Curry, cricket & culture – Final

My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

After 153 days filled with Indian styled magic, I am finally departing this place.

To every human who purposefully went out of their way to ensure my stay was one to remember.
Who hugged a little longer, laughed a little louder and loved a little harder.
From the Diwali celebrations to the Dalai Lama.
From Palak Paneer to Butterscotch Cornetto’s.
From the endless selfies with random strangers to the nights spent alone.
For every mistake that was made and to every lesson that blossomed from it.
For every poetry slam, session, sharing and soul baring.
I thank you.

I am ready to come home.
Bring on the next chapter…

Curry, cricket & culture – Part 7

My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

This was supposed to be my last month here, the final voyage, but at this point South Africa is a distant lighthouse. It will forever lead me home, but carries no weight when met with poetic sails, treasure island pirate adventures and international waters.

To give an account of the past month would be like hiring an annoying infomercial actor. Similar to those looped midday Outsurance adverts, impossible to believe and only good for solidifying the fact that you are indeed unemployed and have sold your soul to your comfort zone.

The universe has however casted me for the role, so the script is as follows…

July 31st
Pale Caucasian male watches as August digests an uneventful July. He brushes his eyes over the calendar and eagerly wills paint to dry, time drips. His journey from the belly of the Delhi beast back to the Cape Town high rise staggers towards the international runway. He is unaware at this point that his flight will in fact be delayed.

Said male’s moody manhood materializes in the form of food poisoning. He spends the next 3 days becoming besties with the bathroom floor and loses Will Smith weight.

The forced cocoon births out a lanky, unsymmetrical butterfly who then attends a workshop with a damaged intestine and a broken spirit. When the winged mess flutters onto the school grounds his sense of direction begins to wrestle with his internal compass. Maybe it’s the magnetizing hospitality coupled with the 400 eager needle eyes staring at his true North.

The workshop is a hit. The scout leader of the school calls us around her bonfire and divulges stories of ancient triumph and foretold prophecies. She then whispers that the final chapter will commence the following day in the form of a meeting, we roast metaphorical marshmallows and call it.

We arrive on time, our bums embrace cushion at 08:45 and rise a measly 60 minutes later.
We have work booked until the middle of September, scouts honor!

In the past 3 days I have badged 600 children. An army of aspiring alchemists, combining chemistry and charisma. The world will soon fall under their spoken word spells.

August 15th
I am an official guest of honor, we sip tea and nibble biscuits while the students raise their patriotic flag and welcome in Indian Independence. An obvious loaded celebration for my British backbone.
There is a 19 goal football match followed by 4 swished jump shots.
I pull the curtain on my past age and embrace 28 with endorphin trick candles and muscle ache birthday cake.

August 16th
I am working on my birthday, like a real boy. Another 200 pens pierce paper with unwavering enthusiasm. I have no time to traditionally celebrate but I find solace in the four hour cab ride home and host a musical themed party with 3 celebrity guests. Chance the Rapper, Noname and Jack Garrat.

When I eventually arrive back I am welcomed with black forest ice cream cake and a black hole happy birthday hug.
My air conditioner is clearly grumpy at the fact that we did not spend time together and decides to check out of the relationship, it’s refusing to talk to me. I fear we may never share words again.

August 17th
With each passing day South Africa dots itself, mirages in the Indian desert heat. I have been offered something that will effectively lock these cultural borders around my bones.
My birthday remnants are met with a poetry show, a surprise party carried out with assassin like efficiency and a cake execution smeared on my face.

Present Day.
I sit here soaking in abundance. Grateful for each and every soul that has allowed me safe passage through their minds. I have rebuilt myself. The old me has evaporated, condensed into the curry clouded skies.

I used to think I was a late starter, running against an echoed sounding gun. At 28, I have finally heard the clap.

Curry, cricket & culture – Part 6

My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

Forgive me Father for I have sinned.
“It’s ok my child, you are surrounded by sinners.”

This land riddled with gods is impossible to decipher,
I should stop walking around believing I am one.

There are no answers here, only more questions.

I have spent weeks in my room.
Maybe it’s the AC, maybe I’m just lazy.
I feel alone behind the 25 million faces of this city,
maybe I should stop wearing my mask.

The weather has changed drastically,
wading through water ankle height within minutes.
It’s time for a little less forecast
and a lot more getting caught in the rain.

There is one for every bite:
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”
“Be careful, its mosquito season.”

I am fighting a flu, I doubt the two are related.
My body is trying to shed its skin.
Headache, muscle pains, blurry vision.
Symptoms that come with the territory?
Manifestations of wrestling with your identity?
If I came to India to find enlightenment,
I am looking in the wrong places.

