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After travelling for several hours, the family had just settled into their new location with ample grazing ground and access to water nearby. The mother was disassembling the hut, sticking the Dhigo and Udub firmly into the soil and in close proximity were the two young girls holding the harness of the camel on which their elderly grandmother sat. Just as the two girls approached the hut, they were ambushed by loud chanting and the cries of ululating women drifted along the cool breeze and landed on their ears.

This they realised was an emancipation of the soul (it is not very often that weddings take place in the nomadic settlements) and were quickly impassioned. Imbued with an intense passion to participate in that wedding, the girls exchanged giggles and elatedly talked of attending the dance session afterwards. And quite rightly so, for this was their chance to mingle with the locals and exchange some verses of poetry.

Their grand-mother who, due to infirmity of age was too weak to walk and had to travel on camel-back, heard all the girls’ excited wails from her resting point. She too, though, hears the voice of ululating women resonating from the dark plains, not far from where they were now settling. After the girls had discussed their plans to attend the wedding, the grand-mother interrupted them and said:

‘Girls, girls! Would you stop the camel so that I can dismount and join those ululating women…’

They girls were taken aback by this request and stared at each other in amazement, unable to decide whether the old woman meant what she said or merely spoke in jest. This feeble woman, they thought, could not stand the noise and the dancing that takes place.

‘O’ grandmother, are you joking or have you finally gone insane’ they said.

Their grandmother smiled and then laughed, shaking her head slightly. Little do the girls know about the feelings of the old woman and what she is going through! Little do they know that over half a century ago, in an evening very similar to this, the very place that they have now settled bore witness to their grandmother’s first wedding! And in a manner similar to this evening’s wedding that the girls were planning to attend, many people from all over the countryside attended her wedding too. It was even perhaps here where her firstborn’s umbilical chord was buried. But to all this they were unaware, over taken by the wails of the wedding nearby. Even before the start of their long journey to this place, the grandmother was well aware of where they were headed and the wedding taking place.

In a short, succinct poem, the old lady relates her complete life story to her adolescent grand-daughters, wistfully lamenting her ripeness of age and the different stages in her life. She said:

 

  • Beri baan, beri baan          
  • Wax la dhaloo dhulka jiifta ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Bilig bilig baraar celisa ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was newly born, lying on the ground

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I scuttled around tending to lambs

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Daba-jeex dabka qaada ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Rukun rukun, reeraha u wareegto ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was entrusted to kindle the fire

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when aimlessly I ran around the huts

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Raamaley riyo raacda ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Habloweyn had hadaafta ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a juvenile guarding the goats

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a strolling mature girl

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Aroos indha-kuulan ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan 
  • Mar curad marwo reerle ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a mascara-clad bride

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a first-time mother and a housewife

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Laba-dhal laafyoota ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Saddex-dhal sit sitaacda ahaa
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was an elegantly ambling mother of two

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a dazzling mother of three

  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Afar-dhal afo aada ahaa
  • Beri baan, beri baan
  • Shan-dhal sheekaysa ahaa 
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was the finest mother of four

    There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a gossiping mother of five

  • Beri baan, beri baan 
  • Lix-dhal liibaantey ahaa
  • Goblan talo aduunyoy 
  • Ma hadaan gabooboo
  • Laygu qaaday guro awr. 
  • There was a time; There was a time;

    when I was a triumphant mother of six

    Woe to you o’ world!

    did I now become old

    That I am carried on camel-back

 

Image by Photogenic. Story translated from Guri Waa Haween.

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old

time to rest

Everything in life has its peak then its glory fades. And we are no different. After a man’s life has reached its pinnacle, having attained all the sagacity and prudence it could, it starts to wane. Soon everything he possesses will start to either diminish or disappear. Whether he likes it or not, the dreaded wrinkles begin their assault on the once handsome face and the inevitability of age becomes certain. Then he starts to walk on threes, and finally on all fours. Like a toddler learning how to walk, the old man staggers and stumbles a multitude times. Hesitant and unable to walk long distances, he becomes confined to his resting place. Rendered immobile and almost out of touch with the community, he rests under the shade of his hut or a nearby tree and awaits any passerby to inform him of the events and news around him. Despite being hungry and weak, he is unable to eat and meals become almost unpalatable to him, except for whatever he could gulp down of camel milk.

As the sun sets everyday, his uncertainties grow – unsure whether he would be fit enough to see the break of dawn. And if he makes it to the daybreak, he becomes even more uncertain of its dusk! He starts to realise that soon, like his friends, he too will share a dark and dismal pit with the insects while the soil gnaws away at his fragile bones. If he was a poet it dawns on him that his friends with whom he would have exchanged banter with are long gone, as Dharbaaxo Jin said:

  • Raggiise aan la maansoon lahaa aakhiro u meerye
  • Raagihii mudnaa iyo Qamaan mawdkii baa helaye
  • Sayyidkii murtida sheegi jirey meel fog buu tegaye

 

  • The men I would’ve versed with have left for the hereafter
  • Death has caught up with the venerable Raage and Qamaan
  • The sagacious Sayyid too has departed to a far away place

In his feeble state, the old man become slightly petulant and develops an unpleasant disposition. The strident wails and laughter of frolicking kids annoys him. He is perturbed by loud noises and disturbances of any kind. Being in an isolated state, he often requires a constant companion to tend to his needs. And if not for a dutiful son or grandson or an unusually compassionate young man or woman to look after him, the old man if often left in his lonesome state.

When the poet Faarax Xasan Cali (farax Afcad) was in a ripe old age, he recited a poem describing the sort of woman he would marry, if he were to do so. He said:

  • Caanaha cidey kama bogto oo badey gugeygiiye
  • Hadba balaq midaan ii shubeyn waan ka boobsanahay

 

  • Cidey’s milks I am not satiated with as my years have increased
  • And she who wouldn’t readily pour me [milk] then I am wary of

It is also usual for an old Nomad in this decrepit state to completely lose his eye sight and/or become deaf or become partially sighted or partially deaf. When night falls and others are in deep slumber, he lies awake in his lonesome place twisting and turning, his groans and grunts filling the dark space. he is rendered sleepless at night and restless during the day, waiting for the angel of death to cast a shadow of gloom on his sombre existence.

