A MULTIPLE AWARD-WINNING WRITER
The Flame is divided into eight parts and sixty-two cantos. Part one of The Flame is devotional. Parts two,
three, four and five are about the destruction caused by the maniac
messiahs. Part six is about those who are
responsible for destruction, and the
remaining parts are about the yearning
for the loss. Some cantos are to extol the virtues of the Flame,
some are to portray despair, and some are in its memory.
I have written these cantos in
the belief that maniac messiahs are misled individuals who generate the blizzards of fear and
panic. Those who are silent are also to
be blamed as those are who adore these blizzards of fear and panic. Both commit horrendous crimes against
humanity as those who carry out sinister
designs of these blizzards. The last canto of this book delivers hope. Hope signifies that a positive outcome is possible. Without
hope life is a
The Flame is the result of the eight years of my anxious care of these robins of my art. During these years, I changed my dealings with these birds in different capacities to nourish them more artistically. In the last two years, I became more diligent with more focus. At my writing table, I kept them close to me. Whenever I had time, as well as the first thing in the morning and the last before going to bed, I fed the robins with the berries of my passion. In their enlivening warbles, I drowned the chill of my presence and the ghosts of the past. Several times, I took their cage to my bed room to continue hearing their notes of freedom along the shores of my sleep. They remained closed to my heart as they are now and shall ever remain.
These birds are not meant to be caged.
Therefore when I felt somewhat
satisfied with my feeding, I kicked the robins out of the nest one by
one. Very rarely any of them came back
in dejection. This way, I was able to publish some of these cantos in more than
forty publications in
I feel strongly that before poems appear in book form, they should appear in periodicals, because these appearances encourage a poet. At the same time, they provide additional opportunities for sharing with divergent audiences. Some editors make suggestions for improvement. Some of these cantos without the present revisions appeared in my collection The Flowers of Thirst, out of print now. I have translated some of these cantos myself in Urdu, Hindi and Panjabi versions.
One problem that a poet usually encounters in a long poem is the possibility of repetition of words and phrases. Another is the maintenance of logical flow and continuity. I am a proverbial enemy of clichés though some are animating and some may creep in without my being aware of them. I believe that a poet should use fresh images. I have tried to use every word carefully as a brick to build the edifice of The Flame.
Life is not a ready-made dish. During the days of my care, I made a number of unpalatable dishes. One makes several attempts in different combinations to find the right type of spices and amount to prepare an ideal meal. It is like finding one right turn after making several wrong ones. I am convinced that talent by itself is nothing unless it is blended with perspiration that includes mastering the tools of the art.
The Flame is poetry and poetry is my home. I began
building my home during the painful shyness of my early days when I
began to dwell in imagination and the world of books. It has been a long odyssey
of search for my golden fleece.
The path of my odyssey was rocky
in all directions. I was from a family that was socially
In those days, entertainment for
children from the families which
were not financially very secure was
limited to meeting friends or reading.
There were no tv=s, and radio was a luxury. The
movie theaters were expensive and rare.
I had a few friends but we did not visit each other=s homes; we used to meet outside.
Our sports were self-improvised, like
hitting one another with a soft ball on a
street and trying to dodge.
Others included different forms of play with marbles and kabadi,
purely Indian sports. There were
more sports along the same lines. I do not see them in the West nor in
Apart from newspapers, our home had a small collection of books in Urdu. I was doing most of their reading. After finishing them, I began to borrow from our local library. I finished most of the novels, collections of poems and books on psychology that were available in the library. I began to browse at book stores and ask my friends for the reading materials. I also began to move in the company of poets, frequenting the tea shops where they congregated. They were mostly mature. I heard each and every word they discussed. During those discussions, I heard that if persons memorize one thousand couplets of choice, they can start composing their own verses. That is what I tried, but I could not memorize them and what I was able to, did not help me.
I also heard that a writer should write every day on any experience or idea before going to bed. I was told that this practice helps to develop a style. I began to write about my friends, our games, chats, you name it. It proved a useful exercise.
I also heard that a writer should keep a notebook to put down any striking word or phrase that comes across during a talk, reading or from anywhere. This is a practice that is with me even now. If I like a sentence or phrase from a poem or just my own, I put it down in my notebook. When I have time or I am in the mood, I go over them. I find it a very useful practice, and will not hesitate recommending it to others.
My father edited a religious publication in
When I grew up, my father wanted me to get married and settle in life
and do my writing at leisure. He was more or less like Mr. Motard
in my novel Why with the
difference that Mr. Motard makes money from his business, while my father could
not, or did not. I knew that I would not
be happy making money to look after children though I wanted a
family. I knew that just to make enough
money to be a marginal citizen would not
please me and would keep creating
financial and family crises. To be a successful bread earner for a Christian in
I began to realize that one ladder to succeed for a person like me was formal education that would help to make money and be a successful writer. My mother was with me as far as education was concerned. But university education was expensive and to study from home for university degrees was not that easy. I yearned for real education in an intellectual and stimulating atmosphere of a university, where students interact with one another and with professors. My one problem was my early education that did not help me gain self-confidence and skills. It was my early education that remained a serious obstacle in my life. I had attended the cheapest schools that were run by governments. In these schools, the media of instruction was the local language. English was touched nominally at the elementary level without any emphasis on conversation, till one left the school for a college or university. Those who could afford it, sent their children to mission schools where the medium of instruction was English from the beginning. Those schools built confidence in their students.
After passing High school examinations, the medium of instruction at the college and university levels used to become English. There was no gradual transition. Text books after passing high schools were in English and professors gave lectures in English. This created more inferiority complex in students from government schools because their English was not adequate to compete with other students. The result was disappointing, because those from well-to-do families who had studied in mission schools, shined at the college and university levels.
