Poetry by Afzal Moolla


Hidden between fragmented shades,

mingling within the folds of thought.

Dreams ceaselessly wander on,

soaring above the day's tumult.

Hope burns the fabric of today,

as this afternoon fades.


The immigrant.

Seeking solace. 
Seeking a home.

The immigrant finds,

Rotten prejudice. 
Fungal anger.  

The immigrant,

alone, hoping for,

A solitary chance. 

To belong. 

The immigrant,

alone, always,

An outside entity. 
Eternal outcast. 

A viral threat. 
A reeking odour. 

The immigrant,

ever alone,

and alone knowing,
that no place exists,

but that lost home. 



Searching in the debris of the past,

scraps of casually discarded emotion.


in hastily trashed yesterdays,

an inkling of moments flung away.


in heaps of rubbished words,

that tiresome sigh of defeated thought.


in the layers of moulted skin

the wilting self that once was true.


in the reflections between the ripples,

for the whispered pangs of roaring desire.


in the blank eyes streaming endlessly,

an echo of the faintest sigh of new life.



"Can you spare me some change, brother?".  

The parched and thirsty,
still walk the soul-less avenues,

and the alleys of want and hunger.

Empty and barren,

coarsing through heartless streets of need and despair.

"Change will come",

said the promise of Freedom and Democracy and of Capitalism with a Conscience. 

"change will come in time".


Change comes. 


when scratching through

for some change. 


To the nameless soldier.

Your orders may come now,
or at 19h45 this evening.

'Shoot to kill'
''Engage the enemy'
'Hold the line'
'Break up the gathering'
'Ready, aim, fire'

But you have felt too ,
the stab of hunger ,
the bite of thirst,
the bayonet of loss ,
the wound of despair .

But you have seen too ,
the pain in a mother's eyes ,
the grief in a father's face ,
the incomprehension in a child's down-cast look .

'Ready, aim, fire'

But you, the nameless soldier have heard ,
the cries of the grieving family ,
the wailing of the widowed wife ,
the quiet agonising sound of the child's weeping .

'Ready, aim, fire'

Your orders may come now ,

or at 23h30 tonight.

or tomorrow .

Or the day after that .

Or next week or month or year .

But you have seen and felt and heard,
the agony of a peoples' simple desire ,
the hurt of a nation long bludgeoned ,
the wounds of your stolen generation .

So when that order comes ,

now ,

or at 03h30 tomorrow morning ,

'Ready, aim, fire'

Let your humanity muzzle your rifle .

Let your conscience dismiss the order .

Let  your better side come to the fore and let your very own people, 
your mother and your father, 
your sister and your brother, 
your son and your daughter, 
your friend and your lover,

let them live.

Let them be .

Let your rifle fall to the soil of your beloved motherland .

o' nameless soldier.


For my mother.

Someone always told me this with tears in her eyes

A wife left South Africa in the 1960's to join her husband 

who was in exile at the time.

In 1970 the husband was sent by the African National Congress to India to be its representative there.

The husband and wife spent two years in Bombay.

One afternoon the husband fell and broke his leg.

The wife knocked on their neighbour's door, in an apartment complex in Bombay.

The neighbour was an old Punjabi lady.

The wife asked the neighbour for a doctor to see to the injured husband.

A Zoroastrian 'Bone-Setter' was promptly summoned.

The husband still recalls his anxiety of seeing 'Bone-Setter' written on the Parsi gentleman's bag.

By the way, the 'Bone-Setter' worked his ancient craft and surprisingly for the husband, his broken leg healed quite soon.

But still on that day, while the 'Bone-Setter' was seeing to the husband,

the wife and the old Punjabi lady from next door got to talking about this and that and where these new Indian-looking wife and husband were from as their accents were clearly not local,

the wife told the elderly Punjabi lady that the husband worked for the African National Congress of South Africa and had left to serve the ANC from exile,

and that they had left their two children behind in South Africa and that they were now essentially political refugees.

The Punjabi lady broke down and wept uncontrollably.

She told the foreign woman that she too had had to leave her home in Lahore in 1947 and flee to India with only the clothes on her back when the partition of the subcontinent took place and Pakistan was formed and at a time when Hindus from Pakistan fled to India and vice versa.

The Punjabi lady then asked the foreign woman her name.

'Zubeida', but you can call me 'Zubie'.

The Punjabi woman hugged Zubie some more, and the two women, seperated by age and geography, wept, sharing a shared pain.

The Punjabi woman told Zubie that she was her 'sister' from that day on, and that she felt that pain of exile and forced migration and what being a refugee felt like.

Zubie and her husband Mosie became the closest of friends with the Hindu Punjabi neighbours who were kicked out of Pakistan by Muslims.

Then came the time for Mosie and Zubie to leave for Delhi where the African National Congress office was based.

The elderly Punjabi lady and Mosie and Zubie said their goodbyes.

A year or two later, the elderly Punjabi lady's daughter Lata married Ravi Sethi and the couple moved to Delhi.

The elderly Punjabi lady called Zubie and told her that her daughter was coming to Delhi to live and that she had told Lata, her daughter that she had a 'sister' in Delhi.

Lata and Ravi Sethi then moved to Delhi.

This was in the mid-1970's.

Lata and Zubie became the closest of friends and that bond stayed true, and stays true till today, though Zubie is no more, and the elderly Punjabi lady is no more.

The son and the husband still have a bond with Lata and Ravi Sethi.

A bond that was forged between Hindu and Muslim and between two continents across the barriers of creed and time.

A bond strong and resilient, forged by the pain and trauma of a shared experience.

And that is why, and I shall never stop believing this, that hope shines still, for with all the talk of this and of that, and of that and of this, there will always be a simple woman, somewhere, anywhere, who would take the 'other' in as a sister, a fellow human.

And that is why there will always be hope.

Hope in the midst of this and of that and of that and of this.


(for aunty Lata's late-mother, who was my mother's 'sister' and who took us all into her heart, and for Lata and Ravi Sethi of Defence Colony, New Delhi)


Biographical Note: 

Afzal Moolla lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. He writes for pleasure and enjoys reading non-fiction and the occasional novel.