aroma                   5

of this island, redolent of vanilla, cloves,     

Ylang-ylang[3] and herbs of various kinds

.

O’ Monsoon, wave-like mass of air,

the primeval traveller from the sea                    6

to the land in summer, go to my love

in the paradisiacal Himalayan valley

.

for eons you’ve ferried traders across the Indian Ocean,

guided the legendary Sinbad and Vasco da Gama    7

and brought wealth and joy to millions,

your absence, alas, brings famine and death

.

the bounty of Indra[4] offered through rains

at times just a spell of scattered showers,       8

at times unceasing torrents for days at a stretch

whetting passion of lovers with your thunder-drums

.

lovesick and far away from my beloved,

I beseech you to take my message to her                9

along with amorous squeals of Vasa parrots[5],

reverberating songs of Indri Indri[6]

.

the sound of sea waves crashing on coral beaches

mating calls of the Golden Mantellas[7]              10

mellifluous chirps of the Red fody

sonorous songs of the Malagasy Coucal

.

the sight of ayes-ayes[8] conjoined blissfully

at midnight in Masoala rainforests             11

fierce fossas[9] mating boisterously at Kirindy

colourful turtles frolicking in the Emerald Sea

.

yellow comet moths swarming Ranomafana[10]

Radiated tortoises carrying galactic maps        12

Soumanga sunbirds sipping nectar

white Sifakas[11] dancing in herd

.

ring-tailed lemurs feasting on Baobab[12] flowers

Vasa parrots courting their mates                  13

painted butterflies fluttering over fresh blossoms

blooming jacarandas painting the sky purple

.

Traveller’s palms[13] stretching their arms in prayer

Baobabs meditating like ascetics turned upside down  14

Giraffe-necked red weevils[14]  necking their mates

fragrant Champa flowers—galaxies on the earth

.

colourful Mahafaly tombs[15] dotting the countryside

erotic Sakalava sculptures[16] arousing longings in mind,   15

innumerable sculpted rock-temples at Isalo[17]

each one a homage to Lord Pashupatinath[18]

.

the rich dialect of the old Gujarati

still spoken here with great zeal,             16

O’ Monsoon, I urge you to carry these

to my love in the pristine Himalayan valley

.

as you glide over the Indian Ocean gently

caressing her curvaceous body,              17

the humpback whales will amuse you

with their mating songs

About the Book

Monsoon is a poem of love and longing that follows the path of monsoon which originates near Madagascar and traverses the Indian Ocean to reach the Himalavas and back to Madagascar. As monsoon travels, the rich sights and sounds, languages and traditions, costumes and cuisine, flora and fauna, festivals and monuments, and the beauty and splendour of the Indian Ocean islands and the Western Ghats, East and North India, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet are invoked. The poem weaves the Indian Ocean Islands and the Indian Subcontinent into one poetic thread connected by monsoon, offering an umparalleled sensuous experience through strikingly fresh verses which have the immense power to transport the readers to a magical world.

About the Author

Abhay K is the author of nine postry colfections including The Magic of Madagascar (1’Harmattan Paris, 202 I), The Alphabets of Latin America (Bloomsbury India, 2020), and the editor of The Book of Bihari Literature (Harper Collins, 2022), The Bloomsbury Anthology of Great Indian Poems, CAPITALS, New Brazilian Rems and The Bloomsbury Book of Great Indian Love Poems. His poems have appeared in over 100 literary journals. His “Earth Anthem” has been translated into over 150 languages. He received SAARC Literary Award 2013 and was invited to record his poems at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. in 2018. His translations of Kalidasa’s Meghaduta (Bloomsbury India, 2021) and Ritusamhara (Bloomsbury India, 2021) from Sanskrit have won KLF Poetry Book of the Year Award 2020-21.


[1] Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar

[2] Monsoon is born in the Mascarene High near Madagascar.

[3] Ylang-ylang is a tropical tree valued for perfume extracted from its

flowers

[4] Indra is the rain god in Hindu mythology.

[5] Vasa parrots are grey-black parrots endemic to Madagascar notable for

their peculiar appearance and highly evolved mating life.

[6] Indri Indri is the largest species of surviving lemur. It is critically

endangered.

[7] Mantellas are Madagascar’s golden or multi-coloured poison frogs.

