There were days when I walked through France and Spain where I seemed to forget that I was walking, that my feet ached, my backpack was heavy or that I had to take photographs. There were times where I began to experience something new, something that seemed to come from beyond my imagination. Images from old stories permeated my consciousness, deciphered from the deep recesses of my cellular memory. As if every fiber of our bodies is made up of all our ancestors; encoded inside our core is a blueprint of their entire existence, and though we cannot decode this information so easily, we can divine some clues, some images, by observing ourselves and our interactions with the world.
Some of the images seem as though they should be in fantasy books like that of a Raja standing tall and proud in the Himalayas with his kingdom seamlessly arrayed amidst those epic mountains and other images such as that of a Rani lounging in the cool shade of her Southern Palace, a vision in the heat seemed like scenes depicted by Impressionists and hung in the grand salons of the Louvre or d’Orsey.
The “memories” sometimes seemed anywhere from 50 years ago to about 500 years ago, but who can say for sure. I don’t want you to think I am certain about any of the dates but in all the fragments I could see a lineage forming, spreading back from my point as though I was a ball bearing striking glass and seeing the spider web of connections stretching back beyond memory.
In Pakistan and India there are people who keep track of families and come around every few years (usually when a child is born), to recount the tales of the family and their histories, to remind those families of where they came from and where they are going and to collect some money for these services. The record-keeping is a little dubious but the core of these yarns is true and the records can stretch back 1000 years or more.
One such person visited our family shortly after my birth. He recounted the lineage of my father’s family, starting with me and going all the way back to a distant Mogul King, probably one that had many illegitimate children. My parents were given some kind of modest prophecy about me, “your child will be successful and happy” or “He’ll become a Doctor or a Lawyer.” That’s probably what every Pakistani or Indian family wants to hear.
In truth, my father’s side of the family does seem to produce doctors and lawyers and psychologists— I got the creative end of the stick. I don’t know that my parents are totally displeased with this; if they were they got over it a while ago. Actually I think my mother still laments the fact that both her children have not graduated from a college and don’t have at least a 4-year degree.
Mom was a nurse when I was born and quite independent. Mom’s side of the family is rather business savvy and tends to make solid investments. They are very entrepreneurial. While I can’t say that my mother (or I for that matter) is great with money, she is definitely money-conscious.
Envisioning a larger picture on those long and much toured highways made my regrets not matter anymore.
The strongest images from long ago are those of a King embracing his Queen, her face looking so comforted and happy, her bare feet touching stone. When she moved to be with him, the command of her action resonated up through musical instruments in the form of jewelry around her ankles bursting into loud proclamation: “I am his Queen, he is my greatest love.”
It is that greatest love that drives me and inspires me.