Ribbons of multiple colours

In the middle of the night, I come out of the house with a soft squeak of the door. The scent of the garden greets me — the one that only comes out at night, a mix of jasmine and lime, transporting me to the ancient gardens of the Mughal Court.

The wet grass feels soft under my feet. My eyes look for the lamp, up there in the sky. But the moon is gone until tomorrow and I have no matches. The light of my heart’s flame does not reach that far.

I walk and I stumble on the basket. The one you left behind. The one filled with pieces of ribbon of multiple colours. All the ribbons are tied in knots. It will take me a long time to undo them, just like the ones you left in my heart.


The gift of words

A king who was very fond of poetry, heard about a poet who taught the gift of words. He inquired and found that the poet lived in a village about half a day away by horse. The next day, he asked his horse be saddled and went to visit him.

“I am the king and I humbly ask you to teach me the gift of words,” the king told him.

The poet was sitting on a simple carpet, surrounded by his students. Some were young and others old. Some were men and others women. Even children were there, along with a black cat with golden eyes attentive to the poet’s every word.

“You are welcome among us,” the poet answered.

The king learned to use metaphors and similes; to find rhymes where he had never looked before; to spread gold dust on simple words and make them enchant. He attended the poet’s sessions everyday for the duration of a moon’s cycle.

As the new moon was about to appear, the king visited the poet and told him: “You have opened my soul to beauty. I am most grateful and I would like to bestow a gift upon you. What would please you most? Just let me know and it will be yours.”

“Thank you Majesty,” the poet answered. “What I would most appreciate is that you no longer attend the poetry sessions.”

The King was dumbfounded.

“Have I offended you in some ways? Have I offended some of your students? Please tell me and I shall change my behaviour. I really want to hear your teachings! You have made me a better king as I see beauty in all and can finally calm anger, negotiate peace and impart justice with the right words.”

“I am grateful my humble teaching has made you a wise king,” the poet answered with a smile, “but understand that since you have started attending the sessions, students no longer praise beauty and simplicity in their poems; now, they praise you, hoping for favours. This is not poetry from the heart.”

The King was devastated and did not know what to say. He left feeling sad and very much alone. A few days later, the poet sent him a poem.

“King and ruler of the land, come with an empty hand.
Undress of silk and gold, and put on a woolen coat that is old.
The pilgrim crossing the desert will sure be left behind
if he insists on adorning his camel instead of filling his gourd.
The secret of words is hidden behind seventy thousand veils.
Come. Please come.
But come with humility and an open heart,
so that the secret may at last be shared.”


The Sufis believe there are 70’000 veils between the ego and the absolute; much akin to the 84’000 dharmas the Buddhists refer to, or the “veil of ignorance” mentioned in the Bible (2 Corinthian)

Le livre du destin

Le livre du destin est écrit avec de l’encre de jasmin. Nos pensées et nos actions s’évaporent ainsi en un parfum envoutant.

Le livre du destin est celui qui trace imperceptiblement les lignes de l’âge sur nos visages et qui aime peindre de la neige sur nos cheveux.

Il est fait de lumière et d’ombre et ses pages s’envolent comme les pétales de cerisiers. Ces mêmes pétales qui laissent leur place à des cœurs tout rouges que nous accrochons à nos oreilles lorsque nous dansons sous la pluie d’été.

Vous ne trouverez pas ce livre dans la bibliothèque de votre quartier, ni même chez le libraire. Il est enfoui au creux de nos mains, entre les lignes du cœur et celui de la vie. Là, il ramasse nos dires et les égraine un par un comme des perles de prières.


J’ai écrit ce texte il y a un an, et je l’ai lu à une amie le dernier jour de sa vie. Ce fut mon geste d’adieu.   

A very plum… plum


Whenever I bite into a plum, I am always reminded of “The English Patient,” when Count Almásy tells the nurse, Hana, after biting into a plum: “This is a very plum … plum.”

I love that line. Its gramatical simplicity tells us that perfection is being what one is. The plum is perfect precisely because it is a “plum… plum.”

If only we could live our lives the same way – “a very life … life.”


– “The English Patient” was written by Michael Ondaatje (1993) and made into a movie under the direction of Anthony Minghella (1996). Both versions are wonderful.
– The bowl is from Turkey, and I bought the plums this morning at the market.