And I’m bang on time posting the first poem of August! This month’s poet is Mustansir Dalvi and poems are from his first collection of poems Brouhahas of Cocks.
Friday mosque in New Bombay
– Mustansir Dalvi
Knees of derelict faithful stained
by the morning’s papers. Pink,
the Economic Times pages
are prayer mats: global stock indices
all face due West.
Half a practice specialized
for those who abjure usury,
the Chartered Accountant
thrusts duties on a greenhorn
doing articleship, rushes out
with a bottle of mineral water
Neither taps nor electricity. No
Building Completion Certificate –
an old mosque in a new town,
its incomplete frame still exudes
The writer of apps for Android
with a heart-shaped goatee,
rad with the pack he runs with,
outsourced like himself
has the approval of an Imam
well versed in the semiotics
of the wary glance,
the throwaway remark, ha ha,
who knows excessive deference
that borders on dread.
The Imam puts his day job first.
But once a week, to everyone’s
dissatisfaction, dismisses his M. Lit. Class
with some sense of urgency,
not to be late for orisons.
At dusk, he raises the call for good work,
punched out on an SMS, and waits
for his diasporic jamaat to come together.
The New Bombay sun does not set, it fades.
The Imam (a Ph.D on Dylan Thomas) prays
against the dying of the light.
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.”
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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Under a clear blue sky, I was playing chess with a Christian Hermit named Francis. He was a man whose inner balance did not tilt easily, a man who knew the meaning of submission. And since Islam means the inner peace that comes from submission, to me Francis was more Muslim than many who claim to be so:
“Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission – a power that comes from within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquillity and peace even when the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.”
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.”
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.