My mother found a way. She used to ask us again and again to
practice English among ourselves at
home, though there was none to correct
our mistakes. Our neighborhood was of no
help, because it was even worse. I used to burn within with the fire to have a
good knowledge of English because I wanted to be a writer in English, knowing
that to be the way to reach the world audience. I am not
prejudiced towards any language. Every language, including every object in the
world, is beautiful. However, I wanted to know English well and properly to
reach the readership of other nations, and the elite in my country.
That was my goal. It was
confirmed later that language comes by
speaking and one
should be in a situation where he or she is forced to speak. I realized
it when I was in
Apart from the inadequate education, my religion stood in my way. Discriminations and religious riots produced fears. They demolished whatever walls of security we had. These factors led me to the caves of isolation, thinking, browsing, and imagining that prepared a good recipe to be a poet.
As a child, I used to feel that
Lack of security in the land of
those physicians led me to isolation in the early days that revealed to me the
path of my poetic destination.
I began to find
ways to establish myself as a
writer and poet. My struggle was based more on perspiration than inspiration. One can say that it was my
inspiration that led me to perspiration. The shadows of inspiration and
perspiration walked side by side with me everywhere. I grabbed every opportunity to sharpen
my tools to be a better poet.
Poetry may also be revelation and flash, but it is largely perspiration. When
poetry becomes a passion, it becomes more demanding. Poetry was and is still
my passion. Peace is the womb where the baby of my passion grew. Absence of peace had shaken my psyche deeply, while growing up in
When I came to
I studied at a university in
Like any art or trade, poetry is seventy-five percent perspiration. By perspiration I mean also editing again and again, reading and reading, writing and keep writing and keep sending manuscripts to publications to be an acceptable poet. It is not an easy decision to continue kicking out the robins of art, because of the fear of rejection. For those who want to improve their art, rejection slips are the stepping stones to success. Some rejections are sent, because editors do not need additional material on the same subject or they do not have enough space to accommodate them. Some good editors make suggestions to revise certain portions of the work.
A poet should never be tired of revisions. A time comes when a poem would tell when to stop. Sometimes poets have to stop revisions, because they get tired of what leads them nowhere, even knowing that the poem needs extra work. In such situations, I put my poem aside to take it up some other day unexpectedly. This procedure works in most cases with most poets. Often poets will know themselves if a poem needs further work. It is like knowing when the stomach is full. Another way is to consult an editor. Everyone needs an editor, even editors do.
There is a myth that poetry strikes a poet like a flash, or it is a divine bolt. For a serious poet, it may be bolt and divine, but mostly it is cooking. I believe there is beauty everywhere. That is what the Bible says in its story on the origin of the universe. After every creation, God said beautiful. There is beauty in every object and so is poetry. Beauty is poetry and poetry is beauty. But everyone does not have the abilities to bring out gracefully the god within. It is a poet who gives that god a shape with the beauty of the language. Language is a media between an object and poet that gives life, as God did when he created the universe with his words. What is important in a poem is the arrangement of words. This is an intellectual exercise that needs dipping into the amazing world of words. These efforts need the proper knowledge of the tools.
Poets are painters who use words, instead of colours, or they are dancers, who use lyrics instead of using the movements of their hands, legs and facial expressions. In addition to the arrangement of words, the most important feature of a poem is economy of expression.
Poetry is an unusual experience that shakes a poet thoroughly. A poem is by a human for humans about a deep inner experience that is symbolized through a language. To describe or illustrate, poets need tools and the struggle to master the use of the tools is perspiration. Through images and the arrangement of words and other tools, poets convey their experiences to their readers. Poetry is not only to convey that experience to readers, it is also to convey it in a beautiful way and that beautiful way should also be something like a new and delicious dish. That is where perspiration gets involved.
I had no problem as far as subject is concerned. The object or the
subject that had deeply disturbed me was
my early days in
The Flame is my extraordinary ambitious project. I fathom here a subject, artistically, that concerns politicians, reformers, peace activists, philosophers, prophets and others. I believe that the life after death will be blissful if an individual does not destroy the legitimate peace of others. Those who maintain their lives on the path of good, their life after death will also be good. Those who promote peace on earth shall enjoy peace after death. It does not make any sense to expect peace after death by destroying the peace of others. Hindu scriptures call God peace. Jesus says that peacemakers shall be called the children of God. God is the king of peace in the scriptures of both the Hindus and Christians.
The Flame is about peace and peace is the main area of my exploration. There are several minor areas that also relate to peace, including human rights, treatment of the minority by the majority and antiwar activities. I have tried to attempt these areas in the light of my ideology of peace. Just to talk of peace is meaningless. There should be also some concrete ideology and activities. That is what I have attempted in my prose. Peace has been my main interest in my prose, poetry and also in my talks. As I have mentioned in my articles and prefaces, the source of my inspiration is my early childhood. Lack of security in the country of my birth was responsible for my search. I did not give up this hunt even in the countries where I was comfortably secure.
Peace has been the hunt of humans from the time immemorial. There have been different theories to weave its rainbow. Some physicians who have appeared to give directions have given their lives to light its candle. Some of them taught unconditional love and some of them taught tooth for a tooth. Some prophets have taught to be neutral or indifferent to the pains and pleasures of the world. Terrorists also talk of peace. They believe that they achieve or will achieve peace by terrorizing citizens. A breed of these terrorists, fed on religious fanaticism, is most dangerously intolerant of the views of others. This breed is spreading fast and widely all over the world. Those who believe in preparation for war for peace have invented the deadliest weapons, such as nuclear bombs. Instead of peace, the world is coming closer to the threshold of complete annihilation. No one wants that sort of peace, except some morbid thinkers.
