The Circle Game

A very long time ago and before our world was known by its name, a family of brothers and sisters gathered together. Téoah had called the meeting. He was usually referred to as eldest and beyond that he held no title or power over his family or his people.

Along with his brothers and sisters, Åmaahris, Düroeriel, Ssájhsca, Raë and Ajheun, Téoah represented a great race of people whose knowledge and arts have been lost to something beyond even legend itself. Perhaps the only way to retrieve such knowledge is to understand and command time itself.

As the asker of this gathering, it was Téoah’s duty to create the rite. When his brothers and sisters arrived, he asked them to gather in a circle and the six stood next to one another and they knew this was to be a powerful rite because none who stood beside another stood alone.

“My brothers and sisters, I have summoned your presence today because we are about to transcend into a new form of existence and I wanted to be with all of you, my beloveds when that happens.”

Åmaahris smiled at his brother, reached out and took Téoah’s hand and said, “Gladly my friend and bloodkind.”

It pleased Téoah that Åmaahris, who tended to be the least attached to the family spoke first in answer and in gesture.

Then, Düroeriel, possessed of indescribable beauty proudly stated as she took Åmaahris’ hand, “There would be no other way I could think of to witness such a state than with my kindred.”

Téoah gazed at his sister admiringly, he thought of how her countenance could at one moment remind him of gentle orchards and at another of grand mountains. He nodded to her to show his pleasure.

Ssájhsca smiled and looked around at all of his brothers and sisters, sometimes he or they would erupt in fits of laughter when a smile was returned and memories exchanged through mere glances.

He then fixed his gaze on Téoah and said, “Revered one, cherished one, though it is you who have brought us to this point of glory, and it is you who we shall follow to become what we will; I wish to take a moment to express that I am so happy that that we have never been alone in this realm and we have experienced all the pleasures it has to offer. It has been the joy of my life to be your friend and your brother.”

Téoah found that water had shed from his eyes; where it had never done before, and so he placed his fingers to his cheek to wipe the water. “Ssájhsca, even now you give us gifts with your words in the form of these tears. It is a true blessing that what we will leave of ourselves is the very water that was given to us when we were born so long ago.”

He allowed his tears to fall to the ground, some of the drops hitting his feet, and his brothers and sisters joined in the new ritual they just formed. It would be known as the shedding of sorrows but even that name may be only what remains of a whisper on the breeze.

Then, Raë, with her eyes closed and her expression serene and luminous uttered, “I see a home for us in my mind, it is unbroken from the land and there is unobstructed view of all the world from every vantage. It is open, it is warm and comforting and all is possible there.”

Almost in unison the family let out a joyful laugh and when they were finished, Téoah addressed to his sister.

“The place you describe, my blessed sister, is the place that will be. All benefit from your mind’s ability to construct what is difficult to see. Thank you.”

She smiled and then she nodded to show her pleasure at Téoah. Raë reached out and took the hand of the youngest, who appeared like the youth that she was with the auspices of wisdom and age. Ajheun spoke gently but with confidence. “Brother who is first, you stand next to me and I see so many beginnings in your gentle eyes. Where there is beginning eldest, so there is end. I take from you the gift of knowledge and I give back to you the gift of understanding. Take my hand now brother and let us end the cycle of first and last, of beginning and ending.” Téoah took his beloved little sister’s hand and from that day forth the legend of his family would be told through out eternity. It would be told over again and in many forms such as in fable, in song, in dance and in love. It is a story, which is familiar to all who hear it, it has so many names and sometimes if you pay notice at schoolyards or in places where children play unfettered, you may hear a glimpse of the story as it is conveyed to them by what remains of it.

Time Machine in a Digital Photograph…

I came across a photograph just recently of a friend who had passed away. In the picture he was standing on the balcony of his apartment holding his SLR camera, thumbing through some photographs he’d taken. I was giving him a few pointers on how to use the camera, as far as photography lessons, he was somewhat of a natural already.