Sheikh Axmad Gole was an erudite scholar, renowned throughout the Somali lands, particularly Western Somalia, for his understanding of religion. But when old age got to him, he was asked about his state and he replied thus:

 

  • Indhihii mid waa jaw                  the eyes, one is completely gone
  • Midna jeex yar baa haray           and a portion is left of the other
  • Jaaha iyo gacantii                      the face and the hands
  • waa wada jirkoodaas                  are but that mere skin
  • Dhegihii waxbaa jooga               a fraction is left of the ears
  • Waase sii jufmahayaan               But they are deteriorating
  • Ushaa ii jifada dheer                  that stick with the steel end
  • Waa jimicsigaygii                        is my tool for my exercise
  • Gol hadaan ku joogsado             if one a hill is step
  • Waan luqun jubaarmaa               I lose my footing and tumble
  • Dhul hadaan jadi maago             if on land I decided to walk
  • Waa badi jugleeyaa                    I stagger and fall on my bottom
  • Jidba geeljireentana                  if on my back I lie
  • Dhabarkaa I kala jaba                 my back would break
  • Hadaan jimicsi doonana             if I decide to stretch & exercise
  • Jiliftaa I kala baxa                      my spine splits into two
  • Hadaan jeenan waayana            if nourishment I don’t get
  • Sidii inan yar baan jalan            like a toddler I’d whine
  • Jil hadii aan qaatana                 and if I swallow a little
  • Waa jululuqeeyaaye                 my stomach starts to rumble
  • Jirkaygii hufnaanjirey              my once beautiful skin
  • Waa meela joolla ah                 is decrepit and old
  • Jismigii madoobaa                    my once dark hair
  • Hadmaa jookh cad lagu rogey   when was it encased in black?
  • Naagihii aan jeelkeenay            the women that I married
  • Way I jidi necbaadeen              have started to despise me
  • Wiilashaan jeclaan jirey            the sons that I used to love
  • Jawaab igama qaadaan             take no response from me
  • Odaygu waa jinoobaa               that the old man is possessed
  • Waaba lagu jalbeebtaa             they say and secretly gossip
  • Jiriidow Allahayow                   Oh Allah, you are Omnipresent
  • Kolba joogi meynee                 and we won’t last for eternity
  • Jidkii nebig na qaadsiiyoo       guide us to the path of our prophet
  • Jahanama hanoo geyn            and keep us away from hellfire

 

….To be continued

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Sorry

sorry copy

 

Dear Friends and Fellow Bloggers,

Please accept my sincere apologies for I have neglected this corner of mine for a very long time. Though I have no very good reasons to explain my long hiatus, I have been inundated with work and moving houses but will resume posting (hopefully regularly) from now on.

 

As many of you are aware, life as I knew it before has changed tremendously – The life I led as an unbound, young and vibrant man has now given way, justifiably some may say, to the perpetually petulant old bore that sits here guffawing. And in many ways too, that once spirited soul has now been replaced by its mature and more conscientious adult alter ego that is more concerned with fetching bread and milk from the newsagents than blogging.

 

Worry not though, there are many more interesting posts to come once the old bore gets his bearings right…

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picsunset

boaters sunset

Whenever I close my eyes I see her. Her ageing face, pleasant with a few incipient delicate wrinkles; her skin, dark against the resplendent multicoloured stole gently resting on her shoulders; her wizened eyes still bearing the same reprimanding look that she had always effortlessly maintained; her greying hair neatly tucked away under the pale black scarf, with a few protruding strands softly lapping at her brow; her cheerful disposition and her ‘always vigilant’ outlook on life. Now here she lies, withered and wasted, under the soil that constantly gnaws away at her bones; her throbbing heart had finally come to rest, her muscles have renounced the battle, her limbs lie unconstrained and her body tranquil.

It was a sombre March morning when I became aware of it, 19 March 2006 (two years ago today) to be precise. A forlorn mist ominously hissed past the damp and empty Greenwich streets. It seemed colder than usual. The car’s windshield had been frosted with a thin coating of ice and my friend Abdi, drove along the A406 with extra care. I gazed out the side window into the early morning mist; the yellow sun’s lingering rays were slowly emerging, with a few fragmented beams that thawed the thick fog on the bare-branched trees along the road and far into the fields. The fields themselves seeped of insipidity and a motionless mist had cast a permanent gloom over the grass. I was on my way to the airport that Sunday morning when I received the call that changed my life as I had previously known it. ‘Unknown’ said the little screen as my hand hesitantly held it up and answered it. A crackling noise, with half unintelligible words and half drowned by the fading signal, greeted me on the other end. My brother Mursal’s voice it was, I recognised. And though indiscernible it may have been, the message was deafening clear. She had passed away; my aunt Maryan.

Ever since I became aware of my surroundings and was able to determine right from wrong, I remember her as always being there – a statue-like figure, imposing in its appearance, permanently ingrained in my mind’s eye so that it constantly stared down at me like a silent sentinel. Like a majestic tree in its full glory she once towered over my life. Not like the trembling Aspen whose lithe frame and slender branches sway with the slightest breeze; nor like the beautifully soaring Beech with its vivid mosaic of colours and a canopy of foliage that falls off at the hint of autumn, but like the mighty Oak whose sturdy trunk and rigid roots, though furrowed with age, stand strong in the face of unsettled seasons. Such was her character – bold, brash and dominating. Now, drained and debilitated, the mighty Oak has, at long last, given in. Its broad leaves have now wilted and finally dropped; its inflexible branches, that once sheltered a variety of life, have now shrunken and its strong roots have shrivelled.

