Friday, February 29, 2008

Amina Boqor Maxamed Boqor Cusmaan iyo Jeycalkeedii Gaalkii Dougls Collin 1944.

Sawir Gacmeed u Dougls Collin ku cabiray Amina Boqor Maxamed Boqor CusmaanAmiina herself broke the spell by whispering, 'War, Abdi Melik, awa wa addo' (Oh, how the moon shines), and then kissing me passionately,'Oh my God, I love thee'. Drunk with happiness, I replied with a long, slow kiss, 'I love thee too, Amiina'.he brilliant moon now riding high above bathed us both in her friendly light. Drawing my lungi over us we slept, lulled to sleep by the trade winds whispering in the palms, and the incessant breaking of the surf.All too soon from the Suacron fishing village behind us a cock-crowheralded the false dawn and Amiina stirred sleepily in my arms. 'Abdi Melik,' she whispered, 'I si, I si' (give me, give me). Her lips parted and her kisses infused me with a passion more than I could bear, soon, too soon to be extinguished as love itself rested. Urgently now the cock crowed its strident reveille again. The sun's first blush peeped above the sea. Pulling Amiina protestingly to her feet I stripped in a second whilst she disrobed, letting fall her shift as she looked shyly at me, a bronze aphrodite. Hand in hand we ran to the sea, splashing through the shallows and surf, then swimming on to a wrecked dhow where we rested, panting with exhilaration and laughing with the joy of being young and in love. 'Ahalki an tagno' (let us return), I smiled at her. 'Edinku sidas shada, eg! wainu ta-gaina' (Say ye so? lo, we go), she laughed, diving in the shining waves and heading for the beach.We dressed quickly and ran up to the house, past the astonished sentry, who gave me a belated butt salute as we went by, and so began my love affair with Amiina.
During these ecstatic nights I would teach her English, giving her simple exercises to do whilst I worked in the office by day. From Amiina I learnt much of the folk-lore of the Somalis; that the legendary figures of the Somali race, Darod and Isshak, came from Arabia, and she herself claimed to be able to trace her ancestry to these Arabian aristocrats. Amiina possessed all the physical beauty rhapsodied by the younger set of advanced Somali poets in their short love-poems, the 'belwo'. A poet will often write some of his best 'belwo' to an un-approachable beauty knowing that his love for her is hopeless—perhaps because of his financial standing or because of his inferior tribe. He would base his romantic love on the curve of a breast or the nicker of an eyelash.These Somali love-poems are mostly of physical love, passionate and sincere. It is not done to use vulgar expressions, thereby offending public taste. It must be remembered that poetry requires no special materials nor carrying space other than the talent of the composer, which is carried in his memory. Since the Somali is continually moving his tents in the search for grazing and water this is important, for he must carry as little equipment as possible on his burden camels. Also poetry costs nothing —quite a factor to the nomadic Somali in his insecure and poor life. Generally, marriages are not undertaken lightly by Somalis and are mostly arranged Vy the parents with a view to mutual financial advantages. . The arrangements are complex and are decided upon by the man con¬cerned, the girl's father and also the tribal Akils or elders. Much must be arranged and then settled; the bride-price ('yarad'), the token payment made ('gabati) by the man on his engagement and the percentage ne has to find of his estate, the 'mehr', which is made out to his wife on marriage. A dowry, or ('dibat') is given to the couple by the bride's family. Usually the girl before marriage is gentle and very beautiful, but after marriage, like her European sister, she generally develops into a shrew, becoming irritable and a nagger. The reason for this is that her position is caused by economic necessity as well as tradition. Her status is decidedly inferior to that of man. For this reason I think many Somali women prefer European amourettes, for unlike the Somali, who if he treated his wife with unusual thoughtfuhiess, would be laughed at by the rest of his tribe, the European would show her that kindness and consideration he normally shows to his own women, to which the Somali girl is unaccustomed. And so it was with Amiina and myself, for in my love-making I showed her all the gentle intimacies of love without the lustful passion she alone would have known otherwise.
During the long evenings I took delight in composing poems to her, as close to the Somali 'balwo' as I could get, and in one of them I described her charms:
'As lovely as a dhow at sea
Thy young beauty is to rne, Tall, with all the gerenuk's grace,
A daughter of the Darod race.
