Tuesday, 27 April 2010

East

I'm so tired, but I'm here. In fact I got here a few days ago.
I think it was a pretty rash decision, I should have perhaps organised myself more.
I was received by a large mixture of emotions. I'm too overcome with exhaustion to register anything now, other than the need to attack the floor and head off into sleep - again.

I first saw my mother. She hugged and kissed me and told me I looked tired, as she stroked my hair. I honestly felt like collapsing. I wondered how comfortable the luggage trolleys were.
I saw my father sporting a short beard. I went up to kiss him, but instead got a brief hug and the 'pat on the back'. The one which knocks you a meter forward. I keep forgetting how every guy in my family is actually scared of public affection.

In fact, I think for the past few years, I've been shaking hands with my brother and as for my young male cousins...they made it clear I would rather 'punch' them than kiss them. I asked them if it was my moustache that put them off my kisses, and that 'joke' earned me an embarrassed hug from the 13 year old.(bet you're wondering why joke is in apostrophes hehehe :D)

I only get a week with them-they have to return to work, exams etc. It could have been two weeks, I think sadly.

I try my best to keep my eyes open and hazily walk, leaving the bright luggage bags to embarrass my parents, rather than me. After what seems like forever, I walk in to be greeted by my grandparents, uncle, and siblings.

My nana almost immediately pushes pyjamas in my hands, and tells me to go relax. Only after my breath is gone from hugs, do I get to make my clumsy exit. I come back to be kissed goodnight by my father.
As he kisses my forehead, I laugh, and i giggle even more as his new beard scratches my cheeks. He asks me earnestly if the beard makes him look old. I reply with of course not. Though the vast amounts of white hair in his beard do worry me. In fact its 80% white.

My grandmother hands me more pillows, and holds my hand, as she guides me to the quietest room. The bed has been made ready for me, and I feel guilty as I know their preparation actually started weeks ago. She kisses me, with tears in her eyes, and closes the door, flooding the room in absolute black.

I stretch down on the marble floor instead, and fall asleep within nano seconds.

The morning after (afternoon after more precisely), I wake up and wander into the living room, where everyone is busy talking, peeling, watching. Everyone suddenly looks different.
My brother looks older, My father has no beard, and my mother looks tired.
I patter to the kitchen and ask my grandmother, quite suspiciously why everyone looks different now. She laughs and stares at me. A few minutes later, my mother walks in, and tells me its my fault. What is? I ask surprised, feeling guilty for no apparent reason.
'Your dad shaved his beard of this morning because of you', she says quite sadly. I'm confused as to why, so I campaign my innocence to my mother, as my grandmother chuckles quietly.
She insists its my fault, and I give up, laughing while i try to drink my tea.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Snooker

Like millions, my flight arrangements were cancelled because of dark ash swirling above the clouds.

The Museums were - and perhaps always will be- significant. Mainly because they make you feel so insignificant compared to the world around you. I paid attention to the museums, unlike last time - where I spent my time trying to decide if the person who had told me that it was 'bare chilly' outside, meant it was barely chilly or it was bear chilly-as in it was so cold, you need fur of a bear.

The houses of Parliament were even more so interesting. On the walk up to them, I passed the man in the tent - the one who has been continuously there since the start of the War. I'm not sure how to describe how I felt. It was perhaps akin to nothingness.
After security checks, I walked in. A tour guide met me warmly, and coughed. He was what can only be best described as an 'old Englishman'. I worried for his health as he wheezed.
Westminster Abbey was Gothic and cold inside, made only scarier by the guide's revelation that I was standing on the graves of Britain's finest poets,writers, politicians and lords. I looked longingly at the steps leading out of the concreted graveyard.

It was interesting, and the abundance and luxuriousness of it all, occasionally comical.
Soon, my tour guide was replaced by a younger guy, as the old Englishman was showing tiredness. The younger guy continued on enthusiastically, and the older guide walked on with us, occasionally adding classical detail.
We passed a large tour group - it was a school class. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop trying to (discreetly) stare at them. The majority of them were in brightly coloured tracksuits, and one girl loudly popping gum. Their attitude showed disinterest.
I turned my gaze back to my guide, but the old guy had spotted me.

" Are you annoyed that they are in those clothes while you are in a suit? Do you wish you had worn something more casual? Or do you think they should wear something smarter?" he asked me curiously.

I was dressed in a skirt suit, and my heels would tap against the concrete and marble as I walked, contrasting with the shuffles of everyone around me.
Most, if not all, in the class tour group were wearing trainers. Some brightly coloured and new, and some muddied.
I had no idea what to answer, and silently thought of what to reply in my head. I chose to reply truthfully. Which was - I told him I was shocked that they didn't hesitate to act, and wear what they want in such places.
The younger tour guide turned around to check we were still following. After a while, the old man returned to the subject and dramatically said:

" It is because they see it as their right. Whereas you see it as a privilege."