Along with the frost and mist, time too had frozen. The seconds slowly gave way to minutes and minutes to hours; faintly the tarmac rolled, like a giant carpet that was being pulled smoothly beneath me in slow motion; the wind howled past at great speeds; horns blared and brakes screeched, but I was benumbed by the news and deaf to the noise, and quietly insentient and oblivious to my surroundings. Her face had covered my horizon – her image draped itself on the canvas of motorway signs, her words chimed and swam soothingly in my ears and my mind relapsed to a time many years ago when I left her.  

Had it not been for a broken leg and the bouts of illnesses she had suffered a few years prior to her death, no age could wither her nor slow her down. At 66, she could walk faster than any man her age so her death was a bolt from the blue. Having grown from toddler to a man under her care, my entire life revolved around her. My parents, nomadic pastoralists, have entrusted me into her care at the tender age of five. So I was beholden to her for things too many to mention, but before I could be of any service to her and repay the kindness of her guardianship in my childhood with compassion and care, we became separated as I left for England.  

And as distance makes the heart grow fonder, everyday life’s little pleasures had started to dwindle without her presence to illuminate them. And now, all life’s subtle joys and attractions have abruptly been terminated when that stream of consciousness was ended by her death. The cool shade of the oak had been lifted and the cloud that constantly overshadowed and sheltered me from life’s trials, even in her absence, had, in that very instant, disappeared – it felt as if she had entered into a deep slumber, taking all she’s ever given me along with her. Know my Aunt, that the caravan awaits and I am coming too…  

My mind now solemnly gravitates towards the lost stream of consciousness; towards the unattainable past. Her malevolent scolding has now mellowed down to a mellifluous melody with a tuneful, comforting resonance. And her memory leisurely lingers to fill me with hope. The Mighty oak may have withdrawn its branches and departed with its abundant shade but it has dropped its acorns, and from among these acorns another mighty oak shall soon grow…

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numbi.jpg numbi2.jpg

Somali art, film, music & culture

DIALOGUES IN THE DIASPORA

Sunday, 4th November 2007
7pm-11pm
Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, London E8 1EJ
Tickets: £15/ – £20 at the door
Booking: 020 8985 2424/ http://www.hackneyempire.co.uk

Numbi is the largest celebration of Somali culture and music to hit London.

This imaginative and passionate festival is to be held annually in London with a summer/ winter programme, in venues around London – an ongoing research project investigating contemporary arts practice from pre-civil war Somalia to the present day Diaspora. The idea is to invite artists from a variety of disciplines and diverse backgrounds to work as collaborators with practitioners and young people from the Somali Diaspora. Each artist-collaborator has something distinct to bring – our vision is to provide a platform to both emergent and established artists to explore new ways of creating work – in theatre, visual arts, music and film – that draws from the experience of Somali communities around the world. Cultivating cross-cultural artistic collaborations, the festival aims to deliver work that challenges perceptions, fosters genuine representation, and speaks to Somali communities and as well as a diverse audience of the general public.

Artists collaborating on the project include Kinsi Abdulleh, Rashiid Ali, Renee Mussai, Benjamin Samuels, Byron Wallen, Steven Watts and Concrete Stilettos.

Loosely based on the Numbi launch in October 2006, the line-up will include up to 15 artists who will create a unique cross-cultural fusion of contemporary spoken word, poetry, urban hip hop, traditional Somali music and dance, as well as a newly commissioned short performance piece directed by Benjamin Samuels. All work is in English.

Includes contributions from Xudaydi, The Pan Africans, The Nomadix, Jama Damalian Warrior, Mecca2Medina, Prince Abdi, Yusra Warsama, Wiilwaal, plus a special film screening of See Shells , a short film by legendary Somali film director Abdullekadir Ahmed Sead based in south Africa & 4R Knaan‚ + the Numbi Award.

For further info:
kinsi.kudu@talk21.com
079 4953 4402

http://www.myspace.com/kuduarts

http://www.kuduarts.com/

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wedding I would like to extend my warmest greetings to my friend Mohamed who recently got married while I was away on holiday and whose wedding ceremony I could not attend.

May your marriage bring you all the pleasures a marriage ought to bring, my friend, and may you have a never-ending supply of affection and patience which is vital in married life and may Allah grant you obedient offsprings.

And on a final note, may you have the ability to understand her and the ocean of mystery that surrounds a woman… ;)

image

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We left Bosaaso just before twilight set upon us. Accompanied by my brothers, we left my hotel at Al-Rowda, passed by Bosaaso Hospital, a thousand and one restaurants at the edge of the main road, countless hawkers by, cars, lorries heading out and entering the city, people, goats, sheep, soldiers, more hotels, carts and finally silence. Except for our short stay at Xalwo Kismaayo whilst we bought some sweets and mineral water, there was no commotion-filled, busy and eventful streets to be heard, no clamour of voices, no obnoxious Qat sellers, no loud conductors pulling you into their buses, just the noise of rubber eating away the tarmac. Arid, dry land occupied either sides of the road as far as the eyes caught. Further ahead, great mountains towered above the levelled ground. The enormity of such mountains loomed over the vast barren earth and formed a somewhat pleasing sight. By then I was all expectations. Every minute that passed brought me closer to an emotional reunion with a family I’ve left a long time ago and filled my heart with anticipation. I was starting to feel the goosebumps appearing.

The long stretch of road led us past the city control limits where the cars are checked for weapons, then past the villages of Laag, Karin, Kalabaydh, and several other tiny ones along the roadside and then just after we passed the dangerously serpentine road of Alxamdullilah, the driver came off the asphalted road and took a narrow rough path, through the arid land formed by the tyre tracks of cars and constant usage . The rough road rapidly rolled in front of us and the car bounced up and down at great speeds. We followed that route through an immense dark terrain, through Ballibusle, through Laag Xaariseed and after a gruelling five-hour journey set foot in the wilderness of Sanaag at 2 AM. A small hut erected in the middle of no where greeted us and adjacent to it, two thick fences made from the thorny branches of Galool trees formed two large rings. Inside the rings, animal dung had plastered the earth, covering the thin layer of soil. This is where the sheep and goats along with their lambs and kids come to rest after a day of traversing the plains of Sanaag.   

