A Trio of Halloween Haiku

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A haiku is a short, Japanese poem that follows a set structure: three lines, 17 syllables in a 5/7/5 distribution, unrhymed.

Here is my seasonal offering, a semi-traditional trio of haiku.

1.
Monsters and witches
walk among us every day:
Groundhog Halloween.

2.
Beware of the masks
that cannot be removed, some
creatures wear plain clothes.

3.
In the costumed haze,
Clowns with painted smiles offer
tricks disguised as treats.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

A Wilde Weekend, Act 1

temptation

A few months ago, I spent a wonderful weekend in London with my sister. Part of her plan to ensure maximum fun in 72 hours included tickets to the Vaudeville Theatre in Covent Garden for my favourite playwright, Oscar Wilde.

Oh, if you were hoping for wild tales of alcohol-fueled madness or hazy recounts of debauchery, I’m so sorry to disappoint you. Those were (mostly) contained on stage. Oscar is as Wilde as it gets. But here is my travel log of the visit, with some help from my pal, the Master of Wordplay.

Friday
On the Underground from Heathrow airport, my suitcase and I are not very welcome amongst the suited, city types who are jostling for elbow room whilst simultaneously avoiding eye-contact. It takes a certain skill to show disapproval without looking up from one’s mobile phone.

“Travel improves the mind wonderfully, and does away with all one’s prejudices.”
Fortunately for my mind, once the tube deposits the Disapprovers at their stations, it is left with Tourists, Students, Musicians, Non-City Workers, and Others. It is as if the air in the carriage has filtered out the busy-ness. People now smile. They give their seat up if required. The closer we get to East Putney, the happier everything seems. A kind soul even offers to help me with my suitcase. “It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.”  

I surprise my sister with an earlier than expected arrival and we catch up over a hot mug of (what else?) English Breakfast tea. She opens up a world of possibilities that the next 72 hours may present. But first, we must eat.

“Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.” What better cure for jet-lag than food that nourishes the senses? We sample tapas and a nice glass of red at a local place called Home. After all, we are only 2 hours from Spain. It would be rude not to. The ‘cheeky bar food’ is delicious and the atmosphere is friendly and comfortable. So you feel at home, except with plates of tapas brought to your table. #win.

Home

As we are already out and about, we take a stroll along Putney High Street. There is a lot of temptation in the form of shop-window displays and SALE signs. Oscar offers a reason to yield: “Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”

I don’t know if it is the jet-lag or the Spanish wine but a 3-hour nap follows. Then it is time for more food. We jump on the tube to an old haunt of mine, C&R Cafe, a Malaysian institution tucked away in a back street near Piccadilly Circus. I resist my favourite dish, nasi lemak (pictured), for other, smaller dishes to share. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

cr5.jpg Did not have this.

“My doctor says I must not have any serious conversation after seven. It makes me talk in my sleep.”
So our next stop, for the opposite of serious conversation: The Comedy Store! Stand-up comedy in a venue that’s small enough to be intimate but big enough to be comfortable. I am pleasantly surprised to see that one of the acts is Larry Dean, a hilarious Scottish comedian who I recently saw in Sydney. We leave after lots of hearty laughter and also get to chat to Larry on our way out. He may or may not think I am a groupie.

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Nothing left to do but crawl into bed and dream sweet dreams of the next 48 hours of indulgence. To be continued….

[Exit Stage Left]

Venn will you be serious?

…is a terrible pun. But I couldn’t come up with anything better for a blog post about Venn diagrams. It’s not my usual subject matter.

After a few comments from readers of this blog that my last poem was a bit sombre (read: depressing, and why can’t that pigeon find that morsel of bread/love), I thought it best to take a break from the deep feels and turn to LOGIC and REASON and what could be more fitting than…MATHS! But don’t worry, poetry fans, it is only a temporary hiatus. 

Venn diagrams are beautiful illustrations of logic. They show relationships between different elements: where they overlap, where they have no connection whatsoever, and where they can be grouped together with other elements that share the same characteristics.

If I created a basic Venn diagram of picking out something to wear from my wardrobe, for example, it would look like this:

The Wardrobe Dilemmavenn-basic-12.jpg

Set A = Clean and not overly crumpled. Note I did not use the word ‘ironed’ because I try to avoid that at all costs. (Both using the word and doing the activity.) Maybe one day I will be the type of person who always looks freshly pressed, but it is highly unlikely.
Set B = Appropriate for work. Sadly excludes yoga pants, slogan t-shirts and onesies.
Digression: Here is a great story on the two-word dress code implemented by General Motors chief executive, Mary Barra. But please come back to finish this post. 🙂
Set C = Things that fit. No need to elaborate. 

