Tuesday, 27 May 2014


I sing to use the waiting
my bonnet but to tie
and shut the door unto my house
no more to do have I... ~ Emily Dickinson.

That verse feels so apt today!

The thing with waiting is that - practice doesn't make perfect.  However many millions of times it is done, it is still difficult, and difficult not with the hugeness of an obstacle which at the end gives relief and a sense of achievement that one was able to surmount it; but a fuzzy irritant like a moving pebble in a shoe that one can't wiggle out without either taking the shoe off or feeling absurd about taking so much trouble over such a small thing.  It's a no-win situation like no other.

I have done a lot of waiting - I have waited for the school bell to ring; the holidays to come around; I've waited on platforms and departure lounges and transit halls for trains and planes; for exam results; for editors' answers; for doctors' and lab technicians' reports.  Right now, I am waiting for my Cairo life to end, and to know exactly when I can make a new start in a different place. The problem with that boils down to a lack of control, I can't actively hurry the process, I can't delay it, it happens outside the range of my understanding and knowledge, there is nothing I can do except, well, wait.

I haven't got discernibly better at the waiting over the years.  But what I have learnt is to manage my impatience better. The pebble must take its own time to free itself from my shoe and in the process free my foot too;  I have just learnt to keep on walking, to ignore the discomfort, to focus on a different distraction.  Some days that pebble feels as large as a boulder, some other time I can shrink it to a mere grain. Today isn't a grain day, it's a boulder day, and my feet hurt, so it's a good idea to sit down and read some Emily Dickinson.  Tomorrow I'll be up and walking again.

Monday, 5 May 2014


This week I went back to the Wikala al Ghouri to watch the Tanoura again. Somehow it has so happened that I have been going back to watch those Sufis at pretty regular intervals throughout the past six years that I have been living in Cairo.  With and without guests.  This last time, which is the last time really before I leave for good, it is a goodbye of sorts.  I am touching all the places and things that I have enjoyed about this city in a final gesture of farewell and then it's over, I detach and focus on what is to come rather than what I leave behind and how I wrench myself out, away from all the dear and familiar patterns.

The troupe were their usual mesmerising selves, the performance was crisper, amazingly lively.  Probably each member of the audience feels this - that the performers speak directly to them, yet are actually not performing at all, because this is not a dance, it is an internal spiritual quest.  That something devotional and spiritual can be so exuberant, so joyous, such an audio-visual, sensuous feast! It is almost difficult to reconcile that idea with our usual notions of austere spirituality.  It always makes me feel uncomfortably wet about the eyelashes for all my wishy-washy wavering atheism, and equally it makes me want to get up and start dancing myself.  The energies and the high are just magnificent.  Definitely I wanted to go back and watch it once before I left, and now it's done.  And a sense of huge peace in the doing.