Category Archives: Creative Corner

Creative Corner is a space for creative expressions in the form of poems, fiction or creative non-fiction that expresses thoughts, feelings, experiences and passions that we’d like to share. The intention of this corner is to be able to encourage readers and writers to allow their imaginations to experience or create aesthetic work that expresses our journeys, our identities and our times. The word limits for stories and poems is approximately 1500 words.

As a starting project, we invite stories and pieces on ‘Home’ and will be posting contributions we receive from SANSAD members. The idea around ‘Home’ is for us to explore the emotions, experiences or ideas that the word inspires.

Bus Stop in Delhi

Bus Stop in Delhi

I

Suddenly a gust

Of wind brought spring

A murmur in Peepul leaves

Somewhere in darkness

The bus nowhere in sight

As usual

Spring was here

II

Jolting through fog and flitting ghosts

Silence inside the late night bus

At least there are seats

For some to fall asleep

The man beside me

Head covered in shawl nods

Wakes with a start as the bus lurches to stop

At Red Fort

Asks if we have come to Srinagar

As he stumbles to get out

The bus roars into the next patch of fog

III

Delhi must be somewhere here

Almost in Mehrauli

Where the lark sank on scrub

High-rises now flyovers

Packed with cars

Diesel fumes nested

In eucalyptus

Where dhaba

Free unlimited daal with roti orders

Offered dimly lit hospitality

Spanking Cafe Coffee Day

Smart baristas in low light serve

Cappuccino and latte and

Free WiFi

I sip and email Vancouver

Kutub Minar still stands

Woman from village in UP

Holds out necklace of beads

Urging support for small business

I bring out the wallet

Taking gifts for no one

In particular

Chinmoy Banerjee, Vancouver October 6, 2013

A Trio of Reminders

Vignettes

By Zahid Makhdoom

 Flowers

Remember that spring when the flowers’ dreams of blossoming got nipped in their own buds. And that water refused to trickle down. You were sobbing, the sky was electrified, our reflections ossified. Like always, the rhythm from the djembes disturbed the apple cart. Wasn’t that what those goddamned kids wanted in the first place?

 

Mouse

Remember the mouse that had not stirred many Christmas nights past and that the crazed werewolf had not stalked his unsuspecting admirers on those lush nights denuded by a trickster-like full moon. What happened then? That the creatures alive, dead or undead rose to walk all those miles on some faded Christmases and nondescript nights. It all got messed up, I couldn’t although I had intended and desired, to walk and to strum the notes enshrined in the score I had written to mark the end. Do you know what happened? Do you even remember those Christmases, those full-moon nights, and that score or even the end?

 

In the Beginning

Remember that last time we were perched high above the highest branch of that giant tree that everyone around us thought was forbidden, a no go area? I only remember something happened and then those mesmerizing contours of your countenance began to drift away, slowly brightening the Milky Way. I could still discern you and the highest branch of that tallest tree perched above the brightest star of that dazzling galaxy that still seemed so foreboding.

 

It’s been a long time, I couldn’t continue counting, the numbers have transcended my faculties. Memories are hapless cripples without any crutches. The ones I broke are yet to be replaced. And I know of no measure to discern the space between the time I last delved deep inside the depths of every pore of your body to now when even the Milky Way looks so distant, so faded. The times I still remember you rolling your naked body on the mountains of fallen flower petals until I could see a constellation of rainbows etched on your skin. We always gave in to those rainbows. Then those epochs would descend when we could no longer use silence as a canvas to paint those melodies that filled everything around us, made those rainbows dance, and the only refuge from surfeit was to be deeply ensconced within the layers of your scent. Are memories free yet? Has the time for venial liberties arrived? Your scent still wrapped around every part of my being. And silence has successfully subverted music. Let’s paint again. The pristine brightness has forever scared and scarred me.

 

 

 

 

Musings about Home Sweet Home

By Promod Puri

Back in 1972, when I immigrated to Canada and made my first home in
Winnipeg, Manitoba, I happened to meet a very helpful and friendly
person by the name of CR Bector. He was a distinguished professor of
mathematics at the University of Manitoba. And out of respect, as he was my elder and held an academic professional status, I along with other close acquaintances addressed him as ‘Doctor Sahib’ or ‘Doctor Bector’. He was not a medical doctor but had a PhD degree in his extensive portfolio of
degrees.

CR Bector, although to most of us in the Indo-Canadian community sounded
like an English name, especially since the surname hails from Punjab and is typically Punjabi. He was a popular personality in Winnipeg simply because of his informal, lively and sociable temperament.

However for me, the enticing thing about him is that his real name is Chajju
Ram. It is really an old-fashioned North Indian name as we seldom come
across people with that name any longer. And his first name, Chajju, immediately strikes up memories of the famous Indian proverb “jo sukh chajju ke chobare, na balakh na bukhare.
Translation: East or West home is the best.

The name Chajju certainly resonates with the importance of home
as it is part of life’s triangle, rather I would say the most
sought-after trinity of “roti, kapadra aur Makaan”, meaning
food, clothing and shelter.

The fact is anybody with a home in reality owns his or her little sovereign
kingdom or queendom. It is one of those virtues of life which one aspires to have. Life begins and revolves around home and we also enjoy the pride of
having that possession.

Home is not merely a physical dwelling of walls, windows and doors; floors
and roofs. It is not just a rest spot either, but a cozy place of peace and
tranquility in the midst of family or friends’ lively togetherness and
entertainment. Home is the place of absolute independence within acceptable social norms.

Home sweet home is a simple expression carrying deep feelings of that warmth
and comfort which one yearns for.

If the home does not give all that is expected then it is a house, and for
that reason home sickness is better than being confined under a sort of house arrest.

Home is the place of everlasting nostalgia of living with parents,
brothers, sisters and dear ones, the childhood anecdotes of little fights and
laughs, the home-cooked food, books and beds, and a lot more. The physical
remembrance of each and every household item is also a somewhat nostalgic
reflection.

Home is where we accumulate our cultural values, connect with our heritage
and acquire our family’s social, linguistic and religious identities.

Home is that place of security and independence where with elated feelings
one can unwind, recline and relax.

As eighteenth century English poet James Thompson has exquisitely expressed:

“Home is the resort
Of love, of joy, of peace, and plenty; where
Supporting and supported, polished friends
and dear relations mingle into bliss.”

But that bliss is denied to millions of homeless people all over the world sheltering under the open sky at the mercy of Mother Nature. It is this sad aspect of humanity that is visibly invisible as life goes on in busy metropolises.

 

 

 

Searching for home

By Sabita Majid

The first coffee of my day is reassuring. Its strong, bold punch wakes me up to hope and possibilities until several hours and coffees later, it’s clear that nothing changes. However, I also cling to humdrum reality day after day because it’s very easy to lose the tenuous balance I’ve achieved. As an immigrant, I’ve got used to the endless cycles of hope, sadness and anxiety that have come from waiting patiently for the scattered bits of my life to become whole.

When I was young and lived in India, creating home and family as a post-university agenda seemed limited. I thought, with dismay, of my older sister who had babies right after getting married and willingly let herself slide into the abject gloom of a domesticated adult life. So while she nursed one baby after the other, I gallivanted around town partying, travelling and telling myself it was all about self-discovery.

After graduating, I left my more secure urban life in Delhi and travelled with a research team into rural India on the path of what we, euphemistically called, ‘development research’. We assumed that our focus on poor village artisans would bring their complex problems, and what turned out to be quite pretentious solutions, to the fore.

We were city bred Indians, snobbish in our attitudes and full of the wide eyed idealism that comes from formal education without real life experience while the farmers and artisans we met were quite the opposite. Most didn’t have formal education and clearly didn’t understand why they were being asked personal questions like how much money they made from weaving or how many cows they milked. Yet, intrusive youngsters like me felt we were entitled to answers from our unprepared interviewees’ who were often too tired to answer our academic queries with any specificity. Numbers, schedules, they’d never quantified or documented their lives in the way we were trying to.

Our research and knowledge led us down different paths all more materially successful than the poor Indians we thought needed rescuing in the many little Indias of which we clearly were not a part but were deriving solutions for.

In the sprawling and chaotic metropolis of Delhi, I had a place amongst my peer group and spent the evenings talking about film-making and social change while listening to Bob Dylan and juxtaposing our western-Indian sensibilities on a very uneven and un-western India. I was an angst-ridden youngster searching for meaning in a country of cruel contrasts. My own identity crisis came from not quite accepting what exactly it was that made me simultaneously Indian and western.

It was easier to know who I wasn’t like. In the process of defining the poorer Indian, I had learned that I wanted my creature comforts and knew I wouldn’t survive the bug-infested mattresses of tribal guest houses in rural India or be able to eat the watery lentil stew day after day in my efforts at uplifting the masses. Nor did I particularly want to converse with village Indians because there was so little common ground between us. While it was easier to describe those things that I was not a part of, it was more difficult to overcome my own self-loathing and guilt about being unwilling to sacrifice more for the greater good.

Time passed and I quickly became jaded when I saw that nothing in the lives of most Indians changed and I didn’t have the stamina to sustain the quest. I became an unsentimental newspaper journalist, got married and moved out of India to sojourn in Dubai for five sweet years of tax-free, carefree living, shopping and living abroad. I had swapped one home for another without batting an eyelid, or so it seemed. We were young and strong and adventurous.

Each year away from home made my husband and I feel more distanced from India until we decided to immigrate to Canada, which held the promise of opportunity although I was only vaguely aware of what that meant. We arrived in Vancouver in 1999, and a year later, our only child was born.

Then, as happy and as proud as I felt being a new mother, I suddenly felt more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt. Life changed dramatically from having been an egocentric newspaper reporter to becoming a jobless landed immigrant, a lonely stay-at-home mother seeking friendships that were hard to come by. More than anything else, I felt completely disconnected from the mainstream.

I was hopelessly out of synch with Canadian living and didn’t feel thrilled at the sight of Canucks hockey games or newspaper controversies about oil sands. Worse still, news reports about Indo Canadian gangs made me uncomfortable while sparse coverage of India disconnected me from my old home.

In many immigrant faces, I saw reflections of myself, but understood that we now lived with a code of silence as it was often too painful to admit to isolation or a sense of despair about the future. Besides, we were the skilled immigrants who had succeeded in making it through the hoops. We had no choice but to try harder. So, despite the loneliness and hard realities, we soldiered on.

I joined job clubs, networked, made polite conversation hoping that I would stop feeling alien, that I could have a circle of friends and start feeling more rooted. But when I was asked questions such as ‘how hard I worked on my accent’ I realized that I had basically lost all the power I once possessed.

Here, I was brown, South Asian and claiming an English language culture derived from India – land of the poor teeming millions with funny English accents. And no, I had no credibility among few of the gentry I met who, probably, patronizingly saw me as a nice enough Indian woman with oversized aspirations. Neither was it possible to melt into the South Asian community as apart from the common ethnicity, often, not much else held us together.

Suddenly, though, I felt more empathy with all the dispossessed groups I had encountered in India. Whether they were poor artisans or regular groups of migrants coming to Indian cities they were desperate to rise socially but disconnected from power in contrast to my peer group. We spoke better English, relatively speaking, and arrogated power to ourselves, which I now see we hadn’t really earned. It had all been a matter of the homes we’d been born into and the networks we had inherited. Much like it is over here.

And so emigrating from India and settling several oceans away has most of all been a humbling experience. I’ve had to reassess social values, re-invent myself professionally and ask the writer in me soul searching questions about who I have become. I have also realized that human nature is much the same anywhere and that I do belong in one of many littler Canadas and that home, in fact, is wherever you decide it is.

I left the familiarity of my old home to enter the spectacular but cruel landscape of this country where I have simultaneously experienced the beauty of changing seasons and harsh truths about earning power and status without helpful relatives or a network. It’s been terribly hard, each rejection causing deep pain, but also firming up my resolve to succeed – this is what immigrants do. I have realized though that my success will be small and limited in scope.

So, I now see myself as a wife, mother and employee whose sense of fulfillment is derived from all three personas I embody — not much of a departure from my own mother whom I really didn’t want to be like.

For me, home is still a work in progress…

I think it’s really become a state of mind, an idea. Family is an integral part of that home, but I’m finding that I really just want to feel at home within my own being. Home is about the family I ‘m part of, the house we live in and Vancouver where we’ve spent hundreds of hours working, eating, sleeping, shopping and hoping. Home is still also where I was born and faced painful realities as I grew up. Maybe, it is also where I have the happiest memories of. Delhi, Dubai, Vancouver, Burnaby. I suspect there are no right answers.

I have staked a claim to all of these places and homes and belong in none of them entirely.

And so, if you see a brown South Asian sipping her coffee slowly, it could be me creating home in my head. It is a plodding journey, but I think I’m almost there…