Thursday 26 May 2011

Zanzibar, Where the Divers Are

A few days ago, my brother rang from Zanzibar. Ready at the computer in an internet cafe, he wanted to know the places my father remembered from his childhood there. Father was born in Zanzibar, the eighth child, when a strange thing occurred. An elderly couple begged my grandparents to let them keep my father for a while. They were childless themselves. Incredibly my grandfather agreed, and for three blissful years, while my grandparents returned to Bombay, my father lived the high life, treated like a prince, his every whim catered to, by his besotted adoptive parents. He still has his whims catered to now, of course, but ah! Them were the days...

Zanzibar. The name conjures magic, of sultans and slaves, of nutmeg and cloves; my father running wild in the playground of Mnazi Mmouja, devouring machunga that dripped sweet lemony tang from his lips. Say, "Machunga," and he is a child in Zanzibar, where the carvings are, where my grandfather Chief Justice Tayab Ali, held forth at the High Court; the building would perhaps be unrecognisable to him now... marked by age and ruin. But Zanzi means 'rusted iron'... perhaps the city is more beautiful now? I can only imagine the Old Stone Town, The Beit-el-Ajaib or House of Wonders where the Sultan lived, the dugouts and dhows, the sugarcane juice stands... a fleeting glimpse of the extinct Zanzibar Leopard...

My brother dives into those sparkling waters now, to retrieve memories for our father. It is not thundering with rain in England as I write. It is a deluge of African sun, and a little boy looking forward to the happy spoils of love.
Images from Lonely Planet

Monday 23 May 2011

Edward Bear

Church bells and birdsong
fill the air

I am slicing mangoes,
waiting for someone

I am waiting for words
to come;

I am waiting for sadness
to fall away
like red rose petals
in the hot bright sun.

I am feeding the birds
So more will come.

Something is moving
in the high birch tree
Where light and shadow meet

Someone is speaking to me.

I listen, carefully –

“I am always here,”
says that voice to me.

And to the quiet place
where the silence will be,

“Good night, good night,
As sweet repose and rest,
Come to thy heart,
As that within my breast.”

It was Dr Dawn Owen's funeral today, and I recited this poem, and gave a little speech to the gathering about how much Dad used to tease her. Sometimes, while reading an article from the newspaper, she would stop, look up over her spectacles and suddenly say, "This chap is twittering on. Shall I continue, or move on?"
"Ride on!" father would say, or more succinctly, "Next!"

She was his reader for five years. He misses her. "The newspapers are piling up!" he warned, as she lay in hospital. "Bully," she responded.

Her brother James gave the most gloriously moving rendition of Chopin's Raindrop, Prelude 15. And then later, in the Church hall, several of her illustrations and books on parasitology were displayed. Most significant among them, was a paper she delivered titled 'Some observations on the disease of Brunus edwardii (species nova)': a serious paper delivered at a conference discussing the traumatic physical and emotional conditions suffered by the species Brunus edwardii, otherwise known as Edward Bear (more commonly known as teddy bear). Here is a sample:

Case 3: A 10 year old bear, which had been owned successively by three siblings. The normal yellow coat colour had changed to a dirty grey, there was extensive alopecia which had progressed to "threadbearness" over the ears, nose and limb extremities... Old age and persistent handling with transport by one limb were the main reasons for the chronic debility, for which there is no satisfactory treatment.

The parasitologists and zoologists present at the conference listened intently, nodding cleverly, until the bright shiny pebble dropped. They'd been had! 

She received a standing ovation.


Monday 16 May 2011

Said the Leaf to the Tree

Said the leaf to the tree,
'This year,
let the leaves not fall.
Let autumn not come!'

Replied the tree,
'Brother Leaf,
This is the law of the world.
One leaves. The other arrives.'

