Burbo, A Man Unlike Any Other

Burbo was a man unlike any other.

For years every morning he swam back and forth across the grand river, only for the pleasure of it.
And the waters contoured his face just a little differently, like it did with rock over a million years. A curve so minute that only a man with the eyes of a falcon, could ever tell the difference.
Wildflowers grew in his hair from lying down too long under sun-splintered skies and every time he felt great love for the earth, they grew just a little more, until he carried on his head, a perpetual, interwreathed forest of wildflowers.
The children came running unto Burbo just to get a whiff of the summer meadows, even in the coldest winter.

Burbo had never noticed that he was a man unlike any other, for he thought that every man was a man unlike any other.
Until one day, Burbo’s curious feet carried him to a town, where all men were alike. They paused, until all at once they burst aloud into great laughter. Burbo wondered for the very first time, why his head carried wildflowers instead of plain good old hair.
Burbo cut his hair, the one with sun-splintered skies, rivers and wildflowers.
He sold his wildflowers for all of twenty pounds and bought a new suit with it.
Burbo donned a suit and all the men stopped laughing.

by Shenaz Wahid

Unfurling a child’s imagination, inspired by this wonderful illustration.
tenderthoughts

The good little plant and the bent tree

 

Devika  : ” An old adage goes, ‘The good little plant can be straigthened. It can change in its youth, to grow upright, but once it grows up to be a bent tree, it cannot change.’
It will always remain the same old, bent tree.
Once it has grown and been moulded, it’s impossible for it to ever change.”

Malleka : “It is true that the bent tree cannot be a little plant again, but with the seasons that always change, it too can change. It can shed its rotten branches, the ones that do it no good. It’s a choice the bent tree has to make.
It will be nourished by the same soil and the sun that will share its light, regardless of how bent and twisted the mighty tree has grown to be. Come rain and spring, it will grow new leaves. Spring will magically return the clothes autumn had taken.
It can still blossom, to give flowers and fruit. If nothing else, it will always be able to give its cool shade, to a tired traveller.
No the mighty bent tree, won’t straighten its trunk and twisted branches, but that’s how it paints the sky with its unique beauty. That’s what makes children climb and sit in its majestically twined branches. The perfectly straight coconut tree can only be climbed by the coconut vendor.
While the forest is full of straight and tall, upright pine trees, the forest is also full of bent trees.
And the imperfect, bent tree always has a choice.”

A true conversation that unfolded.
by SHENAZ WAHID

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The royal man and the arrack seller’s daughter.

He was royal.
An Indian steeped in British blood whose family owned lands as far as the eye could see and lived a life of great luxury. He loved his whisky and drank it everyday, and for some reason on that particular day he ran out.
Left with no choice, he drove to the little local liquor store to get freshly home-brewed liquor.

She was poor and too young to sit at her father’s arrack shop.
In fact she never did sit there, but for some particular reason on that day, her mother and father were out and when he came in to ask for liquor, only her hands came out of the little wood opening to serve him.
He saw just her fragile beautiful hands and fell in love. He wanted to know who they belonged to and just how beautiful could the woman who had such hands be.

He came back the next day, saw her and he knew. He asked for that very hand.
When he proposed the idea to the church, they said, “It’s Lent, this isn’t the time to get married.”, but he cared little for such rules, got married and took her home.
In true movie style, his family was outraged saying, “If you choose to be with someone from the street, you’re free to leave the house.”

And he did. He went to one of their many lands which had two little rooms and turned to her, ” Well this is going to be our home darling.”
She looked around and there was no electricity, there was almost nothing.
He took his grandmother out the next day for a few drinks, got her drunk and got her to sign that land’s paper on his name. They had a home to live in now.

For the next 50years that was their home, and as my friend invites me to the mansion that now stands on that land overlooking the vast coffee plantations, telling me the story of two great lovers, her mother and father..
She also tells me of the time when she chose wrong in love.
Her mother who knew exactly what it is like to love a soulmate deeply, told her outside the church door, “Sweety forget about the people gathered here or the money spent, if you take two steps back instead of two steps forward, I’m with you. Don’t worry about a thing, I’ll call this off.”
She looked into her mother’s eyes and said, “I’d like to go ahead.”
Her mother sighed, made the sign of the cross and walked in with her.

