Tuesday, 13 December 2016


‘Erecting Bridges to Re-link the World’: A Conversation with

Comrade Morakabe Raks Seakhoa

Nibir K. Ghosh
Comrade Raks Morakabe Seakhoa heads the wRite Associates (in South Africa) a one-stop public relations, strategies, project and event management agency that delivers highly effective implementable services and products, focused mainly within the arts, culture and heritage sector and beyond. From 1988 to 1997, he tenured as the Regional Co-ordinator and Secretary General of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW). He has been Convenor of the Arts, Culture & Heritage Commission of the South African Chapter of the African Renaissance. He helped raise the visibility of South African literature and its writers through numerous events and activities. He has been involved in almost all aspects of the arts, culture and heritage since his release from a 5-year incarceration on Robben Island (1979-1984). Prior to and post his arrest and incarceration, he’d been involved in student, youth and political activism. He is currently  Senior projects Co-ordinator at SAMSA (South African Maritime Safety Authority), focusing on, among other projects, the Maritime Heritage Project he founded and launched on the 38th World Maritime Heritage Day, September 2016. For more information on this visit their website: www.samsa.org.za and check blog on maritime heritage. 

In this conversation Comrade Raks reflects on his role as an activist and poet during and after the tumultous anti-apartheid struggle.

Ghosh: Any reference to South Africa obviously reminds one of apartheid. As a social and political activist what memories of the repressive apartheid regime still remain vivid for you?

Seakhoa: The apartheid spatial planning still lives with us, so, much as one tries to ‘move on’ with life, it is not easy as the effects thereof are painfully evident and continue to define the psyche and identity of South Africans along racial, more than even class lines.

Ghosh: What events or circumstances initially motivated you to choose the path of rebellion?

Seakhoa: I was about 8 or 9 years old when my Mother went with me to town and was amazed at the stark inequalities between my Uitkykrural village life and that of the Lichtenburg white town folk. Electricity, water coming from taps, tarred roads, everything that my village lacked was in abundance in this town. I remember saying to my Mother, “when I grow up, I’m going to live in this town.” In 1975, at 14 or 15 I moved from the village to one of South Africa’s oldest townships, Evaton, in the Vaal Triangle (now Sedibeng District), Gauteng Province, where I got introduced to the struggle against apartheid in general and Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. It was just before the Soweto June 16 1976 uprising and the prevailing mood was generally rebellious against the Apartheid regime. We started to question a whole lot of things, marching against the government and related institutions over school-related and general issues around racial and class discrimination.

Ghosh: What activities as a student leader led to your imprisonment at the now famous Robben Island?

Seakhoa: Though I was not necessarily a student leader, I was always involved in anti-apartheid activities. What led directly to my incar-ceration on Robben Island was an act of sabotage that we – with 5 of my colleagues I recruited from Soweto and Sebokeng – carried out on a house of an apartheid security police officer in my Sebokeng town-ship. Through the then-banned Radio Freedom, broadcast by the ANC from Zambia and Tanzania, we obeyed ANC President, Comrade Oliver Tambo’s call to rid our townships of apartheid spies and sellouts, these included black police. What inspired the attack was our anger at this African cop’s agility and over-enthusiasm in ransacking the house of one of our leaders and mentors, Thabiso Ratsomo, during a police raid thereon. A white apartheid security police captain had asked Thabiso if he had a passport and when the latter said he did not have one, the black cop did not believe him and proceeded to rip open the ceiling from which fell a number of books, some banned and others deemed ‘undesirable’ by the apartheid regime. Needless to say, our handcuffed and manacled Comrade Thabiso ended up having his charges increased and sent to Robben Island.

Ghosh: What prominent experiences come to mind when you recall your five-year imprisonment from 1979-84 at Robben Island?

