Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
- The Holy Bible, James 4:14

My parents have reached that stage in their life where their friends have started passing away. Over the past year, at least two families that we've known have lost their husbands and fathers. These were the adults that seemed immutable to me, fixtures that the tent of my life was pegged to in the sandstorm of the desert of life, people that remained the same as I progressed from kindergarten to high school to grad school to respectable fulltime employment to quarterlife crisis.

Yesterday my mom caught up with a friend she had gone to school with in a faraway time in Lucknow, India. My mother remembered the schoolgirl version of her, and now, decades later, she discovered a widow in her 60s who had 4 grown children living in various countries in the Eastern hemisphere. In the process of catching up with her friend, my mom discovered a few more girls she used to know who had passed away. One of these was a good friend from her schooldays whom she had lost touch with.

This comes at a time when I'm immersed in the history of Oman as part of my research for a book. During such periods, I may be physically present in the current time, but my mind and soul are suspended in that realm where I'm outside the dimension of time, looking in at all the ages that have come and gone and are yet to occur. Cities forgotten except when discovered buried intact under our feet, lives that were lived, and faces that once had strange names. Echoes of trials, sorrows, betrayals, and joy. Powerful kings and queens, bloody battles, great civilisations and cultures, youth and life, noble ideals. The wind stole them all, and the earth bears silent witness to their shadows even as we unknowingly build lives over their remains.

While my mother contemplates the meaning of the quiet end of the lives of the girls she once giggled with, the image of a novel whose last sentence has been neatly written and the book closed continuously runs in my mind. A dull sense of loss suspends itself within my stomach. I am feeling the absence of people that once were, even though I've never met any of them, none of the schoolgirls, widows, kings and queens, travellers, godmen, warriors, healers, dreamers, fathers, mothers, and children. I mourn them. I miss them all in the quiet place where there is no Time, where even I have no name, no face, and no voice. I never did.

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