Kabir, the mystic Indian sufi, wrote that. Have been carrying such a heavy tired sadness all day. Dawn left on Friday the 13th. Her little joke?! One last joke. Reminding me of Goodbye, Mr Chips... have you read it? One of those perfect novels, that aren't novels, but really friends.
Anyway, this evening, I received an email telling me a poem of mine has 'gone live' in a Chicago medical humanities journal called Hektoen International. I think Dawn was a bit fed up with my tears. Silly billy, she must have thought, and sent something to cheer me up.

It's working. I feel a smile coming on. Only a small one, mind. Am still cross with the tree. But it's not the tree's fault. We come, we go. It's the law of the world. Said the poet.

The other joke is this; the poem of mine published today, is called Continuation Day...

Shaista Tayabali
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Poet’s statement: When I was 18, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, and poetry began to define the landscape of my soul. It saves me now, from needles, night sweats, ulcers, glaucoma, and the general terrors of global happenings. I write, and my soul takes flight. Death is a companion now. Not particularly friendly, but entirely familiar. I see the cloak everywhere, across time, and behind closed doors on the wards. I examine the shadow, inspect it from all angles. And yet, Death surprises me. Poetry is my shield against this temporal existence.
Continuation day

How does a part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?
— Rumi

A memory tugged at me
weeding in the garden

I looked up
to hear
your laugh
reach the furthest branches

reminding me
though the light may dim
the birds sing on

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Birds of Dawn

a cartoon figure hovers, Mirth
imbalanced on the wall of reality
crumbling softly to ash

these grey flecks of dust, earth
I call myself
trying to breathe on a night
of in between
on a bridge of unknown dreams
I create a space
for eloquence;

I await the new moon
but the old one lingers yet
birds of dawn have come
and gone, and
here they come again

death and birth of night and day
Peace, I long to be still
but my heart beat
marks tomorrow's path
and my feet
have miles within.

- Shaista
poem for Magpie Tales

Dawn is waiting at the hospice for her journey into the unknown. She quoted lines from Romeo and Juliet the other night just before I left, 'Good night, good night, As sweet repose and rest Come to thy heart, As that within my breast.' I hope I can quote poetry on my last nights on earth. I was moaning to her about the lack of birds in our garden; birds have always flocked to Dawn's garden, much like they did with St Francis of Assisi.
Dawn said, "There'll be lots of birds in your garden now. I'll make sure of it." "Promise?" I asked. "You bet," she said.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Life of a Poet - An Interview

I know some of you have already linked to this interview, but I thought I would post it here anyway. For my library of reference, if nothing else. It is an interview worth remembering for me, because I can't imagine I will ever have an interviewer quite as complimentary as Sherry Blue Sky ;)

Wednesday, May 4th, Poets United
LIFE OF A POET – Shaista Tayabali
by Sherry Blue Sky

Over the course of the last year, I became aware of a radiant spirit, living “across the pond” in Cambridge, England, home of the newly married Royals. Shaista Tayabali, of Lupus In Flight, has the kind of spirit I most admire, one that transcends difficulty in a way that inspires all who know her. Shaista has a severe form of Lupus, is often in pain, undergoing treatments, vision affected, confined to bed during the worst times. Yet her spirit soars in everything she writes. Visiting her site is like walking through a sunny field full of beautiful blooms. She lifts the hearts of her visitors. We are privileged today to be sitting down with this wonderful young woman. If you haven’t come across her yet, be prepared to fall in love! Pour a cup of Earl Grey tea into a lovely thin, porcelain cup, because it is High Tea in Cambridge!

Poets United: Shaista, so lovely of you to take the time to speak with us. Would you like to tell us the story behind the name of your blog?

Shaista: A few years into the diagnosis, I wrote a poem called Lupus in Flight. I was a trapped butterfly skulking behind windows, hungrily devouring life through my spirited imagination. Here are the first lines:
Lupus in flight
on a hot and burning night,
Would I were the cool breeze,
the intangible dream,
gliding in and out of sight.

When I came to naming my blog, there really was only this – Lupus in Flight. I still skulk behind windows, but not quite as much.