SOMALIA 104  SOMALIA 130

From the hut exited my young brothers and sisters and my step mother and from there started the emotional reunion. It was an occasion worthy of a celebration and fresh meat was immediately served. We stayed that night or whatever was left of it and slept in the open, watching the millions of glittery stars that decorated the sky and danced around the vivid moon to form an enchanting display. What a pleasant night that was!

SOMALIA 089SOMALIA 169

Waking up early that morning, I observed my surroundings. I noticed with enthusiasm the extent to which my vision was restricted to – as far as my eyes could see. With trees such as Qudhac, Meygaag, Galool, Damal, bilcil and Higlo along with some Dhirindhir spread sporadically along a vast flat land, the wilderness was as open as the sea and stretched out for perhaps hundreds of kilometres. Such a vast area of land is called Sool (not to be confused with the region of Sool). Sool means an area that comprises of mainly the trees I mentioned above covering acres of land. It was the Xagaa season and the land, being slightly sterile was rainless and dry. Small bushes, usually a few centimetres off the earth, known as Dureemo and others slightly bigger, known as Duur, covered the earth. Duur is used extensively for building huts and enclosures for animals. All this I observed whilst on my way to where my mother lived – a small village called Habarshiro, right in the heart of Sanaag.

 SOMALIA 178 SOMALIA2 189

Habarshiro, a tiny village lying at the foot of a small hill has Ceelbuuh as its nearest neighbour. Here, the vast land was, for the most part, unoccupied except for a few houses that conspicuously took up their rightful places in the middle of no-where. Barren and dry as it was, there were hardly any trees either, apart from the few dry trunks that stood like solitary soldiers assigned to keep watch and guard the village. Several wells surrounds the city known as Berkedo (sing. Berked). These serve as watering grounds for more than two thousand heads of camels, sheep and goats almost every day.

SOMALIA2 190  SOMALIA 177

As the car closed the distance between me and Habarshiro, my heart hammered heavily in her chest, threatening to crack my ribcage open. I even thought I heard its pulsating beats. A reservoir of tears gathered at the brim of my eyes, ready to gush out at the very mention of the word “hooyo” – mother! The car had not even come fully to a halt when I pushed the door open, jumped out, flung my arms around my mother and silently sobbed tears (though strongly repressed ) of delight, relief and excitement. A graceful woman with finely tuned features she was, though baked by the sun into a dark chocolaty complexion, and must have been without comparison in beauty in her glory days.

Gradually my heart came to rest and the thudding was replaced by a wave of comfort. The warmth of my mother’s embrace disposed of the inner restlessness, evaporating all concerns and worries into thin air and putting my troubled heart to rest. Everything else seemed insignificant then, my mind was for the first time completely free of thought! This was where I wanted to be and this was how I wanted to feel. At that very instant my life had changed and without regard for what perils and tribulations lay ahead, I’ve decided that this was where I wanted to spend the rest of my stay – under the shelter of my mother’s hut. The rest of my siblings were away, dispersed into the immense terrain, so whilst my father and relatives sat under the shade of the Higlo tree, I grabbed my younger sisters and mother and went inside the hut.

SOMALIA 161  SOMALIA 158

After a few days stay in Habarshiro, it was time to discover the customs of the nomadic tribes. I set out early in the morning towards the Berked to water and load the camels my brother had brought from his hut in Manshax – three hour’s journey away from the village. Every two to three days he makes the same journey and loading his camels with water, returns to his house. This is called Dhaan. So that particular morning, with a strong desire to walk the plains of Sool and discover the land by foot, I volunteered to accompany my sister Seytun who was to take the dhaan back to my brother’s house. Being the first time I have seen her in her 20 years of living, I wanted to be very much with her all the time. Little did I know what lay ahead and how much trekking I would have to do.

 SOMALIA2 175 Dhaan

We set out with five camels loaded with water for two families. As soon as we disappeared from the sight of Habarshiro, I stopped and looked around. Not another single soul in sight, except for me and my sister and not another living thing except for our five camels. The immensity of the terrain simply astonished me; you could be walking for miles and not come in contact with a human being. We strolled along at leisurely pace, talking passionately about our lives through all the years of separation. An expert trekker, having traversed the entire terrain in every direction perhaps a thousand time, she knows the location of almost every tree in the area.

SOMALIA2 177 SOMALIA 093

The evergreen Higlo tree.

We were walking for only about an hour and I could feel that my body was spewing out sweat in excessive amounts and my feet begged for some rest. That I gladly welcomed and sought the shelter of a Higlo tree at which point my sister teased me for being unhealthy. That is how I completed my journey – walking for about an hour in the open and then finding some shelter under a tree. We finally reached our destination by noon – two small huts, intricate in their design, in the middle of a vast open space – and unloaded the water. There I sat, fatigued and panting for breath, and accepted a fresh cup of camel milk from my sister-in-law. I dreaded the journey back to the village and wished for once that I hadn’t been so impulsive. A three hour journey awaited me and I had to make it before darkness envelops the land, for then hyenas own the night.

Luckily I did manage, greatly exerting myself, to return to Habarshiro as soon as the rays of the sun plummeted down the horizon. After a few days rest and the pain in my feet subsided, I was ready for another ‘excursion’ – a painful excursion.

