Wednesday, September 25, 2013

THE GHOST... Death becomes him - Saiful Bahri (1964-2013) Part 2

Poone... in Jordan, May 2011. In the company of his friends.

The Ghost
I keep feeling him,
There he goes, on my door, knocking,
Asking for a lighter, or a fiver,

I keep feeling him,
There he is, lazing on the sofa,
From dawn till dusk,
Though he never liked Edward or Bella,

I keep feeling him,
Sitting quietly outside my bedroom,
Fiddling about on the internet,
Making pointed comments,
Needling the bigots,

I keep seeing him,
Right in front of me,
Or sitting there, by the piano,
Smiling, and happy.

I keep feeling him,
In the books that I read,
In the music that I cherish,
In the ripening of an ancient flame,
In the passion of the dervish
And the Golden Chain...

He always had a story to share,
This brother of mine,
But rarely of himself,
So let me share with you
A thing or two
About Saiful,
a.k.a. Poone...

The dotting uncle. Keeping an eye on
his beloved nephews.
Hi there, sunshine. It's been more than two weeks since my brother, Poone (a.k.a. Saiful), passed away suddenly. Since then I have written but only one posting, and I cannot reason out why. I can only hazard a guess that unlike the passing of my mother, which was preceded by an agonising 6 to 9 months of debilitating cancer and chemo treatments, the death of my brother was surprising and unexpected.

A contented soul (dammit!). As the prose suggests, I need only to pause to recall my brother. It is the easiest thing in the world for me to imagine him playing his guitar in his room. Reading a book outside on the landings, and just you know... shuffling about the house. Utterly lacking in worldly ambitions, he was an alien creature to me, though perhaps I know him as well as any other person. But he was contented, dammit, much to my own discontent and bemusement. 

How ironic. He he he. He would like this sort of conclusion. For he had always agreed with me about wit - 

Sarcasm is from the Devil, Irony is from God.

A brotherly kiss. Many, many years ago, I remember falling asleep in the sofa downstairs in my old house. Those were in fact the early days of my brother's rites of passage into a Sufi order. Anyways, I was awoken by my brother gently pressing a kiss on my forehead. He did not notice that I was awake. I didn't say anything and merely looked on as he walked away. "Now that was unexpected. What was that all about?" I pondered wearily before falling back to sleep. Alas, now I wished I had asked him. 

When Poone passed away, my immediate impression was that my brother has become a ghost. A memory that will haunt me forever. A furtive omnipresence in the corner of my eye. But an old prose posed an alternative view... 

2. Layla’s ghost
I thought I was tangible,
I thought I had meaning,
I thought I was a lover,
Ruling with the heart of a king.

I now know
I am none of the above,
I am but a ghost,
A vagrant amongst the living.

The Real Ghosts. Thus I am reminded of the truth. That the ghost in this sad and beautiful story is us. Continuing to persist in this physical world that is so darn convincingly real and permanent, when the truth is that this life is transient and its reality a mere reflection of the absolute reality of the afterlife. For our cherished departed friend and kin, theirs is the privilege of the true existence in the divine presence. In the cobbled stone path, the grassy knoll of the cemetery and the silence of the graves is the long-awaited union between the Creator and the created. 

Mika was at my mother's grave last year. Who would have guessed that
my brother would soon join her near her final resting place.
The return of the prodigal son...

The First One. It is strange, this death. Even as I write this I am torn between what to say and what to keep silent. He had such an impact in my life that I cannot begin to count them. I did not realise this earlier, but after these thousands of prose and poems, our conversations and arguments, now I understand that Poone was my first Shaykh (master) before I even knew about the existence of Shaykhs and the Sufis. I never knew this because he never acted like a master. He acted like a brother... a kindly and forgiving one. 

Poone was not one to dress up, always in his old tattered shirts
and ancient khaki pants. "Dammit..." I ventured to anyone who would care to listen,
"...Don't you think he looks better than when he was alive?
Death becomes him...

Our siblings are not perfect. But who is? Do not be like me, sunshine. Be contented with them, regardless, for they are who they are, and a large part of us comes from them too. 

Permit me to end with a prose recorded almost 10 years ago, and one which was mined from a conversation I had with my brother, whom I call Abang Chik, the one you call Poone.

27. Arms-Length (With Poone)
Never get too close to a problem,
Because even a grain of sand can eclipse the sun,
If it is lodged in your eyes. 

May we never be blinded, may Allah (swt) always light our understanding,
in the perfection of humanity and servanthood that is Muhammad (saws). 

Have a lovely day, sunshine. al fatiha.

wa min Allah at-taufiq

Hate has no place in Islam
Love will show the Way


Jo said...

This is beautiful. Write more.
I should get back to work. Ciao!

Anonymous said...

Sufism and the Art of Archery
Masters and their work are often hidden. They are on a high road and do a deeper work that improves us all. They often appear exactly as Poone did in his old tattered shirts and ancient khaki pants, with no worldly ambitions and a genuine contentment. This fits the description of a true Sufi aspirant. I think of him now as the Archery Shaykh – his arrows always aimed on what really matters in the journey of a soul. I am glad you realize the impact he had on you. You are very fortunate to have had him in your life, especially with the frustrations. They are what prod things to keep moving, without which there would be no growth at all. I salute Poone, a most worthy comrade on the path.