Current Date:

Tuesday, 13 November 2018
 

The Other Road

One of my Friends once described me as a humane, sarcastic writer who had, he then added “lost his way''

. You should have written in Arabic rather than English' he explained. At the time, I did not reply to his passing comment, but some years later, when I thought of his remark, it revived in my mind the poem of Robert Frost The Road Not Taken "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…I took the one less travelled by and that has made the difference.” It was another morning on the other road. I woke up to the resounding of a bell and it had been proudly tolled with an appearance of Sayed Abdel Rahman Taha, the first Sudan's minister of education. There is  a primary school that lies in the same street where I live with my family.  How attractive the children! . A vibrancy has returned to the street with the children’s young voices which stream like warm sun through the small windows of houses which overlook the future. Half an hour later, I was approaching this school when I saw a solitary figure with neatly wound turban, wearing lovely Jalabiya and Markoub. His features seemed identical to Mr. Hassan Abdelmahmoud, from the teachers union or syndicate. I wondered whether it really was, or whether it was some sort of optical illusion. Perhaps the new headmaster bore some resemblance to him, I told myself. Once I got closer, I realized who it was - our colleague Austaz Abubakar.
He was sitting under the neem tree, calm as a breeze in its leaves. The place he was sitting had once been a refuge for a weak and tired vulture. I remembered vividly how it had once descended peacefully amidst an uproar of students, how they had watched in an awe and fascination. My lips moved. Perhaps I was repeating the poem of Omer Abu Reisha O, Summits of mountains: wrath and revolt! The hillside has become a playground for eagles! The vulture, on that occasion, had merely closed its eyes and snoozed. We went to our classrooms. Not long after a handshake with Austaz Abubakr, new headmaster El-Hadi Khatir arrived to greet us warmly. On that morning he was wearing slippers rather than shoes. This was, he explained, something he was doing for the first time in his life. He added in justification that a stone had fallen on one of his toes. He was stoical, if a little rueful that he was missing what, for years, had been an important element of his rakish style. "Be strict, firm and even violent if necessary" Mr. Khatir said, pointing out that poor class management is a reason for a decline in vocational performance. He shared with me a slice of sandwich and an egg, after  gently pouring some water so I could wash the dust of many books from my hands. “Teacher Abdulaziz,” he addressed me on another occasion, ”The social aspect is important.” He said this, as before, while we waited for breakfast in one of the offices. After that, we went together to offer sympathies and condolences over the death of one of female teachers’ parents. Another time while we waited for breakfast he pondered over some marriages he was hoping to arrange among the single teachers.
How nice is it to be thinking of love in this harsh life with its growing frustrations and agonies! Yet another time, he would say "this boy is clean and intelligent”, pointing to a little pupil. He asked him to express his thanks to his mother which he did in a fluent tongue and in a sign language. We all smiled in the hot noon that beckoned to us to explore the hidden potentialities of children. Mr. Elhadi Khatir is active and in his small bag he carries not only pens and notebooks but also the dreams of a nation.He does not leave behind his bag any more than he does his smile as he tries to raise the morale of his staff. Despite contemplating voluntary retirement, he has opted to stay briefly trying to create an atmosphere conducive to work and for stimulating success. He listens attentively to his visitors and treats them just as they might hope. Alas, he has now moved to another destination .At last, Eltyaeb Abdel Raham arrived to replace kahtir as headmaster. One morning, he recounted to us his suffering. He showed us the scars of an incision in his right leg, indicating that an artery from there was transplanted to mend his defective valve in a heart surgery in Jordan. "I was unconscious for 18 days" he concluded . It was difficult to imagine him having a relapse or recurrence of the ordeal or undergoing an experience like his. There was a monastic silence after he asked me not stir sugar in his glass of tea.
We welcome him as the best possible successor for his excellent predecessor. Life goes on. What remain are our sweet memories of them.