Posted by: gdevi | March 10, 2012

Day 1

I reached Trivandrum an hour and half later than scheduled; the flight from Dubai to Trivandrum did not leave at the scheduled time of departure. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for a while. My sister-in-law’s brother was at the airport to bring me home; thank you, Prasad, for coming out to meet my flight at the ungodly hour of 3 am! The Asianet folks just came and activated the internet account. Everything works, Appu; the router and netgear box and all are working perfectly, and best of all, I found the 110-220 voltage converters for our plug-ins! I called and checked on K and D; they are doing fine. The dogs are fine. I miss you too, Daya; don’t be sad, I’ll be home soon. Be good with dad; I am glad dad is taking you and Britt for riding lessons on Sunday.

My father is doing as can be expected under the circumstances. I am glad I am here. I am glad to see my mother and my father.

My flight from New York to Dubai was just lovely. My seat was next to this wonderful Iraqi man in his fifties who was on his way from the States to Dubai to get his connecting flight to Baghdad. He had been in the States to give a series of lectures as part of a group of artists invited by the Getty Foundation, he said; he was the director of the National Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad–Salam Atta Sabri. He was a sculptor and a painter, just an incredibly cultured and informed man about all sorts of things Arab. It was just lovely talking with him; we talked about Gilgamesh, the ancient Sumerian and Mesopotamian civilizations, the fertile crescent civilizations, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine, Baghdad and Basra, the Hejazis and the Hashemites, the Arabian sea trade between Iraq and India–he knew an awful lot about India–the visual arts in Iraq and the Middle East, the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf states, the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, the Euphrates-Tigris rivers, Isfahan, Shiraz, Gilan, Mazandaran, Classical Arabic and vernacular Arabic and diglossia–I learned so much about so many things, it was just wonderful. His wife is an archeologist at the Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad and both the Antiquities museum and the Modern Art museum were looted in the 2003 war–it was heartbreaking to hear of the loss of these paintings, sculptures and other artefacts of historical and cultural memory from Iraq. Both of his daughters are studying to become engineers. Overall, just a wonderful, gracious, scholarly human being, a Gandhian at the core — adab indeed! Talking with Mr. Sabri, it struck me with renewed conviction that countries like Egypt, Iraq, Iran, India– we are such old civilizations that nothing can kill us, we have lived through so much stuff, nothing can ruin us permanently. I must try and see if I can talk to my colleagues in the PA state system and see if we can bring him as a guest of the 14 state schools sometime in the future. Iraq has such a rich cultural and artistic history, and our students would love to learn about it. I am definitely going to teach a course on Iraqi literature the first chance I get.


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