my mother’s mother.


i don’t HAVE a country,  i AM the stories of my life lived & dreamed,
the stories of my parents,
the stories of this life & the one before & the one before
& all that flowed in between.
India is my mother’s land.
when part of myself was part of my mother part of her mother,
i was a tiny egg in my unborn mother in her mother’s womb,
& my unconceived cells breathed the music of India,
her carnatic clamours & temple bells,
muezzin calls floating in & out of tune in jasmine-clad air,
her immense sadnesses & her knowing silence,
the sandalwood song of my mother’s mother’s skin
& her hips rolling slow in cotton sari,
wrapped around her warm belly & my unfurling mother & me- unthought of.
India is not a country to me,
she is this unspoken song always remembered.
and this is why my heart breaks every time my feet land on her noisy, dusty, impossibly contradictory soil,
& every time i say goodbye, my heart breaks once more.

To My Unborn Child : a mother writes.


i was my mother’s only child, and she almost died giving birth to me.
we were best friends. the kind that bicker & argue all the time.
we were also so incredibly stubborn.

my mother died in 2013, when i was 32 years old.
we had just spent 18 months living together in an absurdly large house in Goa.
18 months with my mother and her liver tumour. (more…)

vernal equinox

moonstone sky exhaling with the duskhour
& the snowsteps of the hare.

the west wind carries on its wingtips
the first scents of spring:
of treebranch, warming sap,
& buddings bloodred, coral & parrotgreen, waiting & ready.
of birdsong- effervescent;
the scent of water slowly moving again beneath her icy mantle, refracted in myriad-tones of jade by snow & sky.

up above, a sharp, raucous greeting-
my footsteps slow down & are quiet now.
bright, bright white specks on the horizon,
& here they are, long necks outstretched & wings wide open to the tall moonstone sky:
five swans, now standing on the snow,
heartbeats facing the setting sun & the west wind-

they came back.

5 women.

we sit on the mountain,
five breathing points of a star,
souls turned toward sky
& that sunwomb cleaved in mountain-range,
that mighty triangle-
infused with light,
she glows strong & pale & strong
as we sit on the mountain,
five breathing points of a star,
tendril’d into darkless summer night
& midnight sun.

drumsong is shared like freshwater,
& tenderly, souls are washed.

sleep. just sleep.

IMG_20170722_103431_747 (1)

Surrounded by mountain, air, forest, sky, spirit whispers, the soft embrace of the dead, the unborn and the living.
Sleep. Just sleep. They said.
You can rest here, on my belly, said the mountain.
You can rest beneath my wings, said the sky.
Find your warmth and strength, said the north wind.
We will guard your space, said the dead, my beautiful great-grandmother and fiery mother.
Sleep, just sleep, sang my unborn child.
We welcome your space, spoke the spirits. And whispered. And giggled. And hovered. And went quiet.
So I rested.
It was hard. So much pain in my tired and stiff limbs. So cold. Find your warmth, sang the north wind again.
And after battling with thoughts, and fears, and physical discomfort, I listened to the mountain and the sky and the dead and the unborn and the spirits.
I let go.
The beating drum walked with me for a while.
In near-sleep, the mountain moss danced out its soul in auric ribbons of jade, pearl and corral.
I slept on the mountain’s belly beneath the immense sky.
And slept.
Until the sun called me back.


just now.

dear mama,
each passing day breathes a loving, searing, dance of homecoming & farewell- imprinting body & soul with evanescence replete with the lightness of the dragonfly hum in summer, and the deep, dragonbreath magma-song of grief.
but today…today is just goodbye. once more.

& here we are again:
one more spin round the sun,
one more year, stacked
upon another & another & another.
but today feels like just now.
just now, i heard you were gone,
just now, i flew up in night-sky
mantled in disbelief,
then landed & watched you,
so uncomprehendingly still beneath a sheet,
just now, & you were ashes.
just now, & you were ashes dissolved in warm ocean.
just now, & you were completely gone,
so very quiet now, & absolutely everpresent.

just now, & me,
four years older & catching my breath,
preparing for another spin round the sun.

Last night. Writing on a dream. Full moon weaving its watery magic.

a great-grandfather visits.

last night,
in quiet unshaped dreamwaters,
you visited for the first time.

you died so many many years before i came to be.

last night,
in quiet unshaped dreamwaters,
we sat you and i, on a rowboat,
drifting towards a dawn mist soft as silk.
your wife, my father’s mother’s mother,
sat with us.
we sang for you unspoken words in the silence,
unbroken by water and sunrise.
and then you stood up,
and on the next breath, you were no more.
dissolved into the watery quiet.

for the first time since i came to be,
i loved you.

once in a while you visit : a memory of my great-grandmother.

once in a while, you visit,
sudden, un-beckoned, always acknowledged
with a smile infinitely sad and tender
that unfolds its butterfly wings
and dragonfly depth
in the space between breaths,
somewhere between my remembering heart
and my childhood me.
once in a while, you visit,
bestowing upon the instant
scents and tastes, confetti-like,
and right now, it was a waft of Sunday and winter,
the pastel clear sweetness of dragées,
sugar cool like old-fashioned water, and sticky;
right now, it was a murmur of your smell,
honeysuckle cologne too fresh and flowery for truth,
weaved into the vaguely brittle mustiness
of your deep old-age,
and a hundred years of gazing up at the moon every night,
before sleep.

