Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The paper from Najaf - 2

I'm instantly taken to the women's quarters, as soon as I've finished talking with my father. He seems more preoccupied than usual.

I fear the phone call  from my mother. I know it will be filled with angry rhetoric, though I don't understand her unwillingness to accept that I do not want the life she imagines for me.
I tell her it is insipid and tedious. She tells me every girl would kill for a comfortable life in a safe place.
Why don't I see sense, she laments.

I smile and nod at a passing toothless grin. There's been several attempts to eavesdrop on my phone conversation, resulting in me lowering the phone volume. Merely breathing can become a topic of gossip, so I'm taking extra precautions to save myself.

We go to the city market mid evening. I'm choked by its emptiness. In the back of my mind, I know it will get busier as soon as Eid festival approaches. But its deathly silence and hardened stares of shopkeepers, tell me exactly what I don't want to hear.

I try to buy colourful chinese junk from every other stall keeper, under the disapproving glares of my father.
It's not for me, I mumble, well aware of my reputation. My bedroom is known as the storage facility for the sheer amount of clutter I manage to collect. Annually, someone tries to 'tidy' the bomb site up, as I beg to keep yet another 'sentimental' scrap. 

There's been a clear handover. Once run by men older than my father, the shops have been passed over to a considerably angrier younger generation. They wear bright colours, and their ages don't match their weathered skin, and tired eyes.
Everything smells of stale smoke, from the tracksuits to the teddy bears.

The shopkeepers loiter over to each other, and whisper. I'm a curious being, and I strain to hear words floating aimlessly. It's torture, made only more difficult by my father's resolution to seemingly have an half hour conversation with every man around.
You're not going to get a discount, I muse, as I try to hide my grin.

On our return, gender separation ensues, as my father nods me off.
 Tomorrow is important, he stresses. I have no idea why.  On the breaking of dawn, all is revealed, as shiny car after shiny car lines the dirty village streets. There's going to be one of those meetings. The ones I always used to make fun of. I peer curiously from the rooftop, where the girls are rushing around, trying to collect the trays of dried tomatoes, and halfheartedly drag bags of rice and flour down the steep stone steps. I offer help, though they refuse, telling me I'm their guest. Deja Vu.

I hate always being the guest, though I doubt I'd ever be much of a good host.
I sit in the -now empty- ladies living room, as I hear the not so faint greetings from the men's room. I wish I knew what this one was about, though I'm sure it will become obvious. These things never start or end quietly.


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cool blog. If the poor can get rich through hard work and risk
taking, I don't see why you worry about rich/poor 'stratification'.

Much better than poor/poor stratification. Yes, that is
possible, and rapidly becoming 'the norm' in
much of the world.

Greg from USA

Touta said...

greg,

hi and thanks. :)

If people here were getting rich through risk taking and hard work, I'd have no problem, but the path they chose to wealth is through robbing the rest of the nation of its basic needs- corruption is so rife, and everywhere.

poor poor stratification? Whatever divide exists between people should be equalised, the more equal the population, the less problems. The rich/poor divide is what led to the occupy wall street movement, no?

best wishes