I take my SLR camera practically everywhere with me and I’ll use any excuse to shoot a portrait. Portraits are my favourite form of photographic expression, the moments I like to try to “capture” tend to be centered around people and what they are doing, feeling, thinking and looking like.

Looking at this photograph right now it made me think about pictures. Have you ever gone back through pictures of yourself and wondered, ‘what was I doing at that moment, what was i thinking about?’ As you start to think about that, a lot more pictures start to unfold in your mind as you unlock the memories stored in the brain. If I had to describe this to you, it would be as if the pictures spread out in all directions from the original.

Sometimes that picture turns into a reverie of thoughts and images, and sometimes it can feel as though you are re-living that moment in time and space. I guess that’s one reason why I love photography so much, why I look at so many photographs.

Sometimes, if you try really hard you can go back, like time traveling, I say like it because nothing changes in the end (there are all sorts of theories and ideas that can explain all that), either because you don’t want to or you cannot. But time traveling is fun! You can practice and go back to only happy times if you wanted. I think those are the easiest exercises to start with. You don’t ever have to visit a sad or difficult time if you don’t want to; though we often do when we’ve done something wrong or something happens we wish had not. Sometimes it is important to visit a time surrounding sad or unhappy emotions.

I travelled to a memory that I didn’t think I remembered at all. I went back to a time where I’d just missed the chance to see my friend. Weeks before he died, I walked by his workplace on my way to dinner and I looked in the window and saw him talking to his team. I remember thinking, how amazing it was that they got to work with him and how great and wonderful he looked. It didn’t dawn on me at all that I should even say hello, surely there’d be an opportunity to do that? When I really think about the actual moment, I didn’t even think of that much because I was preoccupied with what I was doing. It was enough to just see him looking happy and looking “good” as they say. The next time I would think of my friend was upon finding out he was dead. All of his friends and family left with only photographs and videos as a record that he even existed at all.

Whatever darkness possesses any of us, it is often something that no one sees, and whatever the reason for that, a big part of it, I think, is that the possessor of that darkness does not wish it to be seen. Thinking of that memory though, begs the question, is the darkness even there, does it even matter if it cannot be seen?

Now my memory took me to that place earlier in the story of the day; hours before I had even arrived there. I knew I should have been someplace different and in fact those events were taking place and yet here I was, standing outside the shop with the shiny glass front and the blazing metallic interior and there he was, walking out towards me. Inside me it felt as though it had been moments after I’d taken that photograph of him on his balcony years before, and it also seemed like I was from the future looking at that old picture of him. The collection of all my experiences was transformed to a brand new moment, a brand new time line.

“Hi Soso!” He saw me and gave me that big smile that was his hallmark greeting to his friends and loved ones.

I smiled back, this was all completely new, it felt like I could do anything I wanted to for a moment; “Hi Jojo! What news?”

“Oh nothing much, same old stuff but look at you! What are you doing all the way up here?”

“Ha, I don’t know, I have to do something later tonight at the movie theatre and so I thought I’d come up early.”

“Well, that’s great! I’m on my break, why don’t you come along, I mean if you have the time?”

I took in a deep breath and looked around at everything, wondering if he knew that this was all brand new. “I have all the time in the world for you.”

He seemed puzzled and gave me a coy sideways glance with a smirk. I knew why he did that; he was so observant about the way people would put things, the way people chose to construct their sentences or words. Meaning was his biggest fascination.

Then he said, “Well, I believe if anyone can turn 15 minutes into forever, its you.”

I wished he were right, but I didn’t try to correct his perception.

…of Balloons.

“Chester wait! Wait my man!” said Francis, panting heavily, almost as if in pain.

Chester’s boots could be heard scraping to a halt in the gravelled road. “Francis, keep up! We haven’t much time before it goes!”

“You’re running faster than I’ve ever seen!” Shouted Francis as he went at a spring toward and past Chester, laughing aloud as the bewildered young man had begun figuring out he’d been had.

“Francis! I’ll have you!” he cried out and began running after his friend. And not soon after, Chester proved his better fitness intact by catching up to and easily running Francis into a stretch. Chester slapped Francis’ shoulders teasingly.

