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Terse Verse #Micropoetry in 140 Characters or Less

This summer I have been trying my hand at mastering the new-age art of micro-poetry. Micro-poetry is not new per-se, since Japanese Haiku and other such have existed since the 17th century or further back with the masters like Basho and Isaa juxtaposing the mundane and the deep in terse verse.  However, what I am referring to is the new genre of creativity called micropoetry or tweet-sized poetry in 140 characters or less that has taken @twitter by storm.

If micropoetry (like the Haiku) is about saying something with little worry about form and structure, isn’t Twitter an ideal medium? The 140 character limit forces us to synthesize our thoughts and experiences into coherent phrases, and that is one of the main reasons the platform has become so important in a time in which we digest our information in little bite sizes trough social media and other online platforms. The limitation does make us think more concisely and sometimes more creatively. So it makes sense that wanabe writers, poets and wordsmiths would embrace it, precisely because of the character limit.

While it can be quite challenging to convey an emotion, or an experience through pithy verse, what I love most about the form is that it is similar to a photograph or snapshot of a moment in time, that can be captured beautifully, with just words. With poetry filling our @twitter feeds every time you refresh your page, logophiles are continually exposed to the power of words, their nuances, quirks, and their ability to create images and feelings which can only deepen our respect for the art form, as words simple and powerful, give us a creative escape during the average day.

You can check out some of the good work out there by using #micropoetry #soulwords and #madverse or follow me @sydneydxb for some of my attempts. More than anything, I wish you would give it a try and let good poetry give you the kind of creative release that only words beautifully strung together, can give.


I write.

The swoosh of pen on paper

or fingers tapping on a keyboard,

fork-lifting the words out of my chest.


If you try,

you can hear more In the gaps of conversations,

In the silence between words,

than in the cacophony of everyday sounds.


Summer afternoon

drifting daydreams

caught in tangled branches


Early morning,

liquid ochre poured into my chipped cup

as the scent of tea estates

fills the dining room.

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I have just returned from another trip to England and like I always do when I travel anywhere, I did my fair bit of wandering and exploring whenever the opportunity arose. I’m reminded of an incident from when I first travelled to England many, many years ago. Late one evening, a friend and I decided to do a little bit of sightseeing. By the time we were done and ready to head home it was dark, and after we had walked a couple of blocks we realized we had absolutely no clue where we were. We were very lost. Suddenly the formerly quaint town we were in, with its cobbled pathways and Victorian architecture became a menacing labyrinth of narrow alleys, lanes and by-lanes we had to carefully maneuver. It really could not have been later than 10:30 or 11:00 pm but we might as well have been roaming in Terabithia because neither of us had any clue about where we were.

Finally, after a bit of panic and what do we do now’s, common sense set in. we picked a well-lit direction and walked confidently into the light, as each tried to assure the other with some cautious-optimism. Finally we began to see landmarks we recognized and we were able to guess our way home.

I’ve been lost in other cities since then, but I distinctly recall the pangs of fear and trepidation of being lost for the first time, without ID, money or anybody to call for help. Nowadays, I know better than to panic. Walk on till you find your way out. In all the countries I’ve visited since, I always find an opportunity to get lost.

There’s something so liberating about discovering new routes or an old wooden bridge when you least expect to. Turn a corner and there’s a new jewel to be found – a stately sculpture, a street-performer, a farmers market or even the beauty of a quaint home-styled café that welcomes you as you rest and take in your experience. These experiences bring a kind of soul-satisfying joy (if you have a bit of wanderlust) that a map or brochure simply cannot bring. On my travels, I’ve often found that the best way to discover a place is to wonder aimlessly and see what eventually comes your way.

People have different ideas of what constitutes fun on a vacation, I get that. But there are some things a guided tour doesn’t show you and certain joys a website cannot express. While in the Farncombe county of Surrey earlier last month a taxi driver mistakenly took me down a wrong stretch of road. And while there was a brief moment of worry, I soon had this panoramic view of the hills, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that wrong turn.


Maps, plans, itineraries are about knowing for sure, about owning your path, about control. That’s a good thing, or else you could end up in a bit of a mess in a strange place. Direction is important but what’s equally important is throwing away that schedule and allowing yourself the freedom once in a while to not know where your next wow moment is coming from.

Life is like that too, sometimes not planning things still lead you to exactly where you’re supposed to be. NO?

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Rain Dance

Reblogging an old post ‘Rain Dance’

Frankly Speaking - Sydney Atkins

The following short story was my entry to the Monsoon Romance Prose Contest conducted by http://www.sulekha.com. The story now features on the Sulekha site and is awaiting moderation.

The first drops of rain that Friday morning sent people scurrying along the bustling boulevard. Office-goers darted to nearby tea stalls and department stores to keep their freshly ironed clothes from getting wet. Hawkers whizzed by each other to cover their wares with tarpaulin, their swift movements like a frenzied ballet that had been mastered over the years. Mothers held their little children tight to their sides, screaming curses at the taxis that whizzed past them, splashing puddle water on their crisp cotton sarees. Everyone was possessed with a sense of urgency to evade the cold deluge that had begun to bathe the city after weeks of stifling humidity; everyone except little Piu.

