Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What if I am just a Caravan Fire?

The beauty of careful sewing on a shirt
is the patience it contains.

Friendship and loyalty have patience
as the strength of their connection.

Feeling lonely and ignoble indicates
that you haven't been patient.

Be with those who mix with God
as honey blends with milk, and say,

"Anything that comes and goes,
rises and sets, is not
what I love."

else you'll be like a caravan fire left
to flare itself out alone beside the road.


A friend of mine sent this poem to me today morning. I said it was a beautiful poem. Of course that goes without saying, Rumi’s poems are really great. But I don’t know what to make out of this particular poem.

It is about patience one should have. One should patiently wait for the things to happen in one’s life. May be, this a philosophical and poetic take on friendship, love and loyalty.

In 13th century, when the poet was alive, ‘waiting’ must have been one of the best possible ways to keep frustration away.

Think of those days when telephone density was negligible in our country. We invested all our faith on the efficiency of the post and telegraph department. Telegram always had negative connotations as it brought the news of somebody’s illness or death. People preferred not to receive telegrams.

Inland letters and envelops brought happy news. And we waited for them to come. Postman was a very important person in your life. If you were in love, you waited for him to come and deliver a letter.

In Kerala, even a lyrical genre came into being: Kathu Pattu, which means Letter Songs. Several married young men were in the gulf countries. Their wives were waiting back home for their letters and drafts to come. The lyrical exchanges between the husband and wife, full with romantic and sexual innuendos, and pathos of separation gave birth to this genre of Kathu Pattu.

In Bollywood too Kathupattu had its versions. You must be remembering the famous song sung by Pankaj Udhas, ‘Aayi hai chitti aayi hai’ (the letter has come) and the famous tear jerker sung by Sonu Nigam, ‘Sandesein aaye hain’ (message has come).

Several years before I came to this earth, people said, post man used to run with the mails from one post office to the other. Another post man would receive the letters from him and run to find the addressees.

Then they started using bicycles. Initially, their uniform was khaki. Then it became coffee brown. Now they wear anything they want as they are not very much important in our social life.

Intuition was the most reliable thing during those days. You go to the usual meeting place and strongly wish that your friend would come. And he/she really did come! Don’t you know that great feeling of seeing your girlfriend standing like a red flower under a tree which is filled with blue flowers?

Then came telephones. But you were not allowed to use at your free will. Public telephone booth people, when mobiles came in the market, never allowed you to make local calls to mobiles. If you did, they charged you double.

I am talking about 20th century. Rumi was living in 13th century Persia.

That’s why his poems are filled with the imageries of caravans, dates, setting suns, sand dunes, winds, minarets, prayer calls, lover’s pangs etc. In 13th century you had to wait, wait with a lot of patience. And you needed to profess the virtues of love and loyalty.

In our days, do we really need to wait? Communication technology has made the notion of waiting defunct.

You are connected to anyone you want through internet and mobile phones. You can locate your long lost friend through virtual groups and search engines. Out of no where, one day your friend says hello from six continents away.

Why wait?

Waiting has become man made now. You can refuse to pick up a call. You can put it in call wait. You can trash a mail. You can delete an SMS without giving any importance to it. You can even tell your friend, ‘wait’, poetically or technically.

In the world of chat, you can block someone away. Or you can go hiding by assuming ‘invisible’ status. You can order a person to be away by placing your status as busy. You can write tag lines under your name and tell the world that you are very important and philosophical.

But world does not wait. It goes its own way. No lover waits anymore. He/she is looking for the right person to establish a home.

Someone is going to places and tell the world that he is in a different plane. Someone imagines going to the mountains. Someone imagines walking alone amongst woods.

Rumi is wrong. People love what comes and goes. They like Bollywood. People like what rises and sets.

Yesterday’s struggler is today’s superstar. Yesterday’s superstar is today’s shame. I have seen collectors and buyers and gallerists turning their faces away from the artists whose works did not do well in the last auction.

People just don’t wait.

But I wait. I wait like an ember left by the caravan. I had given warmth to the tired travelers. They may neglect me and go. They don’t even bother to put some water on me. They leave me there to die out on my own.

What if I am just a caravan fire? I die than wait. And I am sure God is with those people who wait. But I know at the same time, God is with the dying ember too because He is the one who gave it light and heat.

Let Rumi wait. I prefer to die like a caravan fire.

(My post, ‘Thoughts Before Valentine’s Day was discussed in some newspaper articles. See one of those in )

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