I believe that terrorism, an extreme form of ambition for power to rule others, is the work of organized groups that carry out the bloodshed of innocent citizens to gain political, national or religious power. They disregard human life. They do not belong to any organized armed forces and therefore do not follow any rules of the war. They strike whenever and wherever it is possible. Often they call themselves liberators, separatists and jehadis. They shun democratic means to achieve their objectives. The values that are shared by law-abiding citizens are their targets and they come from every community and background.
In November 2004, a panel of the United Nations describes terrorism as a deed that is Aintended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatant with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.@ The main weapon of these groups is violence and the threat of violence to cause as much destruction as possible with deep and wide physical and psychological impact. Their intentional targets are civilians. They want to paralyze people with fear to put pressure on their government to accept their agenda. Sauntering on the bones of children and innocent citizens to get the crown of peace, they gain maximum publicity. They believe they can achieve peace effectively through violence. Their groups hold secret training camps, where they exercise for physical fitness, learn to use firearms, explosives and receive constant doses for their brainwash. They are funded with the money from organized crimes, the sale of drugs, and the misuse of the funds of some charitable organizations formed to deceive people and governments. These days terrorists make CD=s and movies of their heinous crimes to sell to make money. Terrorism has become an industry.
I believe that peace is the legitimate child of peaceful means. I believe that peace is a powerful basic human need that is the other side of the coin of love. All normal humans, no matter where and how they live, aspire to peace. Poets all over the world have reflected this need with individual techniques and symbols, peculiar to their own cultures and ages. Due to the universal interest in peace, different ethnic groups will be able to enjoy the cantos of this book as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
I firmly believe that to promote peace, it is important to appreciate also other cultures, emphasizing similarities, rather than dissimilarities. The emphasis on dissimilarities is usually to shock, not to build bridges. Since the cantos of The Flame are about that eternal flame, a universal phenomenon, these cantos will help readers realize, consciously or unconsciously, that hope is still alive under the sun. This realization will open gates for the appreciation of the writings of other cultures and to the fact that their writers are also human beings, mixtures of strengths and weaknesses, with the same basic needs.
Flame also symbolizes sharing, compassion, sacrifice, courage and
witness. I use flame as a symbol as I
have used the bird dove. Flame is
the visible form of fire. It has
been discovered that gravity plays
some indirect part in the formation of the fire. If flame has a connotation, the gravity also
has a connotation. Flame has been and it still is the main symbol in the Vedic
scriptures. In the Hindu religion, the Almighty symbolizes five elements. One
of those elements is fire. People in the Vedic Age worshiped fire and even now
some Hindus keep the fire burning during
worship. They also perform a sacred
ritual of fire at important events, including births, weddings, funerals and
major holidays. The Hindus use it also on their festival of Diwali.
The Jews light candles on Hanukkah and
Christians use it on Christmas.
Fire is used as eternal flame to watch
at monuments and tombs. Candles flicker in churches, temples and mosques. Flame
is also a symbol of the
To destroy humans, Zeus gave another gift to humans. He collected disdainful objects and put them in a box that was given to a beautiful girl, who was created for that purpose. Zeus named her Pandora that means all gifted. She was told not to open that box, but she did. Consequently, the contents of the box that contained pain, bloodshed, fear, economic strangulation, anguish and suffering, began to roam in the world. All that was left was Hope. Eventually, it was also let out of that box. Expression of hope is in the last canto of The Flame.
The maniac messiahs open Pandora=s Box with the fingers of science and technology, using the muscles of fanaticism to spread the dust of the untold brutalities for the sake of their macabre pleasure. These openers of this Pandora=s Box roam in the world in every shape to cause as much destruction as possible. They go to universities, do usual business, greet their neighbors, smile, shake hands, eat and do everything as normal human beings. The next moment, they are seen killing citizens with the rage of their guns and explosives, killing even themselves. They are trained to hide their love for bloodshed. Actually it is the education that they receive during their childhood and years of adolescent that is never washed away. These robots steal the flame in whatever shape they find anywhere.
The openers of these boxes are also gifted with every beauty as Pandora was. The most precious of them is the gift of life that they have been trading with the ugliness of violence. They reject their gift for the domain from where no one comes back. Their path to that domain is paved with the bones of the children and painted with the blood of the innocents. The flowers that grow on both side of that path are fed with the tears of the helpless children and widows. To reach their other world, they walk over the ground that is concreted with the blood of mothers. Walking on this path, they dream of entering the domain of bliss. Intelligent people may not find logic here, but the life of brutalities is more real for terrorists than the life they see around in their daily life.
Obviously these openers reject the gift of life, turning their backs even to the normal joys around them. When this rejection is combined with the philosophy of their bliss, they stand up to do anything. Most of them are prepared for the work of terrorism in their childhood. Aristotle said that first school of a child is the lap of the mother. Laps of mothers of these maniac messiahs must have disciplined them for this type of life.
These openers include educated and illiterate, rich and poor, men and women, politicians, engineers, medicos and religious leaders of all ages. Among them, religious fanatics are most brutal. They aim at killing as many innocent citizens as possible because they are soft targets. They do this work for a greater good or for themselves to enter the kingdom of their land of peace easily. They do not appear to be mentally sick. They do not think about the wrong they do. They do not feel the pains of others and do not suffer from clinically defined personality disorder. They are not alone. There are groups behind them who control their minds. They have an agenda.
