The Aphorisms of
isaludar [ ih SAH loo DAWR ], (noun) . knowledge; the vast body
of knowledge that exists outside yourself, as a resource in other people,
which can only be accessed through other people.
The slim boy standing on my threshold in
his sober gray silks was my lord's son: not old enough to have reached his
majority, but old enough to have passed the first caste ritual, had he
been required to take it. But he had not, for he was what he was, and
unless he proved completely unsuitable his fate was known.
"Calligrapher," the boy said, with a
respectful hand gesture I'd seen from his father. "I bring you greetings
from your lord."
I inclined my head, having already bowed.
"Thank you, masirkedi
," I said, for though he was a boy he was
still a noble. "How would you be served?"
He hesitated. "May I... sit?"
So young and so uncertain! He had not yet
internalized that he could do anything, and it was mine to submit. But it
was well. If he did not know that yet, he did not know enough to avoid
abusing the privilege. "This place is yours," I said, the literal truth,
and so he repaired to a chair by the window, glancing at the calligraphy I
had hung on the walls.
"My father holds you in high esteem," he
began gravely. "So I have come to ask you for advice."
I sat across from him and gave him all my
"I have just been given to my cousin," the
boy continued, looking at the paintings--it was a form of fidgeting. "Whom
I love very much. We are in lessons together now, so that I might learn to
be his first helpmeet."
"As is our tradition," I said, for it is
more typical than not for the lord's sister's child to inherit a noble
house and the lord's to serve as chief advisor.
He tried not to look nervous as he nodded.
"I am told that as his first helpmeet, I have one of two roads. One is to
be his years, to be more knowledgeable than he and help him that way...
and one is to be his ears, to listen to his sorrows when he can turn to no
one else. And that since I'm younger than him, it is easier to be the
second. But I have heard that the first is more useful..." He sighed and
looked at me with mournful eyes and all the sincerity of his childhood
heart. "Calligrapher, what do I choose? Who should I be for my cousin?"
Answering that artless appeal, I said,
"What does he need?"
The boy sat back, eyes wide.
"You are his," I said gently. "The answers
lie outside yourself. Go to him, then, and be his first helpmeet, whatever
that means... to him."
The boy rose, hands tucked into his
sleeves, and bowed to me. I stood and returned it more deeply as befit his
When the request came the following day, I
was prepared... and sent with the messenger my narrow wall-scroll lettered
in silver and white on a taupe ground.
When you do not know the answer,
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© 2007, M. C. A. Hogarth