Monday 28 March 2011

The Exalted One

I am in love, with a beautiful boy. His name is Rafael... and he is two days old :) Rafael means God has healed in Hebrew. In Arabic, Ar-Rafi means the exalted one, one who uplifts.

My darling Rafael,
I hope you don't mind, that I put down in words, how wonderful life is, now you're in the world... I also hope you don't mind that I was speaking on the radio today, and although I tried to restrain myself from raving about you too much, I did mention you once, twice, three times... and the radio presenter played you a song!! It was Diana Ross' 'Baby Love', which I hope you like, but even if you don't, famous on BBC radio at 2 days! Not bad eh?

Where was I? Oh yes...your perfect pink rose petal cheeks, your ability to sleep while your father's deep voice booms beneath your little frame, and his parents and sister croon at you via something magical called skype. I love you, little man. I knitted you a blanket and it is now winging its way to you.

Your besotted
Aunty Shai

from 2:20 onwards...)

Thursday 24 March 2011

Tra la la, la la la laaaa

Dear Miss Tayabali,

Arrangements have been made for you to attend Ward D5 (PSSU)
On Wednesday 6th April
For Rituximab

Haut les couers! High the hearts! What does a girl do when she's happy and the sun is shining? The three crucial S's... Smiling, Shopping, Singing.. tra la la, la la la laaaaaaa.....:)

thinking Singapore thoughts....
Update: Have just realised from all your lovely comments, that perhaps you think the funding for the next two years has come through... which would be worthy of true celebration, but is not the case. I only know I have treatment for April, and for me, that has been celebration enough :)

Monday 21 March 2011

Nav Roz, and A Prayer for our Daughters

Happy Nav Roz!! It is New Year's Day for Parsis and Iranians, and the Spring Equinox. Things are larking about in the garden, and a snowdrop, from a different time and season has hung about, staunch supporter of all things spring. I found him among a clump of ivy, sneakily enjoying the shade of the giant cherry tree. Can't wait for the cherry to bloom! Can't wait for my nephew to be born! Does he have to take nine entire months to gestate?!!
Today is also World Poetry Day, so I thought I'd post one of my favourite poems. Tough decision! Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou? Or something by Robert Frost, Rabindranath Tagore or Christina Rossetti... Dad's favourite poem du jour is by Stevie Smith, and it begins 'Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning...'

Below is my poem of choice. My beloved friend Mary Haybittle once hand calligraphed the entire poem into a little book for my father. I am only posting a few favourite paragraphs here. Modern life... such brevity is sacrilege. But if you are in your own garden today, then be sure to read the entire poem out loud to the listening trees... and then tell me your favourite...

A Prayer for my Daughter
by William Butler Yeats

Once more the storm is howling, and half-hid
Under this cradle-hood and coverlid
My child sleeps on...
And for an hour I have walked and prayed
Because of the great gloom that is in my mind.

May she be granted beauty and yet not
Beauty to make a stranger's eye distraught,
Or hers before a looking-glass, for such,
Being made beautiful overmuch,
Consider beauty a sufficient end,
Lose natural kindness and maybe
The heart-revealing intimacy
That chooses right, and never find a friend.

Helen being chosen found life flat and dull
And later had much trouble from a fool,
While that great Queen, that rose out of the spray,
Being fatherless could have her way
Yet chose a bandy-leggèd smith for man.
It's certain that fine women eat
A crazy salad with their meat
Whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone.

In courtesy I'd have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty's very self, has charm made wise.
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

And may her bridegroom bring her to a house
Where all's accustomed, ceremonious;
For arrogance and hatred are the wares
Peddled in the thoroughfares.
How but in custom and in ceremony
Are innocence and beauty born?
Ceremony's a name for the rich horn,
And custom for the spreading laurel tree.

June 1919.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Warrior Poet, Warrior Nuns

Yesterday, I walked with seven young nuns and monks from Plum Village, Thenac, France. We met at Clare College, in the Latimer Room. Birds chirped and students crunched outside on gravel, as we practised peace, and sang songs of breathing, freedom and freshness. This is the very first UK Wake Up tour organised by the young novices, some of whom were students at Cambridge themselves, and had direct experience of struggling with mounting stress and anxiety of exams and future careers. This trip is holiday and work experience for the young monastics - I could see the bouncing energy in their spirit. I couldn't stop grinning - they looked so happy! Practising walking meditation down past the yellow daffodils and the blue scilla, we painted quite a picture I imagine :) Not a single person walked past us without acknowledging in some way the quiet mindful procession. And I like to think some waves of peace radiated through the colleges, and into the souls of panicked students and grim professors.

still, from the Keats' biopic 'Bright Star'
When I was 17, I had the most delightful interview at Newnham College, to read English. I breezed into the room, and immediately fell in love with the view across the lawns. I think the Head of Department and Head Lecturer were thoroughly amused. I had only lived in England for two years, so it was quite dreamy to have a conversation about the poetry and literature that was, and had been inspiring my soul for years. I remember raving about the romantic soul of Keats in particular. Love and death, I cried ecstatically! Poetry is always about love and death!

