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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


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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