Friday, 15 April 2011

Cold Dead Tiles

I wake to find my sister sitting on the floor next to me. Her head leaning over mine.
I laugh coarsely, as I know exactly what she is up to.

She looks at me evilly, and tells me 'its just not normal honestly'.

I sleep very calmly. If that's what it can be called. It all started years and years ago. Many many mornings, I would wake to find my sister with her head hanging very close to mine. Sometimes i screamed. A few times I accidently head butted her.
Only after 2 or 3 years of this happening did I then ask her what she was doing. I guess I always assumed she was trying to annoy me.
She told me - " I was worried you were dead, so I check you are breathing". Her answer scared me, and we were both at a young age, where death should not be so familiar.
At that time I skipped down to my mother and told her. She laughed and told me I was like a statue when I sleep, and that my sister had been 'checking i was alive' for a long time. I remember laughing at the time, but writing it down, it doesn't seem so funny.

I remind her of this, and she grins broadly. Her laptop rests on her legs, and she repeatedly taps me, until i roll up. I complain about how sleepy I am, which she ignores. She tells me she heard a song, which reminded her of me lying on the cold tiles, to cool my heat stricken skin. We had fans and air-conditioning, but on the frequent occasions where they would close, this was my lazy solution.
I laugh as I ask her if this is her way of telling me she wants a hug. I outstretch my arms in a happy daze.

The whole day is spent talking and listening to everyone. I feel empty, and homesickness rears its head angrily. It seems the worst time to have guests. So naturally, guests come knocking on the door. I'm hurried out of the living room, like a secret.

I cough in disbelief, as my grandmother and mother discuss whether I should be 'hidden' from guests, or let me get dressed and say hello. I know they are doing it out of consideration, but I do want my opinion to be taken. Its not. The guests are my grandmother's friends, and I see their grey heads toss as I creep into another room.

I look at the bed longingly, though my sister has other ideas. She talks for 2 hours straight, to be interrupted by our mother, who warns of her upcoming exams. She moodily trudges off to revise. I'm left to my mother, who I talk in length of living in London. I tell her the truth. That I still don't understand the life there. I tell her tales of the subway, and stories of student life. I laugh along.

What I didn't tell her, is that despite me clearly not having adapted to the City or the Londoners yet, there was one thing I did miss...the emptiness.
The sunset brings distinguished oranges, reds and purples into the sky. I lean against the balcony alone, admiring the expanse of dust and destruction before me.

I go indoors reluctantly, as someone calls my name.

Friday, 8 April 2011

The I2 Generation

When I thought it would be so much, and it turned out to be so little is quite the slap back into reality, which to be honest, I have needed for a long time now.

The problem is the parents. And the way in which they talk. The repetitiveness affects you; even if you try to deny it, the dark hidden truth is that it does.

And so the schism remains jarring open. Hidden by polite words, and our educated minds. But when it really comes down to it, we are so very biased. It slips out during conversations I’ve noticed, and can you see the slow, but sure way in which it’s dividing Iraq a thousand fold?

Surely the divide between religions and classes and everything else exists in every nation, in every people. So why does it seem so much more pronounced in our nation? I was under the impression there would be no divide here. There would be no gaping wound. But i was wrong. At times, it seems the old prejudices are more alive on the outside, than it is on the inside. And I had to ask myself why.

In order to reach the right answer, you have to ask the right questions, or so I’ve heard. And I’ve always been one to ask the absolute worst worded questions. I occasionally doubt my social skills in that sense, but oh well; it’s all part of my (often unsettling) charm. :D

Anyway, living in such a varied, and rich society should mean that you become more understanding, that you feel the spices of a thousand traditions flowing through your veins. Not that it would somehow result in an almost bitter and biased soul, hidden by a westernized exterior, and fashion labels.
If inside Iraq there are the biased, and those wishing to cause a schism, they do it from bitter and brutal experiences. Whereas here, in Lenden, (that we all dream of seeing and experiencing), there is nothing but khibeeta (mixed mess) and kheer (riches) - a population so mixed, that they’ve all but given up trying to trace back their roots.

So where does this us and them come from? The occasional open minded person appears who claim they have no bias. I smile happily, hoping my hope is not misplaced. But it seems it usually is. For within the same week of being introduced to them, they would often let slip ‘look at them, what they have become’ or some similar phrase, which reminds me the gap between our nations is a seeping, infected wound.

It has to be the parents. Over time, their exile might have perpetuated bitter thoughts, which have not been wiped out over the suffering and deaths that has already been wreaked in Iraq. Instead, this has remained, fixated in the hearts and souls of many. Even across generations who have never seen, or will never remember Iraq. Is that fair? To transmit prejudices across generations? Rather than sending traditions?

What frustrates me even more, is the preconceived ideas of Iraqi culture and tradition- that it is the very reason why we are not progressing. That our culture and tradition is the root of the problem. And so I look onto the young generation who all but spit on our civilization, because it is what is seen as ‘backward’, they blindly dismiss it, in favour of the western ‘empowerment’.

Again, it must be the upbringing (any other theories?). There is unfortunately no happy medium. The Iraqi parents have either enforced an iron fist on their children to remain ‘Iraqi’, through religion and extreme prejudices, or the parents have enthusiastically let their children become ‘modern’ through losing their heritage, and denouncing Iraqi traditions.

For those who have endured the religious upbringing, become too biased towards the other sect. And they have the audacity to hide it, and hide it well, but when amongst their own, it comes out in all of its blazing glory.

And those who have endured the modern upbringing have little respect for cultural rituals, not understanding that our culture is not just about ‘disrespecting’ women, men wearing white dresses and smoking shisha.

I cannot vouch for all our traditions and say it is all good and great, for that is a lie. But it is also a lie, that our culture is what is holding us back. Because isn’t. It is, however, our mentality that is leaving us stranded in a country that is neither improving nor changing.

I, too have become stranded. It seems stubbornness is one sure thing that every Iraqi will never lose, no matter where or how they were brought up.