Saturday, January 31, 2009

Return of the Violet Fingers

Like the previous voting, I and he were not sure that we will vote till the day of voting. In the previous voting we met at the door of the voting buildings. I didn't know that this will happen again. Now that it is night and I am making my dinner I turned on my laptop to see my desktop with this Berber Algerian woman with her hand colored by holy Henna. I raised my index finger to check its color. It looks like holy Henna.

"I don't know" was the usual answer he was answering my question about whether he will vote. I was also "don't know". I have finished yesterday at 11:30 pm the eighteen tables of my thesis and sent them via email to a specialist in biostatistics. I felt so sleepy, took a novel and an orange and went to bed. I ate the orange; put the novel next to my pillow and passed quickly into deep sleep. It is a national recess from work and I need not to wake up early. I woke up this morning very early. I didn't look at the clock, I just passed into deep sleep again. I woke up at 11:00 am. Woooow. It feels so good. I will be as lazy as I want today. I started some slow cleaning in the kitchen. I took the garbage out. I asked my Assyrian neighbor: "where can we vote?"

At home I started drinking coffee while I opened the TV and I saw Maisoon Al Damalouji. I love and respect this woman. Her face reminds me that I love Iraq. Her speech makes me proud of being an Iraqi. I finished my coffee and took my clothes and went to vote. My name was not in the first school, nor in the second. They told me to check a third school which was little far. I went sadly and frightened that I won't find it but I found it and said with a loud voice: "Here it is!"

In the voting room I saw very beautiful women. They were all smiling. They were very very kind as if from heaven. I voted. They said: "Thank you". I said: "thank you" with a smile and went walking. I saw many families walking happy. The father's and mother's index fingers are colored by that ink. I saw him coming. We greeted each other with kisses like Iraqis usually do. I went back with him waiting while he voted. He didn't ask me for whom I voted. Nor I did ask him. We are Iraqis with different views and this is our way to show respect to each other. We went back walking slowly and talking about memories of how our quarter was so beautiful before hoping that it will regain its charm while we were proud of our violet fingers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hajanjalie Bajanjalie

Was it Melanie Klien who said once that children are psychotic?

7 up
Knocked the door
Pepsi show itself
And the Krash (Krash= an old gaseous beverage in Baghdad)
Is in the bed
Crying yes he is

They told me to wait till they call my name. There was something wrong with my papers. They were so slow. I became irritable. My bladder was full of the 2 Coffee cups I drunk early that morning. My mouth was bitter. I was pacing round and round till I finally asked the soldier: "please my brother, I need a W.C.". He smiled hiding his innocent shyness and showed me the way to a far small building.
When I came back I was walking slowly. I was relieved. I noticed her. She is a princess dreaming of her castle and her courageous prince. She talks phantoms. She laughs. She cries then shakes her head. Makes some gestures, then plays in the soil creating stories. It is the kingdom of childhood that finally made me smile in this ugly day.

Hajanjalie bajanjalie (two words with no meaning just to go with the rhyme, in Arabic)
I climbed up to the mountain
I found one dome, 2 domes
I yelled: "hey you, uncle Husain"
This is the Sultan's Makam (Makam= the place a famous dead person visited once)
Hold up your legs you Umran (Umran is a male Arabic first name)

I am making the final part of my thesis. The tables and biostatistics of the data is really annoying. I am not enjoying it lately. Actually it started to annoy me. I want just to end it and get rid of it. I got to end it in few days to keep the chance of entering the final examination this October. I was stressed lately and become little irritable. I started to prefer avoiding people again. I thought I should take a walk. I suspected that I will feel better. I drunk Pepsi and my bladder became full again. oh God. I felt thirsty again but my bladder is full. I stopped next to a man who sell Pepsi and said: "I would buy Pepsi from you if you show me a nearby W.C.". He laughed and showed me an old building. When I came back to him, took my Pepsi, I took a picture to the ceiling above him. He looked at the ceiling thinking there is something strange. He looked at me. I looked at him. His eyes said: "you are crazy don't you?". I went walking felling much better. I saw a child on the bridge. He was throwing bread to those beautiful white sea gulls with ugly voices. Their ugly voices made me smile. Oh child you are the only one this day that I felt I can talk to really. I am just afraid you might get afraid from me. I asked him if I can take a picture for him while he through bread and he yelled while throwing more happily: "Surrrrrrrrrrrrre!".

