It’s the period between late afternoon and night. The daylight is decreasing, and I stumble exhausted to my father’s apartment, into the rent-free room that he has so graciously provided me. Then I flake off all the stuff on me -my wallet, cell phone, the itineraries and pocket full of sketch-notes.
The sense of an eventful journey being complete. One that gives meaning to the days ahead. Lot of the experiences solidifying as thoughts in my mind. The paradox of introspection. The realization of wasted time, while I rested on my laurels.
Far from it now, determined with burnished might. I undress with excessive speed and get under the shower, close my eyes and let my mind slip away…. Feel the warmth of every drop. As I get relaxed and gently open my eyes… my mind wanders between the heavens, the combat zones, the curfews and not to forget the stinky cat shit!
I am going to be really brief in this blog-post.
There is this one lust I have, that made this travel possible. The lust for knowledge, fantasizing about it ever since I remember. The motive of my trip was to understand how much time do I really need to invest in gaining the knowledge I truly desire. Too soon conclusively understand, that I cannot confine it to time, the knowledge is enormous and the opportunity cost of the emotional force that is directly associated with my thinking is exorbitant.
When I read through the travelogue I penned during my 60 day journey. It seems indescribable of the experiences I had there. I’ve done my best to capture what I saw and learned. But yet to experience these places, remains first hand.
the travel itineraries: Iraq- Najaf, Karbala, Samarra, Balad, Kufa, Baghdad, Kazmain, Hilla, Mussayab, Iran- Qom, Mashad, Nishapur, Tehran AND AFTER GETTING BACK… the places I visited indefinite number of times before —also looked disparate.. Dubai, Sharjah, Delhi and Allahabad…Some sort of transformation in my vision. Every time I spoke to someone or saw something around, I started to wear that person’s shoe to understand his feelings. All of a sudden I got several eyes looking at one particular happening or object with numerous perspective to it.
This is one of the key reason why I feel that the travelogue I wrote is indescribable of the experiences. Because more than what I really felt and witnessed from all those gifted eyes, It talks about the places and history and it’s importance. So my travelogue is more of the scheduled itineraries and the rituals with the routine I had. I’ll keep that away. I am sure most of you are aware of the significance these cities hold on map. Herein I’ll talk about a few observations instilled to the core of my brain.
22nd June, 2011 -Afternoon @ Najaf Al-Ashraf- The City of Knowledge:
As I am on my way to the Hotel, from the Najaf Airport… All I see around is broken car windows..partially demolished colonies, curfews and barricading throughout the highway, check post checking on my nationality, visa and passport almost every 5 kms. I observe that the city is under strict vigilance, to which my driver informs me -that it’s not just the city of Najaf; but the entire nation of IRAQ. I felt as though, I am on the battle ground far from urban areas. The roads deserted, shops and offices shuttered in a way that suggest they have been out of operation for several days.
As I advance closer to my hotel, which is about 50 meters away from the Holy Shrine of Imam Ali ibne Abi Talib (a.s.). My eyeballs get glued, eyeful and overwhelmed as I sight the golden dome of his shrine. The external shape of this dome is unique as there is no other mosque or shrine in the world that matches it. Characterized with its cylindrical base, and entirely plated with kilos of gold which increases its prestige and significance. The most technically accurate and architecturally coordinated and spectacular in sight. I must say that there is not any building in the world more precious than this.
So attractive, indeed a head turner. I only stopped to gaze at it when the driver was restrained at yet another check-post. This one does not permit the car to go any further. So with all my luggage, I dismount to cover a distance of 300 meters -walk-able.
I notice that even the urban area is highly scrutinized. In the midst, the people entering the radius of the shrine are being frisked. Luggage being checked and sniffed. Electronics not allowed. So mobile phone to be submitted at a counter outside.
I truly appraise the security arrangement. With Al-Qaida announcing a 100 attack plan in Iraq to avenge Osama’s death. All the people should cooperate with the military and security forces. This is all going to take some while, The life of the citizens being restored back to normal. They being provided with basic necessities like electricity and water. Life is really a struggle for the people there now. Do remember them in your regular prayers.
As I checked in to the room, My host followed with the travel plan. He suggested I get fresh and have dinner and then we would start with the journey early morning next day…
After Dinner, I called my cousin who is schooling there in the Howza Ilmiya. Over the days of my stay in Iraq, I Spoke to him about my plans and got introduced to a few of his faculty and friends. Understood the way Howza Ilmiya functions. This is where I was learning to look from several different eyes. They were all telling me the possibilities, the pros and cons, personal experiences, fears of the uncertain environment, the perceptions and opinion of other people, the truth, the life, the ridicule, the future, the dark, the bright, the hope, the loneliness, the solitude. Everything they could tell me.. Making me ponder on the decision I had to make and the impact it would have.
I also met Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain Najafi, In a very precise manner he made his point to me as humbly as it could have been. His charismatic face was trying to explore my mind, Where in he suggested I meet him again to discuss in better. Since It was approaching Salat time and several people were waiting to get his glance.
I did not get a chance to meet him again. But the brief point he made was enough and to my contentedness.
Exploring Najaf…… To be Continued