Tuesday, June 05, 2012

I have recently been reviewing the first chapter in my thesis and in this chapter I discuss my fieldwork. It was three years ago, when I'd gone back home (as opposed to going "out there") for my fieldwork, and I was privileged to meet the persons I had met. They were from the much older generation and had many stories to share with me - stories that hadn't made it into the books of history. 

I remember one night in March. I drove through the unfamiliar winding mountainous roads back to the city... I felt heavy in my heart, like I could never be the same again. I had just met a man who was in his nineties and spent only a few hours with him, yet I felt moved forever. Before I left his home, he made me promise to accept his invitation for lunch. He said he was a great chef and my wish was his command. I promised but I broke it. Then he died...

I was at the dentist when I found out. I always thought I'd cry when I find out about his death - for one my tears come easy. But I smiled - because life is all about those little moments, those words, sometimes unspoken, that never cease to leave us. And how could this night ever leave me? Its large evergreens that skirted the dark roads, the serenity of being in my skin, and the man I'd just left behind. 

He was charming with impeccable English. And he'd lived all around the world, even black Africa and had a fondness for Nelson Mandela. "You don't need books to learn about history; all you need is travel," he advised me as he looked at me through his glasses.

He was an atheist. I found this particularly strange for a man nearing the end of his journey. They all usually turn to religion when what is left is very little... But, he seemed to be at peace.

He had a Kamal Salibi book on the table next to him - Secrets of the Bible People. I suggested he read The Bible Came from Arabia and Who Was Jesus. We agreed that Kamal Salibi is brave for undertaking such research and for arriving at such conclusions. That he may be completely mistaken, "a big old nutter" in the words of my professor in England, or completey spot on. Or that, maybe, there may be some truth in Salibi's postulations. With these things, nothing is definite. It's all probabilities.

He got up and walked to the shelf and pulled out an album, white underneath all the dust. We went through the album and all were old pictures from his past. The album was almost falling into pieces and the pictures were scattered and unorderly. He was a very handsome man in his earlier years. He showed me pictures of his Irish girlfriend back in the 1950s. She, too, was a beauty. Then other pictures followed from his travels and stays in India, Pakistan, Afghanistation, Iran, the Gulf, Ghana, Europe and England. He looked at me and said: "the Britishers are grand. I admire them the most."

He showed me pictures of his daughters and his Australian divorcee, then came a picture of his late wife. "She left 6 years ago..." And he suddenly picked the album and returned it to the dusty shelf where it belonged. "I don't like going through old pictures... I begin to feel sad. I am a man. You know what that means," he said in his husky voice. I didn't and still don't know...

At the end of my visit, he kissed my hand and said "you are wonderful; it was a pleasure". I blushed then nervously said "I am grateful for your kindness and for the kiss too." 

I had no idea that it would be the last time I see him...


Samah El Hakim said...

Lovely post... :)

Omar S said...

Great post! It's been a while since I took a stroll in the blogosphere. Posts like this are my motivation to get back into it.

My friend met an old man in his 90's who told him "life is like a party, it ends before your eyes, so make sure you make the best of it" the story stuck with him, and with me ad well. Makes you wonder what kind of party our life will be like when we reflect on it at old age.