Friday, March 30, 2012

Letter to Lyova

Lyova, wherever you are,
I want you to know
I have finally mustered up
My faltering courage to use
This handmade, woven notebook
That you pressed into my hands,
Urging me to fill it with words.

The little doll that tsunami-victims made
Still stays pinned on the cover,
Although the pin is now rusted.
"Tsunamika" is her name.
I wonder how long her creator
Struggled to concieve of such a
Witty play on words.

I wonder if she had writer's block.
Did she, like I, suddenly feel her words unworthy?
Did panic grip her every time her fingers held a pen?
Did every painful, labored word
Feel like it drew blood?

Lion-philosopher, did you know
The enormity of the burden
You left in my hands
When you left this notebook behind?

It is strange that after all is over,
When images of sitting on floors of dusty coaches,
Curd-rice, balmy monsoon evenings,
Jewish temples, Adorno and Heidegger,
Nuns severe in habits of gray
Have started to blur like pictures
Of trees taken from speeding trains,

This notebook remains,
Eloquently silent,
At times accusatory,
At others comforting.
Finally I have taken it up
Because I owe it to the gift,
And I owe it to myself,
And I wanted you to know that, Lyova.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dying Alone

The news that greeted me when I logged on to facebook today was that my maternal cousin, Reem-a had died in a car accident in the early hours of the morning. Probably because I stayed the night alone in my apartment, my family had not informed me of this, and thus it was that I was confronted with the news via the status update of one of my other cousins. Anyhow, this is often the case with me – I am always the last to hear of any news in the family, births, deaths, marriages, and the assorted calamities and celebrations in between.

I was not particularly close to Reem-a since we hardly meet anymore, and he was a bit of what we Mizos like to call a ‘cowboy’ – a bit on the wild side, although he was a lot of fun, with a terrific sense of humor. When I imagine him in my mind’s eye, I see him grinning from ear to ear. That was the kind of person he was. The youngest of a large family of six other siblings, he was doted upon by his brothers, sisters and parents. He lost his mother, my aunt, a few years ago, which must have been especially hard on him. I like to think of him now being hugged into his mother’s warm embrace. Although I have not been able to attend his funeral, which is in Lunglei, I can imagine the waves of shock and grief that must be coursing through his near and dear ones right now. Rest in peace, brother. Sorrounded by his family and friends, he has left this world.

Mizos have this fear that we will have nobody to mourn us when we die. I’ve been thinking about it, and I guess that for many of us regardless of race, culture, or environment, dying alone may be one of the biggest fears that we have. Not that you can die with anyone, but not to have anyone to feel a sense of loss, of bereavement, seems an empty existence. To many, that may sound illogical. After all, once you’re six feet underground, what would it matter whether you had mourners or not? And yet, such is human nature. We want people to feel something when we leave this world.

That is why, we love and love and love again no matter how many disappointments life deals us. People are fickle, people are callous, people are unpredictable, people hurt us. And yet, we leave ourselves open to new experiences, willingly make ourselves vulnerable in the hope of finding someone to fill that gap. That persistent need to be loved. Our determination that we will be loved, just as we have loved. How brave we are, how strong the human spirit! Here are a few words that Native American writer, Louise Erdrich has penned in her novel, The Native Drum:
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, of left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as many as you could.