“We tell ourselves stories in order to live”
In our house , we have a collection of books from different phases of our journeys.
On weekends, I urge my sons to just browse through some of them. The personal collection reminds one of the different places where the books were acquired and read. A commentary on the Gita, by S-Radhakrishnan, gifted to me by one Mr K L Sabharwal of Bali Nagar-Delhi. He was originally from Multan in British India, in what became Pakistan. “You will understand and appreciate this book more than my sons” he said, giving me this personal special edition, not for sale. “I am advanced in age, and I do not want this book to rot with my relatives who will not go through it.” Mr.Sabharwal taught me the value of reading-some wisdom literature, for even five minutes a day. He built this in his daily schedule, without fail, five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the evening.
A few years down the line, I had the good fortune of making some friends in Tripoli region, who showed me their country in a way which a foreigner will not be able to appreciate. We saw the Medina with it’s two thousand plus years old history and walked through the cafes which reminded us of travelers of old.
The heritage walk, made me sift through some old photographs, and make this slide show
Septimus Severus-the Grim African ,
Lucius Septimus Severus was born in Leptis Magna in AD 145 and spend his formative years in a city that was already one of Rome’s great centres. He quickly progressed through the military ranks and was declared the governor of a far-off province. After the assassination of the Roman emperors Commodus (at the end of AD 192) and Pentinax ( three months later in AD 193) Septimus Severus was proclaimed emperor by his troops. Emboldened by the fierce devotion of his army, he marched on Rome where he swept all before him to assume full imperial powers in AD 193. A military man first and foremost, he waged a ruthless campaign to extend the boundaries of Rome’s empire. By this stage known as ‘the Grim African’ the feared emperor won a further victory over the Parthians in AD 202-03, temporarily dispelled all challenges to his power, and ushered in an era of relative peace. It was in this period that he returned to his native city with a grand vision of turning Leptis into a centre to rival imperial Rome. He built a new forum (and thus shifted the centre of the city) , basilica, the Great Colonnaded Street and greatly expanded the port. His fellow citizens did their part by hastily constructing their own monument to their emperor- the exquisite triumphal arch that bears his name. By AD 207, Rome was once again at war with its neighbors and in 211 Septimus Severus was killed in battle in England.
This short story by Meftaw Genaw is derived from the fact that at some point during the Italian occupation, ( 1911-1951) the colonial authority moved the statue of Septimus Severus to Martyr’s square.
“Cesar looked around him. Everything was different. Chaos and destruction sopped up memories wherever they might be. He remembered friends from another time, and wondered in silence as he crossed the square: perhaps ‘the Girl with the Gazelle” would still be in her beautiful fountain, arching her back towards her companion as she cradled his neck gently in her arms. Caesar remembered how, during the blazing hot days of summer, he had envied the girl her spot, bathed by a continuous stream of water and a soft breeze from the opposite shore. He, on the other hand, was forced to stand atop his perch in the square, perspiring in his heavy costume.”
The story is a commentary on the way things have shaped up in this region. The ending of the story sees Tripolitanians were astonished to see the two metal figures standing at the head of a long line before the offices of the Libyan Maritime Transport company , waiting to buy tickets to Malta.
An unlikely Literary figure
The interview with Meftah Genaw traces his journey from being an aeroplane mechanic in the former Czechoslovakia , the boredom which he felt, and how he turned into a lawyer a more verbal profession.
He summarizes his aeroplane mechanic days beautifully.
“Everything is according to notecards, you never see the bigger picture. This is not a creative activity”
Source-Translating Libya- by Ethan Chorin
See blog- Women in Libyan Fiction http://wp.me/p5YX3a-hR
From seeing the approach of persons like Mr. K L Sabharwal who made it a point to read some wisdom literature for at least five minutes a day, to trying to relate to the history of a place, and then find it’s living traces, and the approach of writers like Genaw – who want to see the bigger picture rather than just have a notecard to tell them what to do, we learnt many things to apply. I suggested to my sons to find out the history behind the fishing village of Marsaslokk-Malta or the 100 years of Royal Ontario Museum-ROM, and relate it to some personal memory after seeing the videos.