Ancestors Outside of Time

An exercise in verse, expressing our ambivalent attitudes towards Indian history and time.

Ancestors Outside of Time

a master of mantra he was, wrapping meaning around syllables and metre; encoding wisdom to pass down the ages, the ancestor who crafted instruments of mind and sound.

one, at least, of my matriarchs, must be among the pioneers of tilled grain; with hard seasoned hands she innovated on nourishment, in the ages shadowed by time.

a distant daredevil uncle, foolish enough to grab a wild vṛṣabha by the horns; no direct line of his exists, obviously, but he passed on ahead of the curve.

ancestors who were there when the first monarchs arose, and those who trekked beside the primeval chieftains; ancestors who witnessed the great ṛṣis deliver their insights, who experienced the consciousness we today seek in vain.

ancestors who marvelled at the elephant tamed for war, and those who forayed deep into unknown forest; still more whose feet mapped the Himalayan contours, whose gaze was first to fall upon the rivermouths.

my ancestors all, and yours too, but we must not ever think it truly so, nor ask any questions.

you see, these ancestors are not allowed to exist within time. to assuage our insecurities, our concerns, our fears, they must forever remain outside it.

for so keen are we today, well-meaning and grateful descendants, to insist on apauruṣeya and anādi that permission is not given to think of the ṛṣi, who perceived, say, the gāyatri, and when.

so traumatized are we from the pillage of our past by those it did not belong to, that we dare not place our ancestors back within time.

so rigid our keenness to never lose the metaphors in ancestral wisdom, that we shut down the curiosity of another, since we possess none of it.

the ancestors outside of time told no stories by the fireside, passed no lore down their lines. in their yarns is no account of the past, do not look and do not find.

the wheel was innovated by no one. the grain tilled itself. the vṛṣabha came willingly to help. the mantra was seen by no seer.

outside of time.