Friday, July 17, 2009

Rahmah and Hannah

Warning: Long post..spare sometime..;-)


When Rahmah was born she kept her eyes shut tight for a long long time…For it was unpleasant to trade the comfortable darkness of the womb, her residence of past nine months with the unwelcome and scorching Arabian sun. Having a good roof over the makeshift hospital was a luxury in Palestine those days…The walls inside the delivery ward had more bullet holes than plug points and the windows hardly any drapes to give Rahmah’s mother the luxury of dignity. Needless to say, nobody cared about dignity in a place where doctors are sometimes not sure whether the ticking sound comes from the medical equipment or a bomb planted nearby…Being alive was way over the price of dignity. And against all odds, Rahmah was born that summer.

In Palestine every new born is greeted by the organization as live ammunition…literally ‘LIVE’. An ammo which doesn’t come under the control of economic sanctions and other global niceties like arms embargo...For them every new born is a potential suicide bomber, a sacrificial lamb for the greater cause...And for every mother a coerced sacrifice which she never wished to see…

Brooklyn, 2003

Rahmah is 9 years old now and attending the Joan of Arc School. The teachers loved the cutest girl in class…energetic, charming and sporting a toothy grin hard to ignore... The day was special coz she was going to sing ‘Edelweiss’ for the annual school talent event.

‘You will just do great Rahmah….don’t worry!!’
Melanie quipped as she drove her to school.

Rahmah was never worried as she kept gazing outside the window enjoying the morning traffic…Rather she was more concerned about Melanie making it to office in time. In fifteen minutes the car drove into one of the finest schools in Brooklyn.

‘Do well… Rahmah….’

Rahmah hugged Melanie and plucked a kiss on her cheek…Melanie hugged her back and bid goodbye to Rahmah….While beating the New York traffic on her way there was a smile on Melanie’s face…

Finally she felt like a mother.

Brooklyn 1992

It is difficult for new immigrants to find a job in this country, especially if you are not precisely from a country and rather a settlement called the West Bank. When Fatimah arrived with her husband as refugees on the run they were madly in love and hanging on each other’s shoulders like teenage hippies on a long road trip... But you know fantasies don’t last long and they figured out in America where people don’t live on goodwill alone, Dollars maketh the man! So after a few months when Fatimah knocked the doors of a wealthy Brooklyn couple for a job they accepted her as a secretary at their home office...

West Bank 1994

Three years of negotiations and several summits later…

‘Arafat and Rabin win Nobel prize!’


The headlines flashed all over the place…People were euphoric in West Bank…It seemed, finally things were going to change…Abdul and Fatimah were among them , back in the land they were born… With renewed hope of a lasting peace, Abdul had no second thoughts about flying back home…Brooklyn did not have a soul he said when Fatimah protested….It is easy to fall for it when you passionately phrase your dreams to the other person …

“Fatimah…Don’t you wish to live near a house at the banks of Jordan, near your mother humming songs of Fairuz and watch our children play in the vineyards we would grow….Or do we live in this concrete country far away from our people…Don’t you have dreams? ”


Fatimah had dreams, but she never felt a foreigner in the country with someone like Melanie who was not just an employer, but a friend...Melanie found in her a companion who brought sanity to the fast lives they were living…They had become pillars of strength for each other.

“Fatimah…Do you really have to go”

“Yes Melanie…There are probably…hmm… some vineyards in Palestine”



Gaza strip 1995


When Rahmah was born Fatimah shrieked in pain…cried in agony for giving birth to a child whose father died only a day ago in an air strike. It was a desperate cry to save her child of the misery than the physical pain…. In Palestine it is rare to find a complete family…Often someone is missing for not so natural causes.

At the make shift hospital, the nurse wrapped the baby in white linen and kept her beside the mother…

‘Rahmaaah…….’ Fatimah whispered to her child…

Rahmah finally opened her eyes to the Arabian sun…

Cairo 1996

Melanie and Kauffman are very tense at the airport. Flying from Egypt to US is usually not a big deal but if you have unauthorized cargo tugging along with you and especially if it is an 8 month old baby, you ought to be tense…A few months ago when Fatimah wanted to ask Melanie to take her back in America, the rules of the world had unfortunately changed…she instead sent a letter.

The family from Brooklyn did not have a child…infact they couldn’t conceive a child….Fatimah wrote a letter to the family with an offer...an offer which they could not deny.

The border between Egypt and Gaza is usually like the cosmic black hole but when people desperately want to escape, they somehow find a way out….Rahmah was smuggled to Egypt in a daring escape…A prophet had once crossed the same path long ago for survival of a people from persecution…And today a little baby took the road west.

Melanie would have a lot of explaining to do…but American wealth would help sometimes…


Gaza strip 2004

There is no other place in the world which is called a strip….Probably it is named like that coz it is stripped of any human spirit….stripped of any desire to survive like the drying Jordan river.

The refugee camp was now administered by the Israeli army. Everything was screened...people...food…commodities…letters…These days you never know how they send those bombs… Sharon the tall guy from Tel Aviv was posted recently at the refugee camp. The army treated him well and he had finished the rigorous training with the green berets a year ago…With a wife and baby there was a lot in life he looked forward to.

That day Sharon was shocked when he found one of the letters for the refugees had the photo of his little baby, Hannah. ‘How could it be possible…?’ Lieutenant Sharon wondered holding the card!!