Following my diagnosis, I deferred my admission, but at 19, when I faced the Admissions Tutor again, she 'suggested' that with an illness like lupus, I would never cope with the stress of Cambridge academic life. She quoted the suicide rates to me. I was a shivering, quivering mass in that office, not knowing how to fight my case. I did not know enough about the animal raging through me to defend my ability to cope. What struck the final blow to my confidence, was learning that the English lecturer who had interviewed me, had lupus herself, and instead of supporting my case, had done exactly the opposite. "You'll never cope at Cambridge, with Lupus" resounded in my ears, on and on, through the years that followed. I re-applied again at 23, for my Masters, but the day before the deadline, I cancelled my application.
I have only recently forgiven myself for that action. Or maybe I haven't completely forgiven myself. All I know is, that yesterday, in sitting and walking meditation, something healed itself inside me. The warrior poet walked with the warrior nuns, and the ghosts of my past ran for it, far, far away from me.

images: assortment from my own, flickr and theblogpaper

Friday 11 March 2011

Nippon, Watashi Wa Anatani Utaimassu

Ichiryusai Hiroshige, 1797-1858,
Chidori over breaking waves
(Japan, I Sing to You)

The willow bloomed just yesterday
in green and yellow plumes;
My father heard their Circe song
and listening, listening, walked on.

The sky opened, all bright and light,
the earth caressed his feet;
In Sendai a tsunami burst
beneath so many fathers' feet.

Such wings we need when our planes fall,
Such wings we need when our earth calls
us to attention;

Listening, listening, to fire and storm,
trying to sing our wingless songs
and make a good impression.

- Shaista, 2011
Hiroshige, from the Tokaido series
"Tsunami", Japanese, meaning "harbor" (tsu, 津) "wave" (nami, 波).
China, Chile, Haiti, New Zealand, Japan...  We are always connected, one way or another.

Sunday 6 March 2011

In My Mother's Hands

In Her Mother's Hands by Shawn St Jean
My mother holds
the steering wheel
as though it were a shield
as though she were in battle
flashing bangles
'stead of steel.

A diamond glints,
hard stone
on soft skin.

My mother's hands,

- Shaista, 2011
inspired by Gigi at The Magpie's Fancy and the fact that today, 6th of March, begins a week of global events, celebrating women. Perhaps you could find a Women for Women International event near you? It's called Join Me on the Bridge, and this year celebrates the 100th anniversary of Women's Day :)

Thursday 3 March 2011

Tempus Fugit... when you're On the Radio!

So.... I was know... On The Radio today :) I know I should have said something, but I was worried I might do something embarrassing like an Oscar or Grammy shout-out... "I just wanna thank God, and my Mom, and Everybody! I wanna thank Evverrryyyboddyy - y'all know who you are!"... but fortunately I didn't.

I arrived at the same time as my co-st... wait, can I say co-star? Or is that a bit diva-ish for radio? My co-radio-show-person was Inbali Iserles, the author of The Tygrine Cat. She is a Proper Published Person who is on a promotional whirlwind at the moment, as opposed to yours truly. I have to thank Jane Wilson-Howarth for suggesting me to the producer (there's my shout-out!). The subject was World Books Day, and the importance of reading, and the process of writing; but I also talked about Lupus, and the support I have received through this blog (and that's my second shout-out). Liz Rhodes, the presenter of the Chat Room said I was a natural for a first timer and would I please come back? Why not, says I. I'll come back :)

photo of self with Riz, by Angel C. Edward
I wave goodbye as time flies past me. I am the train station of sisters, bidding farewell to the rapidly departing figure of a brother. Rizwan left for Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday. Onwards, to the next challenges, surprises and deepening of the learning curve. Meanwhile, I am putting together my personal statement to the Patient Care Trust, to support the consultant's application for Rituximab. So I bow gratefully to this day of smiling and enjoying a moment to remember.