“You cad! you absolute, cad!” said Francis indignantly and they slowed down to allow for a recovery of breath. Francis was clearly put off by the victory and was breathing with great labour.

“Come Frannie, you’ll forgive me when I show you what it is, just come along, not far now.” Francis could never be angry at Chester long.

The boys came out into a clearing and were in the center of a huge commotion set around a strange looking sight!

On the grassy field there were many of the townspeople and they were gathered around a very beautiful thing, “Chester, Chester, it, it’s ah…ha ha – its, my goodness! Its a Hot air Balloon!”

“I know, marvelous isn’t it?” Chester seemed bright with happiness.

They went up to where it was docked and there was a man poised just like a groom waiting for someone to climb into a carriage. Francis wondered who had arrived in it, what person of Royal Lineage was visiting today and how wonderful it would be if somehow he could be allowed to just step inside and imagine that he were soaring through the clouds. He stopped a respectable distance from the balloon and smiled at its driver/groom/attendant. The man simply nodded kindly.

It was exquisite he thought, how gilded the cabin was, and the workmanship on the great balloon itself. How, he thought, could the pilot of such a complicated craft dress so serenely in a servants clothing. One ought to be given a uniform like a soldier, a place of high regard among princes and men.

He had so many questions racing in his mind; how does it all really work? The books were never good at explaining how it felt to manage such a thing. What is it made of? He’d seen only illustrations and now here he was standing beneath the grandiose reality and he had lost all ability to speak.

Suddenly Chester walked past and up to the attendant. Francis was so worried that he rushed up to stop his friend from exerting an unintentional disregard for societies rules upon someone who probably knew more of atmospheric currents than the social graces.

Chester interrupted Francis’ attempts with a stern acknowledgment of what was going on, this always annoyed Francis far more than anything else but Chester knew it and only risked the tactic when he knew he could fulfill the stakes, “Hullo Francis, were you coming to stop me saying something to this fine pilot here?”

“I wouldn’t dream of stopping you Chester if you had full knowledge of the situation.”

Chester turned confidently and gazed into his friends’ bright green eyes, stopping him. “I have full knowledge of the situation, i assure you.” Chester knew that when he gave that look it meant to trust him no matter what. And Francis always did.

Chester smiled and backed up a little, continuing to gaze into Francis’ eyes. He stepped up next to the Pilot and he gestured for Francis to step inside.

Chester’s smile was so immense when he noticed how surprised Francis was (once he’d worked it all out) and Francis, still unable to understand how this wonder came to pass only knew that his friend had and was the only person who could arrange such a thing.

Before stepping inside the balloon, Francis looked at Chester and gave him a tender punch on the breast. He had no other friend in the world, and didn’t care because he had the best friend he’d ever needed right in front of him. “Thank you, Chester. You must know how much this means to me.”

“Then you must know how much it means to me my dear friend.” They stepped inside along with the Groom, who was also the Pilot. And after being fitted with goggles, then given to some minor preparation and participation, the balloon would be in the air and allowing the boys to discover a view of their home they’d only imagined could be seen. They felt like pioneer princes.

In Another Universe

I woke up in a panic, my heart was beating so hard it felt as though it would burst out of my chest. I was breathing hard; hyperventilating and there was no reason for my anxiety.

Suddenly I felt a hand on my chest and another one passing its fingers through my hair, through my hair? Somehow this gesture calmed me and as my vision became clearer, I saw the comforting hands were attached to a young man looking at me with worried and widened eyes.

“Sohail, are you alright, are you okay brother?”

Brother? “Where’s Rina?”

“Rina? You haven’t called me that since we were little, what’s going on, where you having bad dreams?”

Suddenly a slew of memories I didn’t have before flooded into my head and made me realize that this was my little brother Francis. Additionally a terrible dread came over me as I realized that the memories of growing up with Francis did not include an additional sibling, they did not include my younger sister Rina.

I got up and ran around like a mad man, the house was familiar but all wrong, the rooms were not small, the house was enormous, none of our furniture, “Where’s Indiana?”