[8] Aye-aye is a long-fingered species of lemur active at night.

[9] Fossas are the largest predators endemic to Madagascar.

[10] Ranomafana is a rainforest located to the southeast of Antananarivo in

Madagascar.

[11] Sifaka is a critically endangered species of lemurs also known as the

dancing lemurs.

[12] Baobab is a deciduous tree that grows in the arid regions of Madagascar.

Out of eight species of Baobab, six are endemic to Madagascar. They live

for thousands of years and are also known as the tree of life.

[13] Native to Madagascar, the Traveller’s Palm has enormous leaves which are

fan shaped.

[14] Giraffe-necked red weevil is a bright-red-winged, long-necked rainforest

beetle that uses its extended neck to battle for a mate.

[15] The Mahafaly people of Madagascar honour their dead by creating

imposing tombs.

[16] Sakalava sculptures, usually wooden nude female and male figures, adorn

the tombs of Sakalava Chiefs.

[17] Isalo is a national park in south Madagascar known for its natural rock

massif.

[18] Pashupatinath is another name of Lord Shiva.

Click here to read Abhay K’s interview

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Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

Categories
Essay

Where Sands Drift Back in Time…

Shernaz Wadia explores Western Australia

The aquamarine Indian Ocean shimmered to our left on this sunny day along the drive up north from Perth. There was vague comfort in the thought that it connected us to distant India. This picturesque drive would take us to Lancelin, a small town about 129 kms. north of Perth, approximately an hour and half away. Its biggest attractions are the sand dunes and the sand boarding. As we drew closer to the small town, we passed by many small dunes They were so far from the ocean with tracts of shrub-land on both sides and the highway running through the middle that they seemed like freaks of nature.

From here it was another 3-km drive to the dunes. There was a car park at the entrance but we risked our jeep through the flat, stony terrain to park closer to the dunes and went the next bit on foot. The path was narrow. Having left all footwear in the car our bare soles were chafed walking the few meters of pebbly, coarse path to our destination. But voila! We rounded a bend and it seemed that someone had waved a magic wand!

Simply Stunning! Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

Snow white, wind-chiselled dunes rose up over silk soft sand that widened in an undulating carpet. The ocean glittered and foamed some distance away below an azure sky dotted with white clouds; and a wide, lush green strip acted as a barrier between the surf and the dunes. The snowy dunes stood lofty. Reaching the top could be quite a task with a sand board in hand as feet kept sinking into the cool sands! With effort, we managed the yielding surface as we climbed up a mound. Caps and hats blew off. Bare headed at the mercy of the cobalt sky, we lumbered up. But once on top, the panorama took our breath away more than the climb!

‘Have A Chat General Store’ on 104 Gingin Road in the town centre, hired out sand boards. Other than boards, there were buggies, quads, 4WD cars and motorcycles to zip up, down and around the dunes.

Sliding down appeared to be a lot of fun for adults and children alike but climbing back up the steep incline took the wind out of many. For those not quite physically fit, (which I wasn’t) this could be very daunting.

Sand Boarding. Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

Much as we would have loved to spend more time on the dunes, a merciless wind forced us to pack and leave. It blew sand into our eyes (we had sunglasses on), nose, ears, hair and even inside our well protected cell phones. The battery later had to be removed to blow out the fine grains. It was worth it, nonetheless.

Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

From the sand dunes we drove further north on this one day trip. Along the way, most of the vegetation was stunted. But flowering trees dotted the wayside to cheer us en route to the amazing desert of ancient limestone pillars, scattered across approximately 190 hectares, 60 meters above sea level and just a short distance away from the ocean. Coming upon this alien looking place, with its millennia old history, one’s reaction could only be of reverent awe. It was nature — raw and unrefined — a gateway into the unknown.

These limestone formations were within Nambung National Park, near the town of Cervantes. August to October was the best time to visit the Pinnacles. The weather was mild, wattles and wildflowers welcomed us. One could drive right into the desert, along a four-meter loop carefully demarcated with stones. There were delineated parking spaces where one could stop to roam among these pillars and enjoy a richer experience of the astounding landscape. They have been rightly nicknamed “The Rock Stars of the Outback”. These fragile structures demand to be treated with respect. The raw materials that went into forming these pillars were lime-rich sand and ancient sea-shells, but there are three theories regarding their formation and no consensus has been reached so far.

