Monday, 26 April 2010

Lost In The Sands Of Time

What a lovely cloudy morning it’s been. This is my kind of winter… not the usual bright blue skies and sunshine that fools the body into thinking its still summer and when you step out there’s that cold reality check waiting to slap you back to the present.

I love days like these, only because I can enjoy them fully by sitting in front of the heater while I look for a suitable job on the internet (any country out there want to adopt me temporarily please… I cook and bake, am a great law-abiding citizen and pay my taxes on time). Earlier though, I was looking through some of the assignments from first year Anthropology students detailing their origins and just reading through them was an enthralling experience which kept me fascinated and glued to their stories for hours.

Most of the assignments have photos attached to them and evidence of the lives of grandparents, great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents. There are letters from King Edward VIII and invitations from Buckingham Palace, certificates (of membership) from the Freemasons, medals from the Great War (WWI), diagrams tracing lineage back to Shaka Zulu, love letters between beloveds and photos… photos of a time lost and people who have long since passed into another realm. It’s both exhilarating and extremely sad.

What I find very interesting (and very admirable) about that era is how romantic and poetic people were, without being corny or tacky. If there was anything I could bring back from that time, it would be that heartfelt sincerity and the words they uttered in their daily lives, as part of the norm. Reading through old letters from husbands to wives and from wives to husbands, one can’t help but feel that they had more substance in their lives. Even in a distraught letter to his wife, one great-grandfather expressed his grief and dismay so eloquently; I thought I was in a Jane Austen novel.

(Can I just mention how impeccably groomed they all were. They all took so much pride in the way they dressed that it would put most of the contemporary world to shame. And that was just the way they were, it required no effort in terms of “dressing up”, and was considered proper etiquette at the time. No man can go wrong in a fitted suit, or even a nice kurta/abaya.)

Anyways, it got me thinking of my own grandparents and great-grandparents. Now I’m a regular reflector of the past and I love history, as I’ve mentioned many times before, but I have to lament the fact that these photos, letters, medals and certificates are all that we ever become… our names and words etched on pieces of paper, our images imprinted forever capturing the essence of that time.

 My Great-Grandfather: 12 March 1937

And sooner than we think, like many before us, we will leave this world and a year becomes a decade and a decade becomes a century, until you’ve ceased to exist in the minds and memories of your beloved and offspring and become yet another atom in the sands of time… a distant memory (more myth-like than real) only occasionally drudged up for academic purposes to fill the insatiable curiosity of later generations that are significantly emotionally detached. It is sad indeed.

Over the Easter weekend, I was at Mother’s aunts’ place and we were looking through old photographs of the past… ooh-ing and aah-ing at how so many have aged, remembering those that have passed and looking-on at those we have never had the chance to meet. And I told Mother’s aunt then, that it may sound ego-centric, na├»ve, and somewhat patronizing but it’s always amazing to fathom that our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had full lives long before we even existed. They had lived, loved and lost and contrary to what we’d like to believe, their entire lives weren’t spent waiting for us to come along.

An entire life in photographs… moments captured for all eternity or at least until some great-great-great grand-daughter’s niece or whatever decides that it’s no longer useful or relevant and it goes up in flames at the next bonfire. So just imagine one day you will no longer be useful or relevant and your entire life – the joys and the agonies of it – will go up in flames in front of people who no longer care that you were a devoted husband or wife, or that you struggled to feed your family, or that you were a prominent member of whatever society, or that you were inspirational to those in your circle, or that you strived for greatness, or that a considerable amount of effort went into ensuring that you provided a good home for future generations.

And just like that, everything you’ve ever agonised about in your entire life… from the game you missed on TV, to those boots they didn’t have in your size, to burning the rice for dinner, scratching the car, hiding that scar on your forehead, trying on pain of death to acquire some status and respect… all that becomes inconsequential and means absolutely nothing as your entire life is deemed irrelevant. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll become part-myth part-legend but still at the core, no one will give a damn.

So my message for you today is… as it always is, and as it always will be… LIVE your life today, for you and your Lord. Live and love unapologetically, like there’s no tomorrow. Grab every moment and make the most of it because ultimately, in the grander scheme of things nothing really matters.

