The struggle for existence

The struggle for existence

The struggle for existence

The struggle for existence , My Poems , Some Heart Touching Words , A heart Touching Poem

In the dangling electric-supply wires

and the dim, corroded lamp

perched atop the telephone pole

with its pallor barely touching the ground;

And the swirling snakes of water

which slip down the chipped red-brick slopes

and are arrested suddenly by the coal-tar road;

And the lid-less, gaping gutter-holes

vomiting frequent throngs of roaches

who tread the scarce grass blades

bordering the moist leaks in the ground;

And the foul smell that glides across the land ‘ere

tugging at the rugged walls and dingy buildings

sneaking under the ugly gates

and into the oppressive, nearly non-existent verandas;

And in the endless din of useless discussions

gossip and grocery talk

earnest commitments

of saving a penny here, a dime there

only to eventually indulge in one last extravaganza;

In this do I find beauty

a beauty that mesmerises

with the verity of its naked truth

its bare bones, starched of the drapes and false apparels

fleshless bones of a bony vulture

that stands true to the what begets it

and feeds upon it, ravenously

the struggle for existence

 Salmanaltaf.wordpress.com

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Fickle hopes

Fickle hopes

My lyrics dismantle
On the work-desk
Against the clock’s tick-tock
The pen frisking
Across the bare paper
The lantern hanging low
And a ghastly pallor
Pouring silent gloom
Dissolving into my mind
The cracking glass-panes
Under the times’ banes
Sounds of you
Still in that air
Me still there
Upon that chair
Still collecting shards
Of my broken dreams
Still searching past
In the cold

The Show

The Show

The show started around 10. The room wore a very neat look with the curtains being freshly washed and couches from the adjacent room placed next to the sofas. The arrivals comprised of an elderly woman and two young girls, welcomed very warmly by Ashraf and his wife, Atifa. There was a clear demarcation of positions on the either side of the table. To its left were seated the guests and to its right, the hosts. The latter wore forced smiles which did little to hide the tense anticipation gnawing on their faces and sunk into the worn-out seats like pleading, grateful entities. After formal exchange of pleasantries, the conversation entered into the regular second round – that of questions and answers. The questions were thrown with a keen fervor coupled with a thick air of complacency and answered with meek smiles by the other side. Intermittently, now and then silence would creep in and throats were cleared.

‘So what is your daughter’s age again?’ the elderly woman asked in a shrill voice, partly natural and partly due to her try at sounding high-pitched.

‘She’ll turn thirty this year’, a subtle tone of apologetic reassurance crept into the Atifa’s voice.

‘Ahem’, throat clearing. Silence. Then the creak of the door opening.

The object of their interest was here. Clad in a blue dress and wearing lipstick, Nazia entered the room. Being the fourth time in the same month, she had thought the estrangement of the whole setting would be fleeting now. Yet, her face was embarrassed and eyes lowered as she pushed the cart set with the refreshments. A pineapple cream cake, cookies, pizza and halwa. Quite an extravaganza it was.

‘With the grey sprouting through her hair, she looks much older than thirty’ the woman muttered just loud enough to be heard through the room. Helping herself with the cake, her gaze lingered ominously at Nazia. Taking in her face, then shoulders, it slipped lower, thoroughly scanning her in all.

‘I don’t like her teeth when she smiles. They look so big’ the two girls bantered, whispering among themselves.

‘And look at her nose. It seems like the flaring nostrils of a dragon. Natiq likes sleek, pointed noses’ the second of them commented.

‘My son is very well-educated and he has a fine job’ stuffing herself with yet another helping of cookies, the lady announced, though in a by-the-way manner. The hosts nodded fervently presenting their agreement of whatever she uttered. ‘And of course being an educated family, we are against dowry. However, Natiq wants to live honorably in a separate house with his wife. You agree, don’t you?’ her insinuation was well picked by the hosts who suddenly had aghast looks on their faces which looked almost comical with their plastic smiles still intact.

The show dragged on for yet another hour. Nazia was thoroughly noted. According to Natiq’s mother, her upper lip was slightly detached and gave her a strange look with her rather large teeth. And her nose too, duly pointed by her daughters, was a no-no. Plus, although she had thoroughly applied mascara, her eyes looked quite small.

As soon as the clock struck 12, the mother clasped her hands together and stood up.

‘Well, that’s all. I’ve to visit a few other houses in the neighborhood. We’ll let you know of our decision within a week’ her daughter conveniently picked the last cookie on the way out. Nazia retreated back into her room, needing some time to ‘recover’ till the next installment of the show was to commence. Every time, she would end with soft sobs interred deep into her pillow.

Ashraf and his wife sat in silent contemplation, wondering a car certainly would’ve cost less, it being the demand made on the last show.

‘I don’t like her. Rejected!’ the woman exclaimed as she walked with her girls to the next house.

And thus the show culminated. For now.

*Salman Altaf*

‘The Toil’ An Heart Touching Poem

The orange spills upon the eastward canvas

And a pale white shades the night’s mantle

The wind’s worn of a cold glide

And shudders anew on the gold pastel

The trees, still bowed in the night-full stupor

Sway with the gentle, caressing breeze

The mighty orb gains the reign

And hither shall the dark’s rule cease

The thin haze in the air, lowly drifting

Dissolves and the virgin dew trickle shy

Downwards, into deeper folds

Up the welkin’s a crystal blue ball

Washed anew in the mighty glory

And in its bosom, few tufts of fluff

Promise the day thin shades ahead

And as the day lives on, vivified and stark now

Life shrugs off many a faces

And toils yet again for the thread of breaths

*Salman Altaf*

Published originally in Us magazine, The News on May 7, 2010

The Road Less Traveled By

The Road Less Traveled By

SalmanAltaf , The Roadless travelled ByWhen we are young, we are sent to schools for education. We are taught what has been passed down, generation after generation. And a part of this age-old wisdom is to make secure choices. And we are forbidden from making bold choices – we are strictly told, times and again, that sticking to the norms, the pre-ordained rules, is the best course. And that anyone who refuses to comply ought to be punished.