Seakhoa: Robben Island was a leading political economy university, among a number of other subjects taught there. It was also a testing ground of what we wanted the new liberated South Africa to be like. Kolkhos, one of the Russian Revolution’s policies of collectivization found converts in us on the Island. The little money we were sent (by parents and others) on the Island was subject to equal sharing with those Comrades who were not that fortunate.

Ghosh: At Robben Island you had the opportunity of meeting Nelson Mandela, the icon of the anti-apartheid movement. In what way did the meetings with him impact your own belief and vision?

Seakhoa: Well, Comrade Madiba did not disappoint by his sheer gigantic presence and sense of leadership. The first time I met him he was with the other Rivonia Trialists, after they'd consulted with their lawyers. What stands out for me is what he said, speaking on behalf of them all, that “you must debunk this myth that we are larger than life! We are all equal in this organisation, the ANC, and if you find we do not want to be corrected when and if we are not taking it in the proper direction, it's your duty and task for you to take over and correct things!”

Ghosh: “Never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.” In the light of this characteristic statement by Nelson Mandela, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, can we now presume that “oppression” in any form is a thing of the past in South Africa?

Seakhoa: Because the economic might of South Africa is still in the hands of the minority, it will take a very long time to shed the country of racism and class oppression. A few examples are utterances of some whites still referring to Africans as monkeys or shooting them dead and say they mistook them for animals.

Ghosh: It is amazing that with all your activism in the field of politics you found the time to write exquisitely powerful poetry? What factors initiated you into the literary world?

Seakhoa: I have to thank my late Father, Koko, for instilling the love of reading as he was always reading newspapers even though he didn’t go far with school. My interest in reading was further sharpened at school and also listening to poetry by political activists who wrote and performed their poetry at political funerals of the post 1976 Soweto Uprisings.

Ghosh: When did you write your first poem? What was it about?

Seakhoa: One of the earliest poems I remember writing is titled, “I Hate You, Bullet” in 1977. I wrote it at a funeral of a very young boy (about 7 or 8 years of age), in Soweto, who was shot dead from under a scrapped car where he was hiding away from police.

Ghosh: What striking similarities or differences do you see in the literature written during the apartheid and the post-apartheid periods?

Seakhoa: Our literature is becoming more whole now, in that it reflects on both the past but also more on the present. Current issues, such as HIV/AIDS, same-sex relationships, corruption, etc. feature quite a bit in our literature. Also a lot of books are coming out, reflecting on past exile experiences, betrayals, mutinies in the liberation army camps etc.

Ghosh: Do you believe in using words as weapons?

Seakhoa: Indeed! With poetry, music, art etc. we have been able to do lots, e.g. the ANC’s Amandla Cultural Ensemble played a big role in mobilising international Communities against apartheid before 1994.

Ghosh: In his own time P.B. Shelley called poets “unacknowledged legislators.” In our time W.H. Auden, who once concurred with Shelley, retracted his opinion and said “Poetry makes nothing happen.” What, according to you, should ideally be the role of a poet or writer?

Seakhoa: For me, the role of the writer or poet is to shine light in the darker crevices of society, thereby opening people’s eyes to these and thus, in a small way, calling them to action!

Ghosh: You have the rare distinction of being closely associated simultaneously with two Nobel Laureates from South Africa: Nelson Mandela and Nadine Gordimer. As an anti-Apartheid activist your admiration for Mandela needs no justification. What aspects of Gordimer’s life and work were you influenced by?

Seakhoa: Comrade Nadine was what the Germans refer to as a “mensch!” or we in South African indigenous languages would say she had “ubuntu” or “botho”, that is, she exemplified “humaneness” and “humanity.” She was also a very consistent and uncompromising political and human rights activist, these coming through her writing and everyday life.

Ghosh: Seamus Heaney referred to Gordimer as one of the "the guerrillas of the imagination." What is your view on Heaney’s epithet? Also, in what way did the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Gordimer impact the literary world of South Africa?

