Poem of the week: Week Thirty Two.

The last and my favourite poem from Mustansir Dalvi’s Brouhahas of Cocks.

a saint prays for rain
– Mustansir Dalvi

You are gone these many seasons,
anamnesis shed like miniatures
lost in the dunes west of Sam,
and I am left white, anaemic.

I paint my breasts saffron
with pastes of sandalwood
for to anoint You, my Lord,
but they dry and cake.
I scratch myself, scrape
Your names on my skin,
bring blood simmering
to the surface to keep
Your tongue interested.

This world is anathema,
conjoint of meat and material,
a malediction of the mind
keeping You from me
and my heart, a four-chambered
reef knot, another piece of flesh.

Answer my prayers, Lord,
but get Your aim right.
The archers of Your approbation
are way off mark. The leaden barbs
from your forge should pitch
their sights to a lower eye
for my faith is my clitoris
between the teeth of my Lord.
You bite down with felicity
midsummer showers
redden the earth, and the musk
of my fertile mud is released.

*** 

Book review: Heidi

Title: Heidi 
Author: Johanna Spyri
Translator: Eileen Hall
Illustrator: Cecil Leslieheidi-johanna-spyri-hardcover-cover-art
Publisher: Puffin Classics
ISBN: 0 14 036.679 2
Genre: Children’s Book
Pages: 295
Rating: 4/5

When I first started reading Heidi, I was fifteen and travelling in a train with a bunch of friends I had made on the trip. We were on our way back home and I was speeding through the book, trying to finish reading it before we reached our destination since it was someone else’s copy. Everyone was singing songs, trying to have fun just before the hour of parting forever. I remember they were singing “It’s the time to disco!” and it is then that someone ( I don’t remember who) said to me, “It’s not the time to read books!”

Forced to agree, I shut the book and never got my hands on it until last year. I tried catching up with the story on TV: a beautiful animated series (cartoon we call it in India) titled Heidi, Girl of the Alps. But then college happened and I lost track of Heidi one more time.

This year, however, I read the whole book from start to end without interruptions.  Heidi, short for Adelheid, is a five-year-old girl who lives with her aunt Dette. But since Dette finds a better job, she is unable to care for Heidi anymore and does the unthinkable: leave Heidi with her reclusive grandfather, who lives in solitude on top of a mountain in the Swiss Alps.  The rest of the village thinks Dette has lost her mind, leaving the child with such a grumpy old man. But Heidi is a happy child and Uncle Alp is like the ants in Ant Bully ‘hard on the outside, soft on the inside’.

Heidi has a happy childhood in the mountains with her grandfather and the goatherd Peter. The descriptions of the snow-clad mountains, the sunset, the grass, and the goats is the essence of this book. Here’s Heidi’s first experience of watching the sun go down:

It was getting late and the setting sun spread a wonderful golden glow over the grass and the flowers, and the high peaks shone and sparkled. Heidi sat for a while, quietly enjoying the beautiful scene, then all at once she jumped up, crying, ‘Peter, Peter! A fire, a fire! The mountains are on fire, and the snow and the sky too. Look, the trees and the rocks are all burning, even up there by the hawk’s nest. Everything’s on fire!’

When she gets home that evening, she asks her grandfather about the huge fire in the sky since Peter was not specific:

It’s the sun’s way of saying goodnight to the mountains. He spreads that beautiful light over them so that they won’t forget him till he comes back in the morning.

Slowly, Heidi comes to recognize the mountain with the feeling of home, and when she is taken away to the city, she withers away like a bud denied the rays of the sun. But Heidi is not someone who doesn’t know how to make the best of the situation she is in, so when she is struggling, her mind constantly mirrors the sunset on the mountains – a sign of hope.

Also, I found, the story has many verses from the Bible, and Spyri stresses on education and learning. Since it is a Children’s book, I think it is allowed a little bit of didactic undertones.

Overall, Heidi’s is a simple story of wanting the simple things in life: fresh air, good food, good thoughts, books to read, and a loving family. Who would not like that, now?

The Fortieth Rule of Love

Ella approached the window and looked at the sky, which was an amazing indigo in all directions. It swirled with an invisible speed of its own, dissolving into nothingness and encountering therein infinite possibilities, like a whirling dervish:

“A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western… Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.”

 

The Thirty-Ninth Rule of Love

Little by little one turns forty, fifty, and sixty and, with each major decade, feels more complete.You need to keep walking, though there’s no place to arrive at. The universe is turning, constantly and relentlessly, and so are the earth and the moon, but it is nothing other than a secret embedded within us human beings that makes it all move. With that knowledge we dervishes will dance our way through love and heartbreak even if no one understands what we are doing. We will dance in the middle of a brawl or a major war, all the same. We will dance in our hurt and grief, with joy and elation, alone and together, as slow and fast as the flow of water. We will dance in our blood. There is perfect harmony and subtle balance in all that is as was in the universe. The dots change constantly and replace one another, but the circle remains intact:

“While the parts change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every decent person who passes away is replaced by  a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes. For every Sufi who dies, another is born somewhere.”

The Thirty-Eighth Rule of Love

The first step is always the hardest:

“It is never too late to ask yourself, ‘Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?’ Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.”

The Thirty-Seventh Rule of Love

There is a time for everything:

“God is a meticulous clockmaker. So precise is His order than everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.” 

The Thirty-Sixth Rule of Love

Nothing happens out of God’s will. It is one of the rules:

“This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain unreciprocated. Fear not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He’s the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs out of God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does beautifully.”

 

The Thirty-Fifth Rule of Love

Even jealousy can be used in a constructive way and serve a higher purpose. Even disbelief can be positive:

“In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. And the nonbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him. Until the day one reaches the stage of Insan-i-Kâmil, the perfect human being, faith is a gradual process and one that necessitates its seeming opposite: disbelief.” 

 

The Thirty-Third Rule of Love

I wonder if this works for people in the age of competition. I think what this rule could also mean is that one should strive for what one wants to achieve, but should compete only with oneself. And not forget, in the process, that the ultimate aim is being one with God.

“While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness.  Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.”

The Thirty-Second Rule of Love

Spiritual growth is about the totality of our consciousness, not about obsessing over particular aspects. 

“Nothing should stand between yourself and God. Not imams, priests, rabbis, or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership.  Not spiritual masters, not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your faith.”

Tough one, this rule. Though, notice how Shams talks about the difficult concept of idolatry. So, not only idols made of stone come under idolatry, but also the people we might end up idolizing: the imams, priests, or rabbis. There’s no harm is talking to them, or listening to them. But idolizing them is a the problem, I guess.

Which among these idols are more harmful in a person’s quest for spirituality? Can such things be compared? Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I can’t help wondering.