Monday, 16 April 2007

Timmen Ahmar

This may sound like a post by Yasmin of Noomee Hilo, but it really isn't. She has deservedly stolen the limelight of nostalgic blogging but no-one can deny that we all suffer from equally painful moments of nostalgia and of longing for home.

During a conversation with a friend of mine, a very special word was mentioned; one that triggered a series of mental images.. a surge of emotional flashbacks that compelled me to write this post.. Timmen Ahmar

My late mother was an exceptionally talented cook - whatever she cooked, we loved: Boorani, cooked tomatoes and aubergines; Makhlama, fried eggs with minced meat and tomatoes; Chilifry which I'm ashamed to have forgotten. All these were meals that some may consider basic and less than nutritious - we regarded them as delicacies because she made them with passion, with devotion, and she served them with a glowing smile on her face that never failed to make us eat the food whole-heartedly and with great joy.

My personal favourite was Timmen Ahmar; rice cooked with tomatoes and sometimes served with chicken. The tomatoes added a reddish colour to the white rice, hence the name 'Ahmar' (red). Some of my brothers liked it when the rice was all mushy (m3ajjin). Yoghurt (Roba) was also added on the side but I didn't usually do that because it turned the rice into what we called 'shoorbat timmen', rice soup.

I remember sitting before the Sufra, a large, rectangular plastic table-cloth that we used on the floor. My plate was full and I was waiting for the rest of my brothers to sit down so that we start eating. As they came, one by one, we began eating the tasty Timmen Ahmar. I swallowed the food hurriedly, as if in fear of it running out. I gulped and gulped until I got hiccups, or Um il Awafi, as my mother had taught me.

A distinctive feature of my mother's Timmen Ahmar was the way she served it. Usually, rice is presented in a Belem, a large plate or bowl. However, Timmen Ahmar was put in a Seeniyya, a big, silver metal tray; and then each of us would take the amount we thought sufficient for us.

We ate as one..we lived as one.

The Timmen Ahmar days are long gone; 1997 wasn't just a decade ago, it was a lifetime ago; One of my brothers tried consoling me by cooking Timmen Ahmar and making sure that it was served in a metal tray rather than a large, 'farfouri' plate - he didn't quite make it. I thanked him warmly and reminded him that Mama's status as a historical one-off goes beyond her altruism, manners and humility; even her recipes had a touch of magic to them.. he was convinced.

Over the past few days, I have ate the same amount of food that an average 18 year old would eat over a month. Hamoori Fish; Freek Soup and an alarming amount of Kofta and KFC meals. However, when Timmen Ahmar was mentioned a couple of hours ago, I was taken back in time to when I was 8 years old, sitting in front of the television on a Friday afternoon, watching Fulla (Snow White) and anticipating the food that was to be served in a bit.

To my disappointment, that particular day, we had Tehcheen.. Not that I'm complaining, it was divine!

The Black Cycle

Monday, July 24, 2006

Blackness and silence, boys and girls,
We shall all lie in a four-foot box;
Sour smell and two sticky pearls,
Lifeless, hollow, as dead as rocks.

"Who are you? What have you done?"
The ever-present question in everybody's head.
From now on you're an ex-someone,
"Go to Hell, woman!" enough said.

The light of the mind begins to fade,
You're being dragged to eternall Hell,
The Sun is unseen, it's one massive shade,
A dead rat, you shall rot and swell.

The wheel revolves and steals us all
,To be punished, we deserve the violence.
There's no escape - don't run or crawl,
Just go with the flow of blackness and silence.

Christmas 2004 - London

Birthday Bash

Monday, March 26, 2007

Reading through
Dreamer's latest post, I was reminded of how important I consider childhood to be. Our personalities, opinions and characters are shaped before we hit fifteen years of age! For me, children are both a burden as well as a blessing. A burden for those who raise them and a blessing for those who interact with them.

As we celebrated my younger brother's birthday today, I witnessed the remarkable phenomena of children's growing up. I saw the beauty of childhood. I hope that I'm not being short-sighted in my opinion of children.. it was what I felt today.

My brother had turned 12 over two months ago but was denied a party as his birthday coincided with Muharram. Out of respect, he put on a brave face and waited till Muharram and Safar, the two months of remembering Ashura, were over.

Having told none of us, he invited a dozen friends of his to a 'big party' on Sunday and only decided to let us know about it on Saturday afternoon. One might think that a birthday party for 12 year old kids wouldn't be much trouble, right? I suppose my brother and his friends are a tad different from the norm. What makes them so is their extremely pampered nature. Apart from my brother, they all have what their heart desires. To put it in simple terms, they are living the life. I wasn't given a mobile phone until I was 16, and it wasn't even my fahter who gave it to me! These kids have models that make my current handset look like a 'di-ri-ri-hello-can-I-help-youueew' toy. Latest consoles, regular trips to Toys"R"Us.. you name it, they had it. It was this factor that made me and my elder brothers intent on making the second youngest guy in the house proud of himself and his family.