Poets United: So wonderful, Shaista. When I read your work, I always see your spirit soaring free through blue skies, where the pain can’t touch the essence of you. Lupus In Flight reminds me of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly – where the diving bell was the author’s body, that he was trapped inside, and the butterfly was his spirit. Have you read it? Anyone who does can never complain about writer’s block again – he dictated it by blinking his left eyelid as someone pointed to the alphabet – dictated the book one LETTER at a time. I would have a hard time, with no short term memory, would likely keep doing the same word over and over!

Shaista: Yes, I have read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It was published in 1997, the same year I was diagnosed with Lupus. I read it at university. A very painful, complicated time for me – I was young in age, living in halls, but utterly ancient and withered in spirit. I spent most of the hours of each day and night, a mass of fever, pulp lesions in my fingers and toes, a determination to excel and a body that would not comply. No one had any idea of the complexity of the disease raging through me, but they made me tons of sweet, milky tea. And there is nothing so grave that cannot be mended with a cup of tea. So yes, the flight of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s spirit spoke volumes to me.

Poets United: I can see that it would. Tell us a little about yourself. Did you spend your childhood in India? How old were you when your family moved to England? Where is Home, the one in your heart?

Shaista: I was born in Bombay when it was still called Bombay. We moved to England when I was fifteen. The night our parents decided it would be safer to move away from the religious rioting of that time was probably the most traumatic moment of my life, spun out slowly over a longer period. Life divides itself into Before and After the Move. I have been asked this question for 17 years: “Do you miss India?” The question is asked easily, but there are no easy answers. How can you miss something that is a part of you? How can you not miss something when others cannot see or share that part of you?

Poets United: So true. Shaista, you have the most glorious family. Would you tell us a little about them?

Shaista: I live with two artists who happen to be my parents. Father is a doctor, but also a poet, philosopher and watercolourist. Mother is an oil painter, a portraitist, a Golden type – everything she touches becomes happier, thrives better, particularly plants, animals, my father and myself. I had a dog for a while Before the Move. She was a boxer. Her name was Carmel. She had a limp. She was heavenly. Oh yes, two brothers as well. Mustn’t forget them!! They live far away, and dip in and out. They do the things I can’t do... like travel to Bali and India, Africa and China. They are very sporting. I hate racquets, and am extremely grateful my father had two sons to fulfil various sporting dreams.
Me, with Carmel, 1993, Bombay
Poets United: Did you have as wonderful a childhood as I suspect you did? Any special memories?

Shaista: The brothers and I were never spoiled because my mother was both loving and strict. Dad just wanted to play. But we lived in a big family house, and were utterly adored by various aunts, uncles, cousins who visited from California, Heidelberg, Scotland, England. Childhood was simple and complex. It was school, Monsoon, holidays, Dad larking about, the smell of turpentine while Mum was painting.... learning to swim, learning to be good, kind, true and deserving of all that love.
Being Little - me reading Enid Blyton to my younger brother, Irfan.
My brothers, Irfan and Rizwan, are exactly 3 years and 3 days apart.
Poets United: Sigh. How wonderful! If you wish to, might you explain how old you were when you were diagnosed, how that impacted and impacts your life and how you have managed to keep such a radiant and inspiring spirit? I admire you so much, Shaista. You really shine.

Shaista: I was nine when I had my first real flare of the disease – high fevers, swollen painful joints, mouth ulcers, but Systemic Lupus Erythematosus was not diagnosed until I was 18. Pain is pain. Entire universes exist inside of it. Perhaps I won’t write too much about Lupus here. I think I say a lot without saying a lot, because those who read me are so perceptive and understanding.

Poets United: Well said, Shaista. Have you always written? Do you remember writing your first poem?

