Monkey Business

Monkey Business

Becoming known as a local in a small town is a long process, even with the Howler monkeys. It takes more than a year, usually, and you’ve got to learn the language. My wife and I were out jungling around the other day looking for monkeys, and finally gave up and went to the beach. Something unusual happened. A troop of about twenty Howler monkeys were there, and they were on the move, not liking the wind, the approaching rain, and the people gathering at the beach bars for happy hour. They walked, one by one, down a fence we were standing next to, then jumped up into a tree right above us. I’ve learned to bark, hoot, and gutterly grunt like they do, so they stopped to check us out. I guess we’re gaining local standing, if only with the Howlers. Then the daily flood started and they went swinging off into the higher trees. This place is a miracle a day, if you stay awake, pay attention, and learn the language of the locals.
Aoooaaaghhhh – uugghhh – ugghhh…
Later…

Our First Anniversary and a “Friend” Sighting, all in One Week !

This is an unusual post for me…all mushy stuff opening with a couple of questions, followed by a few statements of fact, and ending with a sigh of relief.

First – a year ago this June 1 my beautiful wife, shimmyshark to WordPress People…but forever Char mi amor to me, exchanged marriage vows with me.  That was something I never imagined happening again in my life…but some lifetimes a guy just gets lucky.  My first question is – what is the traditional anniversary gift for a one-year anniversary?  I know the various anniversaries all have some element or other symbolic substance associated with them.  Am I write in thinking it is paper?  I think I recall that from somewhere.  I could look it up in a minute on the internet, I guess, but I’m done looking stuff up on the internet for the week.

This leads to my second question – what in the world do I give the such a special woman as a gift that is made of paper, if my recollection is true?  She got me a bottle of Chilean wine…Pinot Noir…my favorite, which is hard to come by and expensive here since the climate is not conducive to growing those tiny grapes that are cultivated at a very limited range in altitude and under conditions that are rare in South and Central America.  I know about this bottle of Pinot because I’m a snoop, and I helped her unpack groceries after her shopping trip the other day, despite her protestations she didn’t need my help.  If it is paper, that leads me to a statement –

char framed BW

My wife, the budding photographer, is having her work published for the first time next week in a poetry collection created by my friend from Pakistan, Maryam Shahbaz.  There is also an exhibition of her work being planned within the next month.

After only a few months of taking photography seriously, and being limited by the fact that the only cameras we have are a cell phone and an ancient digital thing, I’m extremely proud of her.

This is a self portrait she did one morning on our balcony.  I repeat, how lucky can a guy get?

Our move from Seattle to Central America might have helped a bit, giving her a colorful and constantly changing palette of images to work with.  But, the eye is hers, so we’ll toast her eyes next Saturday, along with the rest of her.

And, speaking of Maryam Shahbaz…

 

20130402_123840A communique arrived from Pakistan.  Some tough times have been had by a young woman who deserves much better, but things work out.  Her first collection of poetry, The Light Behind the Veil, is in the final stages of incubation…a few alignment edits with the printer, a few other minor publishing issues, and she’s off and running as a new voice in Pakistani poetry, a country known for its storytellers and poets.

Maryam is a private person, not used to the spotlight or a lot of attention, so I promised her I would not air any of our communications other than the fact she was alright and will return to the world of WordPress once her poetry collection is out and things calm down for her and her family.

The recent elections in Pakistan, in which the conservative forces of Flat-World-ism won out, stomping on the face of any hopes for the Progressive movement toward a better world for all of that country’s citizens instead of the favored few.

I told her I know how she feels, having lived through a few of those Back-to-the-Past elections which brought a New World Order in name only to the United States.  I can empathize with her and her country’s disappointments.

Here’s hoping for the best for her and Pakistan.

Anyway…I’m off.  Still trying to figure out this anniversary thing.  And, if paper it is, I guess paper it will be.  What does one give to someone so special made of paper?  A book of poetry with her photos in it?

We’ll see.

Later….