SOMALIA2 006

to be continued…

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P7231338

Bosaaso >

 

It was about three in the afternoon in Bosaaso and the sun was still intensely oppressive. From my window, I could see that the plane had landed on a coarse runway, between mountains, scattered with gravel and stone. A barbed wire bordered the stretch of the airport, leaving just adequate room for vehicles’ entrance and a small concrete wall guarded by some exhausted soldiers. A small house with two rooms, each with two windows and a tin roof occupied a corner of the airport and passed for ‘Imagration’ (immigration). Along its borders, each of the wooden windows was reinforced with a shield of iron. Within a distance of a few paces stood another building adjacent to a cafeteria; a house built in the same way as the former. “Customs Office Airport Bossaso” was painted in faint dark colours on a board attached to a mesh of concrete patterns. I was in Bosaaso, and the constant fear of the small clattering Russian plane crashing at any minute had left me.

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As soon as I stepped off the plane, some memories of the Dubai temperatures floated before me. A wave of baking heat greeted me, and my lungs seemed unable to inhale the boiling air. It seemed as if I was short of breath and the quick agonizing gasps of hot air scalding my throat felt like drowning. Huffing and puffing, I glanced ahead in to the bright sunshine with my eyes slightly squinted as my body tried to adjust to the severe conditions. With great struggle, I managed balance my weight on the wobbly staircase and set foot on land. I was on home soil and a slight sensation of relief came upon me. I was still brimming with my anticipation of life in Miyi and that of meeting relatives and family. But that feeling was soon drowned under the humid air.

A gush of uncontrollable trickles of sweat appeared on my forehead. I hate sweating profusely, and no matter how many times I wiped the sweat off with my face towel, more sweat from the open pores would drench me again.

Giving my ticket and passport to my cousin to deal with the immigration, I made my way past the swarm of porters each pestering in his own unique way to carry my luggage and went and sat in the car. Thirty minutes later and I was at the hotel. Situated in AL Rowda, Emirates Hotel is a new four-storey building attracting a large number of visitors. After a flight of stairs, the smell of fresh paint swimming through the corridors of the first floor waylays the nostrils and in the far corner several paint cans confirm the source of the smell. In each room of the hotel are two beds, two bedside cabinets, two cloth hangers and a TV. The funny thing about the rooms is that they rent the beds so you would have to share it with another person, thereby throwing privacy out of the window – that is unless you want to rent the whole room. The <em>rent coast</em> of each room as the Conditions of the Hotel stated – is 9 dollars a night for a bed and 18 dollars for the whole room.

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Bosaaso is perhaps the fastest growing city in this region. The city that was almost concentrated on the port a few years ago is now being stretched out. Almost hundreds of houses are under construction everyday and new houses, some with brilliant designs, stretch the city far out of its borders. Soon people will be building houses on the bordering mountains or even past the city control limits. Along the main road – the only asphalted road in Bosaaso – that originates from the port and dissects the city into two are thousands of people displaying different merchandise under corroding tin roofs and makeshift shelters. Perhaps one of the most valuable, highly purchased and highly profitable commodity displayed on the side of the road is the stimulant Qat. Several stalls of Qat decorate the sides of the main road, and are usually filled with animated activities. You will also find roaming products – people carrying their goods along with them and selling them. These are usually young children and sometimes even adults with a few pairs of clothes, some watches, batteries, socks and perfumes for sale.

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By day Bosaaso is a city full of activity, blaring horns, busy streets and the clamor of noise that fills the street. The main road road is the hub of commotion and becomes almost jam-packed with cars and people and it seems as though no one has a right of the road, thereby adding to the angry outbursts from drivers, carts and people walking by.

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But as soon as daylight disappears, the city’s face of evil is adorned in the darkness. Criminals wait in ambush at almost every corner, sharpening their teeth, waiting for a victim to take along. Walking through Bosaaso at night could mean the end of your life. A new wave of crime has erupted in the city. Groups of armed robbers, thugs, rapists and murderers roam the streets at night, stripping any possession from whomever they jump upon. It has been reported that several women have had their breasts cut off, ears chopped, raped and then discarded. The perpetrators, sometimes dressed in Burqas for anonymity, seize their victims and torture them until the early hours of the morning when they either release them or their bodies are found lying in some dingy corner.

Women too have now become part of this trade. Though few of the women are reported to have killed their victims, the majority of them would prey on lone men at night, rob them under gunpoint and take them home. This may seem absurd and incredible to say the least, but it happens.

Throughout my short stay in Bosaaso I was confined to the limits of my guarded hotel everyday after 6 PM except for a very few days. One particular day was when I stayed late at my cousin’s house and froze with fear on my return to the hotel. Darkness seeped from every little corner that led to the hotel. I expected that at any moment a Burqa or balaclava-clad person would jump out of the dark corners brandishing a gun. The wad of money I had then seemed of little significance. The possibility of being stabbed or shot for a few dollars or shillings hovered like a gigantic cloud above my head. With every rock that I stumbled upon, a fresh wave of panic startled me. I looked to the left and right in quick successions. Then behind me, then front. I observed every wall, every corner and expected someone. Sometimes I even saw people squatting down where rocks huddled lifelessly. I then looked back and saw darkness, adding to the constant fear that amidst the darkness, something will bounce upon me at any moment. Even the gentle breeze of warm air that blows at night startled me until the minute I reached the compound of my hotel.

The streets are teeming with beggars and shoe polishers. Even when the sun is at its peak, you will find shoe polishers as young as 5 or 6 years old, walking barefooted in the torrid heat of July or August, or beggars with the clothes outstretched on the streets.

