Remona AlyTuesday 12 September 2017 Pause for Thought, BBC Radio 2
Bricks and Memories
There’s a rust-coloured pot that sits in the shade of the courtyard in my grandmother’s house in India. The water stays cool and clear while the mango tree stands on by and the crumbling columns wrinkle in old age at its side.
I love my grandmother’s house. I remember the long Indian summers when three generations of our family would gather together, 27 of us at peak time, all sleeping in the living room, on the rooftop, in the cupboard, wherever we could squeeze in. Ah, the adventures we had, it feels like both yesterday and another lifetime ago.
But things change. The next time I go to India, that clay pot probably won’t be sitting in its usual place in the courtyard. My mum told me the old houses are being knocked down to make way for younger, modern builds. I felt both pain and a little anger in my heart, like part of me was being turned into rubble. It was so typical of me really, only cherishing things when they’re taken away.
It makes me think of a Muslim Sufi story about a man who was wandering the world, carrying a bag filled with all his possessions. He came across a Sufi master sitting under a tree, and complaining he had no joy in his life, he asked, “How may I find happiness?” Suddenly the Sufi master grabbed his bag and ran off with it. The man chased after him shouting, “Thief! ‘I’ve been robbed of everything!” Finally, the man returned to the tree, and to his joy and relief found the Sufi master there, who returned his bag of treasures. “Before you get angry,” the Sufi said to the man, “see how unhappy you were before, and look at how happy you are now. May you learn to cherish what you have.”
While I won’t get the old house in India back, like the rich man with his bag, I will be holding on to a bag full of memories. Memories are the true heirlooms of our past, and I cherish them more than bricks and mortar. And there’ll come a time when we ourselves become heirlooms, so if I want to be cherished, I’ll take the advice of a wise person who said, “One day you’ll just be a memory to some people. Do your best to be a good one.”