The Politics of Yertl the Turtle

Your Majesty please…I don’t like to complain,/ But down here below, we are feeling great pain./ I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,/ But down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”

 

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories

Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That quote is lines 65-68 from “Yertl the Turtel”, one of three stories from Yertl the Turtle and Other Stories by the rabble-rousing labor activist and raving anarchist, Theodor Suess Geisel, better known to you, me, and millions of other children as Dr. Seuss.  The famous children’s book was published by Random House Books on April 12, 1958, and Dr. Seuss’s demonic, socialistic thoughts, have been polluting minds – young and old – ever since.

But, like all instigators of class warfare, the good Dr. got called to account for his dangerous words a little over a year ago by Dave Stignant, acting director of the Prince Rupert School District in the sleepy little hamlet of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada.

But, let’s start this from the beginning.  The photo of the turtle that heads this bit of pinko thinking was taken by my wife.  The turtle is at home in a pool outside of Auto-Mercado, an American-style supermarket between Tamarindo and Villareal in Costa Rica.

I commented at what a limited world-view this poor creature must have had, and a friend of mine replied that it probably wasn’t all that bad, since the turtle was king of all he surveyed.  I immediately thought of one of the first books I owned as a child, Yerlt the Turtle and Other Stories.

It’s a short piece -probably one of Dr. Seuss’s most famous – from this stanza:

Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
 I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it.  Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food.  We are starving!” groaned Mack.

 

Similar turtles were used in an editorial cart...

Similar turtles were used in an editorial cartoon published in PM on March 20, 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The gist of this story is that Yertl the Turtle is the King of the Pond on a “faraway island of Sala-ma-Sond, and wanting to be more powerful, he had ordered his turtle subjects to pile up so he could survey more to be King of.  Mack, a most common and plain little turtle, was on the bottom.  All was fine until the moon came up, and Yertl called for more turtles since there should be no higher than the highest authority…himself.

How this all became an issue in the Prince Rupert School system was that a elementary school teacher had introduced this book into her class plan.  She also seems to have had a t-shirt with “But down at the bottom, we too should have rights” on the chest.  She was a union member, and there was a bit of re-working to be done as far as contracts and pay-scales were concerned.  The indignant Stignant banned her from using the book in her classroom, wearing the t-shirt, and from even having any items concerning Yertl the Turtle on school grounds, or in open view inside her car.

“It’s a good use of my time if it serves the purpose of shielding the children from political messaging,” the indignant Stignant said.  “I don’t consider it’s taking a stand on the dispute.  It’s a matter of legality and living up to our obligations to children and their families.”

 

YERTLE

I was digging farther into this, the results of the Yertl the Turtle controversy and book ban, and especially the fortunes, or misfortunes of the indignant Stignant…but the internet connection went south, I lost my original post, art, and settings, so I’m getting this off as fast as I can before it happens again.

Save it for another day.

I do know that the end of the tale has plain little turtle Mack burp (which was quite a rude thing to say in 1958) and the turtle tower collapsed, leaving King Yertl face in the mud of the pond.  Maybe the final stanza gives some indication of how the whole union brouhaha, as well as the indignant Stignant’s, fortunes fared:

And tosay the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud.  That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
 As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

Just Who am I Writing For?

A trip HusbandHave I lost my way?  Have I found my way?  Am I busy being born instead of busy dying, to quote Bob Dylan?  A constant reader commented the other day I was a “softie” under my crusty exterior.  I had written a post about my wife and I rescuing an abandoned kitten.  How mushy is that?  And, I’ve been writing posts about joining in on clean-up projects promoted by a young boy in Florida, and worrying over the fate of people from the other side of the world…people I wouldn’t even know of without this social media connection I’ve fostered.

Where did my inner curmudgeon go?

Have I pawned all my angst, anger and attitude off on the Philosopher Red/alter-ego I seem to use more and more often for dirty work?

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve...

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was reading an old Kurt Vonnegut interview published in Playboy magazine in the early 1970s, post-Slaughterhouse Five, and he answered a question posed by the interviewer about why he writes with this:

Writers are specialized cells doing whatever we do, and we’re expressions of the entire society – just as the sensory cells of your body as a whole.  And when a society is in great danger, we’re likely to sound the alarms.”  Later in the interview he answers further questioning by saying that artist’s work reflects the society they are a part of, and if they’re good at their work, they offer comforting lies to make people feel good about being alive.