Shaista: One of Ma’s earliest memories of me involves me coolly tearing out pages from her (Gardening) Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Mum was horrified! Had I no understanding of philology?? Mum still has the torn book. And I still tear pages out of magazines (not books!) to accompany my writings in my books. But other than such desecration, my love of words is more respectfully expressed in writing, of any sort, which I have done since childhood. I wrote little stories, with drawings, about elephants and butterflies and little girls and time machines... One of the first poems I distinctly remember writing was about loneliness, and alienation. I had only been in England a short while, it was November, bitterly cold, grey and terribly unsmiling.

Poets United: A big change for a teenager, for certain. Did you always know you were a writer? Did you receive recognition in school for writing?

Shaista: We had a subject at school in India called English Grammar and Composition. I composed with alacrity, and yes, received recognition and prizes for literature; although my equal passion was for drama and elocution. I loved being on stage. I once broke my arm during a Karate competition and performed a character role with my arm wrapped in cast – I was playing a mother-in-law. I had a walking stick, and used it to wallop my poor son-in-law. Can’t remember why now!

Poets United: Hilarious! What is it about poetry that makes you want to write?

Shaista: The sound of language in my mouth, on my page, dancing inside my eyes; the sheer music of it. Rivers running wild, storms gathered, daisy chains, colours, water, suffering transfixed by joy. Oh, everything is poetry, eventually.

Poets United: You even speak in poetry! What style of poem do you write the most?

Shaista: Once, in my seventeenth year, in my passion for Keats, I attempted an Ode in the style of The Grecian Urn and Nightingale. It was fairly dire, and I have never attempted to imitate a poet again. I like echoing other poets unknowingly. I studied poetry at university that was terrifically clever and heavily laden with meaning, so I am neither intimidated by such poetry nor unnerved by the fact that my own poems are often light as a feather. My mother calls them soufflés.

Poets United: How do you know a poem you have written is good?

Shaista: It writes itself. I have a first line, almost always. And the rest rapidly follows, a bit like Harry Potter with a magic quill. Quite fun really, capturing without intending harm. Like this:

The Greatest Achievement
Of My Life
Is That No One Else Can Tell
When I Am In Heaven
And When I Am In Hell.

Poets United: Awesome! I so love that! What, most often, triggers you to write?

Shaista: When I was younger, emotion drove my pen. And a powerful abstract sense of Romance. Then pain, both physical and spiritual. Now, simplicity, understanding the interconnectedness of it all. This is that, that is this. Everything is everything, and nothing at all.

Poets United: Beautifully said. All is connected. What nourishes your creativity?

Shaista: Freedom. My parents.
The Parentals. Sitting in the conservatory upstairs,
where I have been re-potting all the plants.
Poets United: Shaista, your whole family shines! Do you have a process you use in writing your poems? Do you re-work and revise your work, or does it come as it appears on your site?

Shaista: I don’t type poetry. It is always handwritten on scraps of paper, napkins, in journals. I like the loop of handwriting, the personal look of letters. I write on handmade paper, so I am careful as I write, careful with each word, because it is precious, and because I do not like to revise or edit. I like to distil the moment through pen on to page.

Poets United: So well said. I always feel there is a flow, writing in pen, that is lacking on the keyboard, though now I do most of my writing there. What is your take on poetry and the internet? Too much poetry? Great exposure for unpublished poets?

Shaista: Too much poetry?? Sacrilege! Excellent source of equality is what I think. Blogs are a terrific teacher of disciplined creativity. We are compelled to create new and original works; journalistic and poetic, visual and historical, accurate, honest, relevant. Nerve-wracking and rewarding in inspiring ways. Poetry was always meant to be read or sung aloud to an audience, shared and learned.

Poets United: I so agree! When do you write the most? Where do you like to write? (So we can picture you!)

Shaista: I have no writing routine. I write perched anywhere. In rooms and on bridges, in fields, under trees, and of course, in hospital!
Me, in hospital, receiving an infusion of monoclonal antibody therapy.
Writing poetry.
Poets United: And radiantly smiling, even there! How does your environment impact your writing?