These assassins of humanity steal joys from life. These days with sniffing dogs and other
scientific checkups, there is no real defense against them. When I was
growing up in
I still remember how they used to sing hymns all day and night to the
Hindu deities without any pause. They used to sing on loudspeakers loud enough
to be heard blocks away. They were
devout and religious. Most of them were from the laboring class. They had been
also involved with killing. In the
ladder of the caste system, they are not from the higher casts. Many years later when there were other
serious riots, against the Sikhs this time, again such people
were involved. That uprising was
due to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi by her own body guard who happened to be a Sikh. Luckily in those
days of riots I
How a spiritual person would start killing even his own neighbors and
friends seem to be an enigma to me.
Perhaps killers have been fed with the poison for earning points to
Fear became an unwelcoming guest in my life from my early life. As a potent biological presence of unpleasant danger, it took away a considerable joy from my life. It often led me to the heightened perception of being persecuted that destroyed the delicate fabrics of my trust. In the shape of fear of rejection, it led me often to make irrational decisions. The scars of this powerful emotion were not easy to wash from the psyche even after I came out of that fear abroad. To find hope, I traced riches, education, faiths and many other things. I tried to see the face of hope in political ideologies, including Marxism, Nazism and dictatorship.
To take the root of fear out, I took
a long and painful journey of
efforts. My life in
The Flame is my humble offering to serve peace in my own poetic way. It is a collection of the flowers whose
cultivator has roots in the centuries‑old culture of the subcontinent of
The eternal flame knows no occupation, faith nor complexion and cannot be imprisoned within human bonds. It has engulfed millions, whose names can be traced in every age and land. This flame is known to engulf mortals even today, melting unknown metals into one. I dedicate my book to this eternal flame.
Samples from sixty-two cantos
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You are the imperishable harmony
that reaps unparalleled prosperity.
From the chalice of your peace
I long painfully to sip
the invigorating wine
of fruitful returns.
the softness of the radiant might
that melts the mist,
stirs the soul of clouds
pushes down the rain showers
which kiss the dry lips of earth
and the wordless sonata
that moves the sharp white beams
of the moon.
you are a balance.
the luxuriance of the aroma
in the veins of the enchanted blossoms.
a fragrant feast around,
the flushed cheeks of the horizon
and liberate the birds that fly
to receive the ruler retiring
in a strange ceremony.
the beat that echoes
in the breast of the arc.
in the melody of the falls.
You are nirvana
that helps in breaking the fetters
of the relentless brutalities
and manna for those who hunger
for the morsels of equity
on the barren mountain
the biting winds of intolerance
the distinctive fount
that feeds the ever-growing pangs
of the sages
in every age.
ocean's every drop.
You bind the earth and the sky
and rule to relieve
the rusting monotony.
the single inner sanctum
on the breast of emotion's
Amid the frigid draughts
you emerge as a wave of warmth
muffling me in the arms
of your affection.
You are the vanity of swans
that is the pulsating vessel
of the dignity of hills
and the ark
where the pride of the rose
seeks refuge in silence.
Your vision of heaven
is the loveliness of hope
that is the crown of aspirations
and the vitality of the river.
a seaside retreat
where mystic flames reign
nature courts the night’s favor
for a feast of peace.
you float on aerial grounds
nourishing the arteries of harmony
with the flow of wisdom
from your unseen presence.
unlike the age
that is distant and aloof.
Out of time’s reach
is your placid beauty.
the eyes of the bloom
how to string the harp
that is suffused with the sounds
of your sprightly prairies
receive the energy
from the symphony of the earth
that is enveloped in the virginity
of your blaze.
How to be the source of the food
that increases the hunger
for the hidden treasure
of your blessings
that transcend the flesh,
blood and bones.
how to feel the touch
of the light fatherly fingers
that shall lift me as a leaf
out of myself
to free my freedoms from the tribes
and discern the field
that is beyond
the common human confines
the vibrating potency
of your sovereign art
heals the corroded minds
who see their god
in the monster of perversities.
to recline under that canopy
the rough diamonds of your eyes
and the loitering clouds of your hair
dispel the ghost of despair
from the chamber of my mind.
to snuggle under that shade
your eyes express the unexpressibles
and the magic chant of your gaze
breaks the chains of my confusion.
to awake under that dome
from the realm of your compassion
pacify unquenchable thirst
dreams open the portals of my freedoms.
to end the odyssey of my woes
under that tree of your amazement
happiness does not take leave
and the shaken leaves
smell the fragrance of the warm sweet clover
from the exalted heights of intensity
for the fondest hope to see
the fruit of peace.
When the avtars of savagery
mow down defenceless innocents
tear down the towers of routine
deep pain goes deeper
Spiders of sinister news
crawl in and out of the cracks
of the tranquil trust
that mothers the rational of discipline
and the stress-causing stairs
of the menacing fear go up and down
with the sound
of a tombstone in the grass.
From the oak of harmony
in the maze of mistrust.
The locusts of threat
shadow the crops of shelters
and the driving rains of discomfort
lash the denuded twigs of hope.
Like every day
parents brought their youngsters
to the nursery
and the sun rejuvenated
on the stage of humdrum.
The day opened its dance
with a frightening boom
that rocked the structure of tranquillity
with the deepening gloom
that froze the mouth, feet
The birds that reposed
on secure boughs
flew in fear.
sparrows, roses and dawns
forgot their songs.
Brutes flickered tongues
over the lips of normalcy.
Time stopped when an explosion
blew up the simple elegance
of my flame.