Sometimes I think I should be sounding the alarm.  I agree with megalomaniac dictators like Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler that artists should serve their state…I just disagree with them as to how I should serve my state.  But, to do this I need to define my state, just who it is I’m writing for.  I know the most common answer from artists is they create for themselves and the audience can buy the ticket and take the ride, or they can go jump in a volcano…but their work is still affecting their society, even if they reject that society and any approval from that society.  A question I used to pose to students…a writing prompt –

“What does ‘America’ mean?  Is it a geographical area…rivers and mountains and deserts and seashores?  Is it the people who live within those borders?  Is it an idea, started by a gang of rich Virginia planters and Massachusetts importer/exporters and interpreted by succeeding generations to fit their times and fashion?  When you pledge allegiance to the Flag, what does that piece of cloth symbolize?”

I got about as many answers as I had students, and none of them made much sense.  The one know-it-all I had write a screed about Communism’s faults and Democracy’s superiority…I told him he was comparing a method of organizing the commercial life of a group of people with a political one and he should sober up if he was going to preach.  The ones who answered it’s the American people…I asked them exactly who they were including: crack dealers…robber baron CEOs…lazy cretins who live off SSI or other taxpayer-supported programs intended for the truly needy, or people they perceived to be very much like themselves.  I wanted an answer for myself as much as I wanted them to think about something beside “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” or “American Idol” results.

I seem to be going in several directions…or, are they connected in some manner beyond my non-inquisitive intellect?  I guess I’m flailing around for a subject to write about, and I’ve written about one.

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1...

Bob Dylan at Massey Hall, Toronto, April 18, 1980 Photo by Jean-Luc Ourlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just now I was having an e-mail conversation with a writer, and I told him about the little comic books I saw in Mexico called “revistas.”  They’re turned out every week, and the government gave them away for free in the Mexico City subway, thinking that people who are reading don’t commit as much crime as those who aren’t.  These “revistas” are hyper-sexual, awfully written, and the cheapest form of “low art” imaginable…but they were being used to serve the “state” in a positive way.  Goofy entertainment to reduce the chance your grandmother won’t get beat up and mugged on the way home from her $12 a day job cleaning rich people’s toilets.

Big Joe Stalin, Benny Mussolini, Uncle Adolf, and The Dylan would all probably spit on revistas if they even thought it worth their while.

 

Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie

Virginia, Rosalie and Hallie (Photo credit: Robert of Fairfax)

But I’m still at an impasse…do I serve my “state” better by promoting small, feel-good posts that make readers go, “Awwww…” or do I dredge up heavy-handed, loaded, and brain-straining issues that are not – and have never been – manageable to the average reader?  I think I’ll just shut up until someone more intelligent than I offers some sort of answer…or write for these three gals.

Later…

 

Road Tripping Down the Dead Road

I’ve got these back problems, you see.  When I was working as a tour guide in Mexico I broke my back.  It never gets better, but I got some advice from a local directing me to a “real chiropractor” out on the barren road to Langosta Beach.  And, this local said she was cheap.  We all have different standards.

My wife and I got lost, finding ourselves on a side road.  I asked a fisherman about a doctor for backs, and he pointed to a walled compound where a sign warned of dangerous dogs.  Walking around to the front of the chiropractor’s office I came across the dangerous dogs, asleep in the heat.

Chiropractor Dogs

A metal pad at the side of the doorway had an “Empuje” sign above it, so I impujed.  An elderly woman appeared, told me she was with a client for the next hour, and to come back later.  One dangerous dog opened an eye, the other raised his head, looked me over, then let his head loll back against the iron fence.  What to do?  The Tamarindo Municipal Park was across the street.

Manglar Parque

Turkey Vultures

I loved the name of the park…in gringo…Mangler Park.  The park was a desolate, dry, dead place, as every place is during the dry season.  The sign advertised a Fitness Course, and I’m always in need of some more fitnessing.  We wanders in to find the only two creatures in the park other than ourselves were two full-grown Turkey Buzzards.  They weren’t leaving, no matter how close we got to them, and I urged my wife forward with her camera…telling her they must have some carcass they were working over or they would have flown.  She got within ten feet of the pair before she started complaining of the smell.