The tour came to an end.

I checked my flight status again, and tried to repack again, in effortless hope.
Around the evening my parents called. And that is where the title of this post comes to play.
My father watches the world snooker. A few years ago, out of boredom, I watched a game with him.

(Ashamedly?) I started watching every year, and started to even know the players names.
This 'hobby' of mine was disclosed to my friends by accident on one occasion. They were commenting on 'Doherty's drug addiction'.
In shock, I replied " I never realised snooker players lead drug fuelled lives! Won't that disqualify them?".
Everyone looked at me like I was speaking a different language. One of them asked what i was talking about, and I naturally gushed about how snooker is a calm sport, with little or no scandals. They told me Doherty wasn't known for snooker. I asked what he was known for, to be answered with 'The Libertines'.

My reply to this? I asked "Aren't they French hippies from the 1800s or something?".
The whole room was engulfed in chuckles, as the girls around me hugged me tightly and gasped with hard laughter. I blushed in confusion.
It was a while later until I realised I had been talking about Doherty the snooker player, and they had been talking about another Doherty- a singer.

As my mother finished asking about the flights, my father started talking about snooker.
I didn't feel myself fall asleep.
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(And an hour ago I woke up)

Friday, 9 April 2010

Eid Ekito

Today is no doubt a historical day, with either celebrations or lamentations.

I 'can't be bothered' for either of these two, and instead, I recount this year, as being the first year I didn't celebrate Eid Ekito with my family.

Ever since I can remember, my family has celebrated Eid Ekito, though at times, it was most certainly an embarrassment to me. Especially when trying to explain to the teachers exactly why i had missed 3 days of school.

Before and during 2004, Youm (my great grandmother -God rest her soul) was in charge of organising Eid Ekito, until her death later that year.
She always indulged us all, and the whole house would be filled with lighted candles. It felt so magical to wander through her old fashioned house- walking as softly as i could, so none of the flickering candles would blow out.

After 2004, my dad took over the Eid stories and planning. He always stressed that we should keep this tradition alive.
This eid almost always coincided a few days after Nawroz,so it came as no suprise, that my older brother would mention this. My dad of course denied that Eid Ekito had anything to do with Nawroz - he boasted that Eid Ekito had been celebrated from the beginning of civilization, and Nawroz was young in comparison.
Unfortunately, none of us believed him, and we all rolled our eyes sarcastically. Well I did anyway. Because of the reverence which our great grandmother had for Eid Ekito, none of us had contested it with her. But with my dad, it became an all out war, us trying to prove that they had made this all up.

Eid Ekito is not a religious celebration in that sense. The best way I could describe it would be to say it was a 'pagan' festival, although out of my whole family, Youm was the most religious.
Truthfully, it didn't make sense, and we generally didn't share our celebration of this Eid with other people, perhaps in fear of being judged. But our parents always would repeat that the whole of Iraq celebrated it.
Youm used to recount how in her younger years, the Tigris would be filled with floating candles. My father would agree with her, and tell us how he would hold his mother's hand, as they placed a candle in Diyala River, praying for his success.
He angrily recalls how Saddam got rid of this, and my brain would automatically shut off as politics creeped in.

It wasn't as magical without Youm.

The stories told was of old warring Babylonian gods and goddesses. We would sit around the table, eating sugary snacks, and talking at the same time, with such excitement. My brother would constantly spray me with food and saliva as he talked, prompting me to always crawl up to the sofa to avoid him.Ironically on the sofa, my dad's eating of pistachios meant i had to dodge hard shell bullets, as my dad tried to throw the shells onto the table.
I put up with this only as long as the stories lasted. As soon as they ended, I would go to the kitchen where 4 generations met - my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and me. They would gossip, and i would try to make sense of their talk, as they asked me to get them juice, water, a spoon etc, all the time using the cutest endearments.

After a while, I would walk out the kitchen door into the garden. I'd carry candles with me, enjoying how the wax snaked down the candles, then onto my skin. Laying them onto the dry grass, I would bounce onto the ground, shouting for my sister to join me, and bring a bottle of water with her. Some Eids she came, and other Eids I would stay out alone, listening to talk and laughter, until i slept under the stars.
Every time i was woken, whoever woke me would mutter about my stubbornness - I'd be covered in bug bites. Nonetheless, I was smiling widely when I crawled into bed, my mouth still sweet from 3 days of sugar.

Next year, I'm going to make sure I go back on time to celebrate Eid with them. Even though the stories have gotten repetitive and boring, and even though now only the table is filled with candles. Perhaps next year I'll try to light 70 candles as Youm always did.
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It does exist!!! - its on wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akitu