The furious rumbling bang
released a sudden cataclysm
that the devotees thought
It sparked a vast red-orange fireball
the rushing gust
sounded as if a giant jumbo jet
or a missile
Thick black smoke
that arises from cannons
hovered above the choicest gem
leaving the smell of the gunpowder
to poison the palate of peace.
The darkened vicinity
encircled the skies
under the haze of a horror
agonizing the souls
who coldly stared.
they toiled in chilly nights
the smothering clouds of dust
under impaired visibility.
Wearing thick overalls
and masks to ward off
the stench of decaying flesh
gathering pieces of flesh
amid pools of blood
they walked in a shattered shell
where hands, thumbs and legs
and blood stains were washed
They ascended slopes of rubble
crossed bodies half seen
inching their way
crawling over dead bodies
if any survived.
on their hands and knees
fixed to their helmets.
Through cracks they reached
and came back with tears
they could not get to the dying
even risking their own lives.
Clocks and weather
stood against them
yet deeper and deeper
with their deepest devotion
sore backs and ankles
under the harsh glare spotlights
facing unfamiliar sights
speaking through their eyes
the fragments of the concrete slabs
and compressed filing cabinets
they recovered victims
with ruptured eyeballs
and fractured ribs.
They kept going
though the airborne particles
or dryness in their throats
With the mounting mass of courage
they moved forward
with crowbars and axes.
If someone recovered an adult
or a child
he was rushed
to the stress center
because the exhaustive search
mentally and physically was exhausting.
The perfidious conditions
stressed even dogs
who felt dispirited
for not finding anyone alive.
With jackhammers and chainsaws
they removed obstacles
to dig out the nursery
buried under a pile of rubble.
No little hands reached them
only tiny voices
and faint sobs they heard.
They saw babies
shrouded in blood
and plastered with insulation
or faces half covered with glass
for their dads and moms.
or lying under doors
walls and cement beams.
They turned over cribs
and furniture cautiously.
One by one
they removed bricks
to reach two toddlers alive.
While carrying an infant
when a cop paused to breathe
he looked down.
He was standing
on a dead child.
around the poles
or their faces blown off.
They saw mangled carcasses
entombed under the beds of steel
and a teacher
holding a child.
and playthings were scattered
blending with arms and legs.
They picked up dolls
A rescuer was frozen
when he saw a truck
like the one his son had.
tiny corpses with blankets
but the cold hands of the winds
through the cracks
where once stood windows
and walls kept throwing them off.
Drenched and chilly
from the wrecked nursery
and searched again.
with a flashlight
chased the trails of red insulation
through the tunnels
of the twisted metal
and jumbled furniture.
masking his nose
he explored every closet.
Their eyes were tearful
and their hands trembled
when they grasped
the slain kids.
Those speechless faces
who watched the workers
were engraved forever
on their psyches.
The fire fighters wept
as they lifted weightless bodies
to retain composure.
The medical team
worked around the clock
wading through the mud of danger
to perform first aid
where the disfigured bodies
under horrendous disorder.
sifted through debris by hand
and carried it out in buckets.
Machines of every type
but no one could use them all.
Rumors about hidden bombs
to their comfortless task.
Most thought of their families
when a sense of helplessness
overpowered their efforts.
Several exhausted rescuers
left the gaping cave.
A camp was extemporized
in a parking lot
the shattered shell
floor by floor
indicating the bodies
that could not be pulled out.
Soaked in blood
nurses in uniform
rushed around the improvised surgeries.
Red stained gloves
loafed among the leaves
scattered by winds
over the lawn.
The area was cordoned off
most exit ramps were closed
the telephone lines jammed
the car agencies
had nothing to rent.
Investigators and relatives
filled the hotels.
A surge of press reporters,
television transmission trucks
turned a sleepy town
into the capital of the media.
They competed for stories
wombed in emotion.
Radio stations informed
where to donate blood
off duty medical teams
responded with calm.
A trucker from another city
arrived with soft drinks,
and first-aid kits.
Residents brought cots
and blankets to him.
He was at his station
to provide considerable relief
from the torment of the tragedy.
Another drove for hours
to offer free meals
to rescue workers.
Residents collected bed sheets
and plastic tarpaulins
in response to a shortage
of body bags
Counselling centres sprang up
Hospitals postponed planned surgeries
and nonessential radiological procedures.
They had enough anesthalogists
neuro and vascular surgeons
Several people spent their nights
in sleeping bags
on cots or folding chairs
stunned or thinking
how they would cope without a brother
Citizens were glued
to their televisions.
because the media focussed
on speculating about culprits
rather than the emotional bruises
of the sufferers.
several families did not speak
and several more
confused, outraged or shocked
waiting for another list.
Days were filled with funerals
the missing to be recovered.
do not suffer from the painful longing
for the domestic bliss of your early days.
your parents have gone
to soothe your sagging spirit.
Look at the darkness
beyond the hills that gives birth daily
to another dawn.
has not flown to the distant fields.
Snow still falls
outside the window
and the sun melts away
coldness from homes.
where the dismembered limbs lie
mocks the blindness of the brutes
who had tried to frame a coffin
under the shades of their vilest impulses.
that buried your elders
in a massive grave of the frozen mind
has become a ground for hope.
With the driving dry drifts
birds from the dale of intolerance
flew to teach their tongue
to the birds of insight.
Locked in obsessions
they briefly stenched the air
with their uncontrolled spiral of hate.
Flame is still a pyramid of justice.
Hope carves niches of safety
around towers of peace
to lay eggs even today.
Denizens of ignorance
blow off the petals of innocent flowers
not knowing the doors of future
When the bulldozers
uproot the shrine
the land does not go dry.
do not weep.