 Female Turkey Vulture

The male had been standing guard…the female was busy mangling what was left of an Iguana.  The male flew up into a tree, but the female was not going to leave her small, smelly piece of the food chain.  She kept to her mangling.  We decided to wait outside on the dead, dusty road to Langosta and the Ghost Hotel.

 I began to have second thoughts about our little health excursion down the Dead Road, and suggested we walk back up the road to where I had spotted some ancient ruins…ancient for Costa Rica.

Yes, the remnants of a long-dead culture.  The ruins of the first building boom brought on by the gringo invasion of the 1970s, gone bust when the colonists abandoned their dreams, deciding that dry seasons, rainy seasons, high season for tourists, and low season for tourists were not the extreme variations they were looking for in their search for Paradise.  The strong – Los Brovos, survive here…the weak go home, if they have one to go to.  I don’t.  I’m thinking of changing addresses from the Ghost Hotel to the Ancient Ruins by the Beach.

Costa Rica Ruins

Social Media Maniacs, the Worst Book Ever, and a Birthday Bonfire

My internet connection went dead three days ago.  I felt as if all the color run from my life, as my world turned to black and white.  I felt alone, stranded on a rocky, desolate island surrounded by violent crashing waves.  My social media needs went un-fed, and I was feeling surly.  I jest…I went to the only bookstore in town and bought a new book.  It reminded me why I usually stick to authors I know – it was the worst piece of junk I’ve ever started to read.  I tried to return it, but the shop was closed.  I thought of propping it up against the door and sneaking away, but if an unsuspecting reader picked it up and tried to read it…they could be turned off to reading forever.  Going back to the beach I found some friends involved in some birthday bonfire mayhem.  I gave the stinker of a book to a local whose vinegar outlook on life I’ve come to dislike.  He should have known better…the Aztec calendar warned of the coming of Cortez, the publication of this book, and the Great Internet Crash that is so common it needs no powers of prediction.

 

Aztec Sun GodBefore my internet went down I had seen a post from a blogger that claimed they had only been posting for a month, had received 11,984 hits, and had been followed by 1,218 other bloggers.  What?  The math is astounding…que milagro, as they say in a world of miracles.  Why should I care about this?  These kinds of posts always amuse and amaze me.  It seems as though the greedy acquisition of view, likes, and follows is the end to some means, like spending days following, liking, and commenting once or twice on every post from every blog.  There will probably be a new disorder named in honor of people like this.  There will also be a pill developed soon to counteract this debilitating, unquenchable desire, I’m sure…if there isn’t one or a few already.

I am proud to announce I have 29 followers, 208 views, so few likes there should be a minus sign before the number, and not one award.  I have clicked the “follow” button on a few of these afflicted addicts…past tense, since I’ve just as quickly un-followed them.  Some of the best writing, most interesting bloggers, as well as the most inspired and inspiring posts I have come across have been from people with less than 100 followers, few likes, nearly no comments, and best of all…no sense that they’re a cyber-social failure.  I guess they create posts because they like the process of creating quality posts more than the racket of insincere approval.

Book Cover OhSo, what can a person do when they have no internet connection?  Buy a book.  I did.  This is not a book review…more a book warning.  Do not touch the book Tenochtitlan: The Last Battle of the Aztecs by an author I won’t name out of common decency.  It was a translation from Spanish to English, so I could forgive the non-lyrical prose, but it was still a misguided attempt at storytelling.  There was too much information about the cultural clash between the native Aztecs and conquest-mad Spanish invaders for the novice, and too little unique insight to hold the attention of the initiated.

The only reason I read 75 pages or so into this mess was the wealth of amusing spelling and syntax errors committed by the translator.  It might have helped if I had my machete to cut through this, and that might be a good sales ploy:

Free Machete with Every Copy ! 

I don’t know.  I found something else to do quick.

