Thursday, June 25, 2009

Life in Karachi

The clock struck twelve.
A skinned chicken, without head, legs and wings
lay still on the shelf
But the heart still stirred within,
In a wait, Death did not come
But for the appropriate time.

The intermittent sounds of pings, honking of cars through dusty roads
Flies everywhere, flies on hands and feet,
on every dead fish in the market.
Monotonous colour and style of clothes.
Men in faded and jaded pyjamas

Dirty children with matted hair and tattered clothes
knocking on car windows,
Asking for money.

A dark blind man
Face contorted from being pulled by the hand
by an uncaring young lady
From one car to the next one
Waiting for the money,
he will never see.

An old woman, face melted and battered by time
Peddling for mercy
by carrying someone else’s infant
to get at the money.

Mocking religion, a bearded old man held on to his string of beads for people to see
in infinite dependence on another man’s sympathy,
begging for mercy and subsequently,
For the money.

A man selling small white flower bangles,
moving in between vehicles,
abandoning the commercial logic and the dignity,
In desperation for the money.

People packed in motorised rickshaws;
Sardine cans on wheels.
People packed into decrepit buses bedecked with gleaming metal embroidery
and red paints;
like ornamented elephants.

Reticent craftsmen at the Gizri Market, squatting motionless
in the dust, by the road,
with their tools, waiting to be chosen for work.

Houses. Endless rows of houses with walls.
Roads going by walls and walls of bungalows.
Between the wealthy and those whose lives are low
Of the truly pious with the hypocrites
Words being spoken with forked tongues

Juxtaposition of paradoxes.
Life seemed so valuable and at the same time,
seemed so worthless.
Life here is nothing,
it simply has no meaning.

Day in and day out,
plough the careless drivers on congested roads
The irritating pings of car honks. Honks upon honks.
In the city, these are the only sounds

Day by day, dirt smeared the roads
and garbage dressed in translucent plastic bags posed on sidewalks,
like people waiting for buses.
Everything seem to be in constant meaningless movement.

Heaving donkeys pulling carts and men.
Donkeys with miserable lives; helping men
but yet being beaten
Horses pulling carts filled with uniformed school children.
Selling corn, a man pushed a cart with a small burning oven.

There is nothing appealing about the place.
Nothing to cherish.
Nothing to smile. There is nothing to articulate in the next many years.
Nothing. No, I was not there.
No. It was just a rumour.
There is no way that I could have stayed here.

Kamarul Shahrin January 15, 2006

Poetry for the Living

Life is like that old swing under a shady tree
facing the sea
saddled on twisted weather-beaten cords in rough tethers,
seemingly adrift,
Of course, life can also be another matter
and another and then, another
but still, Life is volatile and changeable, with little to offer
but just shifting gestures
of circumstances.

Life is that which sways, but only shifts within predictable constraints
Life is like that, just a plank of aging wood,
hanging on two ropes, splayed,
discordant but also delicate
seemingly a cradle, seemingly a place of origin
But life is also a fantasy, as if there is no domain,

But we hang on, with the breeze in our faces
hearing only the sounds of waves.
Not seeing our origin, not seeing our beginnings
but only perceiving what had been
It is only that when we founder,
we quaver,
that we realise there is, after all,
a place, firm and strong,
like fine sand on another shore.

Kamarul Shahrin July 24, 2007

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

There used to be a time


There used to be a time when smiles were spontaneous and thoughts were clear
There used to be a time when poverty brought one another together
and there was only one colour

There used to be a time when love was life and life was love
There used to be a time when life was just about food and play
and friends would be here to stay

a time when work was a pleasure and the pleasure was in the work
a time when music was the breath which moved one’s being
and lyrics were never for understanding, but only for singing

There used to be a time when actions were made without motives
and the actions of others were not pleated with doubts.
There used to be a time when there were not three but one,
the mind, body and soul combined.

And now what is left, is some oblivion and pieces of coherence,
everything that is perceived through innovation
of the mind and body
has now left, leaving a kernel
which only blinks and breathe and move a little.

Subang Jaya May 2005

Monday, June 15, 2009

Run, run!

When my legs make the short and swift strides, when there is nothing else in front of me but red digital numbers which record my distance and my pulse, the only thing left to do is to think and see. I see people, running or walking or carrying heavy stuff, just to be healthy, so that they can live without the pain or the sorrow of dying from terminal illnesses. Even then, it is no certainty that we will not succumb to diseases. There is indeed no guarantee that by going to the gym anybody would live longer. In the absence of certainty as to our lifespan, we consider the probabilities of success in living through exercising. They are just probabilities. People have the talent to die in many different ways, in many different styles. It is just that, they don’t really know when they are going to go.

Putting the chances of dying aside, with no knowledge of the timing of our death, we exert so much effort. I am no different from the farmer, or from the carpenter or the lorry attendant. They need to carry and move things, because that is the nature of their work. I need to carry and run and move things because these are not the nature of my work but the nature of keeping to good health. While the janitor or the labourer or the farmer rest in the evening, I toil away after my work, just so I can survive the many years ahead without the problems of heart disease and others. I work after work. I am no different. Just like these people in the gym, they are no different from labourers. Unlike labourers, who get paid for physical work, everyone here in the gym pay to do physical work.

It seems that life on Earth is meant to be challenging for all of Mankind. Man is made to toil or he will surely die prematurely. I walk the treadmill now, I lift weights now, not because I want to look beautiful but because I have to. When I see people doing their exercise, it really gets to me that they have to. Life needs a lot of effort to be lived. Most of us need to work in order to put food on the table for ourselves and for our family. Most of us need to work after work, in order make ends meet. Most of us need to physically work after work just so we can be healthy to face another day of work. We toil at the machines, losing sweat, heaving breaths, grimacing with the pain of muscles fighting the metal. If not, we will surely clog our veins and permanently solidify our fat into becoming heavy leather belts around our waists. And then we die. Presumably. I am as guilty as these people. I am aware of what needs to be done. I have to work to live so that I can work another day.....