Friday, 28 July 2006

The summer that was

Mr Haidari would have been appalled, to say the least, at what they are doing to his country. He’d roll his eyes heavenwards, raise his hands in despair and return to his frugal meal of tuna sandwich and tea, resigned to the fact that peace is forever denied in his country that is Lebanon. He’d be sad and heartbroken that his country is now in ruins and his countrymen are fleeing for safety, dodging the relentless barrage of bombs and mortar attacks. Like Mr Haidari, some of his countrymen are fleeing in search of a safe haven.

But bombs and mortars and killings are nothing new to Mr Haidari. He left some years ago when the killing got to his doorsteps.

He had just given his salam in the mosque after zuhur prayers when he was summoned home and what he saw was to haunt him to his grave. Brutally mutilated bodies of his loved ones were everywhere in his front garden. He couldn’t tell which limbs belonged to which child and in his haste, only had time to bury his wife’s decapitated head, grab a few things and left.

These gruesome events were mercilessly replayed in his mind, day and night, night and day, haunting his very soul. These gruesome events he narrated to us in a voice, perhaps already devoid of emotions. It was the Druze, he said, who wiped out his entire family. He made his way to London and felt almost at home in the area around Bayswater and Edgeware Road where Lebanese restaurants fill the air with Lebanese music and Lebanese people spill on to the streets as night falls.

We met Mr Haidari one summer afternoon in our favourite Ice cream bar in Whiteleys. We had never seen him before this, but after several ice creams, my husband decided to befriend the old gentleman sitting quietly contemplating his tea, at the table that was to be his for several months if not years after that. His robes had seen better days and he was in need of a shave but his manners were impeccable, betraying his upbringing and his background. He’d rise to his feet as I approached his table and kiss my hand in the manner of a perfect gentleman. And he’d stand up again when we left. Several meetings with Mr Haidari at the Ice Cream parlour made him comfortable enough for him to tell us what had happened and what brought him here.

He had a successful business, he said, one that took him to South east Asia. He was rich, he travelled the world. But the incident that afternoon in his front garden sealed his fate and changed his life forever. It was correct to say he was just a shadow of his old self. You could tell he was used to expensive suits but he said nothing of the one he got from Oxfam. One that he wore throughout summer and also throughout winter. One that badly needed a wash.

Anyway, we got to know Mr Haidari well enough to bring him home for weekends.

For most of the time, he’d stay in the spare room praying. He didn’t mind if we had to go out during the day but during the night, he’d be standing by the window, waiting for us to come home. One night he told us why.

He said he was scared that we might not return. That we’d suffer the same fate his family suffered. We were the only family he had.

His visits became less frequent. We couldn’t persuade him to wash or change. His mind began to wander but my husband still visited him in his small room, where he said he heard voices of people coming to get him. We also introduced him to another friend who gave him a permanent table at their restaurant, with free meals in rerturn for lessons in Arabic. That seemed acceptable to him - for a while - until he disappeared again. The last time I saw him was one cold day in winter, standing by the bus stop in Westbourne Grove.

I went back to Malaysia the following summer, the summer that was as hot as this. And I received a distraught call from my husband. There was a knock on the door, he said. It was the police. Mr Haidari was found slumped in his room and had been gone for perhaps a week. Among his few possessions on the table was just a letter naming my husband as his next of kin.

He was to identify what was left of Mr Haidari. But he didnt ‘cos he couldn’t. Mr Haidari had been dead for a week during one of the hottest summers we had ever known. It was a very sad man who rode in the police van with the black bag containing what was once Mr Haidari . But he gave him a proper burial.

This hot summer, the thundering bomb shells raining on Lebanon just reminded me of Mr Haidari. Al Fatehah to Mr Haidari and innocent victims of the bombings.

42 comments:

anggerik merah said...

Kak Teh, very sad what is happening right now.

Alfatihah to Mr. H. So very kind of you and your husband to help him out when he was still alive.

nadya said...

sad sad story mak teh...

al-fatihah to mr.haidari. may he rest in peace.

ps: dont forget to write bout the war veterens..