Outside Al Rowda mosque, several women sit at the door regularly with their Hijabs widely spread in front of them. Several shoe polishers also shine shoes while people pray. And this is where I met him. A young scruffy chap in tattered black tee-shirt (looking closely I realized that the colour was originally blue) and a threadbare trousers came to me while I sat at Al-tawfiq restaurant, just outside the mosque, and said something indiscernible. I asked him to repeat what he said and he once again mumbled the same indiscernible words with a small smile, pointing to the water bottle I’ve been drinking. At this point, a waiter at the restaurant saw the incident and chased the little boy away. I went outside after him and handed him the water bottle at which he graciously smiled.
   ‘What’s your name?’ I asked him.
   Several flies took off and landed on his forehead in succession. He made no effort to wave them off. They descended down the bridge of his nose, scavenging whatever nutrition they could along the way, then down to his lips. His face darkened by the scorching heat had accumulated so much dirt and from neglect had become darker than the hands of a car mechanic.
   ‘Liban,’ came a faint reply.
‘How old are you Liban?’ I questioned him.
He looked up at me with pitiful eyes, parted his lips slightly, and then lifted his left hand up and gestured the number three with his fingers, then the number four and finally two. From his lack of willingness to talk and mumbled voice I sensed that he had a speech impediment and did not know his age either. I guessed him to be about 6 years of age if not younger. Hundreds of children similar to Liban roam the streets of Bosaaso daily hunting for their livelihoods. They are paid 1000 shillings – the cost of a small chewing gum – for a pair of shoes they polish.

My stay in Bosaaso lasted only for a few days whilst I waited for a car to take me to Miyi and when it came I was glad I was out of the heat, for the nomads live in far cleaner atmospheres with cooler temperatures…

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Farewell

Dear Friends,

The time has come for me to pack my bags. Actually I have already packed my bags. I am headed for home. In a lapse of ambivalence, a feeling of anticipation and nervousness has already filled me. I envisage myself already resting under the shade of a tree tending to some camels in the wilderness of the Miyi; milking my camels every now and then whilst they drink or graze in the vast expanse.

And they know I am headed for home too. Sometimes I don’t even know how news travels so fast across continents. I have not told ANYONE of the exact date that I will be landing in Somalia, yet for some reason everyone (family and relatives) is already anticipating my arrival. I have been informed that a vast number of people are already waiting for me at my destination. And it is not so much that I am averse to being welcomed and received with open arms in my motherland by my nearest and dearest – no, it’s their intentions that worry me. Majority of them will be coming, each with their own necessities and stories of destitution. They really know how to spin a yarn. And with so much suffering and difficulties, I am not without compassion towards them or their conditions. Indeed one must commend them for their undying fortitude in the face of adversity, but at times I feel like what they expect of me is beyond what my meagre resources allow me to provide. I will give everything I have, but sometimes even that is not enough. Well, God is the provider!

Well, this will be my last post from London as I am flying tomorrow morning. I reach Dubai tomorrow evening and be assured that I will send you a word about the city once I explore it.

Until then, So Long friends, So Long!

p.s I haven’t even had the time to get some Malaria tablets! pray for me.

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There was silence. Nothing moved. I have left behind the blaring horns of the busy streets and the impurities of the vitiating air and headed for the banks of the river Thames. I have even deserted the little stream behind my house where a reservoir of calm, clear waters languidly flows through the middle of the small Broadwaters neighborhood, giving it a tranquil feel. Along the banks of the stream, weeping willows dangled their branches lazily upon the water below with pleasant reflections. I used to spend most of my evenings there, sitting on one of the ageing brown benches beside the willow tree lost in contemplation. But now that has changed, for the Thames River provided a cleaner air, a better view and a vast space.

As I sat along its banks, some grass beside me, tickled by the soothing breeze hissed continuously, swaying from side to side. The surface of the water, unruffled and silent except for the tiny waves created by the wind sailing across it, shimmered in the setting sun, reproducing a picturesque scene patterned with intermingling colours of orange, grey and gold. And as they floated across the surface, the crests of each wave created a magnificent interplay between the tones of the colours reflected. A few feet away from me, soft splashing sounds emanated from the gentle lapping of the waves against the banks of the river.

Inhaling a lungful of the clean air, I lifted my eyes up, slowly, to the Docklands and above to the skies. Under the glowing clouds, the sky was bustling with activity – a stunning display of aerobatics and some spectacular dives were in effect. Several birds have taken to the air, soaring and diving before gently landing on the serene water surface. Then the black plumage of what appeared to be a blackbird flipped its wings a few times and looped around the surrounding trees in gentle twirls before landing on another tree and disappearing from sight, but not from my ears, as its melodious sounds wafted soothingly through the air. It wasn’t long before others of its kind joined and a cacophony of sounds pleasant to the ear, strangely enough, erupted.

At some distance away, but not far from sight, another bird landed; a rather shy bird, keeping its distance well away from me. And beautiful too; with black and white markings highlighted with a lustrous tinge of blue, green and purple and a long gleaming tail. The Magpie is a striking bird and its flight is delightful to watch. A bane for most gardeners though, its hoarse cackling call alone is enough to send shudders down their spine; and it is often associated with evil. What such a humble bird could have done to warrant such loathing and how anyone could find the sight of such an elegant creature objectionable is totally beyond my grasp, but I caught sight of it as I sat there along the banks of the Thames. And it looked magnificent.

Conspicuous with its elongated tail, the Magpie started flapping its wings once or twice before soaring up to the lower branches of a tree. Enclosed in the ovoid overlapping leaves, it then began its lively chatter. In England it is, traditionally, unlucky to see one on its own or so they say. The victims, it is widely believed, must either cross themselves, spit three times over their right shoulder, raise their hats or chant ‘Devil, devil, I defy thee’ upon the sight of a Magpie, but these are mere superstitions; just as the thousand superstitions we have in our country involving animals. I stood there, transfixed, eyes set on the tree, pleasantly admiring its delightful cackles.

Several other birds were gliding effortlessly above. I watched them in earnest and mulling over their exceptional sense of freedom, I felt a lovely breeze running through my body. It was then that the limitations in my life became apparent. I envied their infinite independence. They too, I thought, must envy something about us. But then, by just watching them, a feeling of stillness descended upon one. I sat there, quiet and composed. I wished I could sprout wings at that very instant and fly with them and take to the skies. And for that short moment the thoughts occupied my mind, I was with them. I felt the wind on my winds, combing my feathers and caressing my tail. I saw London from above. Well, one would be lost in contemplation standing on that bank on a cool summer evening watching the sun lowering into the horizon. And though I tried to describe it here to the best of my effort, the impalpable feeling this place gives me is beyond measure. Tranquil is the word I thought of as a myriad of fancy thoughts absorbed my mind and I surrendered to the influence of the lulling atmosphere.

