Thursday, May 10, 2007


Once more hanging a name on a number

I know I am taking this war way to personally, but aren't all wars personal in one way or another?
Another dear friend of mine was murdered a week ago. He was in his mid sixties and he worked with me for a few months. One may contradict here and say that a couple of months do not exactly qualify him as a "dear friend". Well in reply I would say that sometimes people with whom you have spent years can hardly be called friends or even acquaintances without reservations. While a conversation with someone you have met for the first time can sometimes change the course of your life.

I won't start sulking and sniveling and telling you how devastated I was to hear about his murder, which of course I could do easily, since I am becoming weaker and weaker with every new blow. I am just going to say that the murder of this man showed me that you may be as cultured and educated as you wish, yet it only takes one barbarian to put an end to all that consciousness you have managed to muster throughout your whole life.

He belonged to a generation that we Iraqis all know so well. The generation, that was in its prime during the late fifties and the early sixties. The generation that was sent abroad to learn the ways of the foreigners " El Ajanib", so they may return afterwards to Iraq sweet Iraq and help in the creation of the good life.
When that generation returned to Iraq from Europe they were all called " Thawee Al Kafa'at" which means " those with high qualifications ".They were scattered all over universities, ministries , hospitals and factories. And while that generation was naively busy dreaming their heads off, the devil had better plans for Iraq. And you know the rest of the story :Those plans worked and the devil won the round with a blow, which Iraq is still bleeding from heavily till this very day.
Many representatives of that generation were killed during the eight year war. Many were arrested or driven out of the country, others survived it all to get slaughtered towards the dusk of their days, just like my friend.

I won't tell you what an enlightened educated man he was neither, and how optimistic he was when Saddam was finally conquered, and how desperately hopeful he was - like only a sixty year old could be- when he clung to the idea that democracy is not only a fairy tale, and that it could actually be achieved in Iraq . And I won't even bother to tell you how he refused to believe what was happening when hell mouth broke open in Baghdad .

I will only tell you that I will always remember him coming in to the office one morning with a plastic bag full of books for me, after having a discussion the previous day about our favorite writers . He liked the " Angry young men " wave. I knew a bit about them especially Wilson and Amis, but he gave me so much more information. And as extra material for me he brought along with him: " A room on Top" , "Look back in Anger" and -his favorite one- as he said "Saturday night and Sunday morning ".The book was an old paper back edition with the picture of Albert Finny on the cover.
'Oh wait a minute, Albert Finny was the one from Big Fish, right?' I asked.
'Yes , he is simply the best. I used to go and see him in plays when I was in England, later he started appearing in movies . A giant, a giant! Such a great actor' he said.
'You mean you have actually seen Albert Finny in real life ?' I said with wide eyes .
'Yes , he was so young back then, so was I by the way. My God, time is merciless ' he said and then followed his sorrowful reminiscence with a traditional English "Bloody Hell" .

He was transferred to another department in another office, but I kept in touch with him and often used to send him my regards. I was always delighted whenever he came over to our office for one reason or another. He was always sober, well-informed, and.. Yes optimistic.
I was told he was killed on his way to Syria . He and some other passengers were stopped by some group and forced out of their bus and executed .
When I heard, I was not angry or afraid like usual , I was just genuinely and deeply sad . I tried to push away the sadness by blaming him for not taking a plane. That technique failed completely. Who knows what his reasons were, so I gave in to grieve and cried for hours.

I remember he used to often tell us about his college days in England . Once, he told me and the others about the time when his English friends suggested that he and another friend from Africa should take dance lessons; " to help them blend in the era of the swinging sixties obviously " .
He told us how a middle age English dance instructor was assigned for this "mission impossible" :-
' My African friend was doing really well . He was a natural born dancer. In no time at all, he was floating around the dance floor with our teacher in his arms, looking like a handsome black panther. While on the other hand , I was like a drunken bear. I trod on the poor lady's feet with every step I made, and I was totally out of rhythm :
' Please Abdull… listen to the music when you are attempting to dance !" she used to say with watery eyes from pain . And the real tragedy was; that I was actually enjoying myself.
After a week or two she refused to train me further :
' Abdull..! there are two types of people : Dancers and you! ' , she said .
And that was the end of my choreographic ambitions, such a pity! don't you agree ? . When I was leaving I saw her standing outside with her husband. The gentleman was holding her hand comforting her, while she was telling him something . As I passed by I heard her whisper to him:
' That's him , That's him ' .
' Ah ' , her husband said looking at me with restrain .'

Those who killed him may have never ever held a book in their hands, or may have never ever listened to a tune of music.
I remember when I showed him a few of my stories , he said : ' Good , good , but why is there so much fear in your work ? huh? '.

When I think of those last minutes of fear in his life ; when he and the others were taken out of that bus , when those guns were put against their heads, I just black out.
Now I think of him and find myself wondering: Did the feeling of the gun's cold malicious metal against his temple send him back to England on a Saturday night and Sunday morning ?
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