The Spring that Shall Last Forever- Part 2
I rushed back to the camp in a helter skelter, along with Mehnaaz. I kept running, stumbling upon cadaverous entities, completely oblivious to the chaos and disarray around, which had engulfed the stillness of the surroundings in a whisker. I crouched behind a huge boulder, intently trying to control my nerves. Baba always said, “A tranquil mind is half the battle”. The men were being rounded up in a line. Anyone who could crawl well enough was thought to have undertaken some sort of a military training and was instantly shot point blank. I sneaked past the boulders furtively, slipping past the fenced wires, crawling along the rugged terrain in the garb of darkness, completely unnoticed by the Phalange militiamen and their Israeli affiliates. I slowly unlocked the door. Saturated by silence, the house also brimmed with an unnerving expectancy, as though some bulwark were about to crack, permitting a violent flood to sweep away everything. The flickering gait of the lantern somehow symbolized the perplexity of the situation. I saw Mama sitting in corner, holding Abbas in her arms, absorbedly trying to calm his nerves. I stooped down and placed my hands on Mama’s shoulders.
Mama shuddered as if she’d been belted by an electric jolt.
“Mama, Where are the girls?”
“They…They were playing in ….in the backyard.”
I hastily rushed to the backyard, toppling the vase in the process. Darkness in tandem with uncertainty can form a lethal combination, fatal enough to smolder the bravado of the boldest of men. The quietude of the surrounding was unnerving, as if prophesying the onset of a calamitous storm. Like the Titanic, an iceberg awaited. It wasn’t until Mama bought the lantern that I could figure out an object, almost buried in the heap of haystack, placed adjacently to the fenced wires. I found out both of them, sleeping soundly, ably insulated against the scourge of icy winds by the stacks of hays, placed diagonally to each other. I picked up both of them in my arms. The resplendent aura on their face, in tandem with the shimmering ray of the lantern made up for an arresting view, momentarily relieving me of intensity of the situation. A smile surfacing out of the innermost chambers of the heart has the power to heal the sorest of wounds. They were sleeping. How can someone sleep so soundly, with such indifference to the commotion around? The heart is a strange entity. It yearns for strange things. I wanted to sleep, jump, play, and rest my head under the serene shades of Mehnaaz’s cascading locks. I just yearned to somehow fortify myself, far removed from the conflict, which had wrecked havoc on my family since the past couple of decades.
“Just run. Don’t turn back,” said Mama, handing Abbas in my arms.
Frankly speaking, at that moment, I couldn’t think of anyone else. It was only later, that I realized that, it must’ve been incredibly difficult for Mama to let go her sons towards the dark and dense alleys of uncertainty and obscurity. However, that was the only viable option she was left with.
As I ran along the rugged pathway, my vision blurred by the visions and charades of a blissful future, I promised myself that would not cry. Tears soothe and placate the resentment brimming inside one’s conscience, thereby extinguishing the desire for revenge. As I ran, I looked at my hands soaked in blood. The blood will not go unavenged. One day I’ll be back, to avenge the blood of my sisters. The memory of oppressed people is one thing that cannot be taken away, and for such people with such memories, revolt is always an inch beneath the surface.
Suddenly, I felt as if someone had belted my head, with a strong metallic rod. As blackness descended over my conscience, all I could remember were two names- Sara and Nadia.
As I woke up, I found myself surrounded by masked men, each one of them holding an assault rifle in their hands. I saw Abbas, sleeping peacefully in the arms of one of those men. As my vision cleared, I saw a person tied to the tent pole, his head bleeding profusely. I saw a young girl, wearing a pink frock, her hazel blue eyes spelling the terror that had enveloped her whole conscience, sitting petrified in a corner. What happened next left me stupefied beyond all stretches of imagination: I saw Ahmed emerge from among the men.
“Praise be to God, who rescued you from those tyrants,” said Ahmed.
“Don’t worry. You’re absolutely safe here. These are our brothers. We might belong to different regions, but our motive is the same- Extermination of Israel. Each one of has lost a beloved in this struggle. We will not flinch away from shedding blood, because we realize that independence demands sacrifices. No Negotiations, No conferences and No dialogue. First leave our land and then we’ll talk. This is our motto.”
Ahmed untied the person tied to the tent pole.
“This person works as a secret agent for the Israeli Defense Forces. He is equally responsible for the devastation and misfortune which has wrecked our nation since the past couple of decades. Today, we’ll make sure, that we send a strong message to our enemies.”
“Cut his hands and feet on alternate sides and gouge his eyes out. And make sure you do everything in front of his daughter,” ordered Ahmed.
“No…You cannot do this Ahmed. Such an act of bestiality and brutality is against our values, customs and religious traditions,” I retorted.
Ahmed pushed me against the wall and clutched my collar. “Values, customs, traditions? I don’t give a damn. Have you forgotten everything? Have you forgotten Saabra and Shatila? Have you forgotten how your sisters were killed?”
