Monday, December 24, 2007

My Poetic Moments

Priyanka Sacheti, Friday Report

Published: November 23, 2007, 01:04

I was born on the small island of Pemba near Zanzibar in Tanzania. I am of mixed parentage with my father [who lived in Zanzibar] hailing from nearby Comoros island while my mother's family is Omani, from the northern town of Rustaq, although she was born and raised in Zanzibar. I moved to Ras al Khaimah when I was 4 then shifted base to Dubai nine years later. I still regard the UAE as my home for it is where I attended school and grew up. I have been living in Oman for a decade and am presently working as a coordinator at the Spanish Language Centre in Muscat. As a child, I had various dreams … … one of which was to become a teacher for children with special needs. After completing school, I did a Montessori course for children with special needs by correspondence. I then worked as a volunteer then an assistant teacher at Al Noor, a private institution in Dubai for training children with special needs. It was amazing working with those children. As their teacher, one might think that I was opening up the world to them. However, it was they who transformed and opened new worldsfor me. Afterwards, I also worked in an advertising agency, which kept me on my toes. I completed the Charted Institute of Marketing course, which proved beneficial for my work. Starting as a receptionist, I worked my way up to be a promotion coordinator.

I left the UAE in 1997 because I wanted to live with my mother in Oman. I had visited Oman during my holidays but that was an altogether different experience from living here. After arriving here, I became more aware of my Omani heritage. It's also nice here because I have a huge extended family on my maternal side. Oman's rich culture is very family-oriented. We are all involved in each other's lives and it is wonderful to have that kind of familial support. However, I am also thankful to my father's side of the family; my half-brother and sister who raised me while I was in the UAE. I may now be away from them but they – along with my nieces and nephews – still shower me with so much love.

A turning point in my life …

… was when my father passed away in Zanzibar due to cancer. His death was the catalyst that led me to publish a collection of my poems, Collective Thoughts for the benefit of children cancer patients at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH).

Until that point, I had written poetry solely for myself since childhood. I was a very shy child, constantly engrossed in my writing. I had stacks of files containing my poetry which I imagined would only be discovered long after I had gone. I was a humanities-oriented student and dreamt of being both a poet and a teacher of special needs. However, I soon realised that poetry doesn't pay and that I would have to find a job while also pursuing my poetry. I therefore wrote poetry for the sheer pleasure of it. At the most, I imagined myself reading my poetry aloud in front of an audience.

I would have laughed if someone had told me 10 years ago that I would publish a book. However, after my father's death, I wanted to raise awareness about cancer. I wanted to help people by bringing together a collection of poems dealing with cancer. I faced various hurdles in order to publish Collective Thoughts. I faced external challenges, such as finding sponsors, and internal dilemmas, when I wondered whether I would ever be able to achieve this goal. I was also determined to promote and launch this book, despite this being my maiden publishing venture, using my experience in advertising and promotion. I feel that I was never aware of God's miracles as deeply as I did when I was creating this book. Everything eventually fell together in place. Many people's have contributed towards the book … … including my father-figure graphic designer, Dr Zakia al Lamki, former head of Child's Health department at SQUH … and other friends and well-wishers. That's why the book is entitled Collective Thoughts. I wanted to pay tribute to the efforts, wishes and support of various people who helped this book get published. It was an unforgettable period in my life.After this, I didn't think I could work on another book. However, I found myself writing and launching my second poetry collection, Within Myself: Willpower to Live Beyond Breast Cancer. In addition to poetry, I included narratives from breast cancer survivors to bring out their voices and pain. This book led to the inception of a third book about breast cancer patients in Tanzania.

I recently visited Zanzibar

The purpose of the trip was to generate awareness about the disease as well as to obtain a mammography for the Ocean Ward Institute. Originally, I saw this trip as an opportunity to finish [my third] book. However, after arriving there, I witnessed such heart-wrenching sights that I could not get their faces out of my mind. People wholeheartedly embraced me wherever I went, taking pride in my African heritage upon hearing that my father was African. Avon MHD [Avon's exclusive distributor in Oman] gave me some [breast cancer crusade] ribbons to distribute to the patients there. Nurses explained to the patients that these ribbons would provide them with mental strength while fighting this disease. I visited the patients few days later to see the ribbons still proudly pinned to their blouses. It made me experience a huge responsibility towards them. It was no longer merely a book … it had become a mission. I have since created a leaflet on breast self-examination, which has been distributed among the patients there. I chose poetry as a means of generating social awareness about cancer … … because it was the only tool I had. My sole intention is to raise awareness about issues dear to my heart through my poetry. The process of writing is the easiest part; the difficulties lie in the technicalities of creating a book. Those are two contrasting worlds. I used to be shy, although working on the books has fundamentally transformed me as a person, taking me beyond the realms of ordinary experiences.


Me and my poetic moments:
I do not think poetry should be limited to the confines of a book. I feel that life is full of poetic moments. I recently held a poetry workshop in which I used poetry as a means of therapy. I encouraged people who were ill, stressed or depressed to write poetry so that they could better express themselves and initiate a healing process. The concept of poetry therapy – practised by certified poetry therapists – is steadily gaining popularity in the West, particularly the US. Poets visit hospitals where they read poetry to patients and encourage them to write poetry.


The Butterfly Bar said...
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eric1313 said...

One who eases the burden of another does not live in vain.

Your work raises awareness for this illness and helps bring about the day when a cure will be possible. And your care that you show in wanting to help special needs children is beyond commendable--it is also a living example of the kind of work that helps all humanity. You never know which of those children may one day have the next great idea, or who may in turn help another to learn what you taught them. The world will echo with you thoughts, even if it's one small echo at a time.

And I thank you again for the kindness you showed me when my aunt was ill. She was strong, but the cancer was too advanced and had spread to much. We all had hope and I personally never gave up, but it was too much for her to fight.

Like you, she did not live in vain. She loved everyone without hesitation, and helped all her friends and my family when ever she could.

Thank you, Nasra. I'll always be a fan of your work and your kind, blessed efforts.

Gledwood said...

Wishing you all the best for 2008!