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Stories are a way of melting the ice

March 10, 2014 Leave a comment

One morning when I was a child, my father came our to the lawn where I was playing with my box of wooden bricks. He picked up one of the smaller bricks, a yellow one, and said, “This brick is the house in which we live”. He picked up another, a larger, a red one. “And this brick is the village out there”. Then he took the actual box in which the bricks had come and placed it on the grass, a long way from the others. “This box is Afghanistan”, he said. “Do you understand?”

“Yes, Baba.”

“Are you quite sure that you understand?”

I nodded.

“Tahir Jan,” he said, “I am showing you this because it’s an important thing. I will explain it to you. If I go into the kitchen and take a dry sponge and put it in a bowl of water, it will suck up a lot of water, won’t it?”

“Yes, Baba.”

“But if I take the same sponge and put it in a bowl of ice, it won’t suck up anything at all. That’s because the sponge isn’t designed to suck up ice. Its structure — lots of little holes — can’t take in ice, only water.”

He sat down beside me, motioning with his hands.

“Ice is water, but just in a different form,” he said. “To make it into water — so we can suck it up easily — we need to change its form. The water is knowledge, Tahir Jan, and the sponge is your mind. When we hear information, a lot of it,” he said, “sometimes it’s too hard for us to suck up. It’s like ice. We hear it in the same way that the sponge touches the bowl of ice, but it doesn’t get inside. But as soon as you melt the ice, the water penetrates deep into the middle of the sponge. And that’s what stories do.”

My father always spoke very carefully to children so that they understood. He would pause and study the feedback, making sure what he said was getting through. I wasn’t quite sure what he was aiming at, and was rather keen to get on playing with my bricks.

“Stories are a way of melting the ice,” he said gently, “turning it into water. They are like repackaging something — changing it’s form — so that the design of the sponge can accept it.”

An excerpt from In Arabian Nights- A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams.

Because Ahmed has the best memory

December 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Five boys were sitting at the far end of the bench. They were dressed in weatherworn clothes, all caked in mud. Their leader said something fast. The others groped through their pockets and pooled their funds: six marbles, four bottle tops, a painted twig, a blunt penknife, and a few coins. The money was separated out. Three of the boys started arguing, shouting at one another. Their argument broke into a scrap. One of the older boys suddenly turned on the smallest. They fell into the dirt, punches flying. The leader pulled them apart. He handled all the coins to the youngest boy, whose shirt had been ripped in the fight, and sent him off toward the cinema.

The others began playing marbles.

I asked why only one of them was going to the cinema. The leader glanced up, his sienna eyes catching the light.

“We only have the money for one to see the matinee, Monsieur”, he said. “So we send Ahmed. We always send Ahmed.”

“Why him?”

The leader flicked a marble into the dirt. “Because Ahmed has the best memory,” he said.

An excerpt from In Arabian Nights- A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams.

Reflections of an Expat

December 25, 2013 1 comment

It’s the fifth Christmas for me away from my home country, India. I often think about how can I describe these five years in Belgium. I could never think of an elegant way to describe them. I’m currently reading the book “In Arabian Nights – A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams“. It is about a British man, married to an Indian woman and their life in Morocco. Tahir, the main protagonist of the book, describes his experience of settling down in Morocco. He says –

Settling into a  new country is like getting used to a pair of shoes. At first they pinch a little, but you like the way they look, so you carry on. The longer you have them, the more comfortable they become. Until one day without realizing it you reach a glorious plateau. Wearing those shoes is like wearing no shoes at all. The more scuffed they get, the more you love them, and the more you can’t imagine life without them.

Probably, I can say the same for my years in Belgium, and I guess you too.

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