When Broken Turns to Beauty

Okay folks, I’m back after a long sabbatical and I have lots of catching up to do.

I’m thinking of using this as a Postscript or Preface to my new novel on brokenness. Thoughts anyone?

Have you ever felt you were floundering, unable to find the right direction? That is the way I felt with this novel. I had a vision of living with brokenness, but it just wasn’t coming together. Until I remembered Nik Chand’s Rock Garden.

I visited the garden in the late 1980’s. It stands as an amazing monument of beauty wrought from what is broken and then discarded. Located in Chandigarh, India, the garden doesn’t have much to do with rocks, but has everything to do with making something splendid from broken pottery, ceramics and bangles.

The ingenuity and creativity, the wonder of taking something that we consider junk, something to be thrown away and turning it into a piece of art, has remained with me all these years. From broken ceramic toilets and basins, he fashioned animal and human figurines. A waterfall cascades down a rocky precipice, made not from rocks but debris. One exhibit portrays life-sized statures made up entirely of broken glass bangles. The figures sport clothing made from these bangles in bright blues, reds and greens.

What most of us see as broken and useless, only to be discarded, Nek Chand saw as something worthy; items that had potential to beautify a barren wilderness.

We might be broken, discarded by family and friends. If we have been abused by a husband, father or mother-in-law, if we have been shunned for who we are or what we believe, if we have been neglected, abandoned by those that were to protect us most, then we are broken people. We may think we are useless, not worth being loved or cherished because we are broken. We think broken is ugly. We may think that there is no hope for us, that we are hopelessly broken and discarded. But Nek Chand didn’t see the garbage of his city that way; he saw potential and he demonstrated broken is beautiful.

This could be us too. There is One who is greater than Nek Chand. If He gave vision and creativity to a man to create splendor from brokenness, then how much more does this One do with you and me? He can take our broken lives and make them new. Maybe, even, maybe, we need to be broken so we can gleam that much more beautifully than before we were broken. Could it be possible that without brokenness we would be eternally hideous. Perhaps brokenness is needed so we can overflow with internal beauty.

Nek Chand’s Rock Garden teaches that we need to see our potential, how to live an overflowing life through our brokenness. The illustration of the garden should motivate others to see beauty in brokenness. And overseeing it all, we, the broken, must allow the Creator, who makes us new creations, to transform and renew our traumatised minds. Like Nek, God can transform broken people into beautiful vessels.

Khursheed moves from living broken in an abusive situation to the starting point of positive change. It is not that she would never know she was broken, but that broken, she could live a happier life. She started the move toward changing the ashes of her life to beauty. Like the broken bangles made into radiant garments on figurines of broken pottery, Khursheed’s beauty will someday shine forth from her broken life. What shape the new creation will be, might yet be another story.

Photo Courtesy of Nek Chand’s Garden

Mother Did You Know

Cloak Unfurled

*I dedicate this poem to women in general, but also to my mom, who is an amazing woman and still inspires me to be more to this day.

mother did you know
it’s all your fault
you caused the fall
of man
that them’s the breaks
when you talk to snakes

mother did you know
you’re not quite human
humans should be a male
those other parts
aren’t on the chart

mother did you know
that your emotions
make you weak
and at 40 you’re
past your peak
your wisdom
your courage
cause so much fear
that instead of
being vulnerable
they sneer
and jeer

mother did you know
you’re a body – that’s it
one that must submit
and if a man bruises it
beats it broken
it means you really
shouldn’t have spoken

mother did you know
you’re not supposed to enjoy sex
but ironically you want it

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A Parody of Alliteration

Photo by Sharath G. from Pexels

A mother cradles her little baby close to her bosom. She bends over the little face, caressing it’s checks and softly sings a lullaby, maybe a nursery rhyme. The infant looks steadfast into mother’s eyes. It’s a love lullaby, a moment of tender connection, bonding between child and mother.

But there is also something else going on. The baby is learning a language. Every culture has its nursery rhymes, little ditties that sooth and entertain a child but at the same time teach them their native tongue. These songs could be said to be the first steps in language learning.

Rhythmic structure helps the hearer to retain words and to learn pronunciation. Repetition, rhymes, and lyrics are good ways to help students learn a foreign language. We learn best when we use singsong, rhythmic material to learn languages.

Scriptures are often set to music for easier remembrance. The Torah is read in singsong fashion as is the Qu’ran. The Psalms, which is poetry, has been set to music in many languages such as English and Punjabi.

At one time I taught English as a Second Language and wanted to use poems, packed with alliteration to help students speak English. I either found or created a poem for each vowel.

A little parody, a little more alliteration turned Rub a Dub Dub, Three Men in a Tub into this:

Dubbed Tub Fun

Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub

And who do you think they be?

A juggler, a drummer, a strummer, three

Spun & strutted a fun concertee.

Sung in the tub on the suds of Dundee

The juggler spun cups, mugs, and jugs all three.

The drummer struck batons to the drums yes-er-ee.

The strummer plucked on the banjo, Oh a jamboree!

What fun, what fun, done on the suds of Dundee.

In the name of entertainment, many of our nursery rhymes are shrouds over more sinister messages. Rub a Dub Dub is no exception. The original 14th century rhyme, hardly meant for children’s ears, was a calling out for folks doing disrespectable actions. Knaves and fools they might be. But my parody had no subliminal meanings; this was done for purely linguistic purposes.