Then he looked at me and said:
- You like pictures?
- Want to take a picture for you with the birds?
- Surrrrrrrrrrrrrre!!!

The words in rosy colour are my trial to translate two of the most common childhood songs in Iraq. They are really loosening of association that I most like.

Monday, January 19, 2009

These Days

"I was walking around, just a face in the crowd
Trying to keep myself out of the rain
Saw a vagabond king wear a styrofoam crown
Wondered if I might end up the same
There's a man out on the corner
Singing old songs about change
Everybody got their cross to bare, these days"

I reach my job after 2 hours in cars crowds. It annoys me. The psychiatry ward is in the 10th floor. I don't like the oppression in the elevator. It is good to have some sport after all that smoking. Patients are going down in stairs. A man with a urine bag. A woman with a syringe filled with blood. A young man holding many blankets. The cleaner who wears that ugly cleaners' uniform is sitting at the ladder next to his broom smoking.

"She came looking for some shelter with a suitcase full of dreams
To a motel room on the boulevard
Guess she's trying to be james dean
She's seen all the disciples and all the wanna bes
No one wants to be themselves these days
Still there's nothing to hold on to but these days"

Her face contains two deep longitudinal furrows above her Caucasian nose. She is white and slim with a tint of hidden sorrow and untold stories. Her beauty made her cleaners' uniform holy beautiful in my single eyes. She remembers I was giving her long eye contacts before 2 years. When she saw me after this long time she gave a smile. I gave her a smile while my fingers invaded my hair. Three white hairs appeared in my head since some time. I should stop running Fromm freedom since I have passed 30 years by some days.

"Jimmy shoes busted both his legs, trying to learn to fly
From a second story window, he just jumped and closed his eyes
His momma said he was crazy - he said momma I've got to try
Don't you know that all my heroes died
And I guess I'd rather die than fade away"

Today I was walking across the bridge when I saw the fence was broken from a side. "an invitation to suicide?". At ward my colleague said: "90% of those who commit suicide got mental illness". I kept thinking about the 10%. Existence is a stranger at some Algerian sea next to Camus. Existence is sometimes a Saterian nausea. While Hemingway said Farwell to arms.

"These days - the stars seem out of reach
But these days - there ain't a ladder on these streets
These days are fast, love don't lasts-in this graceless age
Even innocence has caught the midnight train
And there ain't nobody left but us these days"

The words between brackets are the lyrics of Bon Jovi song "These Days".

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

While Hilla is Water

When Hilla is a word
It is a vibrating tone
Echoes of which are floating
With heavenly river waves
Fresh cold warm waves touching my naked feet and say:

I went to Hilla before few days. In the road I saw those magical palm orchards that I always dream I can go inside one day. I saw small villages that I feel myself belonging to. I always think of myself as a person from a village. I hate cities. I hate car crowds. I hate huge buildings. I like those old brick factories which make bricks from mud. I like those factories even if they emit smoke. The pollution they cause is much less than that caused by cities. There smoke will be cleaned by the holy water, water of Hilla.

When Hilla is a river
The shores of my mind
The boats of my happiness
The moons of my night
Are colored in blue love and uttering:

I finally reached al Hilla. I found her (the word "city" is feminine in Arabic) preparing for the day of Ashoura'a. The day which remembers us of the martyrdom of Imam Al Hussein. It is a sad day where people put black flags and some other symbols. A sadness that I found oppressing during my first days in Hilla in 2003, but a quiet sadness that I loved profoundly later. A quietness that I missed, kindness that I submit to, and music that made me surrender.

When Hilla is a lady
The road to her is my lullaby
The walk with her streets is my dream
Her lovely voice mesmerizes me
When she says her name:

I went deliberately to the area where one of the most violent explosions occurred in Hilla in 2004. It is a crowded market. Market of street of doctors. My friend had cried that day. A lady from Hilla told the police that her husband had gave shelter to the man who exploded himself. The man who exploded himself was not Iraqi. The police took the ladies husband. I never felt being one day afraid from Hilla. On the reverse I am so afraid from Baghdad. In each street I walk in Baghdad, each car I look at in a crowd, I feel there is a hidden possibility of an explosion. In Hilla I forget about war, loud whistles from ambulances and police cars, and explosions. In Hilla I only find peace and security. A slow walk in this lovely market only makes me more quite and slow. And if I may die once my God, let it be here.