The beach is never far away, and in a small town of less than 500 inhabitants, there’s always someone or a group of someones there I know who are up to no good, or…lighting a bonfire for an night-long birthday party.  My good friends from Villareal – Francisco and Sylvia, his lively, lovely Cubana wife – were there with their collection of children and a few fellow revelers.  It was Sylvia’s birthday, or so they claimed…as if an excuse was necessary.  These people will light a fire and party all night to celebrate the sunset.

Fire Shot IIFire Shot IX

I tried to get a few photos.  I am an amateur.  There always seemed to be beer bottles blocking my view, not enough light, or both in this case.  My wife – the real photographer – told me I could PhotoShop my failed photos, but I kind of liked them the way they came out.  The dim glow of the fire provided just enough light for me to capture my wife, a professional bellydancer, showing Francisco a few moves, while at the same time protecting Francisco’s anonymity…even though his belly would suggest his attempts at belly-rolls and hip-drops should be captured and immortalized for the edification of all involved.

Fire Shot III

These are trying times, I know, but we who are still walking the walk are survivors.  The internet connection is back, so I won’t take any literary chances and be seduced by books with catchy, colorful cover art, and I’ll just have to force myself away from the “like” and “follow” buttons long enough to go to the beach and find myself involved in LIFE.  There will be updates on this experiment in living, since I’m sure ICE and RACSA, the Costa Rican communications providers, won’t be able to sustain such a dangerous level of internet access beyond sunset tomorrow.

A Book CoverTo my few followers and friends around the world…stay away from this book.  Anyone else dropping in for a cheap thrill – this is the book for you.

Later…

Beach Angel Blessing

This is a re-working of a Sand Art photo my wife took two weeks ago.  We thought it needed a little something, so she manipulated it with a few added touches of color.  The original is below.

 

A Sand Shot Fairy

 

 

Some difference.  This Sand Art thing is something we’ve been working on for a while.  The model is willing, and always available…the sea and sand and wind will never complain, show up late after a late night of partying, and no wages.  And the combination of sand, sea, and wind seems to leave us enough abstract drainage patterns every day, twice a day, we will never run out of subject matter.  And, the sweet little bonus…it’s a bit of the wife and husband activity thing that gives us something constructive and artistic we can do together.

Later…

Allama Iqbal, a Naat, and The Mystery Behind the Green Door

Maryam Museum VII

Maryam Shahbaz…young poet on the go…signed into the shrine honoring the life of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Iqbal, and hoping for the best.

 

She found herself caressing the carpet that a poetic icon and national hero tread on so casually in a past, commenting, “…it is hand woven and has a very desirable feel to it.”

 

 

 

Maryam Museum XIIIThe caretaker, Mr. Riaz, offered up the pen (qalam) and ink pot (dawat) that Allama Iqbal used to make words come off the page and dance for those listening to the music.  Words…words…words, such as –

You are the Sacred Tablet.  You are the Pen and the Book; 

This blue colored dome is a bubble in the sea that you are.

You are the lifeblood of the universe

You bestowed the illumination of a sun upon the particles of the desert dust.

The splendor of Sanjam and Selim; a mer hint of your majesty;

The faqar of Juniad and Bayazid; your beauty unveiled.

 

 

Maryam Museum XVIMr. Riaz seems to have his own sense of the dramatic – meant to tantalize the imagination of those sensitive to the mysteries of the universe, and of those chosen to interpret that universe for apprentices of the senses.

He led Maryam and a friend to a green door, telling her that it had been closed since Allama Iqbal passed on to the universal mystery nearly eighty years ago.

When asked why it was closed, he only offered that it had been used for a dressing room addition to the guest room.

Asked if it would ever be opened, he reserved his opinion and said it could be opened some day…some day.

 

Maryam Museum XXIVAn assistant to Mr. Riaz, offered a dramatic reading of a naat – a written epic honoring the master poet’s sense of his desired union with the eternal…the universal…the mysterious…the lines that moved me to think more deeply about my feeling of that eternal, universal, mystery:

It persuaded me with art, it pulled me by force;

Strange is Love at the beginning, strong in its perfection !

