Saturday, June 23, 2012

Children Overboard (October 2001)

   During the recess Saranda asked Doha about her family. Doha was quiet for a long time slowly eating her fruitcake. Saranda watched the boys lining up at the canteen, elbowing each other to get order first, as though it really mattered.

   "Look at Zaab," she pointed at the boy from their Maths class: "He is so smart but behaves like a little boy, he reminds me of my younger brother..."

   "He reminds me of Ali, my cousin," Doha followed Saranda's gaze, who stopped on the tall boy with a crown of thick black hair.

   "The one you mentioned, who is locked up in Detention Centre?"

   "Yep," Doha muttered pushing her half eaten salad away: "He is seventeen next month, Abuh Ahmed promised me, that we could go to visit him, he is here, in Perth."

   "What has he done to be there?"

   "You are naive, Saranda, not everyone is lucky like you to get refugee's protection," Doha looked at her and her eyes glowed strangely: "Everyone said he should get a bravery award, you know, when our boat sand off this horrible reef, he was the one to help me and his sisters stay afloat."

    "I have been rescued once here, I couldn't swim..."

    "I know how to swim, but we were in the water for ages, it was so tiring and cold."

    "That's where your father drownded?"

    "Yes," Doha murmured: "Just before the Australian navy came to rescue us, he talked to me and suddenly he was gone," she bowed her head and covered her face.

The bell rang and Saranda hastily finished her drink. The weather warmed up quickly. They were sitting in the sun and she felt hot and itchy.

    "Doha, it's time to go," she shook her friend, but Doha didn't respond lost in her thoughts. Saranda turned to leave when she heard Doha saying: "I will wait for him how long it takes and I will marry him as I promised to my father."

   "Who are you going to marry, Doha?" Saranda stopped in a sudden shock and turned back to face her friend: "Marry, yak."

   "Ali is the only one from my family left."

   "I know btu still, I don't think you have to marry him, you know, here in Australia..."

    "I want to, Saranda, you can't understand." Doha stood up and passed Saranda without a glance.

Saranda stood there fo ra while. She chuckled as she pictured her cousin and her to be married? Such nonsence. Once again she realized that she could never be a devout Muslim like Doha.

   "Finally I thought the day is dawning, but it is still like night for us..." Saranda could hear the rich descriptive language of the Abuh Ahmed from the living room when she entered her house.

   "Salama Lejku," she bowed her head to pay respect to this highly religious man.

He waved kindly with his hand. Saranda looked deeply into his strong dark eyes contrasting with his white hair and thick bead. All she could see was sadness. Her Dad was sitting next to him lost in deep thinking. She could see they had been engaged in serious matter, which was not in their capabilities to solve. The illumination from TV made ghostly figures around dimly lit living room.

   "Propaganda like this," her Dad suddenly pointed on TV showing the photos of some swimming children thrown by their parents-refugees overboard as it was assumed: "Does not help to persuade Australians about the plight of Ali and others."

The Abuh Ahmed sighed deeply in an agreement: "Being separated from each other is awful for them but the realization of never being able to meet again must be even worse."
Passing them quietly to reach the corridor she suddenly realized, who they had been talking about: Doha and Ali.

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