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Do I belong here? Part Two By Osama Mahmoud

09-02-2013, 03:46 PM
Osama Mahmoud









Do I belong here? Part Two By Osama Mahmoud

    2013-08-31 01:39:00
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    By Osama Mahmoud

    “Wake up son it is time to go back home; if your father wasn’t tired and has to carry all the harvest, he would have piggybacked you to the green shore of your mother’s house “. That was Ismail my father; his kind words have made a legend out of him in our village. On the way back we came a cross a small hut where some of my dad’s fellow farmers gather around 4 pm every day to play Dhala, some sort of a local game involved pebble stones and small wells on the ground. The stones keep moving from one well into another. I never understood it, all I know it takes for ever to finish. I never enjoyed the game itself, however the atmosphere surrounding that tent was something else, and the catch phrases were priceless. I was particular fond of an old timer there who used to curse all the time. At that age, hearing some of those words was a sort of revelation. My dad and I stopped there, just to say hello. The majority of people stopped what they were doing to reply except that elderly man. To him that game was a holy thing. He hated the interruption of the game flow, and when that happened he yelled at his fellow players “god damn you and everything that you stand for in life. I am sick and tired of you morons, stop your nonsense and carry on playing”. Everyone burst laughing, because they knew it was all fun and games, and the old dude did not mean any harm by his colourful words. My dad would often cover my ears if the man went of the rail with his cursing. When they think he stopped, he will start all over again. My dad would hand him some if his freshly picked cherry tomatoes to keep his mouth busy.

    Ten minutes later some of the men would start interrogating my father “so Ismail, why are you carrying all the harvest yourself? Where are the donkey and the caravan?

    Bless him. My dad always knew where they were going with the questioning. He would politely point out that he left them at home because the family needed to transfer some goods. Another man would join in and add “see my brother Ismail, that’s hard life, having one wife, working all day in the farm, then carrying the crops on your back to your house, that’s too much in my humble opinion. You need to relax, get yourself a second wife, and spend more time with us here. My wife has a beautiful young sister lives in my house, out of all the man here you are the best in term of manners and work ethics, and I will be more than happy to add you to my big family”.

    The old man replied on the behalf of my father “Ismail, take you son and go home, this loser is kicked out of his house for the lack of performance in all areas. You are doing well, just pray for me to win this game tonight; otherwise I will start slapping this round faced, bold idiot of a man”.

    Every one laughed at that man, and he felt so humiliated, my dad whispered to him “thanks Jeru, I know you were looking out for me, however I am happy at the moment”.

    Some people there were rich, very rich by our village standard, however they lack what my dad was having at home. My mother was not a wife by the traditional sense of the word. To my dad she was a lover, a true friend, a mother, a source of motivation, a councillor, a consultant, and most importantly a secret keeper, not that they had many secrets, but in the word of Shiekh al-Buraai “do not share you secrets to anyone, even if that someone is your secret itself”. He found all those impossible traits in one person, Mariam Yahoub, my dearest mother. The type of relationship that they had was not common neither in our area, nor the most part of the country. I know it is such a broad statement but hey, that’s what it is.

    The story of how they got married was an interesting one, will get to it later on. We arrived home; my mum was in her early days of pregnancy. My sixth sibling was in his/her way. I guess you could follow the story from there.

    My dad wouldn’t let her do anything. The tasks were enormous, preparing food, cleaning cloths, looking after the young ones. They both fulfilled their duty. After lunch and a quick cop of black tea, my dad would read the newspaper, usually bought by mum during his work hours. I would try to mimic the way he held the paper and read out loud to my mum the latest passage from the book of varieties known as Kashkool. My dad would keep listening. His way of correcting me was to let me read the particular sentence again, then I try harder, then he would complement my effort and he read it back for a final time. The glare in his eyes when I get it right was quite enough for me to try harder every time. Afterward, it was the radio time, my mum and dad would set together on the same bed to listen to a music programme “the Listeners Pick”. It was a popular show. At that point father was applying a wax on his bicycle’s rusty chain on the other site of the house. My mum shouted ‘Sumaa, Summa, hurry up, the programme about to start’. Summa left his bike, washed his hand with dry sand first, then soup and water; and afterward run across the house to take his usual place next to his better half. When I was at that age, the radio announcers have some holistic powers, and they could connect the audience all over the place. The first pick was al-Kabili’s Suad. A beautifully worded song, its tune was iconic. At a certain segment of the song, al-Kabili would change his voice and acts as the mayor of that village. He starts ordering the people to ‘STAND IN LINE AND CLAP YOUR HANDS FOR THE VISITOR, HIS EXCELLENCY THE HEAD OF THE REGION” it was so scary, my little brother and I would run and hide beneath my mum’s bed.