Seakhoa: Seamus Heaney is perfectly right! Comrade Nadine was a guerilla of the imagination in literal and metaphoric senses! She may not have joined the ANC’s uMkhonto we Sizwe liberation military army by carrying arms and blowing up things, but in a sense she did exactly that as her writing contributed in no small measure blowing up apartheid and preparing the basis for our liberation. She, in her lifetime, helped freedom fighters skip our borders into exile and military training as well as helping support and harbour some guerillas who came back into the country.

Ghosh:  In one of your poems written in honour of Gordimer after she passed away, you say, “Comrade Nadine, you came to me on this particular Xmas day,/ As if to question our silent munching your legacy away.” How would you interpret this statement?

Seakhoa: This refers to the fact that, Comrade Nadine, popular and having been such a very committed writer and activist, her legacy is not being celebrated enough. We are still to have a memorial service in her honour since her passing on a good two years ago! I am glad, however, that there are plans afoot to revive the Nadine Gordimer Annual Lecture that’ll probably be staged in her birthday month of November. Her legacy is too huge not to be honoured and perpetuated, especially among the youth.

Ghosh: You had the privilege of presenting personally to Mandela the precious collection of poems titled Halala Madiba–Mandela in Poetry that you edited with Nadine Gordimer and Richard Bartlett. How did Mandela react to your unique initiative of bringing together poets from various countries and cultures in the anthology to offer their glowing tribute to the legend? What common traits highlighting Mandela’s struggle did you find in the collection?

Seakhoa: Oh, Comrade Mandela was like a little kid being given a candy when Sindiswa (my wife), Comrade Nadine and I proudly handed over to him this precious poetry collection! He, in his trademark modesty, said he was not deserving of such a tome from some of the world’s most outstanding poets, including some of his friends and comrades such as Nobel Laureates Wole Soyinka and Seamus Heaney, as well as Cuban author Nancy Morejon Hernandez and U.S.A. young poet musician Tupac Shakur.

Ghosh: You were once denied the U.S. Visa on the grounds of your internment at Robben Island when you were invited to participate at a panel discussion at Brown University, Rhode Island. What was your reaction to this episode concerning the world’s most powerful democracy that boasts of the inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

Seakhoa: I was surprised with this reaction from “the land of the free and home of the brave,” especially because a few years before, I’d accompanied Comrade Nadine to the African Literature Association conference in the Atlanta where she was going to deliver the keynote address and I to introduce her. When the U.S. Consulate initially refused me the visa back then, Comrade Nadine called the then Consular General about this and a few minutes later, the Consular General herself called me back to her office and, voila! my visa was handed to me and in a few hours, Comrade Nadine and I were aboard a plane to the U.S.! I was too excited to realise that they gave a restricted visa, valid just for a few months! My feeling is that anti-apartheid freedom fighters’ names must be removed, en masse, from the U.S. “list of terrorists” and not ourselves to do so individually. After all, ours was a just and a noble cause against what the UNO had declared “a crime against humanity.”

Ghosh: You considered Chinua Achebe as “A Man of the People” and as a Crusader for “Social Justice.” To what extent did Achebe’s writings influence the man and the writer in you? Don’t you think it strange that though separated by colour, race, culture and gender lines, both Achebe and Gordimer were engaged in battling against oppression in all forms to uplift humanity?

Seakhoa: Well, I met Comrade Professor Achebe long before I met him, through his very relevant literary work that influenced not only me but hundreds of other activists back in the 1970s. His work was and remains so akin to our lived experiences during those heady days of fighting against racist apartheid oppression and capitalist exploitation. When I was in jail, his work, like Comrade Mandela said, “brought down the jail walls” around us. I was privileged to have been part of bringing him to South Africa to deliver the Steve Biko Annual Memorial Lecture over ten years ago. It goes without saying that he spent a lot of time with his fellow fighter and author, Comrade Nadine when he was here on many public and private platforms. I am glad to say I basked in the glory of it all, being in the esteemed company of these literary giants, my truest mentors.