Her mother was right and after what almost seemed like an eternity of pain and separation – she found the one with whom her soul was twined by God’s very hands and the house was once again filled with great love and magic.
“My mother and father are so happy.”, she says to me.
“How do you know that? They aren’t here anymore.”
“They are with me always. I feel their spirit smiling.”, she says as if death were only a door into life.
The hot wax from the candle lit to her father in prayer, seeps out from beneath and forms a perfect heart.
The two great lovers are happy, that their daughter found love as great as theirs.

What inspired a man of great wealth to trade the world for a woman, just by seeing her hands? Was it not great love?

by SHENAZ WAHID

The Italian baba

“Have you ever been in love?”, I ask the Italian baba living on the hilltop we had walked to, after debating for a while with myself if it’s the right question to ask the holy man.
“Yes, many times”, comes an easy reply with a smile.
“Have you ever loved one woman more than the others?”, I ask again
“Yes, I lived with her for 7years before I came here.”, he says, as he hands me the biography written on him by the Italian writer Falco Terzani titled, “A Piedi Nudi sulla Terra” or “Naked footsteps in the earth.” as if to say, you’ll find all the details in here curious young lady.

Mia my new German friend suddenly asks, “Is jealousy in love, just a product of the ego and the mind?”
“For sure.”, he replies falling back into the silence, never speaking more than he is asked nor supplying us with any great wisdom on life.
“Do you ask him that question because you have experienced jealousy in love?”, I ask Mia.
The Italian baba is now poised between a smile and a laugh as we women confront each other.
“Yes”, says Mia.
“I have too.”, I say.
Lini nods as if to agree while Mia says, “I suppose we all have at sometime.”

It’s the beauty of sharing emotions, not just the beautiful ones full of light, but also the dark ones we’re asked to hide. When you share them honestly, you realize that everyone feels just the same as you do.

The Italian baba doesn’t come across as an enlightened man far beyond human reach, but very unafraid to show his emotion and so all the more interesting. Interesting enough for BBC to film a documentary on him and his biography due to be translated in English soon. Although he is a recluse, people sought him out over the mountain, to know his story, which brought me to the question, “So then what are you doing here on this hilltop, in the forest?”
If he had loved, what was he doing here alone for over 58 years in India?
“I came here in the last hippie caravan from the states. We were the last hippies standing. I felt drawn here. It felt right to stay.”, he says simply as if I should have all already known this, before I came here.
“Do you miss Italy?”, I ask.
“I was just there a month back.”, he says smiling and gets up to recite effortlessly fluent Sanskrit chants for his evening puja, after having passed around and shared a strong joint of marijuana with his Shiv-bhakts.

I came back home to read contradicting statements on him such as, “He’s an amazing being and so very special.”to “He’s a fake.”,
Whatsoever be the truth, I admired that he answered my question with perfect honesty. He just was, sitting there, his lips poised between a smile, intriguing us. It was we, who were curious enough to have sought him out deep into the woods.

As the sun drowned over the hills in Hampi, we walked back before it got too dark and the conversation deepened with the girls, just by sharing one little doubt, one little question. And just like that, I understood love if only for a glimpse deeper.
I was able shed a layer of fear right there, simply by sharing what I feel.

by SHENAZWAHID

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A painting of The man.

44 01-19-2010
Igniting a light.

Everest is conqured, but not Machapuchare.

Z and I are walking around the Annapurna mountain ranges, when he gets his first glimpse of Machapuchare. He points out like a child would an elephant, “Look the fishtail, Machapuchare.” It’s beautiful I think, but he is besotted by its allure, always waiting for the clear skies to reveal to him, his favorite mountain.

He doesn’t know why he loves Machapuchare, he just does, like a love that needs no reasoning. Our local guide Mr.Indra tells us, “No one has ever been able to reach the peak of Machapuchare. Sometimes the first leg set onto it gets broken. Often those who went, never returned. Or those who did, were injured and unable to reach its summit. Planes and helicopters don’t fly over it, because of its powerful magnetic force. And now the Nepalese government has banned all trekkers from climbing its mystery mountain.”