Across the street a tiny figure had emerged…

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Tikkun Olam

What a wonderful feeling it is when your passion and your work come together. Lately, I have been becoming more and more aware of a feeling of deep fulfillment that seems to cloak me when I spend a few minutes each evening, just playing the day back in my mind. The mute rewind makes me sigh and smile and wonder. So much can happen in just 12 – 14 hours! Each day I wake up and do what I love and this sense of fulfilment pervades every day. Every single day.

The thing I love most is the fact that I get to be part of people’s lives, part of their joys and triumphs, partners in their sorrows and despair. Maybe I’m a tad too sensitive. I think I was absent the day they taught how to do that whole “close your heart off” thing because I don’t seem to be able to do it.

As a child, I hated being in crowded places; being near so many people dealing with difficult emotions overwhelmed me. I was much happier curled up with a book or at home alone. As I got older, I found ways to deal with other’s complicated experiences, to deal with all of the emotions bouncing around from people, to deal with anger, sadness, joy and pain in the world around me.  The drive to fix things or  help people stayed with me like the scent from wet earth that you can’t shake off in a hurry. I traveled across India working with my youth group. Volunteering in old age homes, clinics, aids camps, jails, NGO’s and orphanages.

Strange how fleeting our time on earth is, each of us here for the other. To fulfil a cosmic purpose; a divine plan that connects us all. Tikkun olam. However, it look me a long time and several late night conversations with friends to realize this one true thing:

We are not here to fix each other. There is no magical Utopia where you can intervene and then like magic, everyone is happy and whole again. Life is just not like that. But that isn’t the end of the story and while this is the place where some people throw in the towel and decide that all is futile, it is where I come into my own. I believe I am wired and fashioned to be there for others. THIS is my calling and is probably why dealing in lives each day gives me such a deep sense of fulfillment.

People aren’t problems that need solving. Life happens to us all and sometimes, there’s beauty to be found in its struggles. What matters is who you have with you on that journey. Sadly the lives we invest in so heavily are sometimes just foreigners passing through.

Very often I am reminded of how much my outer and inner life is shaped by the labors of people who have been my helpers, my co-pilgrims, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received. My journey is about living purposefully. Being to others the kind of co-travelers I was fortunate to have had and to leave people a little richer than before our paths crossed.

I work so I can live (in every sense of the term) and I love that each day my work improves my life.

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Breathe in. Breathe out.

Just as the rays of the sun were breaking through the early morning sky, three little pairs of feet touched down on the well-used wooden floors of the village homestay.

bwNestled among the leafy foliage of the surrounding hills, the house that had been cut into the cleft was a peaceful respite from the frenzied town center a few miles away. Wrapped in thick woolen coats the children made their way out of their beds. The routine was automatic. Rise. Bathe. Pray. Eat. And within thirty minutes they were on their way to the local train station in the valley.

The trio delighted in their daily morning jaunt and looked forward to meeting their father briefly at his railway office cabin. As the village station master, their father was the finest man they knew and each morning his face was the last one they saw as the train left the tracks to transport them to school.

This morning however was unusually silent and as they made their way along the path the white peaks of the majestic Himalayas appeared as if a splendid painting in pristine hues of white and azure was carefully being unveiled. Around them, the green terraces and trekking trails grew brighter as the children skipped along oblivious to the captivating beauty of nature’s early morning exposition.

Finally they reached the station. As they made their way up the muddy path to where the little cabin stood, a sense of bewilderment washed over the oldest boy. Where was their father’s cabin? Where was their father? Had they taken a wrong turn along the way? Impossible.

Thirty minutes later they were still the only ones at the station. No trains arrived. No people rushing by. No signs of their father.

Time passed by.

As the trio tiptoed along the tracks like tightrope walkers without a harness, they noticed that large chunks of the hillside had rolled away. The valley below looked broken and exposed. Around them, the jagged edges of bent metal from the shattered train tracks rose up like giant blades glistening in the morning sunlight. Something strange seemed to have happened whiles they slept last night. The valley was now a ghost town.

Twelve hours later, the oldest boy lit the kerosene lamps and hung them up to illuminate the dirt path that led to their cottage. There had been no sign of their father that day.

He clutched his little siblings tight. They were asleep now and as he watched them inhale and exhale he found himself matching his breath to their beat. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Perhaps father wasn’t coming home after all. Perhaps when the world was convulsing violently last night his dad had been brave enough to go out and see what was happening? Perhaps when the soil rolled away from the cliff it took father with it.

Perhaps he would never see his father again.

There was nothing more he could do tonight. Nowhere he could take them. So he leaned against the patio railing, clutched his siblings tighter and swallowed back the tears.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

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Simple Pleasures

Wrote this last Friday but forgot to post it.