Black hair, fine as gossamer thread, Eyes that speak of things unsaid High cheek-bones with straight nose On thy mouth—the desert rose.
God was with him and in the morning when he awoke, the dry bones were covered with meat. The next night he left the bones again in the cave and in the morning they were clad with flesh. 'He lived thus for many weeks. 'Then it came to pass that one day he saw a girl with her flocks. He went to meet her and she told him her name was Donbirro, and she was the daughter of Dir, the son of Irrir, and lived in a near-by village. Darod asked her if she would like him to water the flocks for her and she replied that this was impossible since the nearest well was many days' walk away. Then Darod took her sheep and goats and watered them at his own well. Donbirro came every day to the place where Darod lived. Every day she gave him milk from the sheep and goats of her flock and every day Darod watered the flocks at his well, Donbirro was a beautiful girl, tall and of good bearing, with soft and lovely features. Darod fell in love with her and wanted her for his wife.'But one day Donbirro's father grew curious and asked the girl why the flocks would not take water when they returned to the village. Donbirro did not reply.
The next day, therefore, Dir, the father of Donbirro, set out with a young man from the tribe to follow the girl when she went out with the flocks. When they found Donbirro she was talking with Darod, near the well, and the flocks having been watered, were resting near by. When Darod saw the two men he feared for his life, and climbed a huge tree that stood close by the well, having first covered the mouth of the well with a large flat stone. That tree is known as "Lanta Ful" (the branch he climbed) and is standing even now.
The father of Donbirro approached with the other man of the tribe, and when they saw the girl and Darod, they were very angry. Then they saw the well, and the flocks resting, and they coveted the well for the use of their tribe, and wished to take it away from Darod. 'The two men strove to take away the stone from the well, but Darod was beloved of God and they could not move it. Then they called for Darod to come down from the tree, but Darod, knowing they meant him evil, refused. 'Finally, Dir, the father of Donbirro, asked Darod what price he would take to come down from the tree and remove the heavy stone from the well, so that the tribe might use the water. Darod replied that he would come down and remove the stone and give the well to the tribe for their own use, if Dir, the father of Donbirro, would let him marry the girl. 'Then the father of Donbirro told Darod he might have the girl, and so Darod consented to descend from the tree. But Darod told the two men that if he jumped he would break his bones. Therefore he asked the men to come and stand beneath the tree so that he might step down on their shoulders. The one man, proud and haughty, refused, but Dir, who was the head of the tribe, came and stood beneath the tree, and Darod stepped on his shoulders and came down to the ground, and that was a sign of peace between them.'And Darod approached the well, where lay the flat stone which the two men could not move, and he kicked it away lightly with one foot. And the tribesmen were amazed.
'Then Darod married Donbirro, and from her he had five sons, and Darod lived out his life in our land and from him are descended my father, Mohamed Boghor, and many other great men. And the tribes of Darod are the Warsangeli, the Dolbahanta, the Isman Mohamed of the Mijjer-tein, the Ogaden, and the Bartire.
'And Darod was beloved of God, and had great wisdom, and lived the life of a Muslim. He went among the people and spoke to them the words of the Prophet (upon whose name be praise) and turned away from our idols, and towards Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.' Amiina, her story told, lay back and I kissed her. Later that evening, under a full moon, she danced for me the butterfly dance of the Mijjertein Somalis. But this night of enchantment was marred by the first whisperings of doubt in my mind, for she then brought up the vexed question of the date gardens at Ghesseli, passionately declaring that the Isman Mohamed were the rightful owners and not the despised Midgans. She angrily resisted my advances when I would not agree. We returned to Alula, both angry, and the doubt and suspicion grew until like the kherif outside, they screamed through my tortured mind that my love meant nothing to her, that she really loved Sheik Abdurraham Mursal's son and that she was just a tool of her father, the Sultan, and was merely pretending a love of make-believe in order to further the ends of her tribe.