One word of advice – don’t stay there too long, you might be sucked in to tranquility!

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Oh!

another year has gone by another wrinkle has appeared, as a friend of mine aptly put it! Yes, today is the day I should officially celebrate my ageing, but I have never celebrated a birthday in my life nor do I intend to. Why celeberate growing old?

To be quite honest, I don’t even know if today is my actual date of birth. There are some contradictions you see, and I am sure you understand why…! ;)

Go ahead anyway and send me those “God gave a gift to the world when you were born…” cards! ;)

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A book I read stated that the internal mechanisms in our body that control our faculty of consciousness are directly linked to the external environment. It is a responsive mechanism and adapts to changes within our environment and surroundings. I am conscious, alive, awake, and feeling. I experience the world by being conscious. I am conscious because I feel it; feelings that correspond to certain situations in the external environment that prompt me to a reaction. I am conscious because I feel, with a contemptuous glare, the pain that death brings, that amputation brings, that the loss of dignity brings. I am conscious because I feel the fondness that a mother brings, the feeling that freedom brings, the freedom that motherland has.

I am percipient, I am conscious, but my country is suffering long lasting bouts of concussions at the hands of unconscious people with no conception of common sense. At times I assume that these “unconscious” people are conscious. And I assume so because their perception of the outside world prompts them to react. But my reason for concluding that they are conscious is simply on the merits of their outward reaction to surrounding circumstances – the death of thousands of people ate their hands, the denigration of millions, the indiscriminate slaughter, the rape of a nation and so on. Of course they too react to it, but in their own way which at times means advancement of earlier processes and killing rituals. And then it hits me, do they not perceive the consequences of their actions? Do they not feel?

The people that they indiscriminately kill are conscious. They feel. They feel pain. They feel the fear that is ominously approaching them as they hear the sound of the gun; every minute the rapid gun fire becomes louder and the soldiers closer, their heart pounds in their chest faster. They anticipate it and their adrenaline rushes. But the torturers feel not. And that’s why I say they are unconscious. Unconscious for they feel not. Unless they feel the pain that kills the conscious people they murder, their consciousness will be kept at bay, roaming in far away territories.

Unless we have grounds for believing that those who govern us are conscious and are forming conscious decisions, any attempts towards compromise and peace in Somalia are impracticable. And since consciousness has a major role in communication between humans, how can we communicate with unconscious individuals?

I am percipient, I am conscious. Are you conscious?

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Life sometimes behaves in some strange ways and shows you some glimpses of its brutal reality in peculiarly effortless ways. I went to Brixton to pay my condolences to the family of a deceased relative and with us also was my little grandson. I watched him, in the silence in that room where hordes of people had gathered to pay their regards too. Issa, nearing his two-year mark now, ran with an air of joviality and delight around him, jumping and kicking a small football to and fro, emitting those pleasing childish laughs, pulling my beard at times. He was blissfully unaware of the sorrow that surrounded the sitting, the air of melancholy that tainted the white walls and the pain that the news of the deceased man had brought. Unbeknownst to the young soul, and perhaps alien to his underdeveloped mind, here, a life was starting to blossom – exhibiting a new beginning without blemishes of any sort, a life that is immaculate and pure – and at the same setting another was wilting – decaying under the soil somewhere in the outskirts of Kismayo.

In a frail, disconsolate voice, the deceased man’s wife spoke as we expressed our tributes to her late husband. Issa, on the other hand, clung on to the hem of her clothes, rolling on the floor with his intermittent “Daadah, Daadah, Daadah” what a contrasting scene it was. Here I witnessed, with greater contemplation, the life cycle of a man and the great distance the deceased had travelled to reach where he now was. Death had caught up with him, unawares, and here my grandson was, oblivious to it all!

My temporary time in reflection had been abruptly terminated by the politics-obsessed Somali men, in their multi-coloured suits, who requested for HornAfrik, to hear the latest development in the Somalia conflict. Of all times to exchange trivial tribal banters and feed one another with fictitious tales of their tribal nobility, they chose this – a time appropriate only for reflection; a time for grieving. Little did they know, that they will be ending up as such, and their tribal nobility and meaningless banter will count for nothing in the darkest recesses of the earth.

When I reached home, I reclined on the large cream sofa in the sitting room. Mounted on the wall directly facing me, was a large silver timepiece. I watched its chrome hands for no apparent reason, but in the silence that surrounded me, I couldn’t help but pay attention to the tick, tock, tick, tock of the Seconds hand. This irritating clanking it made seemed quite loud and unwelcome. I wondered how I never pay attention to it during the day.

Every second that passed, I observed with intent, was bringing closer the terminator of my soul. The seconds slowly moved in a loop, each loop budging the Minute hand into slight movement and pushing it forward, and in this manner deducting a minute from my life. It was agonizing to listen to and worse to sit and observe your life, literally, flashing before your eyes!

Coincidentally – on my way to Brixton I was listening to Jeremy Hardy
on BBC R4 humorously talking about death!

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I want to post something I read during my travels, especially on the train. I read Jen Rubenfeld’s The interpretation of Murder, a psychoanalytical triller with intricate murder mysteries that propells one deeper into the human mind. A worthy read i say, though i haven’t finished it yet. This excerpt below starts the book and having reflected upon it for a very long period of time, thought i’d let you, my friends, ponder over it too. Here it is…

There is no mystery to happiness. Unhappy men are all alike. Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn – or worse, indifference – cleaves to them, or they to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays. The happy man does not look back. He does not look ahead. He lives in the present.

