Monday, August 27, 2012

Dijla, the Wise

Almost two thousand kilometres long, she is, the breeder of civilization. The Book of Genesis brands her the third of four rivers branching out of the Garden of Eden. On her banks were prophecies delivered, by the side of the great river. A Sumerian myth claims the god Enki created her, filling it carefully with flowing water.

The water doesn't flow now like it always did, and you can't blame her. Nobody would expect you to continue your job excellently. Not while you helplessly witness glory crushed around you- over and over again.

It began with over a thousand merciless faces sweeping over, like vultures arriving to fish out what they know will soon be dead. Wiping out in instants the work of a million minds. Tearing down mosques, palaces, libraries, hospitals into dust and rubble. Not even the House of Wisdom was spared. That day, Dijla's waters changed colours- blue to black to red. Black with the ink of words. When she had swallowed the books of her people, she took in the blood of killed thinkers.

I like to think that Dijla's preserving all the wisdom she swallowed in her midst. Waiting in patience and in hope the time when her people will be ready again. And then she will help them rise, and go back to flowing happily again.

Photo by Ghassan Malik

On the 1258 Siege of Baghdad
*Dijla is the Arabic word for the River Tigris

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Under all that glitter and glamour

Dubai at night- Photo from Dubai Informer

Unlocked front doors and that safe, sheltered feeling. The insomnia of the city. Coming back home at 3 in the morning without a turn over your shoulder. Interminable, suffocating traffic. Global village in "Winter". The status quo. That Dubai-an mix of an accent. Gigantic shopping malls. Neat, spotless streets and bins decorated with flowers. Calling Rafeeg for anything you want, anytime, delivered right to your doorstep. Seeing mini-colonies of every country under the sun. Witty, friendly, green police. Etisalat and Du and their hate clubs. Pretty mosques at every corner. Ignored speed radars. The high-heels, and the Ray-bans that stay put in-doors. Street-side Chai karak. Pink taxis. People walking around town with their noses in their BBs. Streets that change everyday and out-dated GPSes. Gamboo3as. Having your petrol filled for you. All the restaurants you can think of. Cooled air, all around. Twenty-somethings and their independent cake and abaya businesses. Niqabs and skimpy clothes. The undercover universes of Karama and Bur Dubai. The other under-cover universes of public transport. The categorization of people. The locals and the almost locals and the expat Arabs and the Desis and the Filipinos. And the white house-wives with their gym and spa subscriptions. The uninterrupted weather rants. The Salik dodgeball. Everyday fireworks. 

After you've lived somewhere for a while, the good and the ugly start to infuse and eventually become- the familiar. It's not that the pros and cons stop being what they are. It's just that they sink into you- or you sink into them. Like how the initial pleasure and shock of owning a fancy car and having to wear ugly uniform for school stop having that effect on you.

The Dubai-ans here are mostly not really Dubai-ans. They have their own homes to pine for somewhere else. Circumstance got them here, and Comfort kept them. Gripped them in not so reluctantly. I don't know about anyone else but I can speak for myself. The damage has been done- I have been enchanted by my temporary home. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Up all night, the nation of the day

It was the second of August 1990, twenty two years ago, when the peaceful little country of Kuwait turned into a battlefield overnight.

I hadn't yet come into this world. Only snippets from here and there complete the story for me: the irony of my mother's family escaping their country's dictator, only to find one fine morning's skies announcing his arrival at their new place- my Kuwaiti relatives on one side facing their new upturned world with grace- my Iraqi relatives on the other side watching truck after truck of stolen Kuwaiti items entering their country. 

Burnt buildings, innocent dead bodies, stolen homes, Saddam's men everywhere. And a people refusing to give up their home. Doing whatever they can to keep their world intact- even if it meant having to collect their own garbage from the street after a lifetime of others doing the dirty work for them.

Is anyone watching the drama Saher el Leil, Watan el Nahar? "It contains great offense for us Iraqis" said my dermatologist today morning with a tight face. Only if you want a tyrannical regime like that to represent your nation! "Lots of exaggerations" replies my dad. More like- an understatement. We Iraqis know more than any other victims the extent that the inhumane can reach. 

No matter how many years pass by, we must never forget their martyrs. Not to breed hatred, nor to block reconciliation, but as a tribute to those who stood up in the face of oppression, and as a reminder that bravery always pays off in the end. 

Pictures of the Kuwaiti martyrs- by Dhirar al- Fadhala

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