However Mr. Indra, did have a morbid love for dark stories concerning death, so I looked up what Wikipedia had to say, just incase he was indulging himself. “Machapuchare has never been climbed to its summit. The only attempt was in 1957 by a British team led by Jimmy Roberts. Climbers Wilfrid Noyce and A. D. M. Cox climbed to within 50 m of the summit via the north ridge, but did not complete the ascent; they had promised not to set foot on the actual summit. Since then, the mountain has been declared sacred to Lord Shiva, and it is now forbidden to climbers.” It is not always the tallest mountains that are the mightiest (with all respect to Everest).

Something that Machapuchare holds within itself, is its own little secret that remains a mystery and allows none to tread upon it. Bare without footsteps in the company of the sky, we respect the mystery of its virgin peak. Sometimes instead of questioning how or why, you have to just revere mystery. We let the mystery be mysterious to itself, often like it is to be human. Science, Art and Philosophy; all explain their own idea of why we’re here and what we’re doing. Darwin would say Life is but the process of natural selection and Evolution. Ask the great Persian poet Rumi, and he would say life’s purpose is to Love. Many don’t even look further than the roles assigned to them by society that follow a prescribed order. Each has his own explanation, the poet and the scientist, the musician and the philosopher, but life itself goes on to be a mystery like Machapuchare.

by SHENAZ WAHID

photography ZAHID BARI

To God

God,
Thank you for giving me birth in a world full of beauty and full of agony.
One that only you understand, why you made it so.

Thank you for Love, and for the pain of hatred that teaches me Love’s worth.
Thank you for the sweetness of solitude, for the joy of company and for the aching loneliness that allows me to treasure both.

Thank you for the butterflies, mountains, fishes, oceans and trees.
Thank you for the friends I lost, ones I found and for those who stay through it all.
Thank you for the love I lost. Thank you for the love I found.
Thank you for those who come from nowhere, light a fire in my soul and change me forever in ways I couldn’t have done without them.
Thank you for those who make my heart cry without tears.

Thank you for my Angels and thank you for keeping me safe from the devils in my own mind.
Thank you for the moments of magic that turned into despair, and for the moments of despair that turned into magic.

Thank you for music and dance and for the deliciousness of silence. Thank you for the silence even when its loud.
Thank you for the joyous laughter. Thank you for the bitter tears.
Thank you for the sun and the moon. Thank you for the dark sky.
Thank you for light and thank you for the darkness, that gives the stars and moon a place to show themself.

Thank you for the moments I know myself, for those where I feel lost, and have a chance to find and be found.
Thank you for remembering me and thank you for forgetting all that I too must forget.

Thank you for those who understand who I am, for those who misunderstand and for those who couldn’t care less.
Thank you for all that I understand, and all that is far beyond me
in beauteous mystery’s womb.

Thank you for wisdom and insight and for my mistakes and folly.
Thank you for the nights of peace, and thank you for the restless sleepless nights.
Thank you for the mountains triumph. Thank you for failures abyss.
Thank you for the blessings, and for all that my foolish heart deemed as a curse.

Thank you for all that’s deep and for all that’s shallow in me, that needs digging.
Thank you for a mind that wants to turn moments into a story,
sometimes beautiful, sometimes frightful.
Thank you for words, without which I couldn’t tell any story.

Oh Thank you Dear God for the Dreams in my soul, for putting them there and thank you for all that is good and bad
that I will have to encounter along my journey’s length.
Thank you for what I know, for what I don’t, for what I will and for what I won’t.

Oh Thank you for People, both happy and sad as they make me. The ones who amaze and inspire, and the ones who hurt and confuse.
Thank you for keeping me company even when I don’t ask you to, and for never forsaking me even when I have myself
Thank you for all that has gone past me by, for now and for all that will be.

Thank you for magic and mystery, for revealing and hiding.
For all the funny contradictions of Life, the ecstasy and agony
one without which I wouldn’t know the other.

Thank you above all for LOVE
Thank you being a God of Love.

Thank you for it ALL.
Yours,
Shenaz

by SHENAZ WAHID

The wild bull

We are walking down the trail in a little village deep in the mountains of Nepal. The old lady sitting on her porch smiles at the couple.