Ghosh: In diverse capacities you have played a stellar role in bringing together writers from different communities, cultures and nations through various organizations like the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW), the South African Writers’ Federation (SAWFED), and wRite Associates etc., besides the exciting collaboration you formed between South African and Cuban poets. What motivated you into taking such spectacularly unique initiatives? What role and function can these communities of writers assume in addressing issues and concerns in this conflict-ridden era marked by the imminent “clash of civilizations”?

Seakhoa: I think it is the duty of us all, as writers, artists, academics and organisers to never stop making writers meet and work together from different backgrounds. It is only through these interactions, dia-logues and exchange programmes that the folly of “clash of civilisations” can be shown for the shallowness and fakeness it is. It is now more than ever that our organisations must collaborate and make this world a true tiny village where we are next door neigbours.

Ghosh: Coming down to your own poetry, what have been your primary focus and concerns in terms of both themes and expression?

Seakhoa: As a perennial political and human rights activist, my primary poetic focus has been the plight of the down-trodden, the super-exploited and poorest of the poor. Growing older has also meant paying some attention to my wife and children in my writing.

Ghosh: You have been remarkably enthusiastic in contributing your beautiful poems to the Re-Markings’ Special Number on World Poetry. Considering the tremendous response to the project by poets from every nook and corner of planet Earth, what impact of the precious collection do you visualize on both readers and contributing poets?

Seakhoa: I am very honoured and privileged to have been invited to contribute to Re-Markings as it is yet another platform for me to meet fellow poets and authors from all over the world: thanks to you and Comrade Dr. Tijan Sallah! It is without any doubt that the impact of this collection will reverberate all over for many an eon to come.

Ghosh: Winnie Mandela once remarked, “Maybe there is no rainbow nation after all because the rainbow does not have the colour black.” In the light of this statement, what is your message to the youngsters born in the post-apartheid era in South Africa?

Seakhoa: My message to the young ones is to find a creative way of re-inserting the colour black into the rainbow nation that is South Africa and, while they are about it, erect a zillion bridges to re-link the world back into one whole, living together in perfect harmony and peace.

Ghosh: What is your view of India with regard to the ancient as well as the contemporary?

Seakhoa: India holds the key to the world, drawing from her many ancient wisdoms and charting the way forward today in the fast-paced and changing atmosphere of information technology and scientific progress that mirrors none that came before.

 Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh is UGC Emeritus Professor in the Department of English Studies & Research at Agra College, Agra. He has been Senior Fulbright Fellow at the University of Washington, Seattle, U.S.A. during 2003-04.


Saturday, 14 May 2016

Re-Markings Vol 15 No.1 March 2016: Excerpts from Essay on Bharati Mukherjee

Identity and Culture in
Bharati Mukherjee's Short Fiction
Itishree Devi
We are like chiffon saris a sort of cross-breed attempting to adjust to the pressures of a new world, while actually being from another older one.  Feroza Jussawala

Is the New World tolerant of its newcomers? If so, why do those coming to America, particularly those from South Asia, not feel "at home" on its soil? Bharati Mukherjee seeks to address these questions in her fiction. Her protagonists' sense of belonging is forced into a process: their cultural identity passes through a recurring process of translating and being translated.

The question of identity and homeland has become urgent as travel and migration have become a reality for many. The quest for roots is linked to the yearning for a space and community that one can call one's own. This new hybrid of hyphenated community, born in one place, brought up in another and living in a third, constantly struggles for self-affirmation in order not to be erased.

Bharati Mukherjee, the Indian born North American novelist, uses language as a tool to give expression to this perennial struggle on the part of third-world immigrants in their attempt to assimilate into the North American lifestyle. As Shirley Geok-lin-Lim puts it: "Language gives indiscriminately to every human inherent abilities to shape, manipulate, express, inform to protest, to empower oneself in the world."