There is inspiration at every turn.
A poem on every corner, a prose inside every cornea.

The more I walk these streets, the less I have to fill my shoes.
The more I let destiny decide, the less I have to choose.

Dharma, take the wheel…

Curry, cricket & culture – Part 5

My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

Tear down all the titles, talks and tours.
Strip away the slams, showcases and sets.
Meaningless…

Take them all.
In turn, give me one more day with the Delhi Poetry Slam workshop warriors.

I will never be the same again.
I will never perform the same again.
I carry you on my back,
feathers
of
fearlessness.
We soar together.

I walked in masked as a mentor, but left soaked in your spirit.
You hold a piece of my heart, I have lost limbs.

Now…
Step onto the stage of life.
Inhale your moment, exhale your truth.
Then, take a bow.
You have earned it.

I raise my hands up, until the sinew under both shoulders stretch.
Snap.
Snap..
Snap…

Curry, cricket & culture – Part 4

My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

Last night in search for my rhythm, I went dancing.
I was instantly transported into a Bollywood movie, female lead not included.
A mother and daughter set fire to the floor, the male star twirls them both.
There is a meat sandwich I cannot unsee.
A couple ball room to electronic. A man confidances.
A slightly older, heavily drunk gentlemen relives his youthful ballet days.

I feel at home, homeless, homesick.
All at the same time.

The street kids here claw at windows, tug at clothes and ask for the shoes off your feet.
They are unlucky charms in a sky too polluted to witness rainbows, there is no pot of gold.
I hand them money but am told I will do more harm than good, I find that hard to believe.

Some days I feel lost.
I have shed tears from each end of the emotional scale.
I am writing less, but living more.

The poets here are unmatched, the world will know India’s name.

The local eatery engineers have become familiar with my face.
I don’t ask for the English menu anymore.
Palak Paneer.
Dal Makhni.
Butter Roti.
These three take the podium, in that order.
I have lost weight. No I haven’t. I am in denial.

In this country there will come a moment where you are forced to stare at yourself in the mirror, confront your comfort zone.
The sooner you burn that bitch to the ground the better.
Watch it rot in your 3, going on 4 day unwashed body.

The howling of hooters still aggravates me.
I know I know, it means something different here.
Cab drivers get lost, a lot.
Auto drivers start the bidding war off far too high but walking away seems to bring them to their senses.

It is so loud the city bustle rustles thunder.
The rain is still a blessing, everything is.
One month down…

Curry, cricket & culture – Part 3

My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

4am…
Holyshit, today I pay homage to His Holiness.
Wake, wash, dress.
I confess, I am nervous.

I am told: “Here it should be considered a sin to drive.”
So I decide to strive alongside the sunrise.
Walk, wander, mold mud.

Five…
I have zero appetite.
The barrage of butterflies have rationed well.
To my left a sign reads: “Remain hungry, remain foolish.”
I share breath with endless pine trees.
Sore eyes, smells, sounds.

06:30 now…
My fears hear temple walls, near their nirvana, tremble then fall.

I am early.
I Grab the golden circle but am willing to shift all energy towards the first hairless head I see.

07:30…
Been here an hour.
Buddha’s stature towers over me, captures doubts.
Empowers silence.
Echoed essence.

Ikenna Onyegbula is on my left.
“I am the token black guy.”
There is a glitch in this Matrix but by this point we are packed tight.
To my right, an Oracle from Nepal.

A woman asks me to move, a warrior insists I stay.
They begin a Dharma debate.

Eight Twenty…
People are plenty.
All walks of life rubbing shoulders, they told us quarter to nine queues the divine.

The mantras begin.
I am ignorant to the chanting but I’ll be damned if I am not going to sing.

He is first seen on TV screens,
existence confirmed through piercing screams.
His chi brings maroon monks to their knees, he parts these humbled red seas.
My heart beat leaps and lunges at the lump in my throat.

2000 souls, 1 goal.

He stops to bow to a baby, then blesses an elderly lady.
In a single moment I am reminded of Karma.
Finally, through all the drama, on this day in my life.
I spot him.
The Dalai Lama.

Time is no longer measured, pain evaporates.
I find myself a matter of meters, gazing at the reincarnate.

He stops, stares, sips each molecule of air.
He is present and a gift for all to behold.
His body is old and ushered to the throne but he blazes his own trail.
Frailty is in his bones but this ribbed cage is not his home.

He winds clockwise as Tibetan traditional insists.
He walks the square prepared to make eye contact with each entity there.

He takes his seat, speaks.
Cracks a joke.
Laughs like a naughty school boy.
Toys with graduated concepts.
Bestows Buddhist precepts,
accepts all religion.