An argument starts brewing between us over something hopelessly trivial; over tea and a muffin I think.
And somewhere down the few minutes, it becomes about something completely different, like the rain droplet that just met the roaring sea.
I turn around in the other direction, raging and walking furiously toward the woods.
The old ladies smile has turned into laughter. Perhaps she has lived and known all that we are doing.

I walk for long with only the sounds of the woods for company, without even a glance behind. When I stop, he is right behind me. My face wet with tears, he knows I am in no mood to talk. The only thing he says is “I can hear a stream far below, let’s go sit beside it.”   
“I can’t hear any stream.”, I say coldly looking in the direction where there is no pathway, but only a steep downhill descent into nothing.
I know him well for his adventure and wanting to tread paths where there are none, but at that moment I didn’t care.

He knows my stubbornness well too and gives me his hand silently with a smile, somehow guiding me and making a path where there is none, telling me where to put my feet.
Soon enough, we arrive at the stream.
We sit down silently listening to the water, staring at the stones that are a part of the streams journey, hoping that the stream will quieten and wash away the noise we had raised just a little while ago.

Out of nowhere he calls out to me aloud, “Shenaaaaaaaaz”
I ask sharply with the same irritated tone “WHAT?”
“RUNNN.”

Everything happened in seconds that waited just long enough, for us to understand. I looked in front of me and I could not believe my eyes. It was a scene befitting a movie. It was a wild bull with the unmistakable look of death in its eyes, charging toward us. Its eyes burning with fury on its giant body, shaking the ground as it neared.

My first reaction was disbelief and shock. I stood up and spontaneously cried aloud suras from the Quran I had been taught, as a child. Z was surprised as he had never seen me do that and momentarily looked at me and then the bull, before we started to run. We began running up the pathway we had so carefully climbed down, stopping for nothing.
We sprinted as fast as our legs would take us and paused to breathe, only when we reached the stone pathway of the village.

We look behind us and there he was, the wild bull now treading slowly.                      We walked over toward the old lady and sat on her porch. Her laughter had not left her, and now we were laughing hard too. We had escaped with our lives, and we were both sure that had we waited even a moment longer, the wild bull would have taken one of us on its mighty horns.

I still can’t fully comprehend the situation. Was the wild bull territorial and angry that we had ventured, toward his stream? Or was he just a pale ugly reflection of the face of our own anger, showing us how unneeded it was in a magical place, laden with blossoming rhododendron trees, the mountains and creatures of the forest, full of things we had never seen until we arrived there. Full of things we had walked so far to see.

Perhaps the bull was trying to show us the fragility of our lives and the futility of our anger. Everything ended in laughter.
I dreamed of the bull that night, and awoke being grateful to see the light of a new day.

by SHENAZ WAHID

Lyra’s voice

Often what Lyra thought was Love, was just an excuse for the word.
Love as time went by, she found was far more than the definitions she had given it in her unknowing youth.

It was more than the romance of candlelight.
Yes that too was an expression of love, but it was also his shadow that fell upon her, on the night she was unwell.
It was the days of laughter and journeying into the beauty of the mountains.
Yes it was walking down the streets with joy upon their lips,
but it was also the days of confusion, pain and solitude where he stood by her silently, as she searched her own soul.

It was the days of celebration, drunken in love with wine laced lips,
of song and dance and love-making.
but it was also the days doing things completely wrong,
to find his forgiving arms embrace her at night.

It was the days spent learning all the good they had to offer each other,
dreaming dreams and igniting a fire in the soul of the other,
simply because of the courage love gave them,
but it was also the days of having hope together, when dreams seemed far away.

It was looking into each other eyes, seeing only what they could see, feeling only what they could feel.
It was kisses and fingers running through each other’s skin and hair.
But it was also the nights when the dark weakness in their soul prevailed,
and even though it hurt to find it,
it was the nights when he held Lyra’s hand to say a prayer to the God,
that had blessed them with this Love.

It was the blissful days spent by the window with the setting sun upon their gleaming eyes, her head on his chest beside the moon drenched waves,
time spent tasting love’s sweetness,
but it was also the nights of agony when Love seemed so confusing.
And yet he was always near.

by SHENAZ WAHID