In the market, different odors will touch your nose. You will hear from now and then a man shouting behind you "Balak Balak…..Balak Balak" (=be aware be aware….). they are the men who push merchandise in some old wagon. I never felt I dislike this crowd. This crowd is something holy for me.

I asked a man if I can reach the market of the ceiling (Souk Al Musaggaf) from between the houses on the side. He stood and with big care started to told me to pass right, then right, then left, then I forgot… I went to Al Mahdya quarter walking remembering my stylish friend Maithem who took me once for a walk here. He was so stylish in dress. He was so proud of this old quarter of Al Hilla. It was new for me to see a young man being proud of an old quarter. I learned that from him. Now I am proud of this too. I love these buildings. I adore those people.

I lose my way in Al Mahdya. I went left, right, left, right, right, then I was again the old market I was. I went to a library in this market. Market of Sharaa Al Atibaa (=street of doctors). I found books about everything. Books about religion, atheism, cooking, psychology, computer systems, history of Hilla, poetry, politics, jokes, and others. I found a book written by a Tunisian psychiatrist trying to psychoanalyze the personality of the prophet Mohammed, prophet of Islam. Isn't this great? They are really open minded those people. When I asked the library man why the book price is so high in spite of being a used book, he told me that it is a rare book. So he knows this book.

I bought the book which accompanied me during me way back to Baghdad feeling refreshed and filled with passion while I was from time to time meditate in the traditional clothes of the old man who sat in front of me in the bus.

I am a thirsty camel
Desert filled my eyes with dust
My feet went dry and scaly
While water is called

Monday, January 05, 2009

Algerian rain

In Iraq, we call the umbrella as Shamsya (=protector from sun). I have never been in a rainy city like I was in 2005 in Alger, the capital of Algeria. Every day I was going back home wet. One day I noticed all people are carrying Shamsyas except me and few eccentric people. I went running to a shop and asked him:

- Please, do you sell Shamsyas?
- What?
- Shamsya?
- …..?????
- ….this one I mean (I pointed to an umbrella).
- Uhh!! You mean Matarya (=protect from rain).

An Algerian poet said once: "the long distance between Algeria and Iraq is a geographical error".

Maybe it was because of the geographical error I wasn't able to follow the loosening of association of the first part of the novel. Some Algerian symbols were not clear due to the eastern dust in my Iraqi eyes. After the first 60 pages I passed, an Algerian rain cleared my eyes heralding the completion of a circle of understanding.

I was once watching the agerian satellite channel when I saw a delicate man talking with a warm voice about something that I forgot. He cause my attention. I knew after few minutes of watching that he is Wasini Al Araj.

When I saw his novel in Al Kamle publications in Bab Al Muaatham in Baghdad, the first thing to attract my attention was the picture of the cover. How can somebody see such a cover and don't think about buying the novel?
That child in the cover took me to trip in Algeria. The child was talking to me in an Algerian accent that I failed to follow at first. The child was sad. He left me alone and went murmuring things I failed to understand.
When I was alone, the sky started to rain on me. I felt afraid at first but after the second half of the novel I could form a circle of clouds of understanding. Wasini started to talk with his lovely voice to my cold frightened ears.

He told me about the hero of his novel, the journalist. He was a regular writer in an Algerian newspaper. His regular line is entitled: "from the archive". He was well till he started to believe that he is meeting one of the martyrs of the Algerian revolution. The martyr was his father. He knew that there would come a solar eclipse on Algeria that will last for some long time. If children and farmers would look at the sun they would become blind. The journalist started to be obsessed with that hospital of plastic surgery where they cut the noses of individuals. They also change the eyes and brain. They make all people look the same. They tried to inhibit him from continuing his research and his writings but he insisted till he was fired. His regular line was changed to a line written by somebody else entitled: "come with me".

The journalist was named after his mother, a thing that is rare, if possible, in the Arab world these days. He was called as the son of Aicha Limnaoura (=lighted life).
The novel was written in the 1980s. It seems that Wassini felt that an eclipse will come to Algeria. the title of his novel is something really complex. It got 2 titles. The second, the long one is easy, it means "the last witness on the assassination of the sea cities". The first title is something that I cannot translate easily. It means maybe: "the conscience of the absent".
After all, I hope that in 2009 Algeria is much better. I hope I can meet that child again. I hope I will see him happy and that we will dance together under the Algerian rain.