So you can see where the sets intersect and where they don’t. And the number of items in each set could help me make life decisions. So useful! For example, too many items in the B/C intersection (B∩C) = it’s time to do laundry. Too many in A∩C = one should stop buying yoga pants and consider more work-appropriate purchases. And last but certainly not least, too many items in A∩B = one should wear one’s yoga pants whilst actually performing yoga.

It also explains why my black trousers are a staple, go-to, twice-a-week wardrobe choice.

The internet is full of funny Venn diagrams. This is a clever one from Stephen Wildish:
668vonvanvenn.png

And here is one on the beautiful Japanese concept of Ikigai, or finding a reason for being. Hector Garcia, co-author of Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, says: “Your ikigai is at the intersection of what you are good at and what you love doing.” If it is also what the world needs, and what you can be paid for, then you’re on to a winner.

ikigai
And for the finale, here’s one I made earlier, which I call The Triumph of the Trivector:
venn espresso
Maybe there is some poetry in Mathematics after all.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

The Waiting Perch

pigeons

Love is a tiny morsel of bread
flung by a careless hand.
The lonely pigeon, one amongst hundreds
swoops down from her waiting perch
open-hearted and hopeful for a taste of happiness.
She surfaces hungry, pitiful
whilst others emerge victorious,
strutting around with full bellies and smug expressions.
So she returns to her perch
to wait for the fling
of the next morsel
that surely will be hers.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Chillax, bro

yoga#yo-goals

Whilst having lunch in a Sydney pub, a friend and fellow observer notices an old encyclopaedia sitting on a shelf. It is a whole volume dedicated to the letter ‘F’.

As we eat our (fabulous) burgers, we start thinking about the words of today that we wouldn’t find inside those yellowed pages. Modern-day proper nouns and slang that have jostled their way into our everyday language but didn’t exist in the days of unplugged knowledge.

So what F-words do we come up with? Facebook. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Flexitarian (That’s a flexible vegetarian, fyi). Definitely not for Volume F. It is a fun exercise, and one I recommend to all of us who remember leafing through actual encyclopaedias as kids, looking for precious information.

Later, I start thinking about other ‘new’ words. Or words that are a combination of other words, like Flexitarian. There is a name for this, I’m sure, so I look it up. (But not in an encyclopaedia.) It’s Portmanteau. A ‘linguistic blend of words.’ Examples: smog (smoke + fog), chillax (chill + relax), Singlish (Singapore + English) and of course, Brexit (Britain + exit).

But here’s a word I came across in the UK that confused me. I first saw it at a gym in Birmingham. Whilst looking through the class timetable, this word jumped out at me:

Broga.

Yes, my friends. A linguistic blend of Brothers + Yoga. Also known as: Yoga for Men. (No correlation to ‘Yin with Balls’, which, by the way is an amazing self-massage yoga class that releases tension through rolling on small, man-made balls.)

I hadn’t realised Broga was a thing. Mainly because the yoga classes I go to include men as a given, most of whom are side-crowing, flipping and reversing with ease. Yoga classes don’t usually specifically cater for women, unless we’re talking Pregnancy Yoga. Which, I might add, is called Pregnancy Yoga, not Proga.

So what exactly is Broga? I do a bit of research and find a number of articles on this phenomenon with headlines such as Real Men Do Yoga. Downward Facing Dudes. More Macho, Less Mantra. Broga is said to be ‘a yoga-based fitness program taught from a man’s point of view’ and includes high intensity interval training, or HIIT.

Wait, what??? So it’s a strength class with a few yoga poses thrown in? Apparently Broga is designed to encourage men to do yoga because regular yoga classes filled with flexible women are too intimidating. But then, Broga is so popular, one article proudly proclaims, that ‘even women are doing it.’ Another article says Broga is designed ‘specifically for your limitations, wants and needs,’ and focuses on ‘the physical over the spiritual, strength over flexibility.’ Doesn’t really sound like yoga. Sounds more like a marketing ploy. I’m dubious.

Purely in the interest of being an authentic writer, and also because the marketing ploy works on me, I sign up for a class, sceptical but intrigued.

The class is taught by a…..bro, but looking around at my fellow brogis, 7 out of 10 are women. So to those of you (you know who you are) who might sign up for Broga hoping to ogle lots of bros with limitations, wants and needs, you’ll be sadly disappointed. However, if you want a workout that combines strength and stretch, dynamic moves with deep breathing, and don’t mind doing press-ups in between downward dogs, then Broga is worth a go.