For many of the immigrant protagonists in Mukherjee's short fiction, the assimilation into American culture creates tension resulting from a process of appropriation and abrogation of traits of the two cultures. For "... in crossing borders...an immigrant exchanges more than passports and citizenships" (Wickramagamage 171). It involves also a willingness to exchange the security of a territory of a known cultural geography for the uncertainty of a territory whose cultural geography has to be learned and imbibed.

The essay attempts to highlight the conflict arising from a conscious and sometimes unconscious endeavour at re-rooting oneself in the soil of an alien culture. Trying to bridge the 'gap' entails cross-cultural tension both external and internal. Mukherjee offers two sets of (broadly divided) characters in her fiction: immigrants who seem either unable or unwilling to move out of their cultural moorings like Mr. Bhowmick in "The Father" and others who assert their claim to an American identity by struggling to make their relocation in a new territory work for them. However, one cannot possibly come out of this process of relocation unscathed. The wound whether internal (within the self) or external (inflicted by others) has to be borne. As Mukherjee herself admits: "There are no harmless compassionate ways to remake oneself..." (Chicago Tribune, 6:1). It takes its toll both upon those protagonists who try to overcome it as well as those who buckle down under it....(www.re-markings.com)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Sharing "Union of a Special Kind" - Short Story by Tulip Chowdhury

