Remorse is beholding heaven and feeling hell
– George A Moore
I was wakened up by a low chirping near my window. As I peeped through my eyelids, a single sun ray kissed my face good morning.
I sat up to look outside the window, but it was summer and the morning dew completely covered the glass from the outside.
I could just see the outlines of trees, sand, and some neighbours’ houses in the distance.
It was dawn and the world was still slumbering. Perfect time for an early morning bike ride.
I threw on some shorts and a T-shirt and snuck out of the house onto my five-speed BMX. The air smelt like morning.
There’s a sort of energy and excitement that comes with a rising sun, and being seven years old I was plugged into the universe. I was pulsing with energy and excitement.
My neighbourhood was still undeveloped. Our house stood in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a few scattered homes.
Other than that, it was desert as far as my young eyes could see.
There was a mosque with a cold store and bread maker (Khubuz) nearby – the obvious destination for a child on a morning expedition.
The baker had just arrived and was warming the kiln. He was dressed in a white undershirt and loose white trousers (known as sirwal). His eyes smiled even though his stony face never moved. He knew the drill and popped open a glass bottle of Pepsi and began preparing my bread with double cheese in the middle.
The smell of fresh flatbread and melting cheese filled the air, which got me salivating.
My stomach did leapfrogs and I could barely stop myself jumping into the oven and taking a bite of the heavenly goodness stuck to the wall, starting to breathe and bubble.
The baker could see my excitement and a crack formed in the rock that was his face. There were so many lines, but none moved. A rock carved by time and perseverance.
He finally said: “Yalla, your bread is ready,” and hooked it with the metal prong from the kiln wall. He wrapped it quickly in some newspaper and put it in my hand.
I danced a dangerous dance, trying to bite and chew without burning my mouth. Time stood still. I could only taste hot bread and cheese (and Pepsi whenever I had to come up for air).
If there was a heaven, it was on earth. Right there, right then, on the street outside the bakery, down the road from my house in nineteen eighty something.
Forward to 2019. Paradise Island is in turmoil and being attacked by its neighbour.
I see ex-Bahraini residents (who migrated to Qatar) on TV. They completely changed the way they talk and dress to suit the peninsula they moved to.
They spit insults towards their birthland, as if they were never part of it. Some would call them lost, others would call them traitors.
They took a one-way ticket to another country for money and land.
As I watched the ridiculous TV show, I wondered how they felt when they put down their Bahraini thobe and donned the Qatari one (with a collar, if you don’t know the difference).
I wondered how they felt when they changed the way they wore the headdress to match the Qatari style.
More importantly, I wondered how they felt knowing they could never feel the Bahraini humidity on their windows again.
They could never again hear our birds or feel our sun on their face. How did they feel, knowing they couldn’t walk to their childhood bakery or cold store again? How could they live without their friends and family? How much were they paid to give all of that up?
They say everyone has a price, but to me being home is priceless. Seeing my childhood heaven daily is priceless.
Sadly, there’s an Arabic saying my father always told me: “You baked your bread, now eat it.”