that she never wanted to stagnate,
but she tried not to control things too much
when inspiration came, she flowed with it,
and allowed it to flow into her
and when it didn’t appear,
she didn’t worry about chasing it
she tried her best to have faith in the little things,
and the big,
and to remember that her life,
was not the end.
How often do we think about how we want to be remembered once we are gone? What kind of people do we aspire to be, and who are we, when all is said and done? This is an unedited response to a “create your eulogy” exercise that I was fortunate enough to participate in, presented by a colleague and friend.
These pieces were written while and after visiting the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada. The first, Museum, is a reflection on history, civilizations, art and interpretation. The second piece, courtyard, unedited, was penned while sitting in the Museum’s inner courtyard, and has intentionally been left unedited in order to maintain for the reader, the flow of inspiration as originally felt. It contains English as well as another Hindi-Urdu mixed language that sometimes spills onto the page. Please excuse my rough transliteration attempt as neither of these is my first language.
What will the people from days to come decide to make of us,
what will they preserve in their halls?
Those gone by have become to us what remains of them,
after all tribulation and epiphany fell away into dust.
They have become what we can still understand of them.
There is too much left to know about knowing; not enough left to see.
We fear we are penning lines already penned by those greater than us,
a people that truly saw the truth unfold.
Nothing can be said now that has not been said before;
our efforts, mere echoes of a greater, grander voice.
What inspired these carvers, and what were they trying to say –
can we be certain that we have preserved ourselves against misunderstanding?
Did they create these shapes because those are what they saw,
or were they too, seeking to lose themselves in detailed but repetitive abstraction?
Do these patterns transcend a name?
~ ~ ~
is jahaan mein hum upna sub kuch kho sakte hain, sub kuch seekh bhi saktehain
aisa husn ko bananekiliye, aisi roshni, is roshni, ki zaroorat hai
this light is something like the light of the heavens and the earth; this light has an unnameable quality to it,
a way for all to see all
bathed in it my hand resting on the table becomes something from another world,
translucent, light diffusing outward in the place of rosy flesh
your eyes are from another time here, where patterns repeat themselves to liberate beyond eye’s capacity, where voices rise to a crescendo and we take in,
light, light light,
upon our hands, our face, and every
one is so beautiful here today
yahaan aake kuch bhi likhdijiye, sub kuch shahiri banjayegi
yahaan aake kuch khaaneki zaroorat nahin mehsoos hoti, in hawaaon, saa(n)son, is jahaan ka rooh hi kaafi hai
yahaan rehekar kuch chaate hai hum, kuch khona bhi chaate hain
kuch cheez samaj na chaate hain hum, kuch cheez humko yaad aatihai
kuch cheez hamaari thi, hamaari hai, hamaare dil me se nikalke, humhi ke aage jhoom uthi
agar aapke dil mein koi baat phool ki tarha khilrahihain, to usse khilne do; mat sochiye
agar aapke ander koi baat hai, to aap dil ki zubaan se usse pehsh karo, chaahe koi samje ya na samje
agar koi lafz kaafi nahin lagte, to khudh ke lafaazon banaalo
khudh ki zubaan banaalo,
koi samje, ya na samje
A rough translation of courtyard, unedited:
in this place/world we can lose/forget everything of/about ourselves;
we can also learn everything
to make this kind of beauty, this type of light, this light, is needed
come here and write anything at all,
it will become poetry / anything written here becomes poetry
here, there is no need felt for eating,
these winds, breaths, the soul of this place/world is enough
staying/being here, we desire something;
also, something we wish to lose
some things we understand,
and some things, we remember
some things were ours, are ours;
some things come out from our own hearts
and have come alive/to dance in front of us
if something blossoms like a flower in your heart,
then allow it to blossom,
if there is something in you that wants to be said, then use the language of your heart to convey it,
whether anyone understands or not
if no words seem enough,
then make up your own words
Our apples are golden from your side of the orchard,
but here they are simply red like blood.
We pick what grows and move to make our bread.
When that bread turns beautifully to gold in our mouths,
we know it was only because of a prayer.
What can we rush along, dearest,
not the opening of a leaf, or eyes, or heart.
What of a friend, what of an enemy;
what of someone who is just like us?
What kind of strong will can we rush to bend into an embrace,
the strongest sign of an acceptance of the soul of the other?
It has been a long time since we pained, dearest,
since the fruit we picked so lovingly
turned to sour nothingness in our mouth.
It has been a long time since we rushed around
banging our heads on the walls,
opening books to pages we understand for comfort.
It has been a long time since we withdrew into our own,
since the trickling of ego was felt through the holes
of our pretty heart-basket.
They ask to know who we are right now,
to know what we would tell them, to check for hypocrisy —
to see if we feel any pain.
But we do not recall anything that has happened to us,
nothing that truly affected our minds.
Another grayness dawns, clear and cold.
If there was pain, we learned how to talk to it
long ago, as children. If there was joy
we sent it off to come again.
Won’t they understand that we are nothing right now,
that there is nothing material left to share?
We only wither and unfurl quietly as per our season,
and we are one and no one all again.
This piece is a reflection on our relationships with other people. How do we understand ourselves, and how much common humanity do we truly perceive in others, in “them”? What do we use to define ourselves, and what of those definitions do we use to relate to others? How do others view our blessings and “misfortunes” in relation to their own?