Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The hands that rise in prayer..

A few months back we got a new neighbour. A Syrian couple with two cute boys. They settled down quietly in the flat adjoining ours. The kids of the apartment did try to pull the new boys in to their games, but did not succeed. The boys always smiled but refused to play, remaining watchful and distant. Kids being what they are soon forgot about the two boys who always held their beautiful mother's hands and stood watching the games.

I, being a bit introverted, in person, did not reach out either. I stood at times talking and laughing with the other moms, watching the boys at their games, and she stood as well. So beautiful, so regal, so distant, a few feet away from me. Neither taking the initial step to bridge the gap.

One particular evening I decided to go ahead and talk to her. While we stood in our regular group and chatted, I saw her come quietly and take her usual place in the compound of the apartment, her two boys by her side. I excused myself from my group and went to her. Her beauty, that so far I had admired only from a distance, made me gasp. I am used to the Arabian beauties, but this lady had an unmistakable aura about her. We shook hands and introduced our selves. She politely introduced her boys to me. Beyond that she did not speak nor enquire about anything. I welcomed her to come and join the group telling her that her English was perfect and she would not face a communication problem. It was then that she looked at me with eyes that spelt a million sorrows. Those limpid pools of grey blue eyes seemed to communicate poignancy that did not require any language skill to be understood.

I literally took a step back, Looked at her again. She was still there. But now she was composed and regal once again. The momentary lift of her veil had come down to hide her sorrows from probing eyes. I did not probe further. I came back to my place and did a lot of trivial things, but all through the evening her eyes stayed with me.

Later that night the watchman of our apartment came to collect his wages. On opening the door to him, he said," Madam your neighbour is beating his wife again. Can you hear her cry? See there, again..can you hear him shout?" From the hallway of the apartment the anguished cries for mercy came distinctly to my ears, and so did the sounds of harsh, loud and painful blows. The pain in those eyes, the defeat of spirit and the bonded existence became clear to me. At that moment I desperately wanted to reach out to her, and in that same moment I also realised her staunch need for privacy. The thin veil of pride that she wore each evening would come crumbling down, by my intervention. I let her pride remain, and closed my door. I looked at my husband and kids, and felt the anguish in the adjacent house separated by a lone wall and a society that permits a man to beat his woman without shame, without guilt and without repentance. The hands that rise in prayer 5 times each day also rise to beat another human being, a mother, a wife.

I also realised, maybe for the first time, the sheer physical power a man has, and felt thankful that the men I know have never been tempted to use it in this way.