MakNenek said...

Al Fatehah to the soul of Bro Haidari and all the brothers/sisters/children who are being killed mercilessly even as we sit behind our pc screens.

k.d said...

alahai k teh. Semoga Allah balas jasa baik k teh.

Kak Teh said...

AM, thank you. I dont think I did much - my husband, bless him, was really kind to him.

nadya, Insyaallah I will - am planningsomething to write abt it...wait and see, ya?
maknenek, yes, isnt it heartbreaking?

k.d. Insyaallah and may his soul rest in peace.

Mama Irma said...

Kak Teh, memang kasihan melihat kekejaman yang dilakukan terhadap fellow muslims. Hairan kenapa the neighbouring rich and powerful Arab countries are just watching...

maR said...

Al Fatehah...

may said...

my condolences, kak teh. a sad, touching tale of a gentleman.

Kak Teh said...

mama irma, their agenda is so clear for all to see.
mar - thanks.
may - thank you to you too. and let me tell u this - u are not a pushover!

newkidontheblog said...

You and your family were very kind to have Mr Haidari as a part of your family when he needed one most. Mr Haidari obviously loved your husband very much and grateful to your family.
It is very sad that innocent civilians of Lebanon and Israel are the ones suffering most in this war.
Our prayers and thoughts are with them.

melayudilondon said...

ai.. kak teh, sedih i baca your posting.

Kak Teh said...

judy, it is sad andthe saddest part of it is that, there's not much we can do. people are suffering everywhere.
melayudilondon, terima kasih kerana melawat kak teh. Kak teh pun dah buat lawatan balas.

so judy and melayu - nanti kak teh nak tambak kat sentraal okay?

melayudilondon said...

kak teh, tambak no problem. i dah tambak sentraal kat blog melayu tu pun.

Serendipity said...

Hi K Teh,

I have been meaning to say hello to you, and today is the day that I do.

Hello my dear.

I am deeply touched with this entry.

I have lived in London and am familiar with the places that you mentioned. I do feel for the very sad late Mr H. Oh very heart wrenching indeed.

I have mingled with families that fled their war-torn countries. This particular family that I got to know, is in a different situation compared to the late Mr H, as they are still a family unit, and therefore, they are motivated to move on as best they could. But I tell ya, they are a different crop altogether.

It certainly puts me to shame looking at the way they view life especially when they have given up all the wonderful life's trappings back war-torn home. They embrace sheer wisdom and first on their mind is always how to survive as best they could.

It is a good learning experience to mingle with people who have seen the utter ugliness, the flip side of the coin so to speak. They are less frivolous, kinder, more thoughtful and embracing the highest of humility.

I am touched with this entry as to your kindness to the late Mr H and it is testimony that he wrote your hubby as next of kin.

Cheers.

Kak Teh said...

hey melayu, kak teh silap type lah! tambak pulak..tambahlah! hehehe dont u dare perli me!

Serendipity, thanks for the visit. Imagine, we cld have brushed shoulders along Queensway or Edgware Road! and we only get to meet in Cyberworld!
Thanks for such kind words.

Sunflora said...

A heart wrenching story. Al fatehah for Mr Haidari may his soul rest in peace.

LifeBloom said...

Am sure Mr H's last years were made bearable by kind and caring souls like you and your hubby.

Lets all pray that the atrocities will end soon.

Jane Sunshine said...

A sad story. It is in the excellent storytelling that the pathos really works. An apt tribute.

And more stories please. I felt a tingle reading this. I must remind you how well you write.

JekyllHyde said...

Al Baqa liLlah...

maklang said...

SEmuga Mr Haidari aman di sana bersama keluarganya. Apa nak jadi dunia sekarang ye kak? Kiamat dah semakin hampir....Kesian betul kat Lubnan tu, moga2 Allah melindungi mereka semua, InsyaAllah.

melayudilondon said...

oh you salah type ke? i pun tak perasan...

annckay said...