Separation is greater than union in the state of ecstasy;

For union is death to desire while separation brings the pleasure of longing…

 

Persuasion – Beginning – Perfection – Separation – Ecstasy – Union – Desire – Longing

 

And the final stanza of the naat, one that sunk into my hand-woven soul with a desirable feel to it that seeks out the magic left by those who have written my world into existence:

The world has become dark since the sun has set down;

Unveil your beauty to dawn upon this age.

You are a witness in on my life so far;

I did not know that Knowledge is a tree that bears no fruit.

 

To this I not only have nothing to add, but don’t even feel qualified to comment.

Later….

 

(Maryam Shahbaz’s poetry can be found on WordPress through Maryamshahbazmian.  Her poetry collection, The Light Behind the Veil is to be released soon through Multani Press.  Good luck to her…if the truly talented and deserving need luck).

A Young Poet’s Pilgrimage in the City of Poets

Maryam MarketI met the young poet on a social media site.  Over the past few months we’ve become friends – more than friends I guess.  She addresses me in Urdu, her native language, as big brother.  I address her in Spanish as my little sister.  Odd to me, having such a relationship with someone on almost the exact opposite side of the world…Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets.  I asked my little sister, the poet Maryam Shabhaz, if she would visit the shrine of Allama Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan and another native of Sialkot, to give readers an idea of the importance of poets in her country.  She sent me these photos of her pilgrimage.

Maryam started with a photo of the bazaar, not an unusual place to start in a city with a history similar to Sialkot.  Alexander the great made Sialkot the eastern-most outpost of his empire.  Persians, Afghans, Sikhs, Turks, Mughal emperors, Brits, and Hindu Indians all took their turns trying to rule the Punjab, where Sialkot is located.  Cities that have often found themselves in the way of history tend to be market-oriented.  I’m going to let the national Poet of Pakistan, Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Iqbal take over for a while with an excerpt from his poem Age of Infancy –

 

Maryam Market IThe earth and sky were unknown worlds to me,

Only the expanse of a mother’s bosom was a world to me;

Every movement was a symbol of life’s pleasure to me,

My own speech was like a meaningless word to me.

During infancy’s pain if somebody made me cry,

The noise of the door chain would comfort me.

Oh! How I stared at the moon for long hours,

Staring at its silent journey among broken clouds;

I would ask repeatedly about its mountains and plains,

Maryam Market IIAnd how surprised would I be at that prudent lie.

My eye was devoted to seeing, my lip was prone to speak,

My heart was no less than inquisitiveness personified.

 

 

Maryam, it seems, stopped off in the market…did a little shopping around.  Here she photographed a dealer of essential oils, Ittar in Arabic…herbal scents distilled for perfume and home use.

 

 

Maryam Museum XThe next photo she sent me was of the exterior of Dr. Sahib Iqbal’s former home.  I think I’ll let an excerpt of Maryam’s poem The Departed Soul speak for the reverence Pakistanis have for a national hero, one so revered he has a national holiday named in his honor.

Giddily, stand at the light curve,

Wait to embrace the departed soul.

The trifle human remains

Are left of the life carefully mold,

After him, days keep unveiling to unroll

Not any tasks hold gild;

At last, men realize, memories aren’t sacred holes.

 

 

Maryam Museum XXVMr. Riaz, the caretaker of Allama Iqbal’s shrine, told Maryam that photographs were not allowed in deference to the memory the poet, scholar, and politician that had such an impact on Pakistani independence.  She told him about the project she was working on, and he agreed the photos were for a noble cause, giving her the unheard of permission to take photos.  The first photo inside the former home and current shrine to Dr. Sahib Iqbal is of Maryam signing the guest register.  Between 50 and 75 Pakastanis a day visit the shrine, with the number rising to 300 or so when a college or school arranges a visit.  The visitors who had signed the register before Maryam were from Rawalpindi, and Mr. Riaz pointed out a former Foreign Minister of Pakistan who had signed the register not long ago,misspelling Islamabad, the capital city in which he had exercised his official duties.  I guess politicians are the same everywhere.