Night after night she persisted in her impassioned pleas, first coaxing and then furiously demanding that the date gardens be returned to the Isman Mohamed, and night after night I wearily resisted her blandish¬ments. There was no more love-making between us for she no longer spoke the intimate little endearments I wished to hear, and withheld from me her bewitching body for which I craved. One hot tropical night the end came suddenly with a violence which appalled me. Mouthing obscenities she screamed abuse in Somali at me. Her eyes went mad. She called me a 'waraba', a hermaphroditical dog. Inher violence she picked up a heavy steel ash-tray, hurling it at me and cutting my forehead.The warm blood flowed and mingled with the bitterness on my lips. I struck her—hard on the face with my open hand. She reeled across the room, her eyes extended with shock. Tears then flowed and she ran sobbing from the room, away into the empty night. What is love, I thought bitterly? That elusive something one tries to pluck out of the heavens with clutching hands and eager heart. Is it happiness? Ah! No! A little happiness, yes, during those all too brief ecstatic moments soon to be dispelled by long, weary, agonising hours of unhappiness, and then the hell of hate, for where does love begin and hate finish? Then comes the sword of jealousy—long and silvered. It bites through the breast. Not in one long, clean, quick thrust, but slowly questing as though doubting that awful finality. Reaching the heart it probes gently and its tip is withdrawn with just a touch of crimson. A thousand times it touches the target of love and then with one heart¬rending, final thrust it goes home and the blade is withdrawn fully crimsoned to the hilt.
The heart is no more. There is no more love. Nothing to love with.
The months passed slowly now and I was in an agony to hear news of the war. I sent a letter to headquarters in Mogadishu requesting a relief so that I might be relieved and sent to a more active sphere. There was no answer.
My gramophone records had long since worn out and I had not had a drink for months. I brewed a kind of'grappa' from dates and added army ration plum jam, which turned it into a poisonous liqueur, but in the evenings its potency aided sleep. I could feel the utter loneliness closing in on me. I grew irritable when I found sand in the sugar although I had been used to it for almost a year now. I cursed Yusuf when I found him helping himself to a spoonful of my army plum jam. My last tin. A month later the long-awaited mail came up by diesel with the good news that I was to be relieved at last. The colonel himself was to visit Alula, bringing my relief up with him. The days and weeks went by monotonously. The nights were lonely without Amiina. I missed her laughter, her tantrums and her tears, but above all I missed her bewitching body with a longing that must remain unassuaged. A plume of dust over the sand dunes heralded the arrival of the colonel's convoy withmysuccessor, Keith. I saluted and shookhands with them both.
'Well, Collins, you've had a long spell here,' said the colonel conver¬sationally. 'Are you fit?' He looked sharply at me.
I nodded dumbly and ushered them to the house. Haji Dif fussed around, shaking hands with his escort.
The guard commander turned out the guard and presented arms. He inspected them. Minutely. Each man stiffened to attention and gazed rigidly to his front. Gendarme Ali Jama had the top button of his tunic undone. The colonel flicked at the offending button-hole with his cane.
'Do it up,' he said.
Ali Jama quivered with fright, endeavoured to right the frightful enormity with fumbling fingers, then dropped his rifle.
'Pick it up,' rasped the colonel. I blushed.
'Dismiss the guard,' he ordered. I marched to their front, right-turned and stood to attention.
'Guard dis miss,' I shouted.
The guard commander and three men turned sharply to their right. Ali Jama turned to the left. Chaos.
'As you were,' I roared. 'Guard dis miss.' They marched off.
We had lunch. The colonel and Keith made small talk, I remained silent. After weeks of waiting for this moment I now resented their presence. I wanted to be alone again.
Kit inspection followed. There were eight spoons missing.
'Haji Dif,' called the colonel, 'ask these askaris where their spoons are.' The askaris remained silent.
'My fault, sir,' I mumbled. 'I borrowed them for tunny bait.' The colonel cocked a quizzical eyebrow at me.
I focused my eyes mesmerically on the red band encircling his cap. Keith sniggered.
'You did what?' snapped the colonel. I found my tongue at last and explained in great detail how a spinning spoon would attract tunny better than live bait. He was no Isaak Walton fan and was not amused.
'The hospital,' he said. We inspected it.
'The lines,' he said. We inspected them.
"The latrines,' he said. We inspected them. They smelt.
'The armoury,' he said. We inspected it. In a corner stood half a dozen spare carbines with bayonets attached. A spider had built an intricately laced web festooning the bayonet points. 'Pretty, sir,' I remarked lamely as he poked the web to pieces with his cane.
'The jail,' he said. I sweated.
147: end.
A Tear For Somalia
By Douglas Collins

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