Union of a Special Kind

Tulip Chowdhury

One Christmas Eve, the late afternoon found me wandering around the downtown of Amherst. Relaxed on the holidays, my eyes feasted on the white world of the deep winter. Massachusetts is famous for its cold and piles of fresh snow was tempting me to walk on its soft layers. The streets were bright with colorful lights. The shop windows had lines of smiling Santa Clauses and cars passed by with Christmas carols singing on their radios.
The last, pink hues of the setting sun in the western sky gave a conquering look on the fading day. After I crossed the post office I felt a tug on my heart strings and entered the West Cemetery. Emily Dickinson, my favorite poet was buried there. I am fond of nature as she was, and the scenic beauty of Amherst tied my soul to her through all seasons and their waves of changes in nature.
However, on that day, I felt as if someone was beckoning me to the cemetery. When I visited the Emily Dickinson Museum earlier, the presence of her spirit had engulfed me. Inside the cemetery, my creative self was holding out hands, seeking a deeper affinity to her spirit.
I was a few steps into the sacred ground when I became aware that Christmas carols were echoing all around the graveyard. And there came voices reciting poems too. The notes and words were not clear but they penetrated deep into my mind, like echoes coming from a deep cave. I was transferred to a mystic land of people long gone from my world. It was winter but trees around me, no longer were bare but full of green leaves. I was not sure whether I was sensing or actually seeing it all. Even birds, butterflies and bees were floating around and they held me in a trance. Was spring there before winter, a time travel of the seasons?                                                                             
I had expected a solitary walk in the West Cemetery, the place of the eternal silence. But, I was not sure what was happening, for the graveyard seemed to be bustling with people. I could feel their presence though could not see them clearly. Hazy forms of men and women were moving around, but they wore clothing of long past. Women in billowing skirts and men in tall hats as seen in the paintings I had seen of the 17th and 18th century were moving around. As I walked on, I could see people dressed in modern clothes and wondered if they had left this world recently.
I felt fearful of where the approaching night was taking me and I blurted out,
“Oh dear, what is going to happen, where am I going?”
I heard a distinct sigh beside me and hesitant footsteps stopped, as if to listen to me.  Had someone been walking with me? As if in answer I heard a soft, gentle voice,
‘It’s your heart that brought you to our gathering for Christmas. Had you not so longed to see me?’       
I stopped dead on my tracks. At my right, I could just fathom a familiar figure standing beside me. All the gentleness and sweetness I had seen in the pictures of Emily Dickinson seemed to radiate from the figure. I knew it was her, it was Emily’s spirit. I always had firm belief that spirits continue to be in this world after our physical self ends. As I stared at Emily, if I had any doubts, they were gone. The blending of our two poetic souls held the universal bond of mankind that very instant. Emily walked along with me, perfect harmony of steps, but keeping quiet with perfect understanding of my need to take in the miracle of our meeting. I was dumbfounded for a while, but managed to come up with some words,
‘Hello Emily, I’m honored to have you with me. I had no idea that I would really meet you.’ I spoke softly, as if loudness would drive her away.
I spoke but my voice was not there. I was caught in the strangeness of the moment and did not panic. However, she seemed to understand me, hear me. With a tilt of her head and a sweet smile, Emily took my right hand and gave it a friendly squeeze. The warmth of her hold seeped through the three lairs of clothing I wore and I was not cold anymore. My heart was bubbling like summer streams. Me, from Bangladesh and my American beloved poet, we bonded like soul mates, both transcending our times on Earth.
As we moved deeper into the graveyard, the voices I had been aware of earlier became louder. Other spirits of young and old people moved around us. There was magic in the air and I could feel an immense sense of giving into creative moods of Emily and myself. I could distinctly hear many voices going up and down, reciting Emily Dickinson’s poem “Death”.
             “ Because I could not stop for Death,
             He kindly stopped for me;
             The carriage held but just ourselves
             And Immortality…”
 A woman’s voice was saying from nearby. “Emily spoke our thoughts, not many of us could write poetry. We are so proud of her.” I could fathom the form of the other spirit talking to me and wondered if she had read many of Emily’s poetry, like me.            
As we moved along the pavement, eyes fell on the different kinds of tombstones. The recitation of poems and snatches of hymns rose from them, as if that was a special day for the departed to read poems. I could catch snatches of Emily Dickinson’s other poetry. The voices reminded me of cicadas that sing in summer days. The spirits around me were in a festive mood. They were not lamenting for the loved ones they had left behind, rather there was peacefulness in them with acceptance of death. I felt my spirits reach a tranquility of its own, I was at peace in my world or beyond. Once again Emily’s hand reached out and patted me on my shoulder, sort of steading me on my thoughts.
My eyes fell on all the graves around me. With every reading of the names on the headstones I could hear voices, as if the buried people were reaching out to me. My eyes fell on a grave that was marked very simply on a square shaped stone. A woman’s form sat on the stone and smiled at me saying.
‘Oh I see you have finally found our Emily, we knew how badly you wanted to meet her.’ ‘
There was a soft laugh, sweet like the first tweet of the morning bird, it was Emily. She remarked,