Maybe you would like to try your hand at a parody on an old nursery rhyme. I would love to read your poem in Comments. Give it a try! It should be fun!

Helen Khan is passionate about the dignity and equality of women. She has written one novel, Shrouds Over Eden and currently has another novel in the works with several more on the shelf just waiting to be written.

Book Review: Damaged

Damaged by Muhammad Ali Samejo

Muhammad Ali Samejo, in his book Damaged, takes us into the lives of people who have been subject to misogyny, corruption, misuse of power, sexual exploitation, societal constructs and much more that leave them damaged emotionally, mentally and sometimes physically. Throughout this, several themes emerge but it is freedom, or the lack of it, that I will focus on in this review.

Power is the first chapter’s title and sets the tone throughout the narratives. Power often curtails, especially if it is oppressive and destructive. It can be deliberate, overt but sometimes it is covert; both put their victims in a box that they cannot crawl out of. This is where we meet Sarah who imprisons Alamgir in a small cage, symbolic of the life she has led since he raped her. “That’s how it feels, you know,” she tells him. Since victimised, she has been emotionally imprisoned because her “parents suffer constantly under the shadow of what happened to me or what I am now.” Her fiancé and ex-future in-laws rejected her and shamed her publicly. “No family wants a rape victim as a daughter-in-law. If anything, they point fingers and question what happened to me.” They accuse her that she is “not a victim but whatever happened is consensual.” She cannot escape the memory, the loss of a marriage, the accusations and defamation of character. She is in bondage.

In another chapter we meet a powerful feudal landlord who exercises despotic control over his labourers and their families. Another narrative shows us a wife who is mentally boxed in by interfering in-laws who control her life and turn her husband’s heart against her. Desperation calls for drastic measures if one feels they are unable to escape prison walls of constricting, demeaning societal norms. Zainab takes that bizarre desperate step to flee her cell. The lack of freedom repeats itself throughout the book.

The last chapter gives us reason to introspect about our own hatreds and the damage we do to others. We meet a gravedigger as he shares with Mother Earth that the world’s desolation is due to hatred, envy, wars, oppression and other vices. But it is his final verse that gives us the key to our problem. He says,

“And I was round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate.”

Have we all been hoodwinked into believing the lie? What Evil thought was Jesus’ defeat, was his greatest victory. It was Christ’s triumphal moment. He was set free from his earthly body to “open the eyes of the blind, to bring prisoners out from their dungeons and to heal the broken-hearted.” Has the Evil One made us believe that we are prisoners bound to do evil and receive evil? Is there no escape?

If one looks, threads of hope do exist, a glimmer of light in the darkness. Eshan betters himself in status and finances and demonstrates a nobler character than that of his landlord. Azhar, stripped of health and dignity by an entertainment icon, is relegated to throwing himself off a bridge until a little man stops him and gives him an alternative. He can either commit suicide or take his tragedy and use it to help others who have suffered as he has. Azhar can die physically or die to self and help other victims. The little man gives a thread of hope and freedom to Azhar. Perhaps dying to self is a prisoner set free. Interestingly, the little man doesn’t identify himself and walks way into the crowds. Was he an angel, a messenger of God in disguise?

Perhaps freedom can be had if we follow the one whose fate the Grim Reaper thought he’d sealed. “O Death where is your victory? O Death where is your sting?”

Damaged is not an easy book to read. Samejo’s reality is Picasso painting one of his surreal paintings. I gave Damaged a 5-star rating for the creative way the author dealt with a difficult subject. He uses satire, allegory, science fiction and metaphors to take a hard look into our ugliness.

If you are looking for a light read, this is not the book for you. But if you want a book that delves beyond frivolous into painful places, then read on. I would recommend Damaged to adult readers.

Helen Khan is passionate about the dignity and equality of women. She has written one novel, Shrouds Over Eden and currently has another novel in the works with several more on the shelf just waiting to be written.

No More Abuse Please

Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu from Pexels

When I see pain, heart wrenching pain caused by abuse from a father or husband that should love, cherish and protect his wife or daughter, my heart becomes heavy. Sometimes I can only put my arms around that hurting girl and say I love you, your are worthy of much more. Then in my own quiet moments, I release my anguish into poetry. No more abuse please.

Sweet innocence crushed, shattered

Pain, buried deep, weeping nights tattered.

What tragedy struck her, what caused the ache?

This child God wrought in wonderment make.

The bruised nose, blackened, puffy wounded eyes;

Expresses deep sorrow beneath the surface lies

The swollen, purpled spindling arms cries

This physical pain only hides the seared soul,

Symbolises the broken heart, the intensity of Shoal.

The deeper pain, shuttered away grief

Who will heal this agony, bring relief?

What senseless fool mocks God’s treasured art?

A God lovingly designed this precious gem

What devil-soul assailant wrought despair?

The painful wrong, will not God repair?

Will not Judgement Day welcome the broken heart?

And the heartless fool turn away condemned?

The God who made both male and female gender

This weeping child needs love that is tender

But is this enough?  Will love and time be her mender?

And next time who will be her defender?

When will men learn that God they mock?

The Creator, His creation we should not knock.

Devilish brutes mock the God who creates;

Inhuman, senseless, deprived mind that hates

His spouse, his mate, his sister, his girl child berates?

Abuse must stop. Pray that love he generates.

Helen Khan is passionate about the dignity and equality of women. She has written one novel, Shrouds Over Eden and currently has another novel in the works with several more on the shelf just waiting to be written.