Remona Aly
Wednesday 31 October 2018 BBC Radio 2

The Briefcase Legacy

The Briefcase Legacy

There’s a tiny room nestled in the edge of my house where we keep the most random of things. It’s filled with items we barely use and memories we will never let go of.

There’s an old JVC camera that captured crazy childhood antics. Cardboard boxes sardined with photographs and nostalgia. And in a dusty corner, leans a brown satchel briefcase, the leather worn and the handle half coming off, which belonged to my late father.

I picked it out, unclasped the buckles and opened up a lifetime of dreams, journeys and challenges. I carefully turned the old papers like autumn leaves, almost crumbling in my hands. One is a listing of school exam results, dated 1949. Another is a letter from 1964, confirming the passage by boat from India to Britain, where dad was to spend the end of his days in a foreign place he called home. There are pages that speak of his racial equality work, his Urdu poetry, there’s even a letter from the Women’s Institute thanking him for his speech on rights for all.

I look at his satchel briefcase, and think, what would I put in mine? What moments and what memories would I leave behind to fill someone else’s hands and heart when I’m no longer here?

There are some people who leave this world, and the world forgets, but there are others whose light continues to burn for years, decades, even centuries.

I often think about the legacy I want to leave. I worry so much that I’m wasting precious time, that I’m not doing enough to make the world brighter, more compassionate, more loving. I don’t want to come to the sunset of my years and look back over life’s landscape and feel regret.

I take comfort from the lasting words of a 12th century Persian Muslim philosopher, Shahab al-Din Yahya Suhrawardi, who advised: “Don’t lose the trail of wisdom’s scent. While on this hunt, don’t go astray, worrying if every little thing is good or bad. You are the traveller, you are the path, and you are the destination. Be careful never to lose the way to yourself.”

I’ll heed the sage’s advice, not lose the way in worry, but be true to myself and my dad, by carving a legacy of purpose and light, that lasts beyond my final breath.