Shaista: Poetry is ever about observation, not simply visual, of course. The sounds of where I am are always important. Things people say. Like this (the words are my mother’s, exact and true):

If You Look Outside The Window
You Can See A Blackbird
Washing Itself
In A Puddle;

Come Quick!

It’s Gone.

Poets United: So lovely! How do you feel about writing? What do you hope to accomplish by doing it?

Shaista: Writing saved, and continues to save my life. Perhaps I am even nothing without it. Who knows? I don’t want that particular belief to be tested! My writing gives others pleasure, and so I am content for this to be my legacy.

Poets United: It not only gives us pleasure, it is a gift to us! What poem, written by you, do you like the most and why?

Shaista: I like 'The Year of Yes’ and ‘Crossing Borders’. I like several poems I have written for my father like ‘Crocuses’ and ‘Shadow in the Stone’. What I like best about all my poems is that they exist! They are my library, and I pull one out every now and then; a leaf from the trees of my life so far. Oh yes, I remember, so that’s how it was then. Funny, I feel just that way now.

Poets United: I love that: a leaf from the trees of your life. Do you have a favourite poet?

Shaista: John Keats, Kahlil Gibran, Jelal-al-din Rumi, Pablo Neruda, e.e.cummings, Wendy Cope, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Suheir Hammad, A.A.Milne... for me poetry is also Tolkien, J.K.Rowling, Georgette Heyer, Eva Ibbotson. I cannot have favourites. I need them all, all the time.
Browsing bliss in a bookstore called Books, Actually, Singapore.
I wanted to find a Singaporean poet.
I found the 'Space of City Trees' by Arthur Yap,
who has a droll and linguistically playful style.
Poets United: Have you ever been published? Is online feedback satisfying enough, if you don’t publish?
Shaista: Published. Yes. Here and there. But I like this world of writing specifically to an audience that are living and breathing with me now, holding my hand through the sticky temperamental days and nights of Now. My poems are already in books, albeit my own. My parents’ friends read me. My brothers are proud. My friends respect and admire me. Strangers say the most extraordinarily kind and deliciously complimentary things. What more, I ask you? What more?

Poets United: What more, indeed! What is your favourite type of music?

Shaista: I do have a small and deep library of regrets. Not ever having learned to play or read music being quite high on the shelves. But what a wealth of music we have immediate access to today! I am quite old-fashioned in my tastes. I like songs with recognisable words. Eva Cassidy, Edith Piaf, A.R.Rahman. I also love to dance, so anything with a good beat, particularly MJ or Béyonce, and I’m dancing. Anywhere. Especially in hospital. Even if I am only dancing in my head.

Poets United: Even your words dance! If you could be or do anything in the world, no limits, what would it be?

Shaista: I would be Queen Rania of Jordan, Audrey Hepburn in Ethiopia, Mother Theresa and Lady Diana meeting in Calcutta. I would be doing what my older brother is doing, travelling across nations, working with social projects, NGOs and transforming lives. I would be with children. I tend to befriend children just by making faces at them. I understand pain. One day, there will be no limits. I am living many dreams already. Freedom is the true dream of all human beings. And my life is already free, in many ways.
Queen Rania of Jordan, beautiful, spiritual, modern
Poets United: You have such a lovely soul, Shaista. Truly. If you could have dinner with any famous person, who would it be?

Shaista: Dr Maya Angelou, Queen Rania and Ellen. We would meet in the Palace in Jordan (naturally), eat something traditional using our fingers; rice, yoghurt, dates, olives, hot mint tea. There would be poetry recited aloud (Phenomenal Woman by Maya), I would learn lots and laugh even more!
Dr Maya Angelou, Queen of Attitude, compassion and humour.
Poets United: Now, that is a conversation I would love to overhear!!! What other poets in the blogosphere do you like to read or visit most?
Shaista: I love reading Ruth, at synch-ro-ni-zing and Terresa at The Chocolate Chip Waffle. Also, I consider Jeanne-ming, the artist at Wu Feng Road, to be a poet.