A diminutive view of the vast Pinnacles desert. Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

This millennia-old site, about 60 meters above sea level, evokes veneration. Thousands of the mystifying columns rise above a yellow shifting sand bed. Many of them daunt at 3.5 to 5 meters in height, some with jagged points and others mushroom-like with rounded, hard, calcrete caps that protect the frail formations. It is harder than the limestone below it and so takes longer to erode.

These Pinnacles and their surroundings are a very significant region for the traditional owners of the land, the aboriginal people. The aboriginals who inhabited this region were named the Nyoongar. A river called ‘Nambung’, meaning ‘crooked’, weaves through the region. The Pinnacles are sacred to the local tribe. During the wet season, the Nambung River made a chain of waterholes throughout the park, with the water flowing into the cave systems. These cave waterholes became essential for the survival of the tribe for hundreds of years.

There are many myths surrounding the region, with the local aboriginal people stating the large rock formations were the remains of fossilised ghosts. They were said to be young men who had wandered into the forbidden desert which was sacred and reserved for women. The gods punished them by burying them alive and leaving behind only their standing limestone figures.

It continues treated as a significant region for women, with many women groups gathering together in the desert to do traditional ceremonies, give birth, and camp beneath the stars.

The spectacular desert with its shrubbery is home to many native birds and animals like emus, black-shouldered kite, white-tailed black cockatoos, sand goannas, grey kangaroos, carpet pythons, bobtail lizards and more. Unfortunately we did not spot any of these. A visit to the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre, at the edge of the yellow sands gave us an idea of some of these splendid creatures through photos and taxidermy mounts. It also explained the geology of the formations and the cultural and natural heritage values of the area with soundscapes, videos and objects.

Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

Wandering among these ancient sage-like structures is to expand the margins of oneself and slide into a meditative trance; into a strange beyond. The ego slinks away; only deep awe fills the mind and spirit.

Lake Thetis

Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

As we drove back towards Perth, we made one more stop for a tryst with ‘Living Fossils” the modern versions of our Earth’s most ancient life-forms: living marine stromatolites. The lake has a circumference of 1.2 metres, with an easy walking path looping around it. A walk down a gravel path and then up a boardwalk and one reaches the lookout platform which has good, informative and instructive sign posts, like this one.

Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke
Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke
Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

Lake Thetis is one of the few places on earth where stromatolites or living fossils are to be found. They are built by microbes called cyanobacteria which are similar to the earliest organisms that produced oxygen for subsequent life forms. They have been growing here for about 3500 years. These rocklike formations teem with micro-organisms that are invisible to the human eye but these living communities of varied residents have population densities of 3000 per square metre! Stromatolites are layered, while their microbial cousins Thrombolites, which are also found here, are clotted structures.  

Fragile Stromalites. Photo Courtesy: Daisy Wadia and Rajeev Ghodke

The stromatolites are our only doorway into the emergence of life way, way, back in cavernous time. A small piece of stromatolite is encoded with biological activity that is thousands of years old. This community is threatened by nutrient enrichment and physical crushing, so visitors are requested to keep off these extraordinary forms.

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Shernaz Wadia regards reading and writing as an inward journey. Her work has been published in various anthologies and e-journals. She sometimes dabbles in short Japanese forms of poetry too.

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Categories
Poetry

Under the Sapphire Sky

By Sangeeta Sharma

Painting by Georges Seurat (1859-1891). Courtesy: Creative commons
Under the Sapphire Sky

Sprawled on the beach chair under the open azure sky
Surrounded with a panoramic enormous expanse of sapphire waters of the Indian Ocean
Absorbed the blue of the skies 
And the turquoise waters
The beautiful verdant foliage
Trying to sink in the utopian state
Of mental and physical wellbeing
Far-off youngsters swim
Making the most of their lives
Some laze in the sun under canopies
Others splash their thighs in the blue seawaters 
And a few pose for selfies 
Soon to be posted on their Whatsapp and FBs
Their wanderlust's evidences…

Dr. Sangeeta Sharma, an associate editor of SETU and an academic, has authored a book on Arthur Miller, a collection of poems, edited six anthologies on poetry, fiction and criticism (solo and joint) and two workbooks on communication. She has free-lanced for The Times of India. A book of hers is used as a reference at the Clayton State University, Georgia, USA.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL