Archives for posts with tag: travel

mamounia garden 2 -

Morocco is magic – the land, the people, the flora and fauna. To make it more exotic it is a kingdom, with its shores along two seas, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In the south are the Atlas Mountains. There is a romance of history and culture surrounding its cities of Casablanca, Marrakech, Fez and Tangiers. The weather along the coast is always clement with an abundance of blooms everywhere. Two races populate the land, the Arabs and the Berbers, both extraordinary in looks and hospitality. Marrakech at the edge of the Sahara desert and the foot of the Atlas Mountains is an exotic town that takes you back in history. My poem was composed as the atmosphere of the place gripped, enthralled and mesmerized me:




This Moroccan haunting

From the midst of Mamounia’s

Mystic groves and tallest palms’

Proud ochre candelabras’ date,

Three note trill


Pierces my soul

At dawn,

Plaintive, persisting


Secret and alone

With me.


fountainIn the heart of every court,

Like risen lotus

Trademark fountains of bliss

Drip their watery ecstasy

Into shallow pools

Where the mosaic stirs

In shadow of ancient olives

And Jakaranda

And what holds it together,

Calls of a hidden dove –

Secret paradise

Locked from the crowds.


This quick music makes me sad

Though I do not follow its words

I almost know what it says

As I imagine the adolescent urge

Accurately, for it is about

The village lad who is going away,

Promising his mother he will soon be back

With a Green Card

But to his love, that she never

Loved him enough

To let go his hand,

Then I let go the words,

It doesn’t matter, as the drumming

And singing beat faster into me.


musicians-place-jemaa-el-fna-marrakech-bigTwo big beads on two strings

Attached to a dancer’s pointed cap

Whir, as he spins cockily

With a look to impress

At the Place El Fna

In the furious light of gas lamps.


How these Kilin carpets bewitch,

A Berber way of scribbling

Thoughts into squares

Of straight simple colours

You could never manage,

Like you cannot pronounce

Words without vowels,

Consonants joined together

Like they can (shno smitek)

And the patterns stay with you

Like something said permanently



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To capture one look from you

Fishing delinquently for eye contact, careful,

Pull the purse strings tight

Over your eyes,

There are pickpockets here,

Pull down your veil,

Hang on to your soul.


We took the road

Past Taroudannt

Where the majestic Atlas stood

Up a steep hill of Fir trees

Thickly brushing my thoughts

Like a sponge of Mouley Ibrahim

Absorbing their residue wastes,

Miracle duster cleansing the slate

And the wooden barrier

At the tomb

Allowing in only the faithful

Could not keep me out

As I sought his grace

And received a psalm

Wrapped in bright green cloth,

As a token

That he had heard.

Mouley Ibrahim Credit :

Mouley Ibrahim
Credit :






A rare jewel in the Gulf

hajar 2

The Hajar mountains and aquaducts




Oman, amen

In the desert,

As the Hajar rises

From horizon to horizon,

Hiding aqeducts of palms.



Sultan Qaboos

Oman amen

In the desert,

As Qaboos arises

From Medina to Medina

The miracles of a Sultan.



omani maleOman amen

In the desert,

As a people surprise us

With their simplicity and charm.



Oman amen

In the desert,

As a land emerges

From past to present

V’alaikam Assalam’.

temple spire

Transformations inevitably take place within us as we travel and live in other lands. The influences chip away at our settled beliefs. The core becomes affected. We begin to metamorphose, chrysalis to caterpillar to butterfly. Those who have never travelled get affected by the tales and thoughts of great travellers like Xuangzang, Fa Hian, Marco Polo and  Ibn Batuta. People need to travel to become whole, more tolerant, open minded and broad-minded. In India, pilgrimages have served to acquaint its people with their varied cultures and mannerisms, uniting a diverse land. International tourism like pilgrimage helps in uniting the world. My career necessitated constant travel and living in alien lands. In the process my two children are today what I call ‘International Persons’.

When I left India for the first time I was one thing. When I lived in the Gulf, whose culture was diametrically different, I became another. When I returned to India, readjusting my thoughts from the new experiences with those of the original, I became yet another. Now the original looked so different. As the great philosopher of dialectics Hegel put it, Thesis, Antithesis, synthesis.

My poem seeks to bring this out:


                       E X P A T R I A T E


Where Neem trees do not grow

To spread their cleansing shade,

The cheeky bulbul no longer

Chuckles in the bush , red vented,

Nor leisurely cows are

Occasional mothers revered,

No monkeys of epic proportions

Hold court on the roofs of Collectorates,

Nor Mynas with slipping black plumes

Like the Brahmin’s pigtails

Tread within reach at a hair’s breadth,

Where rivers are not Gangetic

In their legendary flows;

There are no rivers.


No bullock-carts lull

At midnight with their bells,

Or coloured bangles sold

In rows at fairs,

No temple spires, no wicker lamps,

No garlands of marigold,

No curries stirring with onion

And leaven bread,

No rainbow colours thrown at festivals,

Women without vermillion on their foreheads.


gulf manNow the song and language change,

His rhythms rearrange,

Cows and colours are strange and alien,

Even the birds are plane

Poor copies, foreign

As this sun arising in another land,

This alien moon casting its novel spell

Set in another frame

Of crescents and restraint

By another culture in which he trains.


Then he returns home

With second thoughts

From the eye of concentric circles,

In a dual vision caught

And sees again the unchanging plot

Of cows and monkeys and dots

Upon the forehead.


mosqueBut now he finds in juxtapose

No more the immaculate

Drip fed hedges,

The manicured landscape,

No more the perfect law

Of the Book,

The exquisite highways,

Nor the stately gilded domes of mosques

And friday prayers,

The unerring call,

The month-long fasts and festivals,

The fragrance of Frankincense

arab ladyOr billowing robes of white and black

Heavy with musk and rose,

Or dates upon a plate,

Nor ritual coffee in crucibles with jelly cake;


As the expatriate

Repatriates between two worlds

He has lost

And gained

His third.

Credit :

Australia was no less exotic than Madagascar. The flora and fauna were out of this world with its Marsupials and bird-life. the startling range of parrots from the Gala to the Rainbow Lorikeet to the Cockatoos both Sulfur Crested white to gorgeous black, the enchanting morning calls of the pied Magpies and laughing Kookaburra and the sinister black Ravens in the Out Back. Every mammal reared its young in pouches on the abdomen, be they mice or giant Wombats or Kangaroos in all sizes and shapes. The extinct Tasmanian Tiger or the Tasmanian Devil were all a naturalist’s delight. Plant life also never ceased to amaze from Eucalyptus gums in the ‘bush’ to extraordinary blossoms. The red Outback with stunning geological features like Ayer’s Rock were awesome.

Credit :

Credit :

Sydney in my view is the world’s most beautiful city with its waterways and stately homes, the Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and its spotless cleanliness, quite unmatched anywhere in the world. The people who made this happen, the remarkable Anglo-Saxon convicts exiled, sometimes for mere shoplifting, were also the best specimens of the race, torn away from their clammy, cold and wet if sophisticated northern island, to populate the land. Hats off to them for creating the Lucky Country, much like America.

credit :

credit :

Not so lucky were the native aboriginals who were hunted down and confined to reserves. The guilt is more marked in Australia than what white Americans may feel for the displaced Indians. What remained of the after – ‘Dream Time’ culture of the aboriginal Australian were only the exotic names of Canberra, Kangaroo and boomerang. and numerous other names of towns and quarters.

So yet another experience unfolded in ‘Down Under’ as my poem seeks to bring out.





The diagonal missile

Of a great white bird

Alights on the tallest


declaring its Cockatoo crest



An Anglo-Saxon out there

Pruning his garden with pride

revises the universe

After Dream-Time has passed.


Trumpeting the morning air

Credit :

Credit :

The unreal Pied Magpies

Pinch milk bottles

In faithful pairs.


In the bush flits

No aboriginal form

Though an ancestral spirit

Ungainly flutters distantly;

A black raven’s soulful caw

As it plunges

To puncture

The eye of an imported Marino.


On the peripheries

Across a great bridge bulge

A highway of cars

Provides a context

For pubs and cricketers,


Qantas-Airways-FleetAs too, the Kangaroo

Bouncing through the air

Like a boomerang

Is neatly sealed

As dog-food in a tin,

Or impressed on the tip

Of a Qantas’ tail-fin.


Pretty red roofs in a row

Well tended avenues

Of plum and cherry,

Pink cheeks and fair hair

Together lie,

Into each others’ affairs

Taking care not to pry,


The greatest good

Is keeping politely to yourself,

Counting out change

With nimble fingered efficiency

And the pronounced necessity

To thank and be sorry

And thank once again


As the thoroughbred bulldog’s

Subtle resemblance

To its master

Grows more striking

Than the Kookaburra’s hysterical laughter.

laughing Kookaburra Credit :

laughing Kookaburra
Credit :

Credit :

Credit :

After devoting a 100 posts to spirituality and nature, i would like to begin with my impressions of  foreign lands where I was posted which impacted my being in fundamental ways. The first is on the exotic island of Madagascar, off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean – more a sub continent than an island. Everything about the  land  was extraordinary and mysterious. The people were a rare racial mix of Asian and African, which we do not see anywhere else.  The original inhabitants from far away Indonesia became the first colonizers after the pre-historic migrations of the Mongoloid races moving from the Asian continent to the Americas when the land masses had yet to separate, becoming the American Indians and of course before Columbus and Cook.

The remarkable Malagache originated from Indonesia coming in reed boats ( the book Kontiki Expedition dwells on the phenomenon ) , touching the southern Indian land mass and then moving into the Indian Ocean to discover the great virgin uninhabited island. In the process they acquired several Sanskrit words including the word for God ( Hari) into their language  which is closely related to the Malay group of languages.

In the cool highlands of Madagascar one is surprised to find the upper class aristocracy being  an  entirely light-skinned Mongoloid race, Later they inducted African slaves from the mainland and thus the two races mixed and merged in quite an extraordinary way.



The flora and fauna is equally unique and startling. Forests of baobab trees are surreal, almost as if Salvador Dali had painted them or imported straight from Alice in Wonderland. Man’s earliest ancestors the Lemur monkeys are only found here, whom the Malagache believe, not surprisingly, to be their ancestral souls. Their variety is a naturalists’ delight, ranging from tiny owl like creatures of the night to a variety of colourful species.  

credit : wikipedia commons

credit : wikipedia commons

The Malagache have the most exotic customs for housing their dead. Besides every home, whether a stately aristocratic mansion or a hovel one finds a small mysterious colourful doll-like house which is actually a cemetery where deceased ancestors lie in coffins ( not underground). My secretary, a fashionable smart lady fluent in French, once a year would take leave to honour her ancestors, which involved redressing the embalmed bodies in fresh clothing and carrying them ceremoniously through town, with band music, before returning them to their colourful little cottages, freshly attired in silks  amidst mysterious, if nerve-wracking singing throughout the night. Even the name of their capital city is a unpronouncable – Antananarivo. to complete the exotica the land is totally Francophone.




Over the rainbow

In Madagascar,

People always in whispers

Cupping their laughter in their palms,

 Seething with anger in their calm,

Came in reed boats

A thousand years ago

From the Indonesian archipelago.


The extinct Elephant Bird

No longer lays its eggs on the sea-shore,

Though Paradise Fish cavorting in the ponds

Still change colours to become

Phosphorescent warriors pouting and glum,

Like queen Ranavalona who was known

To have thrown down her lovers one by one

From the palace walls

When her lust was done.


Tangerines never had a golden glow

As in the Zoma markets of Antananarivo

Where fossils of giant molluscs

Are sold with amethysts and agate

As precious paper weights.


The churches resound

 With stirring psalms

Secretly for the ancestors

Lying embalmed,

Waiting to be dressed anew

In silken shrouds in their tombs,


Ylang Ylang - perfume plant

Ylang Ylang – perfume plant

As Gondwanaland drifts

With its wonders, The Malagache

Are hushed in a trance

Before wide-eyed lemurs

Leaping in the Boabab gums,

risen like dumb ancestors

From the fragrance of Ylang Ylang,

Over the rainbow

In Antananarivo.

Credit :

Credit :



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