Wednesday 2 July 2014


The great vast network connects
and divides us - time stretches us thin;

we give years to the knowing,
the unravelling of others -

in the end, when change comes,
we know nothing.

We learned nothing yesterday
that we remember today

but for the sense of
once upon a time, when we began.

© Shaista Tayabali, 2014 
Image: A Game of Patience, 1937, Meredith Frampton via Magpie Tales 

An Elegy to Peter Lapsley, a Stranger, and Chaitan Maniar, a Friend

For years I had been wanting to write an article for the Patient Journey section of the BMJ - the British Medical Journal. Finally, I wrote to the editor, a Peter Lapsley, and explained my desire to create awareness about a condition that still befuddles doctors and patients alike. Peter was lovely in his email and promised he would consider my piece even though a long list of articles were waiting to be published. Only one other patient had written a lupus journey, so I started to write mine.
Then I began my MA and the article slipped out of my mind.
A few weeks ago I recalled it. MA done, I remembered Peter and although I was deathly embarrassed about the time that had passed, I crossed my fingers and sent the article to him.
No reply.
And then, finally, a rather chilly one line message from anonymous, saying Peter had died last year and could I contact the current editor of the BMJ instead.

Dead. Just like that. Time passes. And you miss a person's life altogether.

So I googled Peter, just to see. Just to say hello to his ghostly internet spirit. And here he is. Doesn't he look nice?

And I discover two things: the first is that he was a literary giant in the field of fly fishing. And second, Peter had lupus. Peter died because of leukaemia but having lupus would have made him more fragile.

And I find myself wishing he had told me. It would have made me send my article pronto. It would have given me that special fellow feeling we lonely lupus patients need. But of course, he was a professional medical editor. Did he want to, though? Was he tempted?

Isn't it funny how we know death is ever present, can claim us at any time, and still we don't act. We truly live, believing life is endless, forever, a patient river we can swim in at our discretion. Are we the most arrogant of species, or simply the most hopeful?

Death claimed my father's oldest and best schoolfriend a few days ago. A prominent lawyer in Bombay, Chaitan Maniar was something of a Shakespearean hero. Noble in the true sense of the word. He was a literary giant too, in a nonchalant way - a man who could quote poetry and philosophy and the law as easily as he breathed and walked. I am trying not to grieve for him, because I was his friend too, and true friends leave nothing undone. This picture is from the last time he visited, two months ago, kissed by evening light, with his best friend's son and granddaughter…


Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

'...are we the most arrogant of people or the most hopeful'?

surely, i believe, both.

once again, gracias for your attention to this very lonely desease.

Cait O'Connor said...

Poignant, the poem and the blog. Full of wisdom too.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh Shaista, such a sad story, and I, too, wish the editor had confided in you that he knew all too well the journey you are making. And then your father's best friend. I am so happy to know he visited you all so recently...........that must bring comfort. Life holds so many losses, marks so many passings...and so many is a journey rich with joy and pain. But such a trip!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful poem, tinged with such sadness. This is a touching way to bring lupus to the attention to the wider world. I know someone who has it and she struggles, but battles on. Wishing you well.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Your poem has great wisdom,
and your elergy is truly moving. He must have been a great man ~ Eddie

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