Sunday, April 1, 2012

Doha from Baghdad

The next day Saranda put the note from the ponytail girl next to her treasured letter from her dead cousins and sighed deeply. She felt extremely lonely on this windy Monday morning. Foundation Day, ste repeated quietly for herself. In spite of her knowing what that day meant for Western Australia, she didn't really feel part of it. She was too new to this country to think about its history, a history she and her family were not part ot. Passing the kitchen Saranda peeped inside to see Mum and Mrs Hysa filling a pita bread with all taht yammy stuff Joyce and Victor fought over. They supposed to hand it to them, but kids are kids even in the strict Muslim families. Piece of cheese felt on the floor and Victor grabbed it.

   "Yak, Victor, it's dirty," but before Mum could finish, Victor put it into his mouth.

    "Don't worry, I've washed the floor yesterday, anyway germs are good for him," Mrs Hysa laughed cutting a piece of cooked chicken.

    "Let me to do it, let meee..." Joyce started to scream from the bottom of her small lungs.

Saranda quietly passed the kitchen before they noticed her. She went out and looked at the cloudy sky.
Without looking back she rushed down the street, when she suddenly stopped. There was no point going to Fremantle, Jack was on the trip. She looked desperately around at some houses close by. Sudden gust of wind and first drops of rain hurried her up the road. Kathy was for sure at Uncle Toby's house surrounded by her kin. And waht had happened to her? Why did she still feel like running away? From whom and what? She pondered at these questions for a while when suddenly she caught a sight of a white house right next to their Mosque. That's the house where Doha lived with her foster parents.
Without further thinking she ran toward its gate and entered the front yard with its immaculate lawn.
She looked up at the majestic white stairs and suddenly compared this huge vila to their small house. While was standing there unable to decide what to do, she was caught in the downpour of rain. The side window squeaked and the girlish voice informed her in Arabic:

   "The Mosque is closed today, but you are welcome to pray in this house, God is great."

Saranda looked up and recognised Doha in her usual head cover. She smiled hastily and waved.

    "Saranda, is that you?" But Saranda had no time to reply as the window banged and the covered girlish figure opened the front door in a hurry: "Come in or you are going to get soaked."

When Saranda entered, her wet sneakers made squeaking sound on the polished timber floor. Doha quickly grabbed her hand and pulled her to the left. They passed the long corridor full of oriental mosaics and rags. Finally Doha opened the door on the end and beckoned Saranda to enter nervously looking around for the sign of movement. Saranda stopped in the doorway as the luxurious spacey girlish bedroom took her breath away.

   "It's not mine," Doha smiled apologetically and pointed on the picture showing a girl in a white head cover with some flowers: "Zaliah, the eldest daughter of my saviours, uncle Abuh Ahmed adn his wife, may God protect them, she studies in America."

Saranda nodded and walked around the room touching the exotic model of ancient building. 'The Babylonian ziggurat of Ur-nammu,' she spelled slowly the golden letters underneath. Her eyes suddenly caught an ancient wall map showing Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Doha followed her gaze and smiled enthusiastically:

    "People settled along these rivers as early as 7000 BC and Mesopotamia flourished until the 500 BC, with Babylon as its capital. Have you heard about King Nebuchadnezzar and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?"

   "Nebu...what?" Saranda looked puzzled but Doha didn't seem notice lost in her world.

   "Baghdad," Doha gently touched the golden star on the old map representing the capital: "In 762, Baghdad became the new capital and for centuries was the centre of learning, science, philosophy and poetry in the golden age of Islam." She looked up and met the blank Saranda's face: "I was born there and lived there happily for nearly twelve years until..."

Saranda waited but Doha just covered her ace and turned to the window, when the noise inside the house reminded them of their inhabitants. Doha quickly walked across the room to the dressing corner.

Saranda only now realized that she was wet and shivered touching her damp hair. Silky cushions had been arranged around the corners so she slowly moved to drop among them as to find something to cover herself up.

    "Here you are, it's yours anyway," Doha handed to the surprised Saranda the black long shirt with the Aboriginal painting of footprints and hadprints making pattern of sun. "Do you remember our trip to the museum?"

    "Yeah, but..."

   "I thought this picture will suit you the best, I mean you always wear that little golden sun of yours," Doha smiled secretly and moved her head scarf to reveal her golden chain with the moon crescent surrounded by some little stars: "My Mum gave it to me, before she died to remember the people I belong to, Turkmen."

   "The sun and the moon," Saranda looked at their golden chains shaking her head in a surprise: "But I can't take it," she looked at the shirt that dropped from her hands.

   "Of course you can, go and change in that dressing corner, " Doha pointed to the place, where she looked for the shirt: "Then I will do your scarf as Abuh Ahmed's wife doesn't like modern ways," she sighed and waved at Saranda with a white scarf.

   "It's fit perfectly, how did you know and where did you get the money for it?" Saranda twirled around in her new black shirt until Doha beckoned her to sit down and bent her head for the headscarf.

   "I saved some money from my sewing," Doha murmured under her breath: "This one is made especially for you." She looked at Saranda and smiled.

   "I didn't know you like sewing."

   "I sometimes help Abuh Ahmed's wife, she sews girls school scarfs and boys religious hats," Doha murmured under her breath:"You know, I thought, I would save some money for my cousin, when they release him from Detention Centre, but..."

The call for praying stopped their discussion and Doha quickly tied Saranda's scarf: "Let's go to join them for the pray time," she beckoned Saranda to join her.

   "I think, I would better go back home..." Saranda picked up her wet shirt from the chair.

   "Look at the mirror, Saranda, now you look like real Australian Muslim girl, " Doha laughed pointing at her reflection behind the chair: "See ya and drop in any time you like."

When she was gone, Saranda curiously looked at herself. The white scarf contrasted with the black long sleeve shirt and blue jeans. Her clothes represented the state of her mind, she kept looking back where she came from, struggling to understand the religion of her Grandmother and looking forward to be part of her new home. Who was she?

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