It’s a tough class. My core is switched on, my arms ache, and I quite enjoy warrior poses to Top 100 hits. It’s different, and fun. In the end, I concede that any class that encourages strength and flexibility, whether you are a bro or a sista, can only be a good thing. I’m still not sure about the name, although I realise ‘Strength & Stretch’ isn’t as catchy. But yoga is about balance. So maybe not strength over flexibility, but with. And there’s nothing wrong with mantras. Even the word is bro-friendly. Man-tras. 🙂

All this Bro-business. It started with Bromance, male friends who love each other’s company, because plain old ‘friendship’ doesn’t quite cut it. There is already Brosé (Rosé for bros) because ‘Real Men Drink Pink’. So in light of this current brobsession, here are some ideas for new portmanteaus:

Brodka – because Real Men Drink Vodka
Brolates – because Real Men Do Pilates (Or perhaps this is men who meet for coffee)
Broliday – formerly known as Guys’ Weekend.

I think we’re on to something.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

Your body is not a temple.

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A quote from Anthony Bourdain inspired me to write a poem. He said:

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” 

The poem then expanded into a post on Elephant Journal with some ideas on how to enjoy the ride. My Amusement Park Goals.

You can read the full post here on Elephant JournalYour body is not a temple

And here is the poem:

Your body is not a temple.
Forget your pristine offerings,
the steps leading to enlightenment,
and the need for worship.

God doesn’t only live in holy buildings.
He also lives in Disneyland, Legoland,
and perhaps even in your local playground
if you look hard enough.

Your body is an Untemple
waiting for that Mad Tea Party
where spinning around can also bring
the discovery of divine pleasure.

Delight in the fairy floss of her hair,
lose yourself in magic kingdoms,
feel the adrenaline pumping from a wild ride,
and sometimes take the slow train to nowhere.

Before the sun sets
and you must hand in your wristband,
make adventure your Guru,
make fun a sacred ritual.
Your body is not a temple.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd

The Grieve Project

Hunter Writers Centre hold an annual competition for stories and poems about grief and loss. The Grieve Project publishes a collection of these poems and stories every year. 

The Grieve Project is also an online community set up to encourage empathy, reflection and healing through the sharing of stories; there are some beautiful ones up on the site.

I am so honoured to be a part of this project and to be published in the Grieve Anthology volume 6. (An actual book, Papa!) Here is the piece, and a part of my heart.

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Time for Grief

Some telephone conversations lodge themselves in your memory and never leave. You think you hear the words ‘shadow’ and ‘lung’ and you hope the reason is the poor long-distance line and not the possibility of cancer. Your father is a smoker, after all. You pray that his body is playing a twisted trick on the x-ray machine, but your increasingly heavy heart tells you that it is probably not good news.

Stage 4 lung cancer is not good news. You begin to furiously research facts, statistics and survival rates. You wonder how long one can hold on to 5 percent hope. You realise you have already begun grieving, for life as it was before the telephone call. But this is not the time for your grief. There are questions to ask. There is compassion to show. There are spirits to lift. You lock your grief away in a safe place, to retrieve once all hope is gone.

You travel 10,000 kilometres with your 8-week-old baby because you believe that compassion transmits better through a hug and babies are exceptional at lifting spirits. Your father smiles his widest smiles for his granddaughter. You observe their mutual contentment and realise this is where you are supposed to be.

In between hospital visits, your father studies his notebooks and works through a checklist of phone calls. He notices you watching and declares that this is not the sorting out of affairs, but simply ongoing administrative tasks. You nod with false nonchalance. You wonder why you are both putting on a brave face when it is time for the masks to be lowered.

The chemotherapy works and then it doesn’t. You ask the oncologist for the truth. He suggests that your sisters come home. Grief starts knocking but you do not let it in.

It is a bittersweet family Christmas. You create beautiful memories, but they are marred by the shadow of limited time.

Your sister sits by your father’s feet as he dictates the terms of his funeral. She dutifully scribes instructions on the death announcement, coffin and rituals. Tears collect behind her eyes. She holds them there until she can turn away with the excuse of necessary filing. You wish for that kind of strength.

In your last few days together, you sit by your father’s bed and softly read his favourite poetry. You don’t know if he can hear but you hope the words of Kahlil Gibran will cut through the cancer and settle in his soul.

After the funeral, an acquaintance asks if you were close. You realise the pain in your heart is from considering not the history, but the lost potential. It doesn’t matter if you were close. What matters is that now you will never be able to get any closer. Your closeness has been capped.

You travel back to Glasgow, unlock your grief and let it engulf you like the unrelenting February snow.

©2018 Seetha Nambiar Dodd
♥♥♥