Poets United: Lovely choices. When you are not writing, what other interests do you pursue? Are you also an artist?

Shaista: It is quiet and green where I live. Gardening is very important in England, don’t you know. So I potter among plants, I teach English or work part-time when I can. I try my hand at calligraphy and life drawing. I study languages. I amuse my parents. I practise Buddhist techniques of mindfulness in the practise of Thich Nhat Hanh. I smile.

Poets United: Lovely. Thay is a favourite of mine as well. Have you ever lived a great adventure?

Shaista: Just today! I activated an alarm in a famous National Heritage House in England! On purpose! Well, not exactly. I just wanted to touch the bed of King George III. And it was inches away, separated only by a braided rope at my feet. I’ll just leap over, sneak a touch, and leap back, I thought. I nearly had a heart attack when the alarm sounded, and apparently so did the volunteers in every room. No One Had Ever Done It Before. My mother pretended not to know me.

Poets United: Hilarious! I love it! It is wonderful that you visit all of the cultural offerings London is so famous for. Like walking back in time. Have you traveled to other countries?

Shaista: France, Hungary, Italy, Canada, United States, Singapore, Indonesia. In the library of regret: Japan, where my younger brother lived and taught for three years.
Freedom. Me walking into the waters of Nikoi Island,
Indonesia, where my brother's wedding took place.
Poets United: The recent earthquake must have been especially devastating for him. It's wonderful that you have experienced several other countries. Do you have a dream you hope to make come true?

Shaista: Oh far too many to name. I live them all deeply in my head, in my imagination, in my writing. Well alright, true love would be nice. More than nice. That’s the real dream. Someone to have a giggle with, everyday, who isn’t my parent!

Poets United: I so hope he arrives soon, Shaista! He will have to be very special, to be worthy of you! Do you have a favourite quote that you use often, or live by?

Shaista: 'Get a grip, Shaista'. Not a quote, but that’s my motto (for myself I mean!). That is what I tell myself, most days. And when I am being gentler, 'Hold on. Hold on hold on hold on hold on...'

Poets United: Yes, hold on.........Is there anything else you would like to share with Poets United ?

Shaista: No, no more!!! You know it all now. I would love to have been the mysterious type, but alas, that was never meant to be.

Poets United: It has been so lovely getting to know you better, Shaista. I know our members will really enjoy learning more about you. Thank you so much.

See, kids? Isn’t she lovely? The people behind the pen are some of the most interesting people around. Each poet has such an amazing story. Check back and find out who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

Friday 6 May 2011

A Poet Said

I took the Quiet Road
Oh! So many miles ago;
I'll wait out the storm,
here where it's warm,
and shelter you with my smile.

Airplanes come and trains go by
and cycles whistle past me,
Sometimes I'll run to catch the bus
of chaos and the buzz;
Hang on to the railing,
cool breezes, I'm sailing,
if only for a while.

Here I'll stop, here I'll rest,
or there by the lilac scent;
Do Not Go Gentle, the poet said,
but it couldn't have been me
he meant.

- Shaista, 2011

a friday poetically piece for onestoppoetry

Thursday 5 May 2011

Mary, Queen of May, and the Almost Holiday

It has been quite a week, one way or another, nationally, internationally, personally. A photograph has accompanied me through the week, delighting me every time I see it.

Just a jokey picture Mary sent to cheer me :)
This is Mary Haybittle, Day of the Royal Wedding, complete with daisy chain, posy and celebratory red nail polish. Her husband, Dr John Haybittle, was my father's Physics tutor at the Cambridge hospital I now spend half my life in. Father was the only student of John's that Mary agreed to meet, because he sounded so interesting. They entered into a conversation of poetry, literature and philosophy that continues to this day; a conversation they allowed me to interrupt many years ago. Mary started writing me letters the year we moved to England, even though she and I lived only a village away from one another. And to this day, the letters arrive, in blue ink, "... Thinking of you, dearest Shaista. This isn't a letter. Just a hug, Mary."
This is how I learned to write. In the receipt of, and the replies to, Mary Haybittle of Shelford. When Mary reads this, and sees her picture, she will phone and say, "Oh Shaista!!"