Danielle McLaughlin : in memoriam.

a tribute to Danielle McLaughlin, who was raped & murdered in South Goa on Tuesday, in the wake of Holi, the festival of colours that celebrates aliveness & love.

Danielle’s story is yet another tragedy in our seemingly endless flow of women violated, desecrated, murdered. another Jyoti Singh. another Lucia Perez. the list goes on.
this time it feels very close to home. i know the land where Danielle took her last steps very well. i have lived and loved there. mourned my mother and scattered her ashes in that patch of ocean. and like many these past days, i am moved to words, sadly aware, that even as i write them, somewhere else there is another Danielle, another Jyoti, another Lucia living through the same nightmare.

dear Danielle,

when you & i met, already you were no more,
and the world was bursting at the seams
with everything you were & would have been,
if your young life had not been ripped away from you
on that violating, murderous night. (more…)

Red & Blue.

scarlet-red branchlings-
springtime dances
in autumn colours.

Blue :
at the leafy, mulchy
foot of the red,
tiny among dormant wild strawberry,
a blue flower.

Metta meditation : a lovemaking.


i sleep as you sit
half-lotused on wooden floor,
my eyes are shut
my heart is a little quieter now,
still, even in sleep,
my shoulders are hunched
against the world,
saddened by her saddest tales.

now i sleep a little deeper
as you sit half-lotused on wooden floor,
a breath comes and goes
a breath comes and goes
a breath-
it flows over me
like the softest whispering,
tender like a mother’s touch & quiet as a cat,
rushes from my ankles up along my spine
& dissolves on my face-
i sit up
all at once asleep,
wondrous, smiling, squinting, heart abeat,
‘were you in metta just now?’ i ask,
your eyes are open,
watching me being born anew
breath after breath
as you sit half-lotused on wooden floor,

& then you smile.

When a young man was raped. A poem.


dedicated to Theo, Jyoti Singh, Lucia Perez, and all the victims of sexual violence.

i am sharing this poem once more, because on this grey wintry morning, my heart is still filled with ache.
i ache with and for Theo, whose life will never be the same again. 2 weeks ago, this young Parisian man was at the wrong place and at the wrong time, and from one moment to the next Life-as-he-knew-it collapsed: he was racially abused, attacked, beaten up, and brutalised by police officers and one of them rammed his truncheon into Theo’s anus so violently, that he required emergency care and had to be operated on.
there is burning anger on the streets of Paris.
and i although i am sitting warm and quiet in my tiny flat in southern Sweden, i am also there, and all of it. i am the person who cried with tears of pain and anguish hearing Theo’s harrowing words. i am the person who quickly changes the channel because thinking about it is too much. i am the person screaming on the streets. i am the person burning cars.

i am Theo, and his desecrated body.
and i am all the young people, named and unnamed, who are continuously being violated, abused, destroyed and desecrated by life, by people in power and authority, by their neighbours, by strangers, by family.
the youth of our world are the hope of our world.
we have a duty to nurture, respect, honour and protect our youth.
and i believe we also have a duty to practice compassion, in thought, intention, speech and action.
because whether we like it or not, whether we know it or not, whether we are Theo or the police officer who beat him up and raped him…compassion is our essence and our purpose. this is who we are. this is our aliveness.
Theo, what happened to you is unjust beyond words. and i hope you will know how to make sense of it, for yourself, and eventually turn your suffering to healing.

Here is the poem that birthed inside of me when i encountered your pain: (more…)

When my DNA results arrived on Valentine’s Day…

I got a very unexpected Valentine’s Day present today: the results of my DNA test!!!

Two months ago i ordered a DNA test from 23andMe, spat into the test-tube, packed it back and sent it. Then i registered my personal bar-code online and waited. And waited. It was an expensive purchase, and i was nervous something would go wrong along the way. It took weeks simply for my spit to travel halfway across the world and get to the testing lab. I was not meant to get my results before the middle of March, but my inbox told me otherwise this morning. ‘Your results have arrived’ it said, and still-not-fully-awake, i clicked on the link: (more…)

Valentine’s Day : Nagukunda, a lovelorn song in Spanish made in Rwanda.


(Nagukunda; guitar & vocals: Bizi; accordeon: Estelle Lannoy; lyrics & vocals: Arusha Topazzini)

Nagukunda means ‘i love you’ in Kinyarwanda.
I recorded this song in Kigali in 2008, when i was visiting my mother who was living and working there, training journalists at a newly set-up radio station. (more…)

the man with the funny hat : a poem

he was called Fernando. my grieving buddy extraordinaire.
we met down the road from where my flat used to be, on a tiny cobbled street squeezed between a tiny park, a big new church and a ring-road, on the northern edge of Paris.
i was sitting at the local cyber-cafe which looked more like India than Paris and felt so familiar after 18 months of living in Goa.

i noticed his violin first.

O vento : a song-poem


(Guitar & percussion : Michel Ongaro ; lyrics & vocals : Arusha Topazzini; mixed by the one and only Jacktone Okore)

on a rain-tinged evening i wrote the following song-poem, thinking of the many times when i, a young child visiting family in Bombay, watched other children walking up and down the seafront by the Gateway of India.

they were about my age or older, some barely had any clothes on, their skin was coated in traffic and sea-air dust, their hair matted, and their eyes, faraway.  i was a child watching other children, and seeing no part of life-as-i-knew-it reflected back. i knew something was very wrong, but i was too young to understand it fully in my mind. i understood it in my heart and my child-eyes instead. (more…)