Suffering from the frightening fancies
the social lepers
wander among the denominations of malice
and carefully consider the endless roads
of the potentials to worship
the bubbles of the self.
Shed your tears with cries
from the skies of your fond memories
to awake their conscience
slumbering in the shambles of brutality.
Offer your hymns to a new birth
baptized with your tears
sail on the white wings.
Notable nips outside the house
and the nights
when you snuggled your babies
beneath the quilts
or in front of your tvs
shall keep flooding back
the meanings of those moments.
In the citadel of your patience
lies a spot for your soul
to gather the grief to handle.
startled signals to stamp out
that scourges the defenseless lives.
Peace has been tested
in the cyclone of the freshness
of early morning.
The panorama of the grimness
outlines the blueprints
for the nest of tomorrow.
The season of the dense fog of danger
standing as the wall of wadding
in the fold of the spring.
spread their prismic wings
over the forces of confusion
for new vistas to emerge.
The days of inconsolable distress
have rolled off.
The lotus of the present
blooms in new waters of decision.
Shadows have passed
the blood, dust and smoke
yet the bones of a mother’s love
The discerning art of physicians
but healing a mother
wounded in her backyard
is another story.
do not unfold
the bed of the past
a broken image
in the foggy mirror.
There are cradles
new babies of aspiration
are to be rocked.
Car bombs, mobility and might
have become the toys of robots.
They know how and when
to free their unfed tigers
from the cages of depravity
to stifle democracy.
easy money and weight
they become maniac messiahs
to snuff out the flickers
of the inner blaze.
Breathing the stink of ferocity
they still the nightingale of freedoms
uprooting the tree where she sings.
They smash welcoming doors.
Shafts of steel
warble in the smoky bar
to dig ditches for agonies
and spread a carpet of paralyzing fear
to mangle mothers
With a repulsive pump
they inflate balloons
of their willful delusions
above the unexpected heights.
They do not see
opening to the sky
as does a butterfly.
They lead governments
for more road blocks
bomb sniffing dogs
and fresh looks at newcomers.
Eerie paths of their pleasures
shape public opinions to accept unhappily
Their relentless pursuits
to grab the crown of chaos
swim political pendulums
to promote quick deportations
Their brutal feuds
with human rights
force regimes to extend
In the plutonium trade
smuggles are more likely
by these dukes of fruitless longing.
In the windowless cells
of anarchistic gospel
they prepare terror
with the weeds of ignorance
on the fire of savagery
in the pots soooted with conceit.
Citizens of peace
robots cannot be bridled
from the fortified bunkers.
Lament from the top of your shelters
because your freedoms
cannot be defended now
even by the mightiest armies.
I open eyes
from my deep meditation
at the wilderness of my retreat
because I find you not there.
I stop counting the beads
in the cycle of monotony
for it drops the seeker in me
into the well of emptiness.
I find the artifacts
of stones and clay
within the cloistered walls
of sky-touching domes
where the waves of human life
flow once a week
You knock at the doors
of the ruins of my hours
modestly sit beside me.
Engrossed in chats
we finish cups of tea
playing hide and seek
we empty more cups.
A pleasant wind
carries us away
freed from chains
we are attuned to the stars.
Along the self-composed clouds
When in spring
net of the day asundered
and dark ravines
begin to reveal themselves
I seek solace in a garden
where flowers bathe
in a shower of peace.
I feel the feathers of a rose.
Your presence I find inside
When those glow worms above
their curtain of isolation
and when intoxicating wind
is set free
I visit the nearest waterfalls
where painfully sweet melodies
retreat into a soothing womb.
I see your face emerging
in those falls.
a spring unpacks the snow
burying alive the tender boughs
and storms spoil calm
I long for your warmth.
When there is diffusion
of another dawn
and the denizens of the air
spread their tunes
in a symphony that is strange
I hear your voice ringing.
The radiance from the flame
that emanates from the dense canopy
of your bounty
I have painted with unspoken thoughts
on the inner wall of my fancy.
I study it
under the lenses of astonishing care
to dissect the order of the days
when Nirvana hung around.
suddenly our links were severed.
From a golden cage
of snow‑capped desolation
I long for the shower of a gentle gale
from the beach
where I shall canonize
the petals of freedoms
for my joy to be full.
Frilled with the reddest rubies
of my passion
here I shall devise a basilica for you
where my daffodils shall never die
and the effervescent laces of my lyrics
stretch their endless wings
through a new universe of the brain cells
of my imagery.
Moving with crutches
under their armpits of insensitivity
the artisans of insidious shocks
defile orchards of your stainless holiness
with the sputum of false gods.
They crush buds
wearing the gown of sanctimony
to cover the nakedness
of their disease
that eats away
the flesh of peace.
With singular eagerness
even these deranged savages
who erupt the lava of devastation
from the depressive corridors
of their oddest mania.
within the shoreless mansion
of your patience
for these prodigals to return.
the palace of peace.
Years of brain-rattling forces
high on a cocktail of arrogance
and an ideology of sickness
have sealed its doors.
Do not look inside
through its openings
painted with the pigment of poison.
Under its ceiling
terrorists have raised
the beasts of their twisted creeds.
They are prisoners
to the cult of the kingdom
where ill-winds blow
the noxious emission of no hope.
Within the void
of the narrowness of this palace
you will see
blinding redness floating.
Do not come
out of the bounds
of your freedoms
you would be wounded.
the litany of the rituals
unveils the hidden ugliness
of the inglorious advocates
of wicked designs.
This palace stands
between pointed rocks
on the bones
blended with the blood
of blameless citizens
In its kitchen
malice is prepared
within its walls
aspirations of mothers
have been buried
the back of its roof
has been arched
with the weight of firearms.