Mary has seen much of history, much of life. There is very little she does not know, in the deepest sense of that word. And knowing translates into understanding. At every crossroads of my life, at every heartache, one word, one line from Mary, soothes me. When I was younger, in hospital, at 9pm one night, I demanded, "I want Mary!" in a peremptory way. Mum was so embarrassed, but she obediently rang, and Mary arrived. As she always does, one way or another.

I was supposed to be in France today. I booked a little holiday months ago, a tour of the Chateaux and Gardens of Normandy. It would have been nice, on the trail of Guy de Maupassant and Monet, but my heart wasn't in it. Not just because of the General's passing, but because our friend Dawn rang from hospital to say farewell, she was moving on, and what a privilege it had been to know us. Couldn't leave. Am sitting beside her as I write. She fell asleep after eating a mango Mum sent for her. The whole mango! Funny how pleased you can be when a mango trumps cancer. I told Dawn that I have just been interviewed by Sherry Blue Sky at Poets United for their Life of A Poet series. She was chuffed. Click on the link to read the interview if you like. I had fun doing it :)

Mary would say I can always run off to France another time. And anyway, it's bucketing down in Normandy, I might have been rained away.

Sunday 1 May 2011

A Royal Wedding, and The General's Funeral

They gave us two kisses, did William Windsor of Wales and Catherine Middleton of Bucklebury. He, emblazoned in Irish guard red, she in embellished lace, echoes of Grace Kelly serenading us through the years. Acorns in her ears, myrtle and sweet william in her hands, an avenue of trees, 20 feet tall, English Maple and Hornbeans, hushing and hallowing the human beings she passed, the skirt of her train an unfurling flower, up the Abbey aisle.
They were appointed Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, home to the Tayabalis, where an equally hushed and hallowed ceremony took place on the day.
At a small parish church, we buried in the open earth, my Father's brother, Murtaza Ali, who had two special nicknames. The first was 'General', a reference to him being the only non-Royal allowed to attend Daly College, at a time when it was exclusively open to the sons of Indian Kings, and British Governor-Generals. Absolutely no suprises then, that he should share his last day on earth with the greatest Royal Wedding in decades. Brilliant stroke of genius! The other nickname was 'Motu', meaning 'Big One'; in complement to my Father's nickname 'Chotu', meaning 'Little One'. The names were ironic, since Uncle was the littlest of the tall Tayabali brothers, but the names stuck and Motu and Chotu they remained from childhood. They were a year apart, and as different as brothers could be. Father, studious, spiritual, poetic, and true to one love. Uncle never married. He was always escaping marriage as fast as his legs could carry him. Into the comfortable arms of the next amour. What they shared was a thirst for knowledge and the inimitable comradeship of being brothers. Uncle's library was extraordinarily eclectic, but his great passion was for all things Roman. We tucked a book into the nook of his body, 'Daily Life in Ancient Rome'. A stunning hardback from the Folio Society. I wrote a little note inside, from himself to Life.
'I Take With Me
Love of Knowledge
And the Springs of Rome'

Uncle was a strong presence in my life, always. Our passion for literature and the subtle nuance of language meant conversation was always a playful joy. He was proud of me, that I do know. I am glad he lived to know I was on the radio, to know Irfan had a son named Rafael Zain, that Rizwan had found someone special to share his life with. I recited our favourite surahs for him at the grave, the ones we used to recite solemnly for him, when we were little. It was all light and air and green and birdsong as we walked him to his resting place. It was wide open sky and spring fields beyond. He was entirely surrounded by love, funny memories, a Robert Burns poem, prayers. I patted the earth encouragingly. It will be alright Uncle. You will be alright.