29 September, 2006

Once Upon A Time In Hadhramout

Just at the beginning of the Second Wold War; the people of Hadhramout, were short of food and were starving. Many died of hunger or malnutrition; many, migrated (fled?) out. One of whom, was my late Father. He had just got married, and his wife was pregnant; as he was the most adventurous of his brothers, my Grandfather decided to encourage him to leave Hadhramout. Though he was the youngest. And he did leave. The only one in his family, who did.

Accompanied by others, including one of his cousins, he trekked from the interior (Wadi Hadhramaut) on foot and on camel, for almost eight days, to the sea port of She'her on the coast; She'her, a town about 50 km. east of Al Mukalla, had then been a larger port than the Mukalla one; just as Broom, another settlement 30 or so km. West of Al Mukalla, had been, too. All wanted to leave Hadhramout; the only way for the locals to leave, then, was by sea; and by dhow.

There were many others in She'her; all wanting to leave. As there were few dhows, the wait was long and hard. There wasn't enough to eat, and the sleeping quarters were poor and packed. The journey, to come, by sea - was even harder. Still, all felt joyous and excited, at the thought of leaving and going to the 'lands of plenty'. My Dad too; all that was on his mind, was that, once out - he would work hard, make some money and return to his family in Hadhramaut. He would have a child then!

Most of those intending to leave, were aiming for Indonesia, or Java - to be precise. To the Hadharem, Java, was the land of opportunity. Where, opportunities and food were abundant and where - there were, already, many other Hadharem, settled. Other preferred destinations, were: Malaysia, Eastern Africa and India. A few, ventured for Iraq or Kuwait. And so, as my Dad waited - he hoped, and actually believed, he would go to Indonesia; if that fails, then - East Africa would do.

As fate would have it, his cousin managed to get a place on a dhow bound for Indonesia; and he instead, against his wish - sailed to East Africa. When leaving, little did he know that - he would never reunite with his wife, and that they would divorce due to my Dad's long absence that followed; and that his child would pass away early in childhood, without them seeing each other. That he would marry, again, twice, in East Africa; that he would return only once to Hadhramout, after, for a visit; that, both his parents and all his siblings except one, would pass away during his absence; and that, he would end up bringing back his family (us), to Hadhramout: almost forty-five years later.

In East Africa, he wandered from place to place, country to country - in such of opportunities. Later he kept on moving with us too, from one East African country to the other: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In the end, making me feel at home in all three countries and love all, passionately. He used to tell me - East Africa was much better than the Hadhramout that he left behind, and he used to love East Africa deeply; and I used to wonder at what Hadhramout was like. But time shapes; time changes situations. By the last two decades of the last century, life in East Africa had become hard; too hard for the family. Many Hadharem, or their descendants moved back to Hadhramout or migrated to other more prosperous countries. And so, very much against my Dad's wish - the whole family migrated back to Hadhramout. Again - little did he know, that, Hadhramout had very much changed; for the better. It had abundant food, was very peaceful and was rapidly progressing. And here, in Hadhramout, we still are. All feeling very much at home. Except he is no longer with us now.

As for his cousin who went to Indonesia, he - just like the many other Hadharem there - never returned. Indonesia, still offers them better opportunities and conditions than present Hadhramaut. Who knows; may be, a time will come, when they too will migrate back. And who knows: maybe too, a time will come when situation and conditions, force my progeny to leave Hadhramout for other places. And may be, go back to East Africa? Only God knows.

Postscript: 26th December, 2012:

As fate would have it, due to similar reasons that had my family move to Hadhramawt in the 1980s, now, all my three daughters are no longer living in Yemen. They only visit Hadhramaut once in a while. Yemen, for some years now, has been having many problems. In life, we never know what the future has. What the next moment will lead to. In life, we always look forward to the future and hope for the best. And hope that some thing good will come out of it. Strangely, should we be given the opportunity, none of us wants to go back in time and relive what we have gone through - however good it was. It is also strange, that we never really know or appreciate a person or some thing or a place, until much later. It is now, after fourteen years of my Father's passing away, that I appreciate him much more than ever before.

The more time passes, the more I recall and remember him. I remember his words and his many advices. Not a single day would I be with him that he would not be advising me on some thing or giving some wisdom on life. It is his many advices, his wisdom - that has most guided me and shaped my life. He would always encourage me to read and read. He would always insist on sleeping early and waking up before sun rise in the morning (and going outdoors) and staying awake the whole day; and would repeatedly point out, that, afternoon naps after lunch, should never be more than half an hour. He would many times tell me that the greatest joys of life come from very simple and free things like - watching birds going to their nests after sunset; watching the ripples and waves on the sea; appreciating sunsets; and appreciating the novelty, the wonder and the majesty of life.

He taught me: never to judge those I meet and others, but always judge myself first; never to discriminate and consider any one superior or inferior - that, he said, was God's prerogative; and he would repeatedly advice me never to be pessimistic no matter how hard it seems. He would say that nothing makes a man happy like being satisfied with what he has; and that, the only other thing that can make a man happier and at peace is marrying a woman who is pleasing to look at and be with all the time; one of his greatest sayings was that - a man should get married to a woman whose face he would love to look at every morning. And he taught me that three things are poison, eat the mind and soul and are most destructive: envy, anger and hatred - and I should avoid these. In turn, with time, I too, have learned many things.

I have learnt that traveling opens the mind, some times even much more than reading. That, it is not situations or circumstances that matter, but - it is how we are in relation to situations and circumstances that does. I have learnt that giving, gives much more joy than taking or having. I have learnt that, my days are much happier and much more fulfilling when I am at peace with my family, my wife in particular; and when I am at peace with all those I interact with or meet. I have learnt that, all people are basically the same - with the same urges and the same fears. I, like my father, love solitude and can very rarely feel lonely; and like him, feel very much at peace when with animals and wildlife. I, like him, love the outdoors and brisk walking. Like him, I love music. Like him, I love perfumes. And like him, in my own way - I am very spiritual. Unlike him, I love swimming and cycling more than any other sports. Unlike him, I love movies. And, unlike him, I have managed to build a much better relationship with my wife than he had with my Mother.

I have learnt that - the future is unknown and unpredictable. No body knew that, I would move from country to country, live in four different countries and that, to date, I am still not settled. No body knew that, at between the ages of 13 to 16 my main means of long distance travelling would be by train, across borders, alone. Or that, I would grow up and due to my variety of jobs, I would fly in a variety of planes and choppers. Or that, through life, I would most of the time work and interact with people from different countries. Or that, I would marry a woman whom I worshiped and yet end up breaking from her and getting married again. Or that, I would be having a blog and writing all this. That's life. Always unpredictable and full of surprises.

Other Posts From This Site On Hadhramout

References On Hadharamout: Al Bab
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