His voice is slow and steady, precise.
Before he decides on a word he confirms its direct English descent.
Chooses each construction, refuses to lose a syllable.
Presents a rounded sentence, enlightenment dangling off the full stop.

He exclaims: “Education of the mind is vital, this is the power of our age.”
He chuckles: “This generation will have to clean up all the mess we have made.”

Man and monk alike are offered tea from ancient pots and endless Tibetan bread.
I witness three mini monks rub each others cheeks against freshly shaven heads.

My spirit wills me to move.
I rise, walk the square.
Once, twice, thrice.
I’ve entered my four times table.

At the height of each geometric rotation,
at the end of each algebraic equation,
I bow, hoping for his answer.

Graduation day is here.
I slip on my shoes and choose to submerge my final bow waist deep,
90 degrees.

He sees me.
Glimpses into my abyss.
Lifts his left arm.
Twists his wrist,
flattens his palm.

Surely not?
In this life I have dropped marks,
toiled with cheating, succumb to the dark.
I have lied, cried and committed crimes.
My spine was never worthy.
There was no spirit in this chest.
My child, you speak of past tense as if they even exist.

He smiles and nods his head.
You have passed the test.
Your reward,
be blessed…

Curry, cricket & culture – Part 2

My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

It has been one week here, my spirit feels weak here, unworthy.

Cecilia’s in-laws are both blind.
Her step mom speaks of smallpox,
how it robbed 40 children of their site and 39 of their lives.
She is the sole survivor, the final remnant.

I don’t know much about her father in-law
but he tells a story of footing over bodies for freedom.
They have both felt multiple manifestations of pain,
yet the first thing they utter is;
“Be happy.”

Grandma takes my hand, guides me to her temple and points.
“Ganesha, Brahma, Vishnu, Rama…”
I wonder when her tales of triumph will be told?
There are 33 million gods in this place, I have already met two.

My belly has wrestled Delhi street food and won.
Been lost in translation, and in the back seat of a cab.
I have seen marketplaces lit up like the 4th of July.
“Fresh Fish!”
I will never take I&J for granted again.

Witnessing Ikenna Onyegbula perform is like seeing solar systems collide.
Chaotic to the naked eye but controlled beyond human comprehension.
A symphony in the sky, the Ludwig of his craft.

We had our first Delhi Poetry Slam weekend workshop.
These kids are more than teenagers,
they hold truth between their teeth.
Gnashing knowledge, their molars squeeze out wisdom’s.
Their tongues lash labels.

Conformity is in the water, but they learned long ago not to drink that shit.

They are rebels that read.
Alchemists, mad witches waging war with their wands.
They feast on the ink of the innocent.
Cry inside A5’s,
mend dark with pen marks.

By day they may be forced to adhere to a strict set of rules,
but as night nears and order falls asleep.
They peep inside their notebooks, Narnia awaits.
This is their world!
They are creatures of creation.
I bow before their presence…

Curry, cricket & culture – Part 1

June 2016:
My South African soles step onto Indian soil, these are my stories…

Marigold laces my neck: “Welcome to India.”

A game of car Tetris ensues.
My driver is an 8-bit master, using his horn as a cheat code of sorts.

I arrive at my place of rest,
Cecilia thrusts her chest against mine and holds me like one of her own.
I meet her two children,
then her husband,
then his brother and his wife and daughter,
then Cecilia’s husbands’ ex-boss.
We all eat, pray, laugh together.

I wake up from a 10 hour plane paralyzes.
Take a 1 hour cab ride to meet 2 of the warrior women of the Delhi Poetry Slam movement.
I spend the next 10 hours inhaling as much as possible.
I have so much to learn and there seems to be too much to teach.
One lesson at a time.

I am able to make contact with the www.
but before the beast grabs hold I hear a chanting outside.
Ramayana (The longest poem in history) is being recited.
1 chapter = 3 hours.
The child in me refuses to let the adult command my consciousness.
I take off my shoes and sit, a man smiles, steadily strides towards me and speaks.
“You don’t understand right?”
“Not one word.”
“Please sit, enjoy.”

After the ceremony people flock.
Free feast and festivities for all, the party is lit!
I am ushered up and receive a blessing of fire.
I pile into the food queue, a man insists I go in front of him.
I repay the favour by handing out as many plates as my palms can plunder.
My hands are utensils, each edible morsel is the best thing I have ever tasted,
until my tongue touches the next.
I am overwhelmed.

A girl wont stop staring.
I get it, I am a unicorn here but am willing my atoms to collapse inside themselves,
remain invisible. I pray they sense my respect for every inch of Indian culture.

The boys behind me argue over which Max Payne game is best,
then continue to debate about whether Fifa should be played with a keyboard or joystick.
I have always been a controller man myself.
I feel at home…