But there’s the rub. The present can never deliver one thing: meaning. They ways of happiness and meaning are not the same. To find happiness, a man need only live in the moment; he need only live for the moment. But if he wants meaning – the meaning of his dreams, his secrets, his life – a man must reinhabit his past, however dark, and live for the future, however uncertain. Thus nature dangles happiness and meaning before us all, insisting only that we choose between them.

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Through patience and perseverance, one can survive the worst difficulties life throws their way. With a little determination, a person can triumph over many hardships and endure them resiliently. Sooner or later he/she starts to skilfully adapt to their surroundings and the great dangers that they pose. Whatever burdens one faces, with a strong will and perseverance one can survive them, whilst deep inside their heart, they constantly pray that the day that follows might have a touch of optimism to it. They dread the day that follows, but with that little extra courage and diligence, they can summon the belief that they can make it through, even it means fighting for dear life.

And through hope one can have aspirations and ambitions in life, and dreams of a better place. With hope one soon starts to take comfort in the fact that something worthwhile is decreed ahead. Hope is what pushes a person to pursue a path unbeknown, however surreptitious it maybe and keep at it, despite the prickly thorns, hoping that soon he will reach green pastures that lay ahead. But one cannot always dwell in the depths of despair and have nothing but hopehope that one day things will change – to cling on to. For every day that passes, a person’s conviction and likelihood of a particular thing happening or a situation improving decreases, if the situation doesn’t show any signs of fruit-bearing. And soon faith starts to decline, as one is pushed to the verge of hopelessness, and so does a person’s confidence.

Though hope is valuable and indispensable, at times acting as the prime mechanism that bounds a person together, and at times acting as his only method of survival, yet there comes a time when he/she become despondent in the face of daunting difficulties. Today there is so much happening in Somalia, that make one lose hope in an entire Nation. A Nation of failure! How long can one hope for the better? How long can one hope for a piece of land that he can call his own? How long can one hope for tranquillity of mind, when everyday occurrences drive one to despair? Surely, hope is bound to fade at some point, for it has been exhausted! After all, hope has turned out to be but a distorted perception of fanciful opportunities that never may be.

When will we be done with chaos, warlords, and bigotry?
When will this beleaguered population recuperate from the plague that engulfs it?
When will these ceaseless phases of instability fade?
When will we finally feel some freedom from strife?
When will I stop feeling hopeless yet homesick?

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Be Grateful

He walked with the support of crutches, taking very little steps at a time. Without much heed, I rushed passed him by the revolving doors at the entrance of the Library, hurrying to get to my house in time to eat.

I have been walking for about five minutes when I bumped into an old friend, with whom I exchanged greetings and a few gossips. We had been talking for about 15 minutes when, just before departing, I realized that I had forgotten the book I borrowed from the library. So I returned, huffing and puffing, to get it back and came to the revolving doors when I saw him again, still walking with tiny baby steps, his bag on his shoulders, merely 10 steps away from where I last saw him 20 minutes ago.

There two diverse emotions I felt. One was the sudden wave of guilt that gripped me as I stopped in my tracks – guilt because of my lack of empathy at first sight for someone beset by misfortune and running past him without noticing. The second was gratitude to God for what He has bestowed upon me. There are times when we become too absorbed in our own little world and overwhelmed by other things in life, that we forget the great gifts we have and forget to be thankful for them. The gift of sight is one, the gift of hearing, the gift of speech, etc. It took that man to remind me to be grateful, and I am ever grateful for the gifts that I have.

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Random Quote

I was walking past a few men huddled in a corner when i heard one of them say:

…Try to find the good even in the bad

My ears caught it and it never left me from that day on. On the way home, it was all I thought about – how could you find good in the bad. If it is already bad, how could something possess some goodness?

But then upon closer scrutiny one realizes that there might be a good in the bad – as the terms “good” and “bad” only signify goodness and badness of something based upon the perception of the person who deems it good or bad. Another person might perceive differently, of course, and see some good in the bad and some bad in the good or negate both. Does this make sense? It’s like the word “beautiful” – what might be beautiful to one might be ugly to another and vice versa! it is only relative in what context it is said in and the sentiments – how passionate the person feels about the object of his perception.

Have you come across certain words that you’ve heard quite randomly, yet made you think though they did not concern you at all?

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A convoy of cars slowly strolls down the A12, leading to the A406, on its way to the Islamic Cemetery in Chingford. My friend, Nur, is to be buried today. How slowly and stealthily death stole on him. Yesterday here he was, lively and full of fun and laughter – playing football with us every Sunday evening, Today here is – me digging his grave! On the long stretch of road, my head is preoccupied not with the Funeral procession but with death itself. Never has the reality of death hit me so hard – yet seemingly so close. It made me contemplate my navel – how we are somewhat deluded and take things for granted. Have I fulfilled Allah’s covenant or have I neglected it? Have I, as Allah desired, lived my life accordingly or have I strayed? I started questioning myself. We go out shopping at, we drive down to rejuvenate and relax at the beach or to a holiday resort somewhere in Cyprus – all this we do quite confident that we would return to where we set out from, to our original destination – never really thinking of anything negative. How thoughtless and imprudent! It often does not even occur to mind that we would die and will be held accountable. We live as though death is something uncertain, as though we would die when we have passed a certain age and the realities and anxieties of old age seize you, that’s until – like a lightening striking close by – it strikes the person near you. This then leaves you a memory that lingers in the memory of every sane a person that he would be ending up just as!

I thought endlessly and reflected upon this throughout the journey to the graveyard. On reaching the graveyard, the dismal faces of the surrounding friends and family members further nurtured an entirely melancholy atmosphere. As he’s laid into the grave, I say my final prayers for him and I, asking Allah for forgiveness and everyone proceeds to collect their spades to bury the deceased! May Allah forgive him and make him the one of the inhabitants of His Eternal Paradise.

Amazing how death is just around the corner, watching your every move, surreptitiously taking every step that you take and finally when your card is called snatches the living soul out of you. Death knows no age!

Verily, Every Soul shall Taste death!

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