The letter came from Melanie his collegemate whose house he had visited a few months ago. He stayed at their place during a family vacation to the States...….He had met Rahmah whom he could recollect from the card, the beautiful American girl…daughter of Melanie Kauffman…

He volunteered to deliver the letter…curious to know the recipient …

Sitting near a parched well was this woman who looked like around fifty years old…He asked for her papers… she was only 33.…He showed the lady the photograph…

‘Do you know her?’


She looked at the photo of Rahmah holding Hannah the daughter of the Israeli soldier standing in front of her….

10 years of war…a lost husband…life of a refugee…devoid of any ambition…but she still did smile…


“Yes...she is my Rahmah”

The Israeli soldier walked back poignant after handing her the card…He was trained to be devoid of emotions…But…


Two daughters born probably just a few meters apart….unable to play together due to destiny of war…Two adults from across the fence who cannot hug each other…..But there was Rahmah holding his daughter Hannah thousand miles away as if it was the most precious thing she ever knew…





P.S. Orginal photo from flickr

P.P.S. The real name of the girl is Rahmah as well..

24 comments:

scorpiogenius said...

Whew, a post after almost 3 weeks and a classical one! Really man, you got serious talent.

And beautiful piece of artwork there, with the pencil. :)

Nona said...

Nice twist at the end!

silverine said...

Got it at the second read! :p Excuse the touch of Alzheimer's! lol!

Life comes full circle for some people! Nice!

~==[[[ Abhi ]]]==~ said...

A beautiful story with a touching end! Loved it. Loads of emotional lines man! You kept the flow beautiful. Looks like Mathew will author a book soon!

soumyanambiar said...

nice one....

Thampan said...

Well written.. can become a short sweet film ...

Ann said...

This is for the first time I am reading one of your posts with half of my mind wandering wild..How this happens Mathew..I jus dont know..coincidential they say.The books I am reading for the past one nad half months is only on Israel,palestine and middle east..I had a kickstart with an autobiography called Leap Of faith and now into THE OTHER SIDE OF ISRAEL by Susan Nathan.Most of these days am terribly disturbed thinking and pondering over the misery life of thousands of people who dont have anything to claim in life..not even the roots to say.I was totally astonished to read that 95 % of them spend most of their life in a refugee camp...And tonight Mathew,you made me ..

Rahmah was smuggled to Egypt in a daring escape…A prophet had once crossed the same path long ago for survival of a people from persecution…And today a little baby took the road west.

Can you guess what it mean to me ?

wanderlust said...

That was really touching. Keep writing, I am sure you will be an author one day!

wanderlust said...

Not that you are not one now :-)
I am sure one day I'll see your name in print.

Devil Incarnate... said...

Very well written touching post..
Beautifuly done...cant blive is it real or sheer imagination..

DARREN FLETCHER said...

Beautiful....Great words

Mishmash ! said...

had to read twice to get the twist at the end...u see, am getting old ;))

Beautiful one...felt like watching a short film....

engnane poyal mikkavaarum udane thanne oru thirakkatha ezhuthum :)

sandeep said...

touching story and portrait. high quality creations.

mathew said...

@Anish
thanks a lot buddy..feeling very motivated.:)

@Nona
thank you ;-)

@silverine
oh no..u need some special advanced treatment!!;-D

@Abhi
thanks...glad that you enjoyed it..

@soumya
gracias :-)


@Thampan
to be frank..i was adventerous enough to picturise like in a movie..;-P
thanks ..and for visiting this space..

@Ann
I have a deep interesting in the conflict in middle east and try to read as much material as possible on it..

glad to know you liked it..and thanks for the encouragement..

@Wanderlust
ayyo...very humbled to read that comment :-)

@Devil Incarnate
well...am pretty sure that there are several expirates in the states....yeah.but this was just a figment of my imagination...:-)

@Darren
thanks a lot..and thanks for visting!

@Mishmash
hehe..most people had to read it twice or thrice..;-P

pinee..ningal ekke US il alle..please introduce me to Steven Speilberg!!;-D

Apart from the jokes..glad to know it was readable..

@Sandeep
mucho gracias...and i see lot of awesome pics out there i need to catch up !:-)

Jackfruit said...

real nice one :D:D

Bindhu Unny said...

Well-crafted, Mathew! :-)

K said...

That was amazing! I got goosebumps reading it.
Came here through Ann's blog and just loved it!

Sreejith Kumar said...

Hats off!! And I really appreciate the time you spend for writing.. Worth it! The last para - sweetest of all...

Sakshi said...

I am so so late here...but it's such an amazing masterpiece from you. This time it hurt the heart rather than the stomach...Loved it and especially the way you put up the definition of Gaza strip.

Sakshi said...

Awesome painting and am going through all the pics on flickr. Do u have a flickr account by any chance where you put up pics??

mathew said...

@Jackfruit
thank you..:)

@Bindhu
thanks a lot..

@K
gracias...:)
and thanks for visiting this blog!

@Sreejith
nandri..;-D

@Sakshi
thank you...well the way it is written is bit confusing. ;-P

yeah..i loved the photo..and was inspired to do the pencil drawing...

Yes..I do have a flickr account..http://www.flickr.com/photos/68796762@N00/ but long time since i have uploaded any there..

How do we know said...

one of the best posts i have read in a long, long time.. u write so well mathew!

Sakshi said...

Thanks added you on my flickr...the Louvre pics are awesome

Happy Kitten said...

U r a great writer...and a one with a heart....

it is painful to read and know about the happenings in the Middle East... nd one needs to squeeze out some hope amidst all the despair and your story does that.... profound