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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

What might be your legacy?

Updated: Jun 1, 2023


Charlie Shaylor

I was sent this poem recently by a friend who trained with me as an LLM (reader) in Winchester Diocese (writes Debbie Thrower). Charlie Shaylor spent much time living and working both in Africa and India. He has kindly given permission for me to share it with you:


Charlie Shaylor – ‘The Legacy’

The Old Man shook a crooked


Finger at me. He spoke in Hindustani,


The boy, his back eyes wide and gleaming


Fiddled nervously with a white button


On the front of his smartly ironed blue shirt.


It was his school uniform I guessed.


The Sadhu repeated what he


Had said, only in the deep voice


There was a hint of smiling irony,


‘And what will you leave behind, what will be


Your legacy?’ The boy translated nervously.


I smiled at him encouragingly and


Scratched my head, ‘A muddle and a


Mess, and the rest,’ I sighed and


Then with a grin as I looked down


At the seated Holy Man with


His beads and tattered loincloth,


I added ‘And possibly an odd pair of


Smelly socks and a string vest


With holes in it.’ The boy hesitated and


Then prompted by the Sadhu translated.


The old Man chuckled, this time the


Translation came more promptly,


‘You are too modest Sahib, as for me


My legacy is this tree,’ the boy pointed


To the leafy branches above. I gazed


Up at the towering walnut tree


In whose shade we were gathered.


‘But surely this tree is even older


Than you,’ I surmised. The boy did not


Wait for the Sadhu’s response but


Nodding vigorously turned and with


An expansive sweep of one thin arm


Took in the wooded slope on the far


Side of the dusty track. ‘The nuts


He gathers each autumn, some


He gives to an old widow in the


Village, some he eats, the rest he


Plants.


He’s been doing it for


Years. Those far trees are bearing


Now, and do you see those saplings


They are last year’s planting, that,’


Said the boy with a note of pride in


His thin high voice ‘That is surely the


Best grove of Walnuts in Kashmir.


Furthermore every day he sits here and


Prays, and his prayers are now more


Numerous than all the leaves you


Can see, and do you know what he prays?’


The little face looked up at me quizzically.


‘No, but I’m sure you will tell me,’ I replied


It was now his turn to smile and turning


To the Sadhu he said grandly,


‘He prays Prayers of thanks for the shade of this great


Great tree, he fills heaven with his thanks,


That’s his legacy,’ the boy nodded approvingly.


‘All those prayers of gratitude.


Some legacy,’ I whispered admiringly.


It was the turn of the Holy Man


To finalise our conversation. He fished in


The folds of his loin cloth and took out a


Handful of nuts, reaching up he offered them to me,


‘Here take these, some you may eat, some


Please give away, and some plant, but first


Crack one open and taste.’ With a deep


Sense of wonder I took the nuts, ‘Crack


One open, yes you have to work for my


Legacy, its like that for all the best legacies,


And as you eat think, think hard. By the Nile


There is the Sphinx, on the banks of the


Thames there is a Tower they tell me, and


Near to the banks of the river Ganga stands the


Taj Mahal, the most beautiful building


In all the world of man,


What will you leave? What will be your


Legacy?’ The Sadhu raised one thin hand.


He looked at me earnestly. ‘Please leave


A good legacy.’ He said. My little translator


Nodded his head, ‘Yes Sahib


You leave a good legacy please.’



 



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