I have eight children/And the ninth will come after a summer/
Will you be angry?
Mahmoud Darwish The Identity Card
There is no dearth of love stories in Malay alam literature but Idiminnalukalude Pranayam of P K Parakkadavu could be the first one set completely in the backdrop of the Palestinian struggle for existence and justice. It is both a love story and a bold attempt to declare solidarity with the Palestinian cause.
The novel captures the indefatigable sprit of resistance by Palestinians, interwoven with their history and culture, the pain and tears and the yearning for peace of a community forcefully uprooted from their land. All these in just about 50 pages! Blurring the line between prose and poetry, this novel, as poet and critic K Satchidanandan commented, is a fine example of treating political issues artistically .
Throughout the novel protagonist Farnaz communicates with his lover Alamia through the verses of Palestinian poets like Mahmoud Darwish, Iqbal Tamimi, Shouki Abi Shakara, Mourid Barghouti and Ghassan Kanafani to keep her morale up. “For Palestinians, art and literature is not leisurely activity but a tool for resistance and we can feel the fire in their writings, especially in poetry. As Darwish rightly said, ‘every beautiful poem is an act of resistance’,” Parakkadavu says.
Darwish appears when Farnaz tells Alamia the plight of Palestinians whose identity is questioned in their own country . He hums Darwish’s verses from The Passport, “Don’t ask the trees for their names Don’t ask the valleys who their mother isFrom my forehead bursts the sward of lightAnd from my hand springs the water of the riverAll the hearts of the people are my identitySo take away my passport! While struggling to conceal his anger over the Israeli bombing on a Gaza hospital killing many children, Farnaz take recourse to the verses of Hebrew poet Hayim Nahman: “Devil yet to find an equivalent revenge for the blood of an innocent baby .
While using rich poetic imageries to tell the story, the author ensures the factual correctness of events and characters represented in the story. Except a few, most of the characters are from recent history who have left strong imprint in Palestine struggle with their own lives.
Lebanese university girl Ibtisam Harb, 16-year-old fighter Ayat al Akhras, Shayma Sheik A Saeed, (Her wonder baby grabbed world attention when doctors recovered the baby from her womb minutes after her death in Israeli bombing), Yasser, Ammar and Abu Gazal, three boys who were charred to death while playing outside the refugee camp…all evoke a poignant image of hapless women and children in the troubled zone.
“While living dangerously under the shower of bombs and missiles, for Palestinians, as Farnaz exemplifies, everything in their life is attached to their homeland, even their love affairs. Unlike in the run-of-the-mill love stories, here, while the girl Alamia wants to join her martyred lover in paradise, the protagonist sets the condition…. ‘Do something for Palestine’. While Alamia shares her fear for the imminent death of Gazza under the continuous bombing by Israel, Farnaz tries to keep her spirit up saying, “Even if all the roofs collapse we will continue to fight keeping sky as the roof”.
During one of their meetings, looking at a disturbing painting on the Sabra-Shatila massacre, Alamia asks, “why can’t we draw flowers”, and Farnaz retorts, “while they write history with blood, how can we dream about flowers and birds?“ He then adds, “I love you, but I love Palestine more.“ When Alamia says “I am with you“, he corrects her saying “You too are with Palestine“. And together they dream about a peaceful Palestine where children dance among cypress trees and in olive plantations. Giving a parting kiss on her forehead Farnaz says, “So, let us love Palestine“.
The novel culminates when Farnaz introduces Gandhiji to Alamia while she meets him in paradise saying “He is the fighter who said as England for English, France for French and India for Indians, Palestine is the birth right of Palestinians“.
“It’s the same quest for justice shared by Gandhiji that prompts me to declare solidarity with the Palestinian cause,“ Parakkadavu says. “Perhaps, outside Middle East, it is in Kerala where the Palestine issue is discussed the most but our upper caste mindset is still reluctant to accept the Palestinians’ right to resistance. My attempt is to creatively challenge this public mindset towards Palestine.“
It’s not the land alone that Palestinians lost to Israel but a large amount of their books and manuscripts were also looted or destroyed. Prior to 1948, Palestine was a hub for intellectuals, literary critics, writers and musicians before entire villages were destroyed and the Occupation sounded the death knell to Palestinian intellectual life. But Malayali readers are largely un aware about the cultural pillage done by Israeli occupational force in Pales tine, Parakadavu says.
In his essay attached to the novel, senior journalist V A Kabeer explains that this story of cultural theft was unknown to the world till the Dutch-Israeli filmmaker Benny Brunner documented it in his film The Great Book Robbery .As noted Israeli historian Ilan Pappe puts it, the pillage was to defeat the Palestinian narrative and to erase them from history .
Despite all these untold miseries, Palestine rarely finds place in Malayalam literature. “As the great Palestinian thinker Edward Said symbolically joined stone-pelting youths, my novel is an attempt to reassert the Palestinian narrative and declare solidarity with Palestine in my own little way,“ Parakkadavu explains.Tags: Idiminnalukalude Pranayam, Intifada, Iqbal Tamimi, Israel, Mahmoud Darwish, Palastine, Parakkadavu