I’m going to practice the art of speaking poetically with all that grace and charm oozing from every word and hope that I have a few people who shall indulge my whims and fancies. :)


  1. My paternal grandfather kept a journal, from his days in India right until his last days in South Africa in the 1960's.
    I don't understand it as it's mostly in gujerati.
    My dad's elderly sister guards it fiercely. She's the only one in our family that can decipher it.
    I hope to sit with her one day and have her read out the entries to me. I only have 1 picture of him and my grandmother, and, this journal.

    I only have the vague recollections of family members that link me to my grandparents and that makes me quite sad.

    This actually makes me want to start my offline journal once again. It's something for the descendants. It's not about me, it's about them, knowing where they came from, knowing that there was someone who had a fondness for carrot atchaar and strange flavours of ice cream. Perhaps they'll have a fondness for it too.

  2. Fatima - Exactly what I think: it is not about me, its about the future generations. This blog is kinda like my online journal documenting my thoughts, various events etc so that I can read it and cringe in a few years time and then pass on those cringworthy moments to other generations ;D

  3. I love this post!
    Echo echo echo!
    I guess I'm a bit of a history geek myself....and i have this book of collected letters- from presidents and emperors to famous poets and lovers.
    Really gorgeous stuff- except - you feel guilty reading the intimate pieces btwn 2 ppl.
    somehow, just one letter can change the way you see a person...or-make you realise how alike we are to those old shades...
    like this letter that an unknown russian woman-who died at 24 of tb- wrote to guy du maupassant(famous french writer)- in an attempt to start a literary affair/interest. it was... a delicate, drawn out- but infinitely more exciting- version of email!
    mysterious strangers and witty repartee and deliciously writtern rebuffs etc:)
    i read it in awe. that woman had Style. and Sass.
    (cos in the end....du maupassant became the pursuer...)

    id take notes from them...except if i ever had to write something similar, id probably get a response like...-wtf? / huh? /did your mum write this?

  4. I love old pictures and history :)

    This old Star Trek tv series had a simulator type thing called the "Holodeck" - where people could go to any place and time in history; and i always thought that was soooo cool.

    I'd like to wear a bowler hat, someday....

  5. Pserean - That book of yours sounds divine... I love love love history books especially when they have pictures, images and illustrations detailing the time. It's almost like you can time travel back to those days and I derive alot of satisfaction from living vicariously though the past lol! It always leaves me wondering and mesmerised. Imagine how many generations have lived before us, all with their own lives and trials and tribulations... and in this ego-centric world we live in, we often get caught up int he notion that we are the only ones here and the only ones with problems etc. When you think of the magnitude of it all, its humbling because it makes you realise just how insignificant we all are and that there is so much more to life than the daily mindless grind or endless trivial pursuits.

    I love putting life into perspective, it makes me feel better about all the things that annoy me :D

    dreamlife - I'd love to re-create something like that holodeck... maybe a 4D experience where you punch in the date and place and it takes you to there... imagine how COOL would that be?!?!I'm getting so excited like Willy Wonka in a chocolate factory just thinking about it :)

  6. I had way too many cringeworthy moments on my very first blog. It was horrible. I deleted it :)

    I've written down the really big moments in my life in a real diary :)

    Speaking of history...
    Lol, my husband has the insane idea that on Day of Qiyamat he'd like to put in the request to the Almighty to 'show us' various parts of history on a 'giant lcd'. e.g. the parting of the Red Sea, the building of the Kaabah by Ibraheem A.S and Ismail A.S. the Crucifixion and the confusion that ensued, the Whale swallowing Yunus A.S, etc.

    Yeah, he has quite the imagination.

  7. Fatima - Your hubby must be my brother from another mother because I said the exact same thing :D Only I'd like it on an imax HD screen in 4D ;)

  8. i gaze at the formal, neat, sombre photos of my parents and grandparents.
    why burn these images.
    it's a great way of seeing what life was like then.
    in this day of digital the future generations gets to read our blogs and look at casual ( i dont have a better word) pictures.

    @fatima: my grandfather who was blind in old age, had someone type out his memoirs for him.
    my mother inherent it. she loved reading it. but tragically...when she got married, her ocd sister-in-law cleared out..i mean tidied her room threw it all away.

  9. fathima - I think we're still somewhat close to the people who's photographs we hold on to... even if they are gone, even if we barely knew them. But as the generations go along... for instance, say another 3 to 5 generations down the line, no one's going to care - bar one or two interested folk wanting to know where they came from and even then, they will be significantly emotionally detached.
    Such a shame about your Grandad's memoirs :(