Monday, 15 December 2008

Sasuki's Size 10 Farewell

Much has been made of Sasuki's personal and professional past in order to understand what had driven him to deviate from the norm of smiling and nodding to war criminals - as if psychoanalysis was really going to decipher the behaviour of anyone living in today's Iraq.

His picture will be splashed across newspapers throughout the world; His name will be endlessly repeated, but no statue will be erected in honour of his heroics, and he will soon be forgotten. Despite all that, Muntathar Zaidi's ten seconds of unforseen madness and/or commendable courage generated mixed reactions that seem to reflect Iraqi popular opinion. The majority's response has been full of admiration and verbal back-slapping, with a considerable minority denouncing his behaviour as erratic and unhelpful given the delicately-poised situation that Iraq is in. Irrespective of my opinion of his employers, Baghdadiya TV, I salute him and pray that he and his family face no repercussions. Some cynics will argue that Iraqis should've been hurling shoes decades earlier; perhaps, but the unspeakable terror of Saddam's thirty-five years of tyranny is simply unfathomable to our Burma-inspired and fashionably-democratic mentalities. Millions were killed in broad daylight whilst the international community stared indifferently. Hopefully, this will be the first of many acts of documented defiance.

In any case, feel free to watch the footage again... and again.. and again.

Target: Incumbent U.S president, George W. Bush.

Object: Size 10 black shoe.

Thrower: Muntathar Zaidi, on behalf of 9 out of 10 people in the world.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

"Your days are happy"

Only twice a year did I feel incapable of sleeping. No matter how hard I shut my eye-lids, my mental machinery kept working away and conjuring up all sorts of scenarios and preparing suitable verbal and physical responses. The night before the first day of the new school year was a night of planning, unprecedented ambitions and promises of academic improvement. The night before Eid Al Fitr, however, was all about money. 'How much am I going to make tomorrow?' I constantly asked myself. Hours later, I would shut my eyes and force myself to stop thinking.

Eid was arguably the highlight of the year's religious and social calendar. A day when everyone came together, putting personal piffs aside and reaffirming our human unity - as if! For kids, however, Eid was like the financial district's bonus season (in the long gone times when such rewards existed!) The more relatives -investors- you had, the higher your dividends. After showering and putting on my new or new-looking clothes, I had celebratory breakfast with my family for the first time after a month of fasting - Geimar (thick cream), strawberry jam and tea made for a delicious meal. A few of us would be miming names of particular firework types and one of my brothers who was responsible for supplying them would either mime back or make gestures with his hand to inform us of his final reduction in price.

Having visited our relatives and collected our semiannual pay-out, we rushed to what is known only for the day as 'Eid Square.' Scores of children shouted and sprinted from one ride to another, like a flock of seagulls pouncing on a fisherman's boat. A small ferris wheel was the centre point of a number of lame attractions that included a raffle stall; a fireworks stall; a shoot 'em up table and a candyfloss corner. The main attraction was a couple of group swings with two smoking men with thick moustaches at the helm doing all the pushing and shouting so as to excite the lunatic crowd. Only I seemed to notice that one of the swings was right next to an electric post with dangerous-looking cables dangling from it. Unfortunately for me, it was the swing that I was sitting in. As the kids bellowed out a traditional Eid chant: "Push harder! We won't come down unless we're beaten up!", I screamed my heart out. "STOOPPP!! LET ME DOWN!" I never liked being pushed hard on swings but this was swings liked I'd never seen before: with a group of crazed children and an ominous man pushing so hard that my seat would occasionally hit the cable from the nearby post. I got off that ride with my hands on my face and my brothers' mocking laughs ringing in my ears.

Eid also meant new clothes, for young and old. Children wore different kinds of outfits to mark the occasion. Some wore checkered suits with elastic ties that made them look old and stupid; others wore jeans, shirts and sunglasses eventhough it was during a relatively cold time of year. As I look back now, I'm grateful to have been the odd-looking kid who dressed casually and sometimes didn't even manage to buy new clothes for one reason or other. I was content with what I had and didn't pay much attention to sartorial details - oh how I'd love to be of such aesthetic modesty today!
After spending hours on minute-long rides that seemed to our naive and mathematically-inept brains like an eternity, we would call it a day and go home with bucketloads of joy, excitement and inevitable regret at wasting all our money. If we were lucky, we'd be treated to a film or other such luxury. Our minds would then go back into school mode and we would start methodically panicking over our unfinished, or unstarted, homework.
This was how I celebrated Eid more than a decade ago. Today, as hard as I try and as desperately as I search, I cannot find much happiness in such communal festivities. People always asked me why I never look happy whenever there's something to celebrate; my robotic response is something along the lines of "Who said I'm not happy? I am, but I'm not going to dance about it, am I?"
As you may have gathered from previous posts, I'm not exactly a party animal. To me, most festivities are off-puttingly exaggerated and I find myself raring to slap anyone who smiles too much. Particularly difficult to stomach are the three big festive occasions; the two Eids and Christmas - the latter I have never enjoyed and this year seems to be no exception. Karaokeing to The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl may have offered a glimpse of Christmas's reputed sense of community and togetherness, but I remain unconvinced.
Eid is embarrassing; Christmas is cold and birthdays are, well, check the archive. True happiness needs no occasion and we should be forever grateful to be alive and to have one another.
By the crack of dawn, my eyes sumbit to physical exhaustion and.. slowly.. I fall asleep.