I met Iftikhar in one of my project management courses last year. He’s a policy “wonk,” with an honours degree from York University and a Master’s degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from a prestigious institute in Sweden. He speaks fluent, even eloquent English, Urdu, Arabic, among other languages, and like so many new Canadians, cannot find work in his field. Iftikhar (IftiJar) whose name I can pronounce correctly, only because the kh makes the same sound as the Spanish jota, which is also from the Arabic, has family roots in India that reach back to the days of the Silk Road. He has been trying for some time to get on with the Government of Alberta.
I asked him recently if there is a saying in his culture about perseverance. Yes, he told me, in Urdu, Paywasta reh shajr say ummed-e-bahar rakh. Which roughly translates to, Stay attached to the tree and hope, for spring is in sight. I almost clapped my hands reading this in the midst of minus 30 degree weather last week. The exhortation is directed, he explained, to the leaves themselves as they prepare to face the winter season. The image works for me too, to stay attached to what is in my elemental nature, no matter how fragile. When I lose my direction, to remember to cling to the tree of my being, with its roots, its heart wood and its living core. For spring is in sight.