Land Of My Father*

My dad was a remarkable man
Who lived below the radar,
Keen not to court attention
Lest people thought him bizarre,
Judging, as is folks’s wont,
His countenance and not his grace;
The colour of his skin
Not the mind behind his face.
He told us stories when we asked
About the life he’d led
And he would weave us wonder
From the muddle in his head:
Traditional tales not held in books
But passed by word of mouth
Transmitting mindful messages
About a need for truth,
A fact I later understood
Derived from brutal treatment
A lesson I have not endured
-The consequence of pigment:
A separation of mankind
With unimaginable consequence,
Presumed superiority
Where stands a lack of common sense.
His struggles and exclusion
I cannot ever countermand
For I was dealt different lot
And never felt the harm
Discharged upon my father
And my brother in succession-
So much that still remains unsaid
About discrimination.
My father sailed from India in 1949
As eldest son and emissary
Instructed to find
A refuge for all his family
A place of hope and sanctuary
Thereafter, details fail me-
For he would not regale me
With episodes revealing
The trauma of this journey.
When we were small, he took us to
Saint Martin in the Field,
The crypt below, a soup kitchen
Which silently concealed
Unkempt men with crazy beards
And coats tied up with string,
Many queuing for their supper,
Filthy, rocking, mumbling.
I later came to understand
Their frightening demeanour,
A real consequence of war,
Is what I had seen there.
‘I came here, too,’ he told us
As if we both should know
That life is not straightforward,
There is much behind the show;
That the challenges of fate
Should render love, reduce the hate-
Wherever there is difference
Attack is not the best defence.
To Love One Another
Was the lesson that he lived:
For all the harm that he endured
He taught us to forgive.

 

 

*Reposted for Fathers’ Day  2016

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