“I have not forgotten anything. Until my bones are wrought in dust, until the moment a shred of viability invigorates through my veins I won’t forget anything. To forget, and even worse, to forgive, is tantamount to belittling the suffering of the victims, while exonerating their tormentors. Seeking to forget makes the exile all the longer, the secret of redemption lies in remembrance. Leave his daughter alone. Let her go. I implore you.”
“Everything comes for a price brother. Both, Abbas and the girl will have to go, but you’ll stay right here. Think over it and let me know tomorrow morning. You don’t have a choice. Do you?” said Ahmed, walking away, leaving me oscillating in the mist of uncertainty. As my mind grappled over the ramifications of this imbroglio, I realized that the night was going to be very very long.
I walked over towards the girl. Despite my strongest exertions I couldn’t help myself from being charmed by her presence, for the glint in her eyes reminded me of a long lost beloved. I did not know this girl. I’d never met her before and yet I was willing to take on the whole world and decimate my own existence to ensure her safety and happiness. Why?
It’s like gravity. Your whole centre shifts. Suddenly it’s not the earth holding you here. You would do anything for her. You’ll be her guardian angel, guiding her through the alleys of life. You’d be anything for her- A friend, a brother, a protector.
There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for a bigger purpose. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you could’ve achieved or accomplished for a greater cause. I’ll be the guardian of these kids. I’ll shield them against this insane world, which is hell bent upon destroying itself. Far beyond the purview of an Israeli and a Palestinian, is a beautiful garden. Therein you will find the spring- The spring that shall last forever.
I’d decided to cut off the umbilical cord.
20 years later.
1983, Al Isra University, Amman, Jordan.
“Wishing both of you a very happy and prosperous twenty fourth birthday. My goodness! Both of you’ve have grown up to be so beautiful. Perhaps, it’s time that we should start searching for an apt match for both of you. Oh, come on. Don’t be shy about it. Sara, please don’t tease Nadia. Oh, yes. I’ll be with you forever.”
“Oh, Sadia. Sorry, I didn’t notice you. Where is Abbas?”
“He’s just round the corner.”
“I don’t understand anything. For the past twenty years, you’ve made it a ritual to visit us, strictly on our birthdays.
You’ve never told us anything about our family. On top of everything, you’ve named these two trees Sara and Nadia and you relish their company more than ours.”
“You ask too many questions.”
“That’s because, you don’t answer them.”
“I’ll repeat everything once in for all. I don’t know your parents. I lost my family in a plane crash. When I saw both of you at the orphanage twenty years ago, it just seemed, as if my family had returned. Though we are unrelated by any ties of kinship, I love you guys more than anyone else in this world. Both of you are the sole reason that I’ve been able to drag myself through the vicissitudes of life.”
“Stop, or I’ll start crying once again,” said Abbas.
I embraced both of them in my arms. And we cried, like small kids-the three of us. Tears are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. Yes, I’ve lied to them, and at times, a lie which comforts is far more beneficial than a truth which hurts. Beneath the chicaneries and deceptions of a cold blooded murderer lies a truth of profound significance: I love both of them more than anyone else in this world. And it is for their own sake that, come the right moment; I’ll walk away from their lives. Will they hate me? No. I’d prefer dying before the sun rises upon such a day.
As far as my homeland is concerned, I’d like to ask the world: How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? You cannot continue to victimize someone else just because you yourself were a victim once- there has to be a limit.
Sometimes a homeland becomes a tale. We love the story because it is about our homeland. There is a Palestine that dwells inside all of us, a Palestine that needs to be rescued: a free Palestine where all people regardless of color , religion or race coexist; a Palestine where the word “occupation” is only restricted to what the dictionary says rather than what it implies in reality: death, destruction, suffering, isolation and deprivation.
The war will continue and thousands will die at the altars of a merciless war, because the civilized world refuses to stand up for us. We cannot be exterminated. As long as a nation can shield itself from mental enslavement, the possibility remains, however grim, that, one day it’ll be able to emancipate itself from the shackles of physical bondage. I recline beneath the infinities of my citadel, intently trying to scrutinize the situation, beyond the purview of good and evil. All that I’ve learnt can be summed up in ten words: Somewhere down the line, people are genuinely good at heart.
Perhaps, the most daunting facet of human personality is to keep the spirit of hope alive, in the duress of despondency and misery. I’ll keep hoping. I’ll keep walking. I’ll keep singing, until I reach the spring- The spring that shall last forever.
“A small evening,
A neglected village.
Two sleepy eyes,
I witness that time hides for me
an ear of wheat.
The singer sings
of fire and strangers.
Evening was evening.
The singer was singing.
And they question him:
What do you sing?
He answers them as they seize him.
And they have searched him:
In his breast only his heart,
In his heart only his people,
In his voice only his sorrow.”
Poem Credits- Mahmoud Darwish.