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.

14 comments:

Sarah Laurence said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your beloved uncle. I love the way this post celebrates his life. He sounds like a most remarkable man.

Ruth said...

O what beauty to pass through the world as your amca did (pronounced amja, Turkish for 'uncle'), and slipping away royally, with your book and words tucked under his arm for the journey away. Strangely, I take more delight in the story of your uncle and his passing than in the wedding. It was lovely, she is elegant, her dress divine (yes, so like Grace's). But a real man who loved women, was not in a line of kings, who cuddled my friend on his knee, his niece, now that I care about, even though I may never meet this friend face to face, any more than I will meet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Ruth said...

(Of course I do not 'delight' in your uncle's passing, I think you understand what I mean. May his memory comfort your heart, and all his family's, as you say good-bye.)

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Thank you for sharing with us this warm and warming remembrance of your uncles and what he meant to you. These are connections that deserve to be sung out from rooftops, not just murmured in graveyards. I am glad I made it through the royal wedding intro to read about your hushed and hallowed ceremony. I almost clicked out of the post when I saw the photo, but had confidence that Shaista would have meaningful light to bring to bear on all the hoopla.

Shaista said...

Ruth, I know exactly what you meant. It was a delightful passing in the end - because he slipped away in the early hours. I didn't mention Uncle had advanced emphysema, because that is not what defined him. But he had fought for every breath for more than five years. A GP had warned us of his imminent death all those years ago. But death writes its own date. It can never be designed by doctors. And Uncle had absolutely no intention of dying then :)

Shaista said...

Lorenzo, I am glad I didn't lose you to the hoopla.. and the reason I did include some ceremonial detail is because Uncle would have been passionately interested in every glorious fact and fancy, live streaming through the radio on his windowsill :)

Yin said...

Many hugs, and our love to your parents.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh Shaista, your words are beautiful as always. They dance with the lilt and rhythm of your writing, and touch my heart, especially when you patted the earth encouragingly, and told your uncle it will be all right. He sounds a most lovely uncle. He will be missed. It sounds like he lived a most amazing life.

Lydia said...

My condolences on the loss of your dear uncle. Your words and the photos make a most beautiful tribute. I love the way you wove the Royal Wedding through the personal meaning of the day for you.

Loree said...

So sorry for your loss. He sounds like a remarkable man.

Jeanne-ming said...

To my own Royal Family of Cambridge,
Sorry about losing your General. I have aunties and uncles that I influenced me more than my own parents. My love of art and design was not something I got from my folks, but an uncle and my mother's sister. So I get it. And that he adored you---even from this long distance, I know that too. Beautiful tribute. Please, a special pat for your Papa from me.

annell said...

Very touching post. The people we love are the building blocks of our lives.

Ella said...

I am sorry for your loss; General found a way to go out with style.
He sounds like an amazing, kind-hearted man. I love that the book went with him. Thank you for sharing, your words inspire that our lives should be recognized with respect n' beauty~

RNSANE said...

Shaista, what a beautiful written tribute for your uncle. It is so clear how much you loved him. I am so sad for his absence now in your life. I know you and your family will miss "the General."

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