The final entry to this introduction to Allama Muhhamad Iqbal, and to this introduction to Maryam Shahbas and her poetry, will contain photos taken in the former home and current shrine to Dr. Sahib Iqbal, and will be accompanied by one of his most famous naats, or religious praise poems.

Maryam Shahbaz’s poetry can be viewed on WordPress under the name Maryamshahbazmian.

Allama Iqbal and the City of Poets

Give to the youth my sighs of dawn;

Give wings to these eaglets again,

This dear Lord, is my only wish –

That my insights should be shared by all !

This poem is from the book Bal – e -Jibreel by Muhammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan.  Dr. Iqbal was one of the foremost thinkers and doers of his land of Punjab, formerly India, now Pakistan.  Dr. Iqbal began his education at Scotch Mission College in his hometown of Sialkot,then did graduate work in Arabic and Philosophy at the Government College in Lahore.  He also studied in England, earning a degree in Philosophy from Cambridge University, qualified as a barrister in London, and finally earned his doctorate from the University of Munich before returning to his native land where he practiced law, became a professor of Philosophy and English Literature, and produced poetic and philosophical writings that not only inspired people in their everyday lives, but contributed to the independence of Pakistan from Indian control.

Besides being proclaimed the official poet of Pakistan, born in Sialkot, known in Southern Asia as the City of Poets, Dr. Iqbal collected a raft of titles along the way, a testament to his importance in the academic world as well as Pakistan’s struggle for independence.  He earned the title Dr. for his academic work…he was knighted, and became a Sir…he was one of the most revered leaders of his country’s independence movement, hence Sahib, and a towering figure in Asian literature, adding the respectful title of Allama to his credentials.

The picture above is my friend, the young Pakistani poet Maryam Shabaz, before a mural of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Muhammad Iqbal.  Maryam is a new voice in Pakistani and world literature, her first collection of poetry, The Light Behind the Veil from Multani Press, is due to be released soon.  Maryam is a young woman I met through a social media site, but has become much more than a cyber acquaintance…more than a friend – mi hermanita…my little sister.  I asked her to travel around her hometown of Sialkot, Pakistan – the City of Poets – and take a few photographs so I could write a post or two about her life as a young woman living in Pakistan, and the history of poetry from an area of the world where poetry is not only beautiful words meant to entertain, but essential food for the soul.

“Allama Iqbal’s poetry takes us far beyond the materialistic aspects of this mortal life,” Maryam wrote me.  “The youth, whom he called eaglets, are the only segment of society he believed were able to bring about future change for the better so vital to all societies.”

I am going to be doing a series of posts on Allama Iqbal, Maryam, and Sialkot…the City of Poets.  Maryam made a pilgrimage to Allama Iqbal’s former home, now a shrine and museum.  Cameras are forbidden in the revered site, but Maryam explained to Mr. Riaz, the caretaker, what she planned to do with the photographs, and he gave her permission that is not afforded others out of respect for Iqbal and his towering contributions to education, literature, and his country’s independence.

 

 Maryam Museum VIV

This photograph of Allama Iqbal hangs in his former home and current shrine/museum.  It is one of the few informal images of him in his home. I’ll leave readers with another of Allama Iqbal’s sayings, one I had to have Maryam explain to me.

You despise one bowing down, It frees a man from many bowings down.

This confused me at first.  It seemed as though the poet was implying that not bowing down to “the Creator” would save people from the many supplications to the Creator expected in the future.  Maryam explained that what Iqbal meant by these words was that there are those who think bowing before the Creator is a chore they don’t need to follow, but that bowing down before the Creator gives the supplicant an inner peace and sense of empowerment that keeps them from having to bow down before mortal men in their everyday affairs.  Sometimes I feel so ignorant.  It’s good to have friends like Maryam, poets who are in tune with the power of words and their true meaning.

More of Maryam’s trip through Sialkot and visit to the shrine of Dr. Sir Sahib Allama Muhammad Iqbal to follow…Inshaa-Allah, Dios quiere, God willing.

(Maryam Shabhaz’s poetry can be found on WordPress under the name Maryamshabhazmain)