Friday, September 26, 2008

Pilgrimage To Hilla

Because my file “a file that contains information about my professional life (C.V.)” is present in Babylon Health Directorate, and because I cannot move the file to Baghdad until I finish my training as a board student, because of that I need to go to Hilla every now and then. For the last 3 years I never visited Al Hilla due to security causes.

There was some error in my salary. The clerk told me that she feels sorry that I must go to the place where I was working from 2002 to 2005 to bring some papers. My face stayed expressionless while my heart whispered to my ears “hilla!”. The clerk looked at my face and said: “I am sorry, we cannot fix it here. You must bring paper’s that…”
I interrupted her hesitant voice and said: “If I take there papers to Al hilla they can fix the problem?”
The clerk said: “sure”.

I went to my colleagues after few minutes and asked one of them to work instead of me for the next day. He agreed, he signed the papers of the OFF DAY and I gave it to the director of our hospital.

The next day I woke up very early and very energetic. There was a smile, an involuntary smile drawn itself on my face. I went to the garage.

“Hilla…Hilla….Hilla..” the driver standing near his KIA 11 passenger minibus is yelling with a lovely accent. I looked at all the faces for some longer than usual time while I greeted them “salam alykum” while I was taking my seat. They are the faces of people going to Hilla. Faces of calm and kindness. I swear they are.

I reached Al Hilla after running fast between palm orchards that I always fantasized of being having a lovely adventure in between. I thought about writing a novel of a lost child in the orchards found by the people there where they will let him grow. Fantasized about having a love story with a woman who lives there in a small house between the orchards. How it would be to sit there by the time of dawn to have some chatting and what it would be about? Fantasized about being a doctor to those poor people and having the opportunity to learn from their wisdom and to show them how much I care and love them.

I reached Al Hilla. There is a new building here. A huge one at the cross road. The police men here are more serious. They treat you with marked respect. Their attitude is really of security men. I liked how serious they are. In Baghdad the policemen are not that trustworthy as in Al Hilla.

The policeman at the gate of the hospital welcomed me very kindly: “hello doctor, we missed you, how are you”. He walked with me to the inner gate where there were new police men. He stood and said loudly so that the new police men hear him: “come in doctor come in!”. The new police men stood up and welcomed me. He did that so that the new police men don’t stop me. How kind.

I was walking in the corridor behind her. A cleaner whom I was wondering if she forgot me. She stood to take something. I greeted her by her name. She looked at me confused and then she put her hands on her cheeks and said: “oh God…..YOUUUUU…..” she hold my forearm with her strong fist and took me aside to let a wheel chair holding a patient to pass from behind of me.

All the staff remember me. Even those who were not saluting me before they did this time because we didn’t see each other since 3 years. I was happily confused. I ended my job there so quick. I hoped that it would take longer. I went to a walk in the market. I sat by the river. Shat il Hilla is a branch of Euphrates. Euphrates branch into two rivers at the north o Babylon. Tigris does the same but not in Babylon. The 4 branches were regarded by the Sumerians as the rivers of heaven. Some say that “the heaven” is a Sumerian concept that went out into other religions.

So I sat near my holy river. I was wearing off white clean trousers. I hesitate to sit on the floor near the river. But eventually I sat. A lovely donkey approached me.

And said:

- sami, you know nothing about al hilla till you get naked and jump in the river.
- To swim
- No, to suicide.
- …..
- Off course to swim you idiot. To swim. And you can hunt a fish if you want. Do you like fish?
- Yes, I will hunt one and we eat it together.
- Ehha ha haaaa…eat it? I don’t eat fish you human. I like to live with them. Actually I wanna be one. A colored one with an electric tail.
- Oh you like to be a fish.
- Sure. My theory about life is that we become what we want when we die. And I will become a fish swimming in Shat il Hilla someday. What do you like to be?
- Me?
- Yes you?
- Well….a donkey?
- Ehhee hhe haaaa…
- A donkey in Al Hilla carrying children and running till they burst into laugher.
- Hmmmm and would you carry women? Hmmmm?
- Only secretly.
- Ehhhe haaa heeee
- Ahhhe hooo heee
- Hey sami would you carry merchandise for the rich?
- No I will only bit there fatty asses.
- Funny sami…. I can say you are member of my group
- Your group?
- The group of…
- “hey come ..come here….hey”
- They are calling me my friend. You will go back to Baghdad?
- Yes, do you want me to bring you something when I come back from Baghdad next month?
- Yes, Taha Hussein novel “Shahrazad dreams”, see you.


tracy said...

A wonderful story, Sami, i am happy you were able to go back to the place you loved so well.
And i l o v e d your "conversation" with the donkey...priceless! So strange...i want to be a fish too, just like your donkey friend!

peace and joy, tracy

sami said...

Glad that you like it Tracy. I remember I have wrote a letter to a friend from Hilla telling her that I don't want to leave Al Hilla and I hope that I become a donkey working in its market. sami

s said...

Great story.