Picture Credit: @Pinktaxiblogger


It’s almost midday and the muezzin’s full throated voice has filled the air. The faithful are heading towards the mosque along the creek to gather together in communal worship. Dhuhr.

Sipping on karak chai at the Iranian cafe by the banks my friends and I slip into a casual chatter about the merits and pitfalls of Dubai’s distinct two halves: on the one hand the untouched beauty of the old city and on the other, the sparkling skyline that looks like it developed out of a dose steroids, in just a handful of years.

My phone vibrates, taxi has just sent me a picture she took this morning and it couldn’t be better timed. She’s captured the essence of our thoughts with one quick click of her phone camera. Dubai juxtaposed.taxi 1.jpg-larg

The conversation resumes and we chatter mindlessly over tiny cups of karak as the abras pass lazily by.

It’s amazing how quickly you can fall into the same old routines in a city like Dubai. After eight years of living here, I’ve largely succumbed to the familiar cycle of work, dinner and occasional outings with friends – but for quite a long time I spent all my evenings exploring the city, getting a feel of its insides.

This may sound a little crazy but I think Dubai serves as a perfect metaphor for something deeper. While glamorous hotels and luxurious stretches of beach front entertainment arenas have won Dubai fame as a kind of mini-Miami, this view is romantic at best. Yes, you’ll find glitz here but the city with its rich elite in their ivory mansions to match also has so much more to offer. So much more heart.

Earlier this morning I visited the farmers’ market. Among the palm trees and white cabanas the weekly market was taking place. If it wasn’t for the palm trees, it could have been the kind of market you might see in a small town in Europe. Stalls full of fresh produce. A row of tables decked in checked table-cloths where you could buy breakfast –omelets, Arabic bread and milky tea. The produce was mainly fruit and vegetables but it was fresh and varied. Everything from peppers, beets and carrots to herbs and fat, shiny mushrooms and melons all set up to resemble a colourful vegetal parade.

In that early hour we were surrounded by what seemed like a scores of early morning people speaking myriad languages. French, Arabic, Pashtun, English, Hindi. I smile at the mash-ups. I consider my own speech, with its spattering of Arabic. Passersby smile and the old Iranian man with his kettle promptly pours three cups of tea as we approach his stall. He smiles as he welcomes us again.

Personally I don’t enjoy the night life that Dubai has to offer. I’ve tried it, dipped my toes into the evening culture but grew out of it more quickly than I thought I would. There are so many little things that bring so much joy, like sitting here by the creek with my friends. Chatting. Thinking. Writing.  Dubai offers plenty of opportunities for simpler pleasures too, so many avenues for enjoyment that you won’t see on glamourous hoardings or TV commercials.

But that’s progress, I guess. Dubai has grown into the Shang-ri-la of the Middle East and while I don’t begrudge anyone their extravagant lifestyles I am cognizant of the fact that with those lifestyles has come the price of agonizing complexities. And in the current climate of our world, how precious are the simple pleasures of creek side karak or early morning jaunts to the farmers market. #JustSaying

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“Like vanishing dew,

a passing apparition

or the sudden flash

of lightning — already gone —

thus should one regard one’s self.”

All you Buddhist-art enthusiasts make a note of this: the new season of House of Cards (which by the way I think, is slightly underwhelming in comparison to the previous two) includes a beautiful segment on Tibetan monks painstakingly creating and then purposefully destroying an intricate sand mandala in the White House. Upon contemplation and a google search to boot, I realized that the mandala serves as a metaphor for transience, change and the impermanence of everything which is the dominant theme of many of the season’s episodes.

Featuring Tibetan monks in an episode of House of Cards after the actual Dalai Lama was present in Washington arguably demonstrates Hollywood’s continued desire to merge fact and fiction in their aim to keep movies and TV shows relevant and with the times but, that’s not why the episode captivated my attention.

The reason I was so moved by the episode was because the idea of transience and change has always both fascinated and irked me. Long, long ago I received a notice from the department of the painfully obvious – ‘nothing is permanent’ it said, and this message stayed with me and continues to nibble at my insides.

From my reading about the Mandala art I also unearthed information on a Buddhist concept called ‘Anitya’ – the idea that the world is in a state of flux and that only what we do with our allotted time really matters. In an uncanny way, it reminded me of Shelley’s Ozymandiasthe truth is, there is no tomorrow, at least no guarantee of it being available to us. All we have is now.

Sometimes this apparent truth about transience can feel confronting. Unfair, even. Because these “things which must pass” inevitably include the people we love and the things we celebrate. The things we might want to hold on to. But this week I’ve chosen to change my vantage point and meditated on a new thought instead. Living proof – with infinite reminders – that all things move on somehow. (Not just the “good” ones). That everything evolves in some way or other. That they can only stay stuck for so long.

Even pain.
Even sorrow.
Even waves and torrential rain

And who knew that a TV show about an obnoxious, power-hungry American president could induce this many hours of rumination?

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