One of the best things in the world is to wash up at the sister’s house after a long and tiring journey across the fertile and populous plains of the Indian subcontinent. Her welcoming abode is en-route to our own home in the United States, and I was glad to get a spot of space to recover before heading on towards our own home.
While the sister herself has expressed a wish that we stir ourselves to sight-see the beautiful city she lives in, her marvelous husband takes our side, and says that during the best vacations, anything we do at all is a bonus and is quite happy to see us lounge around on the sofa reading and chatting.
Knowing this unfortunate tendency of ours to behave like sofa cushions when we visit, she nevertheless does her bit and lays out books to read, and in periodic intervals supplies us with food and drink. One of her favorite authors is Jean Sasson, who writes about the Middle Eastern life, having worked there as a nurse for over two decades. Jean Sasson’s books deal with real-life stories based on the lives of people who have reached out to her to have their story told. Their biographies are sketched out giving us a sense of life in the regions she deals with.
Would we otherwise hear of the life of a Saud princess, or the son and wife of Osama Bin Laden?
The book this time dealt with the harsh conditions existing in the regime of Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein; and how a young Arab-Kurdish bride, Joanna, summoned the courage to flee the persecution of Kurds in Iraq. Written in 1st person, it is as though Joanna wrote it herself. It was gaunt reading.
Like billions of people, I watch with alarm the rise of dictatorship world-over including in previously democratic strong holds such as the United States. My nerves are on edge reading about the atrocities these crazed despicable dictators are capable of doing. Midway through the book, I set it down on the sofa and declared that I cannot take it anymore. “This is so sad, and brutal, and my imagination is not helping! ” I said somewhat ruefully.
The sister said in a brisk return to her elder sister mode, “I know about you – read the whole book and then talk. If you leave it midway you will feel terrible. This book has a happy ending. In fact, you will be pleased to know that I have met Joanna in person. She is well and happy, and is an inspiration, so read!”
I meekly plodded on.
I had no idea about Kurds and their persecution by multiple regimes. The Western press had caught on about the Sunni Vs Shia conflicts, but to read about the Kurds also being persecuted by chemical weapons, torture and execution on such a massive scale is heart-rending. The peshmerga life is a hard one, and it was written well.
There are millions of people with similar fates similar the world over. Syria, China, Somalia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Mexico, Afghanistan, Burma, and many more.
The behaviors behind these are as old as humanity itself. In fact, older, as I was reminded of Jane Goodall’s interview, that somewhere along the evolutionary chain we developed the genes to be territorial and to persecute one another. (Apes have been observed having territorial wars, and trying to follow imposed social orders.)
How in spite of all this, human beings as a species have the rare combination of love, compassion, and sacrifice on the one hand balancing out the cruelty, lust, and every other form of despicable behavior on the other, is a miracle in itself.
“Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.” – Jane Goodall