April 19, 2009

Crumbs...


Some of you are already familiar with my dear relative Radhee. Radhee who lives in an all sooooooneee ghetto, in a ghetto where to cross to the other side requires huge detours and being searched through endless checkpoints, and there is no guarantee that he can make it back to the ghetto alive. Radhee stopped going out unless it is imperative.

Lately his heart condition has worsened to the point of necessitating angioplasty. Impossible in the "new Iraq " to undergo such a thing. Hospitals don't even have catheters to start with.

As I mentioned before, even during the brutal embargo years, Ibn Sina hospital used to perform open heart surgery. Radhee tells me that now he is being followed by a junior MD who has not even graduated and is not specialized in anything.
Radhee says there are no doctors left. And rightly so, since over 70 % of the Iraqi medical body has fled. And they are not planning on returning either.

Many a times I found myself calling his "doctor" and advising him on how to treat Radhee best. I remember once telling him - Did you ever think of statins for starters ? He went - Uh, oh right, yes that is a good idea!

And of course, there is a more urgent problem should Radhee try and shop for another doctor if he can find one. Will that new doctor not be some undercover sectarian Shiite freak who will finish him off ?! So Radhee has to be extra careful in his very limited choices...he is stuck with this junior jackass for now.

I suggested to Radhee that I arrange for him to come and seek treatment here. His "doctor" advised him not to, since the 19 hours ride from Baghdad means a serious threat of thrombosis plus the added problem of entry visa arrangements, sponsorship and the rest... Radhee says he prefers to die in Baghdad.

Radhee is very dear to my heart. Not only is he a relative but also we share a common spiritual bond. He is the one who would always accompany me to visit the shrine of the Grand Sheikh of Baghdad - Sheikh Abdul Qader Al-Gilani to whom my late grandma claimed to be related...I later found out that Radhee used to participate in dhikr circles at the shrine, but he always kept it secret out of humility.

And even though he is pious, he has a wry sense of humor that never fails to crack me up. He does not take himself seriously at all and by consequence does not take anything else seriously either...

I remember once he came over to visit, a couple of years ago. It was the worst period in Baghdad, he was supposed to stay for 3 months until the sectarian storm of torture and murder abated or so we thought...He lasted only 10 days, here.

He said :

- Khalas, I've had it, am going back...

- Radhee are you crazy, how can you go back ?! They will kill you...

- Le them kill me, it's so boring here. People don't smile, don't laugh, they are too self important and too serious. I miss the mortars and the bombs...This is ghost town here...

- Radhee you are definitely crazy...


And he just tilted his head back and laughed it off...and said - I prefer to die in Baghdad.

Yes, am very worried about Radhee.

But I/we have reached a point where the smallest piece of "good news" is an extra bonus. A gift. A bit like beggars receiving crumbs and rejoicing at it...

So when I speak to Radhee and hear him laugh, his usual laughter - that is good news to me.

When he tells me he is on a special diet (which I never believe) to help his heart condition - and that he has eaten so many grapefruits that he has started to look like one , that is good news.

When he tells me that he ventured outside the vicinity of the prescribed radius of his immediate ghetto and made it back alive - that is good news.

So you can imagine my joy when Radhee calls me and tells me :

- Layla, we have news from Omar ! (another detained relative)

- Oh my God, oh my God, Al Hamdulillah, al-Hamdullilah, he is alive, right ???

- Yes, he is still alive.

- Where is he ??? With the Shiite freaks or ....

- La' la' wadh'a zayn, ahssan meen ghayra, huwa wiya al Amrikan - No no, his situation is good, better than the others, he is still with the Americans...

- Al-hamdullilah, God is merciful.

- Akeed, for sure. Imagine if they hand him over to the Shiite forces, what will happen to him !

- Yes for sure, insh'Allah they will release him since he has not been charged with anything, but if they insist on keeping him, then I hope he stays with the Americans...


After I put the receiver down, I realized the surreal nature of the conversation I just had with Radhee...

I put the receiver down and broke down in tears...just like a beggar who has just received a small piece of stale bread and in his hunger pretended it was a huge piece of his favorite cake, only to realize, seconds later, it was nothing but old, moldy, rotten, crumbs...



Painting : Iraqi artist, Sabah Kalash.