I pray to Allah swt for some respite for the people of Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. ameen.

Junita said...

This entry made me realize that there are lots of people out there who need a shoulder to cry on.
Kudos to kak teh n hubby for being one. Semoga Allah mencucuri rahmat ke atas Mr H dan hanya Dia yg mengetahui segala sesuatu.

Kak Teh said...

sunflora, we keep missing each other in cyberspace! thanks for a glimpse of those love photos!
lifebloom, Insyaallah, we will pray that all these needless killings will end soon.
jane, it is sad. he had a sad life.
jekylldhyde, terima kasih.

Kak Teh said...

maklang, nampaknya macam tak sudah-sudah and makin bersambung sengsara mereka di sana.
melayudilondon - ya lah - kak teh nak type tambah tertype tambah! but then my fingers are prone to that.
annckay,ameen, Insyaallah.
junita, yes, there's too much sufferings!

UglyButAdorable said...

Innalillah...May Allah bless his soul and put him among the pious.. kak teh semoga satu hari i'll be able to contribute something or anything besides my prayer..

simah said...

Al fatihah to mr haidari..

U n ur hubby must have meant a lot to him..sometimes even the simplest of kindness can go a long way..n from what u wrote.. it is obvious, u both were n r kind people to those in need

bisutulibuta said...

sad....speechless..

maklang said...

tumpang lalu kak teh.... Tahniah ye...terlepas entry lalu!

Kak Teh said...

UbA, thank you. Am sure you are doing very well - what with your blogathon!
Simah, I didnt do enough. Lama tak nampak? cutike?
Mak Lang, terima kasih. Masa yang ditunggu dah tiba gitu...dua minit saja kut atas pentas!

Ordinary Superhero said...

Al-Fatehah to Mr. H.

Semoga pertolongan kecil dari Kak Teh & Family memberi sedikit keceriaan di hari2 akhir hayat beliau.

Kak Teh said...

btb, exactly!
OSH - Insyalllah. and thank you.

Anonymous said...

Kak Teh,

Whitely tu kat Chapelside, Moscow Road, Bayswater, kan?
Anyway good story.

Ataj

Kak Teh said...

ataj, are you who i think you are??? yikes! yes, whiteleys tu di bayswater - tempat jatuh lagi dikenang!
hehe! are u checking up on me? will be sending article soon! am working on it - promise!

ena said...

hi Ah,
That is so you...The Ah that we all know. And of course, Hulaimi.
May Allah bless you for your kindness.
And to Mr Haidari --- he is in a better place. Al Fatihah.

Kak Teh said...

first rocky, then ataj and now you ena, sah my past is catching up on me!!! scroll throu my dear there are stories i have written abt us and even pix - hehe! keep in touch!

Lydia Teh said...

KT, that was a poignant story. Your husband must've been traumatised by trying to ID the old friend that couldn't be recognized anymore. It's very sad but you and your husband were so good to take him in. At least in the last days of Mr. H's life, he saw some goodness in mankind.

mommy said...

k. teh, i got a lump in my throat reading this post. i guess we in malaysia cannot really fathom the suffering these war-torn citizens had to go through unless we meet them face to face. Masa tu mesti rasa insaf yang amat...

sya said...

Kak Teh

I got goosebumps by reading this entry.

Al Fatihah for Mr. Haidari

pu1pu3 said...

Kak Teh,
Very well written as usual. It went soo deep into my soul. Sedih.
On a lighter note, jgn lupa if u nak pesan anything for my trip there, let me know, k?Let wookiebear know too.. I'll be more than happy to oblige.

From KL said...

kak teh,

sedih baca pasai kerajaan sana x recognise PMS kita.

http://howsy.blogspot.com/2006/08/british-government-bans-wearing-malay.html

alinlai said...

hmmm sedihnya :(
panas ka kat sana? hmmm akhir zaman ni macam-macam benda jadi kan?