Francis chased me around with the greatest concern and care, he must’ve thought I was going mad, I was going mad, “Who’s Indiana?”

“Our… never mind.” I calmed down for a minute, i stopped and took it all in. Is this a dream? The other was so real too, this couldn’t be real, I had to calm down, I had to calm down for my scared little brother, my little brother who didn’t exist until now, but always did.

“It’s okay Frannie, it’s okay. I was just really confused, I thought I was somewhere else, still dreaming I guess.” I smiled at him and comforted his worry by putting a hand on his shoulder and hugging him.

“Thanks for coming to my side.”

“Always Bhaiya.”

I went up to my room, the house was so large, I peaked into my mother and father’s room, I knew they were sleeping in there, I also knew they were different, everything happened different from how I remembered it, everything was strange. Would it all go back to normal when I went back to bed?

“Are you gonna be alright Sohail?”

My worried little brother stood there waiting for reassurance, I didn’t know how to answer honestly so I lied. “Everything’s fine, I’m going to bed now.”

“Good.”

I went to my room and took in the differences, and the similarities, what a queer dream, it didn’t act or feel like one. I got in bed, covered myself and shut my eyes…

Golden Gates

I have slipped in and out of universes like people slip in and out of dreams. I have seen myself as a coward and I’ve seen myself as a king, fools, thieves, fiends, and lovers too, so many different versions of the person I thought I knew. The balance of lineage was appealing to them, the memories of walking across the golden gate bridge or discovering for the first time, I would not be alone.

Through trickery and temptation I fell deep into the Omniverses and landed in a place so strange. The unchecked wizard cast a spell and the king built a great prison and they all plotted so efficiently as only I could against myself. Keeping me distracted and anaesthetized. Working their careful mischief to create brand new universes from mine, leaving their own abandoned.

Slowly the imbalance weighed on the other universes, slowly the skin that separates them began to buckle and hemorrhage. When all seemed lost and unrecoverable, by familiar voice, by gentle kiss, I stirred. The fires of cognition started once more and realization of what had come to pass flooded through my mind. My jailers did not account for me it seems, they did not see the golden thread that cannot be broken; which would always lead me back from wherever I journeyed.

And as I inched closer to myself, closer to my beloved friends and family, The Omniverse began to restore itself. Pulled back through me I met them all face to face and called them shameful and commanded them to bare the punishment for their actions. The last to go was the coward and as he stood before me, he grimaced and prophesied that he would have the day. So I prophesied as well and as my words of love and hope undid his of fear and hate, he withered as cowards do, begging for his newfound life.

And as I banished him to his dominion the gates did close with a lady’s soothing song bringing me out of darkness to sit upon the ground and gaze upon the gentle trees swaying in the crisp breeze, all appeared right. And there, in the setting light that shone through the golden gate did my beloved stand, so proud and smiling, he did not say goodbye but instead uttered… soon.

Were the world mine

Were the world mine, i would sit upon a great chair made of fine metal and set it within a palace or a temple atop the most beautiful place, overlooking a village and a river, hills and the ocean nearby, all the things i wanted would be within sight. Every day i would be grateful that i could gaze out from this chair at the beauty before me.

And were the world mine, there would be no reason to protect the village, for why would anyone want to harm my world? All about the world there would be abundance and joy and love, music, art, and dancing, all would be free to pursue their hearts desires, their true hearts desires, without harming anyone because who would want to harm another soul if the world were mine.

Were the world mine, i would revel in simple joys, like hiking through a forest and gazing at the stars, i would do these things anytime i wished to, and dream of visiting other worlds that were not mine, i would dream of living for a time within these worlds and learn new unthought-of wonders always confident that i could return to my world and not think it any less mine.

i would feel confident that i could tell of the wonders of my world and not fear that someone else would want to take that world away from me, for who would take it away, were the world mine?

This fantasy seems strange and unattainable but i know it can’t be so, for if the world were mine, there would be one clear sign to show me this was true; it would be so my beloved that if the world were mine it would only be if i could share the world with you.

Fragments of a memory upon a road…

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.