The princess of the self-respect
sheds tears with strangled cries
in the nights of the frozen grave.
Candles had been put out
long long ago.
Do not step outside of your solitude
overpowering stench of the palace
would canker the sanity
of your sensibilities.
It is the ruin
where the swords of its pilgrims
in the wrinkles of the religion
This is the palace of peace
do not come near.
Where creeds are not crushed
and human gods do not feed
the vultures of war
that island of yours
defends the dignity of freedoms
that is distinctive and charming.
Where life is not anchored
to the strands of zealots
and crocodiles of disharmony
do not roam around
that delta of yours
dwells in the woods of blessedness
under the borderless sky
that is lofty and pleasing.
Where the cactus of shame
does not mushroom
and the evil birds of bloodshed
do not defile
the nests of my vision
that lushy bloom of roses
touches the hem of the gown
that is the epitome of your beauty.
Where the dove flies without fear
and the lilies of justice
blossom for all
that domain of yours
assures a comforting niche
for the songs I write
Where the streams of youth
do not cease flowing
and despair does not nail tents
over the greenery of the dreams
under the constellation of calm
that land of yours
calls me to gather pearls
from the ocean of your wisdom.
\Where love is not suffocated
and the twigs are not damaged
by the trotting swarm of savages
that oasis of yours
wants me to break my chains
to breathe the amazing fragrance
of your presence.
Where waves snuggle sands
and soul is free
that shore of yours
commands me to chase out
the dragons of your absence
from those hills
where they reign
in the darkness of the graveyard.
As a mad prophet in painful ecstasy
I shall bathe
in the mystical falls of those regions
that are steeped in the melody
that sobs in the radiance
of your gentle warmth.
To direct my steps
towards the shores of the pure bliss
of your peace
I shall dip in the esoteric stream
that meanders along the woodlands
of my absolute fidelity.
Covered with the cassock
of the unbreakable bond
I shall go over the ablaze alp
where the sad unwanted clutter
of the rational ground
consumes into ashes
and the smog of doubts disappears.
I shall aggressively pursue my odyssey
through the barren regions of the moor
where the scamps of ego erect
the deceitful caves
and the reptiles of the debasing bargain
The radiation of their enticements
shall fail to lead me
into the blindness of their hopeless muddle.
The echoes of their moans
shall bear no desirable flavour
because of the smell of my lilac
that is more animating
than their tempting promises.
The Flame, Vesta Publications 2008, 152 pages, paper back, ISBN : 978-0-919301-21-3, $ 10.30
*The Flame, the longest poem on modern terrorism by Stephen Gill, is a sprinkler of peace in the dark cloudy nights …
In recent years when the explosions of dynamite and roars of the mortars are deafening humans and the dance of terrorists is posing a real threat to human liberty, the Flame by Dr. Stephen Gill is a sprinkler of peace. While the rising blaze of terrorism is swallowing humanity, The Flame suggests to control this blaze by using the water of peaceful means. It is a unique experience to read the longest poem ever written on terrorism that illustrates the ultimate solution towards peace.
The Flame is the latest book written by Dr. Stephen Gill, who has authored many volumes to express his vision. During current disastrous geo-political situation in different parts of the world when a majority of writers prefer to be silent, Stephen Gill is a voice in wilderness but in truth he is a real champion of peace.
The peace poetry in the present era is still a rare commodity. A majority of poets are silent about the burning olive leaves by the cruel hands of terrorists. The destination chosen by Stephen Gill to spread the fragrance of peace with his poetry strengthens the efforts of leaders who struggle for harmony.
I wrote poems during my school days and passionately read poetry of famous Urdu poets. I was fond of poetry, which had short lines, because that indicated a full control of the poet on his or her work. It was amazing to read Jazeera, a collection of Urdu poems of Stephen Gill, where nearly all poems have short lines. This reveals the soul of each poem in a few words—a difficult job indeed.
The Flame is about a long history of peace expressed in every verse in solid form and with fresh imagery, which make the Flame a masterpiece. The Flame is not the flame of terror but the flame of peace.
I do not
know, why Stephen Gill is still a blossom in wilderness when he deserves to be
a renowned envoy of peace of some esteemed organizations and on the peak of his
fame. It seems that the world still accepts readily those who write about
sensational aspects, violence and sex,
instead of those who write peacefully for peace. (Dr.. Nazir Bhatti, editor-in chief of
is the longest poem The Flame is the longest poem on terrorism in the last two or three decades. I
have checked all the other available sources. Modern terrorism is indeed a recent phenomenon. I
have visited The Gazette and enjoyed reading the poems from The Flame and the critique on
Gill and for sure, Dr. Bhatti, the commentator and
the chief editor of Pakistan Christian Post is right. I have decided to write a
critique on The Flame after receiving the copy. Please give me
sufficient time and I hope to come out with an intelligent and resourceful
critique. (Dr. . Dominic Savio,
Reader in English,
*A different message in the Flame grabs my attention
Usually I avoid giving my opinion on books. The Flame is quite different when it comes to message of world peace. It is this message that grabs my attention and forces me to write.
Religious fanatics of today are busy finding new ways for atrocities, including murder, suicide bombing, and rape. In this environment, the Flame, Dr. Stephen Gill ‘s latest book, is most appropriate and timely. Peace is the message of the Flam, the longest poem in English. Dr. Gill paints a touching picture with the colors of life and death, fear and hostility, love and torture, humanity and bloodshed for the massive awareness without being prejudice. Dr. Gill has been building bridges for years through his articles, speeches and books. I am confident that The Flam, a book of 152 pages that conveys a long poetic message of peace, will be a unique contribution to Global Peace.
