Monday, February 20, 2012

Solan - a whole life in one picture

Dream about Solan - a sketch done right after waking up

Sometimes when you wake up from a dream all you remember is an image and a name. And emotions. Strong emotions. And some sort of memory that is the background to the image. Something that makes you remember it even after years as strong as it was that time you woke up from it.

For me it was like this with this image and name. On waking up I had sketched the image that was still in my mind with all the details I could recall. Then, as I am lucky enough to have access to the internet, I searched for the name as I remembered it. And some derivations of it too. Just in case I had not recalled it right.

I did find some interesting things about "Solan": - a town in India - founded in 1972.
And "Solana" is a female name: - Spanish; but also the name of areas/towns in Philippines, Spain and USA - the meaning is associated with "on the sunny side" or "sunshine".
Just as "Solon" is a male name. - an ancient (BC) Greek "reformer" and poet for (his) pleasure.

All this had something to do with what I remembered - but it didn't not fit all of it. So, after all these years (nearly five actually) I decided to finally write down my version of Solan. It might all be just fictional.


My name is Solan. 
I am still a girl, and I have a twin brother. No other brothers or sisters live with us right now.
Our house is full with people during the day. They do not live with us. Some are servants that take care of the house and garden. Some are workers on our property that surrounds our house and the fields close by.
And some come to ask my father for advice and plead him to judge in difficult situations. Like two men fighting over the border of two neighbouring fields. Or some possessions. 
Once they even asked him to decide who has the right to take a certain woman into his household. They both wanted her. Contrary to our tradition, my father let the woman decide where she wanted to live. And she decided to have no man at all and live all alone. That caused an uproar in our village; it was feared that all women would decide now where they wanted to live. But it did not happen. The only change from that day on was, that now parents first asked the girl and the boy if they would appreciate to found a household together before it was decided. My mother does the same for the females of the village. But not as often; women don't seem to quarrel so much or are able to settle differences between themselves.
My brother and me are privileged children in our village. Not that we really care about it. It just happens that our father has this position of being the highest ranked man in the area. And thus all the people coming at daytimes. We two prefer to play with all other children of the village with no differences. The places we most often go to is the little harbour down at the ocean and the little wooded areas in the hills close to the village.
But many of the children in our age do not have the time for play anymore. They have to help their parents in the daily work in the house, on the fields and some even on the fishing boats. I do help in the house and garden when I want to. Like my brother does like to help on the fields or sometimes even goes with the others for fishing. But we are not expected to these things as daily chores like most of the other children. We are free to do what pleases us. But of course, never be in the way when our parents do their work. We may be there and listen (and learn from them). One day, so our parents told us, we are expected to take over their position in the village.
And this is what I do not really like. Usually, the first-born male inherits the position of the father. If that one is not capable of it or dies before, the honor of the position goes to the next born male. Now my father has a slightly different view on this. He thinks that any first-born, if capable, will inherit. That would be me. My mother wants him to stick to the tradition; he thinks that all are equal and have equal rights. They do quarrel about it sometimes at night. 
Then this sad day came. My brother decided to go with one of the fishermen. Not just for a day or a week out for fishing. No, this man was an adventurer and wanted to sail along the coast for a longer time. To visit some further away places to trade with. Nothing unusual. It happened every year during this season; the weather pleasant, most field work and harvesting done and the sea calm enough for it. 
My parents took some days to decide. In the end they thought my brother to be old enough (and strong and healthy), and the man trustworthy, to go on this journey. I had asked for it too. Connected to my twin brother as I was, sharing everything, I did not want him to go alone. I wanted to be with him. But my parents wouldn't let me. I was a girl, not a fisherman or seafarer. That was surely not a work for a woman. I thought it not fair, but I couldn't do anything against it. So my brother left us with a big grin on his face, a small bundle in his hand and his heart full of expectation about all the adventures he would have.
I stayed back, crying, waving him a goodbye as if I would never see him again. My mother tried to calm me. She too felt sad at him leaving and joyous the same time for all the experiences he would have. My father wasn't as pleased with it. He had planned to start teaching us about our future work at being in the highest position in the village. 

This was the moment I had captured in the drawing. The father sitting at the table with a strategic game (chess) he had played with the children until it was time for the boy to leave. And yes, I had felt it to be in India, tiled floors, colorful flat-roofed houses and the clothing reflecting this a little.
Now, you might wonder what became of Solan and her brother? I will tell you:

From the next day on, I had to sit and listen when my father had to give advice and do judging. And in the evenings he told me a lot about the history of our village, our country and about the world as he knew it. It was very interesting and I learned a lot. Also why he thought everyone to be equal and should be treated that way. A view so different from the traditions he had to follow. But he managed it and I learned to understand how he did it. 
Still, I wished he had allowed me to go with my brother on that journey too. I felt equal to my brother. He said I'm better suited to become his follower than my brother. I felt honored by this but also a little sad at being "forced" to take on a role and position that I did not freely choose.
My mother too started teaching me more than before. There were days I wished I was still a few years younger and just could run off to play with my friends. But, even if I would do it, there would hardly be anyone around most of the time. It's not easy to grow up. Most of all, I missed my brother.
We did not hear from him for a long time. It took the ship over a year to return. Longer than the usual time. When it finally did my brother was not on it. The man responsible told us that my brother had preferred to stay in a far away country. To learn their ways of leadership and guidance of people in their responsibility. My father was astonished and pleased at the same time. Yes, he thought that this way new ideas will come to our village. And he thought that it would be good for us. He felt proud of his son to want to learn this way and these things although he wasn't supposed to be the one taking his position.
My mother though was upset. He had not yet learned our ways. She feared that he would adapt to the different ways without reflection. And she missed him as much as I did. She only did not show it as open. 
A few years later she died; she had not seen him return. A short time later my father followed and I took over his position. I had to. There was no else to do it. I did not like to. But I did my work as well as I could with all that I had learned. The people of the village came to me as they had come to my father; the men and the women equally. At first, this had astonished me. Me, a woman, being asked by men for advice. So contradictory to our traditions. But it was them that had wanted this little change. And it did our village good. Women now were asked about their point of view more often than before. Their opinions were considered before decisions were made. People became more equal; servants were honored more for their work.
When my brother finally returned after years, he had grown up to be a man, strong and vital and with a keen eye and mind. And he brought a lot of stories from his adventures. It seemed that he was a very liked person and famous in those other countries for his ideas and opinions. Many of those were from our traditions. So my mother had been wrong that he had not yet learned enough about our way of living. In a quiet way I felt proud that he was my brother and had taken this chance in his life to have all those experiences.
I was so happy to see him. And on our first quiet moment together I asked him if he would now take over the position of our father. He agreed, but asked to be allowed to mourn for our parents before he did so. And with a condition: that I would advice him when he didn't not know what to do. Sometimes two minds are better than one before a final decision was made. 
To this I agreed happily. I was free again. Not having to fill a position and role that I did not feel to be mine. I never moved to another man's house. My brother though did take a woman to our house and had children. Both of us taught them what we had learned in our lives. One day they would take our place.
Although that one day in my childhood, that had been so sad and had changed a lot of the plans for my life I had had at that time and that had forced me into a position for some time of my life that I had not freely chosen, I must say in looking back that I did have a good fulfilling life. 
It is always an option to see the positive that is in any given situation and not only the negative that is there. 

So, this is the little story that goes to that image. A whole life in one picture. 

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