Last year's party was a disaster 'illa shwaya' (fell short by a fraction). All the shopping was done in the last minute and we had to merge our tireless efforts with some unwanted contributions from a relative of ours. The result was seven frozen pizzas and a couple of fights. Of course, human nature was bound to reconcile them and make them one hell of a force. We knew they were a tough bunch so we decided to suspended all forms of courtesy; today, they are to be treated as if they were in after school detention, only not so strictly.

Plastic bags were whisked into the kitchen and how quickly they were unwrapped and arranged. Crisps, Donuts and a disgustingly-chocolatey cake were laid on the table in neatly order. I was instructed by my elder brothers, who put me in charge of supervising the proceedings, to defrost some more frozen pizzas when the kids get hungry. Deja-vu! I had to abandon Blake, Bowlby and Weber whom I had intended on studying. Instead, I carried cups and provided plates. Throughout the day I was asking myself "What's more important.. Linguistic Dramatisation or watching a Scottish-Afghan twelve-year-old play mini-snooker?" Without doubt, the latter was far more interesting. As the clock struck one, they arrived, each bringing with him his entry ticket, a present!

Ding-Dong! My little brothers would run to the door and welcome them with open arms, reminding their parent (in most cases, it was the mother) of the pick-up time.

"We're gonna finish at 7:30 but you can come at 8:00"

As the guest made his way in, he was greeted by those who came before him and then by the real host.. moi.

I knew most of them from when I was at school. While I ran after teachers begging for deadline extensions, I was stopped by a group of eight-year-olds saying "Hey, Hey! You look like Harry Potter!" As they break into hysterical laughter, I would give them a piercing gaze and try, with great difficulty, to control my smile-muscles so that I don't give in and laugh with them.

Today, they were completely different people. Well-spoken, neatly-dressed and exceptionally polite, I saw in them a glimmer of hope for the future. They are the people who will take care of us when we grow old. They were moulding in a way that made be easy at heart. Perhaps I should have learnt that looks were almost always deceptive.

Football maniacs lined up in front of the television, waiting for their turn to play Pro-Evolution Soccer on PlayStation. Being a football maniac myself, I stood in the line with them eventhough they had kindly offered me a head-start. As for the thug-wannabees, playing Infamous Gangsters without parental supervision was a thing of dreams; four of them sat around the computer screen rating themselves as well as other players according to their 'street cred'. This game infuriated me as it had no purpose other than bringing down the level of thinking and morality amongst an already-struggling generation. These kids are bombarded with images of war on a daily basis and the last thing they should be doing is enacting what they see on the news. No matter how hard I tried to convince them to play something more constructive, they would not heed. BookWorm? Yeah, Right!

After a couple of hours, most of them had decided to play football in the less-than-practical garden of ours. I watched over them for a little and then I asked them to do kick-ups to see who can do the most. Zafar completed an impressive sixteen kick-ups whilst Adam, only 10 years of age, managed six. When it was my turn, I hesitated at first but was rallied on by the faithful fans. I picked up the ball, held it close to my heart and looked at Heaven in desperation! I managed to perform two kick-ups, breaking my previous record of Nil.

To my surprise, the clock was ticking away very quickly. When we noticed that it was six o'clock, I decided that it was time to get all of them together so that we do what really we came for. I didn't manage to bring them inside until they saw the candles and the cake; only then did they listen.

Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday to you!
Happy birthday Hassooni! (he blew the candles)

"Oi, we're still singing it, you idiot!" I interrupted.

Happy birthday to you!

My brother stood in front of his friends, grinning from ear to ear, while he tore the wrapping paper of his presents. An Adidas t-shirt didn't add much to his glowing face. I was privileged to be informed of the 'big present', a Manchester United goalkeeper's jersey - it was supposed to be the one thing he has been dreaming of. When his eyes fell on the yellow garment, they grew big and were close to tears; his stood there gaping strangely, struggling to construct a sentence that would capture what he felt. This was something he had been asking for since he was tipped as the class's goalie almost two years ago. I hadn't seen him so happy in a very long time. Finally, when he managed to compose his thoughts and blurt out a few words, he made sure, as I would have, that they delivered a sound effect to his audience. His intended effect was deep gratitude towards a potentially brotherly bond with a bunch of psychotic, sweet monkeys.
"Guys, wallah wallah, I'll keep this until I can show it to my grandchildren!"

My Resurrection

I managed to retrieve the cached versions of my previous posts. I will therefore re-publish what I thought were decent posts and also write new ones.
I apologise for any inconvenience.

P.S: They will not be in chronological order.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Last Resort

For those of you who are scratching their heads, wondering what had happened to all my previous posts - they've been deleted.
I woke up this morning, logged onto my account only to find that 'Iraqi Signor' had been completely deleted. I sent out a few e-mails asking for help and am hopeful of restoring the blog. I have spent almost a year blogging here, posting the absolute, unfiltered and uncensored version of what I was. My attempts at writing poetry, my attempts at commenting on current news and, most importantly, talking about what I know of Iraq.
It couldn't have been a mistake by Blogger, I'm certain that it was deleted deliberately by someone who didn't quite like what he read.
Putting conspiracy theories aside, I think the only thing I can do is start all over again. I love writing and I love writing on this blog; therefore I will continue to write despite the overwhelming sadness that has engulfed me, leaving me lost for words.
I will continue to write.