Finding an Indian in Iraq is no exception, but to find someone who is optimistic and happy is. Living in Iraq is hardly comfortable. Infact you can term it as a living on the edge kind of scenario. It’s a bit hard to experience it in words. Bullets passing by, land mines exploding, cars going turtles right in front of your eyes can make even the coldest of heart miss a beat.
There are according to official figures more than then thousand Indians here. Most of them are doing jobs that can be very easily classified as high threat work. Under the umbrella of darkness, in the middle of a desert, supported by gun totting UN soldiers distinguished by their blue helmet, people like Ram Sharan and Avinash Gupta are braving their only life so that they can earn enough for their family back home and in the process they are doing their job of connecting interiors lawless land of Mesopatamia to the main land of Baghdad.
Some fifteen days back three Indians and four Pakistani nationals were shot dead and then beheaded by suspected members of Al-Qayda. Back in India and Pakistan we might make a distinction between the two nations but in this part a greater insanely hate very easily consumes this very difference that has disrupted the life of both the countries for decades. They both had common friends and when their body was being sent to their respective country, tears that were rolling down too didn’t made any distinction. They were for the Indian as well for the men from Pakistan.
Such is life.
In this part of globe even the bare basic needs of life jumps the fence and becomes a luxury. You will be more than fortunate if you are able to eat more than once in a day and I am not talking about the local, even us, the so called war journalists have to undergo the same fate.
The sun burnt skin of a 8 year old boy, a perpetual quizzed look in his eyes and the pain in his voice when he seeks her now dead mother is the only reason that brings moistness of any kind. Otherwise everything is dry and parched. Hard we may try but the eyes always fail to hide ones emotion.
Hope is a fast disappearing entity here. And I have never experienced such situation anywhere else. People have simply lost hope and those few who have it are now trying to keep it going on until a stray bullet takes that away; along with their life.
The lonely silent as you pass through village after village who were once bustling center where eyes would meet and an accidental stare would turn into an attentive gaze., a place where flour and cakes and balloons were purchased to celebrate birthdays have now become lifeless. All I could see was some slippers and some rags and more blood.
I stop at a house which shows some activity of human presence and I am welcomed by a feeble old man , whose eyes have a unexplainable twinkle, something that makes my spirit soar high .
He goes by the name of Hussein and is the only surviving member of his family. The rest have migrated to Persia and are living happily. He has lived in Iraq since he first clutched his fathers finger when he learnt to walk and he has no fear of anything, only a feeling that who will look after his goat when he is gone . With closed eyes he says that he was born in this soil and will disappear in this soil, a soil that has become red.
All sorts of media is here and countless stories have been told to world about Iraq. When it was Saddam it was he who hogged the limelight and now when he is gone Suicibde bombing and senseless killings make the headline. Blood flowed then too and it has not stopped even now. Only the hands have changed, the bullets are the same and same are those who die.
It is not a war between America and Iraq or Muslims and Christians or Shia and Sunni that have taken lives. They are just excuses, for humans to kill another human,
I desperately seek love to heal my soul that has never been so deeply wounded before. Anything, any love story would do. But there is none. And even if there is, no one is alive to share it with me. I read about Iraq when I was a child. I use to see it as a land of Heer Ranjha. Alladin Jasmine. But it seems like my characters, they too were work of fiction.
Moving ahead as I reach Baghdad I am pleasantly surprised to see a turban wearing sikh who is dancing on Sukhbir and with him are some locals who too are matching their feet with the tall sardar.
The lanky guy is from Bhatinda and runs a grocery store here and plans to stay here till the Indian contingent of Engineers are here. He tells me that everything will change for good; that is inevitable. It changed in Punjab , and it will change here. And he nods his head in yes when I ask him whether he will take good memories of Iraq when he goes back to India.
Then he puts the same question to me.
I say yes; to his invitation to dance too.