‘How can we not meet, we two are free spirits, our hearts are captivated by love and nature.’               
Somewhere an owl hooted and I pinched myself to make sure that I was awake. Was I dreaming? But Emily knew just what I was thinking for she said,
‘Oh you are awake, very much alive. But on this day you got lucky and got your wish to meet me and other spirits. You are safe and will go home soon.’
 Passing by a huge mound of snow, I tried to take a closer look at Emily’s face. I longed to see those lovely, large eyes, the delicate nose and the smiling lips set on the very sweet face. True to the pictures I had seen, there was an aura of pureness in her whole poetic self. 
 Then there was a soft laugh and I could hear Emily reciting her poem, “Nature is What We See”.
           Nature is what we see—
            The Hill—the Afternoon—
            Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
            Nay—Nature is Heaven—…”           
 The frozen world of winter was bursting with liveliness with joyfulness of her voice in her poem. I felt and oneness with Emily under the vast canopy of the darkening sky. My brown skin and her white did not cause a ripple in our soul connection. We were poets in love with life.  Evening set in and gusts of chilly wind began to blow. I gathered the lapels of my coat closer, seeking warmth. As Emily and I walked, I wondered what had brought me to the cemetery that day. Things happen for a reason, and I sought answer in my own puzzled self.
We were passing by a large tree when I heard a voice from its trunk area. I was not surprised, trees have life and our conversations were a regular practice. I could tell trees my best and worst secrets and they would understand. The boughs moved up and down as the voice came,
 ‘I’m the oldest tree in this cemetery you know and the oldest witness to people’s crying for the dead. I too wait, for with all living things I too will be taken on my time, maybe I will witness your burial too.’       
 ‘What do you mean? How do you know I’ll be buried here? Is death near me?’ I asked, puzzled.
 As I waited for the tree to speak, the branches stopped moving and the people suddenly vanished. But I could hear their voices singing on,
  ‘Silent night, holy night
   All is calm, all is bright…’
  I was about to turn and go home when I caught the sight of a very familiar figure, it was Rabindranath Tagore. I was going crazy, was that the day even Tagore’s spirit had come to Amherst? Tagore, with this versatile work of songs, poems and prose was the beacon to all my literary inspirations. He seemed to be walking along in a long white garb, the “dhuti” that Indians wear.  The distinct sharp nose, the long beard and those deep set eyes, I was not making any mistakes. I felt that it was the depth of my worshipping his work that had brought him there to join in the winter evening. And once again I could distinguish his voice breaking the silence of the cemetery,
             darieyo acho aamar gaanero paare
              ( you wait on the threshold my songs…)
             I looked around me bewildered. Were there some Indian immigrants buried in this cemetery? Was he conveying the message that he knew how much I loved his works and how was it that he was singing one of my favorite Tagore songs?
 As I moved on, I felt as if Emily was gently holding my hand, leading me on, explaining,
 ‘This is a special night when spirits of poets meet across the world. In the world of the spirits there is not boundary of land and so Tagore too roams around.’ She paused before saying, ‘ See the white snowflakes, it’s snowing! Don’t you love this wonder of nature?’
Just then icy snow fakes touched my face. I had been too absorbed with the happenings to notice the snow. It was to be a white Christmas and snow fell like angels’ kisses all over me.
‘Aha, so another poet is here.” I heard from Emily as a new form stood in front of us.  I could not believe it. It was the Afghan poet Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi, my spiritual harbor. There he stood, with that humble look that often comes on men of wisdom. His head was covered with what we call “turban”.
‘You, my poet friend would perhaps like to listen to a part of my poem of the spirits since we are gathered here reconciling our poetic senses,” he was telling me. Then in very gentle voice, I heard Rumi’s poem filtering in the air,     
             “There is a community of the spirit.
              Join it, and feel the delight
              of walking in the noisy street
              and being the noise.
              Drink all your passion…”             
  ‘I..I..I…am…honored Sir,’ I stopped.
But where was he? Just as suddenly as he had come, he had vanished. Somewhere a bell clanged. Suddenly I began to feel an emptiness beside me. Indeed, there was no Emily, no more of her spirit. Then my eyes caught her receding figure, moving farther and farther away from me.

‘Please Emily stay a little longer.’ I said softly but she looked over head, smiled very sweetly, her voice seeping into the space,
‘It was a good communion of spirits. In our world of creative hearts, the living and the dead at times meet in spirits and I was happy to see you. On my behalf spread the beauty of nature and peace in the present restless world.’
I could see the spirit rising up and then all was quiet. It was a quiet cemetery giving into the darkness of night. I was sad but Emily’s spirit left me content, my creative thirst had been filled with the sweetest wine. I whispered into the darkness, knowing she will hear me,
‘Emily, thank you. You have given me sense of purpose and I will continue your mission to spread truth, love and nature with my poems.’
As I moved toward the gate of the cemetery to go home, Santa passed in his carriage, the reindeer and bells jingling away.
Life was strange. Burial places are supposed to give messages of the end. But for me, Emily had given me new beginning to believe in my work, bonded in spirits, we were locals of Amherst. I have to continue writing how beautiful life was to our senses and beyond.

Writer & Poet Tulip Chowdhury lives in Amherst (birthplace of Emily Dickinson), Massachussets