    My father loved that section of the song particularly because it resembles a personal experience, when the chief executive of the local government called him and uncle Arja to his office (ref. Part One). As a result of their resistance, uncle Arja was jailed in the notorious Shatta prison. My dad was allowed to go home to notify Arja’s family. He replied “he is my brother, from another mother, he is family”, the officers told him to go home and bring money to bail uncle. My dad run back home and told the farmers what just happened. My dad came home and unlike him he did not greet us individually, hello was his only word and then he picked up a bag and joined the rest of the farmers. They all headed toward the local government building, the chief did not believe is own eyes, he had to shake head a few times and wipe his watery eyes to focus his vision on the crowd. He was intoxicated, and in no shape or form to confront the angry farmers. Immediately he ordered the release of the detainee from the prison. Uncle Arja was in a bad state of mind. He passed out and was carried to the local health clinic. His brother was wilding out at the guards, the chief executive and the other government representatives. The spirit was united, until the day the head of the state visited Ain Girfa. Against the will of the local farmers, the head of the state was the guest of honour at the village and managed to cut the ribbon to announce that the local dam is one of the government achievement in the region, and they decided to give it a new name ‘The paradise dam’. It was known before as the Awna dam, which means in the local dialect the cooperation dam.

    People in the area were loyal to one another and they were passionately in love with this place, however, that ‘Paradise’ business was no going down at all. Arja was well and sounded by that time, and he started telling it as it was “the truth has to be said your honour. The dam was built by the hands for those people you are seen before your eyes. We asked for help from your representative here, and he was reluctant. We took the matter into our hands and made it what it is – the great Awna Dam” The people started to cheer in agreement with uncle. Arja was silenced by a hand gesture from the governor who continued his rhetoric for 30 minutes. All this time he was saying that people should be grateful for what god gave them through this government, and they should join forces with the government to complete the pillars of the revolution.

    Afterward the governor did not feel he was welcomed or respected enough to stay for lunch party. However before he left he left he said to the local representative “you need to discipline the locals by all the necessary means, start by that idiot” meaning uncle Arja. The representative said “definitely your Excellency, I will do what is right by you”. The governor was quick to reply “matter of fact, deport him from this village to my office and keep it discreet”

    Uncle knew the local government were cooking preparing for assault, and he got a tip form an insider. He came that night to our house carrying a big suitcase and greeted my parent, I was half asleep, so my memory was vivid. However the precipitation from that night was a sour one. That was the first time I have seen my mum crying that much. She had to cry in silence to not ruin his under cover plan. My dad whispered to both of them “we shall all meet again very soon”. It was the last time I saw Arja Marajan. Some say he joined a Sufi group and became one of the Daraweesh, some say he was brutally killed, some say they saw him in the torture chamber in the the infamous Shala prison in Alfashir. His disappearance would not to be the last one in Ain Girfa. The village was sadly put in their radar. “Who are they?” A fellow resident of Kalma IDP (internally displaced people) camp was asking. He was playing the famous card game (Heart), only to be interrupted by his counterpart player shouting in his face “Addama O’fool)” the queen of spades. I wasn’t part of the game. I was visiting that tent ‘al-Rakuba’ to borrow a pen! Stationeries are some sort of luxury in the camp, and people who love to write used them as a tool to carry them to reach that safe temporary refuge. In here pens are not in abundance and the same goes double for everything else.

    To be continued in Part three
                  

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