Notes from Iraq - Episode 02
Karbala is magical.
Take it from someone who had no idea what she was embarking on this pilgrimage for, that there is definitely something here. Something more powerful than you, and me and our little universe. Something that endures through the ages, thrives despite the ravages of time, and sustains not only itself but millions of others that come to pay homage to what is here.
The twin shrines of Imam Hussain and Janab-e-Abbas are currently under renovation. Old stone tiles (of which I now have two) are being replaced with ceramic ones. The overall effect is beyond majestic. I've decided I need to come back here a year or so from now to see it finished.
When you enter the Hussain's darbar, a curious sort of peace descends. And one could sit there for a very long time, methinks, just absorbing the ambience. Throngs of people of all shapes and sizes flock to Hussain, all in tears. Multiple majlis' are held side-by-side and the rythmic sing-song of our Urdu/Gujarati prayers meld in with gutteral Arabic and and sweet-sweet Persian. The rythmic beats of matam accompany the prayers as does the sound of people crying.
Karbala is the sort of place that inspires tears. Even as you look around you wondering what all the fuss is about - why are people crying as if their heart is breaking - you feel the hot-wetness of tears sliding down your cheeks. Sometimes you don't know who you're crying for: are you grieving for the family that was killed here oh-so-long-ago, in solidarity with all the mourners who come from different corners of the world to lay their burdens down Hussain's door, or (somewhat selfishly) for yourself remembering personal tragedies and hopes as yet unfulfilled.
Strangely, I found most comfort in the Khaimagah, the place where they pitched their tents on those fateful days, minutes away from the battlefield. The first time I saw the place it called to me. I could almost picture the anguish, the trauma and tears shed by all those who waited behind while those who fought died. Although no blood was shed here, this place felt more violent than the battlefield that housed the shrine. Maybe I felt at home there because my soul recognizes some of the pain that this place represents. The pain of helplessness, and of despair when mourning the murder of those loved-most-of-all.
The past few days have been intense. There has been much to feel, to think. And not all of it good. Self-reflection, my loves, is not always pleasant but sometimes it becomes downright uncomfortable. I've had too much time to think about who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. Perhaps it's time to exit this hedonistic lifestyle I have begun to lead and resume reality as I once knew it. Except, reality has so drastically changed, I have yet to make sense of what it has become.
Iraqi's have the most beautiful eyes. Big, with heavy black lashes, they speak volumes with a single glance. I've been playing with Iraqi eyes too. Lots of Kajal (or black eyeliner) helps. My eyes look bigger (and I like to think) more soul-ful. Which is good since my face is pretty much the only uncovered part of me aaj kal! :P