That, I believe, is what ingrains in us a fear for the unknown. That’s what leads us right onto the straight road, like sheep to a shepherd, who can move about in the herd but never break free from it and take a course off from that road. This culture bars us from making bold choices; in fact, it hands us an all-new definition of ‘bold choices’ and we, by falling for the same old tricks, albeit presented in a new fashion, believe us as being the rebels, the bestowed few whereas that’s barely the case.

Yet yes, there are those who take the ‘road less traveled by’ and by no means is that choice an easy choice. You are confronted not only by the society but by even your near and dear ones who think that by abandoning the ‘safe’ course of things, you are venturing into the dangerous and uncertain. They tell you all kinds of anecdotes to keep you from choosing it.

But the fact is, the day you choose to comply with the norms and give up on your dreams, no matter how extra-ordinary they are, you cease to live. You merely exist for the rest of your life, doing most of what the society asks you for, following that dull, monotonous routine of things well practiced, well tested and guaranteed as secure choices. And just like that, you pass away with a life that frankly was no different than billions of other beings.

However, if you do choose to overcome all that opposition, a daunting task indeed, and take the path less traveled by, your life becomes a journey of discovery. You get to have all those exquisite experiences that perhaps no one ever had before. Your life becomes a perpetual struggle for the realization of your dreams and you willingly invest you time, your energies and everything you have to make it happen. The very conscience that you have embarked upon the unknown, that there will barely be the beacons of ‘guidance’ all along and that no one will be holding your hand and no footprints to mark your course pre-handedly, the very conscience of it all invigorates every second of your being. And even if you don’t end up where you had planned, and that’s quite improbable, you get to have a life worth-having!! You get to exist and not to live. The fear of the unknown turns into the ecstasy of exploring the new.

Image courtesy garryknight.

Some Heart Touching Words

The Road Less Traveled By

Seeking You

Seeking You

I stand by the road, by the brimming stream of life flowing across the gray line – unstoppable, like the life itself. And as uncertain.

By the other side of greyness, you stand – a hand in your pocket, a smile at your face and a smug expression wearing your countenance. Always the calm you. You steal a quick glance my way and meaningfully tear it away – back to the book in your hands.
The current flows by in an incessant flow.

I wish to move across. The want for closeness arrests me. Unknowingly, unwillingly, I am drawn to you. Addicted to you. You pull me like nothing else does. Even in the mundane look of yours lies a deeper meaning which makes you the only one with so profound an importance – and in that crowd, amidst all the noise and colors, you stand alleviated.

I keep my eyes at you, savoring every moment of the veil undone, of a reality manifest. Just like every time, it’s timeless.

And then you’re gone. Dissolved into thin air like the ethereal nothingness.

In my feeble attempt, I desperately try to find you. Between the shifting, moving slots of visibility, between the gush of flowing life, I could still see the exact place you’d been occupying a while ago. But now, it’s just the stone pavement looking blankly back at me. I try to gather the streak of memory you just granted – and it’s no longer. Gone like a line erased off the pages of my mind. I stand there, looking at nothing. And then, admonishing me for my stupid gawking, I move off on a slow pace. Back to life. Back to my stupid life.

And in the back-street of a dark alley, you laugh hysterically at my ignorance.

Unexplainable Feelings , Some heart Touching Words

The Child

Poem ‘The Child’

A December night
pale light stole through
and amidst this
I walked down the cold street
the fog setting in the scene
the fingers numb and aching
I slid into my pocket
reached for the packet
and lighted a cigarette
“don’t do that uncle!!”
I was amazed at the whisper
thought it was wind
or perhaps a leave’s rustling
“please don’t !!”
the weak voice was louder this time
and as I tried to look through the cold
and the fog
I realized a mass
mass of tattered clothes and bare skin
pressed under a big basket
placed upon his head
moving slowly on and on
I looked at the face
which betrayed the hint of being once-handsome
a hint of being once-pretty
just like all others kids
but then cruelly and forcefully
turned into an adult’s face
the skin losing all the tenderness
taut and dry
yet the eyes –
the eyes shimmering with a retained innocence
glowing of some unknown passion
I put off my cigarette
bent down
and pulled his cheeks
cold as death they were
and they did run shivers down my spine
“why.. what brings you out son??”
I asked him
“on such a cold night”
“nothing but the search for bread”
he replied with simplicity
though i could see something
perhaps tears
glimmering tintly in his eyes
as his breathes dissolved into thin air
I bought off all the boiled eggs
took off the coat which burnt my skin now
and let it hide my conscience
and his bare skin
his face shone with an angelic glow
and as his pale lips moved again
I heard him say
thank you uncle
and his lips curved into a smile
It seemed heavens have dawned angels onto earth
I kissed his forehead
pulled his cheeks again
and I felt the warmth of life resuming into them
I heard a faint melody
as his footsteps fainted into the fog
and this once
I didn’t call it a whisper of wind
neither the whoosh of a tree
but the singing of my heart !!

Salman Altaf