(An artist, Steve Almas
*Stephen Gill condemns terrorism in his poetic way in the Flame
The Flame, a long poem of one hundred and fifty-two pages, is about the
destruction caused by maniac messiahs.
Terrorism, which is born in the diabolical minds of religious, political
and financial fanatics, is probably the single most dangerous enemy to world
peace. What a blessing to have poets
like Dr. Stephen Gill, who boldly declares through their poetic art about human responsibilities to create and maintain peace
in the world. The
(Nikola Dimitrov, author of three book, is ordained minister of Living Faith Ministry
*Struck in a unique way while
reading The Flame ..
While browsing through Dr Stephen Gill’s 152-page poetry book, The Flame, I am stuck in a unique way. Dr Gill lashes at the ‘maniac messiahs’ who love going on rampage, destroying peace and harmony on their way to gain their own selfish ends. These religious fanatics are out to bedevil human relation without delving deep into what religion means. They commit atrocities in the name of religion.
As I am reading the poetry book, I get the impression that the poet personifies the flame that dwells in every peace-loving man and woman and invokes it to manifest itself as a harmonizer, a harbinger of peace, as in the following opening lines of this long poem:
You are the imperishable harmony
that reaps unparalleled prosperity. (P. 32)
This book deserves to be read by poetry-loving people, because it gives a message about global peace in an artistic way. (Dr. Bhaskar Roy Barman, author of Gateway to Heaven ( a novel) and other books, is president of World Literature Society. )
*A Note on Stephen Gill’s The Flame While editing my recent book on Stephen Gill, I found that a note of feverish anxiety runs through his creative works. This ambassador of peace is perturbed because of the destruction of calm, peace and tranquility in the world by the maniac messiahs. The same distaste for ‘the avatars of savagery’ is to be found in his latest poetic work, The Flame, which is divided into eight parts and sixty two cantos. The following expression from the thirteenth canto is sure to touch the innermost chords of the reader’s heart:
There was an arm and a head
and a woman’s leg
from the knee down
the rest was buried under the rubble.
A body appeared
to have been through
a meat grinder.
There was an open chest cavity
beside a headless torso.
The just-quoted lines exhibit the presence of the senseless and chaotic violence, pervading the human society. Gill’s heart is ever crying, for this ‘blood-dimmed tide’ of carnivorous violence is devouring the humans.
I hope the book may enlighten the flame of compassion and sacrifice in the human society, filled with ‘remorseless forces of brutalities.’Another important point about this book is its autobiographical preface, which outlines the growth of Gill’s career as a writer. Gill’s experiences may serve as instructive prescriptions for the budding and upcoming writers. One such experience, which he shares with the readers, is that he always keeps ‘a notebook to put down any striking word or phrase that comes across during a talk, reading or from anywhere.’
Besides, the preface of the book is marked by extraordinary candour and frankness of Gill. How many intellectuals and writers can confess as truthfully as Gill has done in the following lines:
My one problem was my early education that did not help me gain self-confidence and skill. It was my early education that remained a serious obstacle in my life. I had attended the cheapest schools that were run by governments. In these schools, the media of instruction was the local language. English was touched nominally at the elementary level without any emphasis on conversation…
My question is—Do the other writers and poets have the same courage and moral strength to speak in such a candid manner about their earlier career and life? Gill has done it in The Flame. It shows the man behind the words—a good natured man with a transparent heart.
The Flame, from the pen of such a man, must be read by the
citizens of the world to eliminate ‘the jungle/ of deafening disorder’ from the
hearts. I strongly recommend this book to the people of all nationalities,
communities, classes and castes. If language is the barrier, it must be
translated into several native languages. The intellectuals and writers must
come forward to translate this monumental work into several other world
languages. (Dr .Nilanshu Agarwal is Senior
Lecturer in English at Feroze Gandhi College, Rae Bareli, (U.P.),
*Deep and highly moving poem
I have had the honour of going through highly thought-provoking, touching, deep and highly moving long poem the Flame by Dr Stephen Gill. It reminds me of Walcott's poem “Sea Grapes” and Neruda's poem “Tonight I can Write”. Similar sentiments flow from the Flame. Dr Gill, a well known champion of world peace and harmony, yet again comes out with distinct vision and message. A unique poem, subtle and absorbing. This poem by itself can be a subject of doctoral dissertations at post graduate level.
(KKSrivastava, Jaipur, INDIA, author of Ineluctable Stillness, and An Armless Hand Writes )
*Stephen Gill’s Flame is an epic poem in the composition of which the author has invested all his skills as a poet, a thinker and a philosopher…
Stephen Gill holds up high with burning passion the Flame of Peace. This commitment is rooted in his life-long encounters with humankind’s incorrigible tendency to succumb time and again to the evil charms of religious fanaticism, ultra-nationalism and racism. The Flame is an epic poem in the composition of which the author has invested all his skills as a poet, a thinker and a philosopher of the weak and oppressed. The end result is a creative work of such overwhelming beauty – notwithstanding the fact that most of the space is devoted to depicting the ugly faces of self-righteousness, cultural arrogance, violence and terrorism. The beauty is naturally not in the shocking and depressing data that he presents, but the argument for peace that he advances as each facet of human wickedness is reviewed in light of his own message and philosophy of peace and love. I have been profoundly touched and moved by the author’s goodness of heart and idealism.
(Author and peace activist, Professor Ishtiaq
Ahmed teaches at Institute of South
Stephen Gill (email@example.com)
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