Poems: First love

By Akbar Ahmed in Huffington Post

It was love at first sight
–and it was true
with the breathless passion
that the years could not dim
and like a faithful lover
I have returned again and again

Half a century ago
Cambridge had that effect on me
as we strutted about
or glided on bicycles
with college robes that billowed around us

Lolling on the backs
courtesy of King’s
by the Cam
watching the swans drift by
or drinking tea at Grantchester
with the ghost of Rupert Brooke

We did not notice the distracted old men
with their white hair flying about
as they hurried by
perhaps pondering mathematical equations
or literary quatrains
they looked frail and decrepit
unlike the sturdy buildings
and perennially youthful gardens
We were not even awed by the proximity of genius
–Milton, Newton, Coleridge and Tennyson
and from my world, Nehru and Iqbal

They were gentle, the men and women of Cambridge
I complimented Forster
on how well
he had created Dr Aziz
in A Passage to India
and was invited to tea
by Sir Evelyn Howell
little knowing
one day
I would be
in his shoes
in charge of

We knew it was our time

And I was back in 2012
for Michaelmas
–that is autumn or fall
for the rest of you —
as visiting professor

Much had changed
More women everywhere, thankfully,
and a flood of East Europeans
with their languages and ways

Much remained the same
the ancient oaks were burning with bright autumnal colors
of yellow and gold and red
the gentle weeping willows shivered in the chill
the gardens of Jesus College
where I was a guest fellow
were exquisite in their symmetry and timeless beauty

Apple-cheeked young men and women
bursting with energy and ideas
cycling furiously by
barely avoiding the old man
with white hair flying about
lost in his thoughts

They knew it was their time

I wandered about like an archaeologist
layer upon layer
of shards and pieces
from the past
through which I deciphered the present

I could not but bless this land
and pray it remained
as fresh, beautiful and graceful
as when I first saw it
and as I see it now

Cambridge, Oct. 2, 2012

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