July 10, 2006

the passing of the dana pearl diver

He chose dawn to embark on his quiet journey into sunset. And chose a perfect date too, the eighth day of the seventh month of the sixth year of the new century. A struggle that lasted from the very bottom of the old one is now over. For this distinguished man, peace and easy breathing is finally at hand.

I never knew Ahmed Al-Dhawwadi (1938-2006). Like many, one only saw him after he returned from exile in 2001. Like most, one only read the writings of a certain “Saif bin Ali”, his name de guerre, when and if access was possible to that underground, uncertainly published newsletter. So it was an incredible surprise to see the man in flesh. The contrast between an historic Saif and a physical Ahmed could not be any starker. Here is a man who looked so humble, so unassuming, he could easily pass as your retired Bapco neighbour. You can even be reminded of early pearl divers. (There is a lot in common between pearl divers and political activists. Not least of these is the pursuit of the dana of happiness and freedom amidst the vagaries of high seas). Here you are across a political figure so modest, so unobtrusive, there is not the customary front porch moving ahead to keep you at a distance, wary of trespassing. Incredibly, your few degrees of separation seem at times to belong more to you than to him. Which left you to wonder, how did a man of such disposition and demeanor come to lead the earliest modern, underground political organization in the entire Arabian Gulf and Peninsula in the first place?

Comrades of his certainly can better answer or dispel superficial impressions. My only tidbit of an answer came one evening a couple of years ago as I was heading toward the favourite tea section of a supermarket. There, I noticed a frail man in a thoub carefully and calmly reading the contents of one package. Then of another, then of a third. Was it the extra care of an ailing man, or simply the enduring hesitance of exile? Here is a man who saw a lot, been through a lot, but still manages to deliberate on a tealeaf matter. It was a human moment that said a lot about the man, and perhaps about the political moment of the country as well. Few moments later, he was ahead of me at the cashier. The young lady took the cash, gave the change without taking her eyes from the cash machine. She was, like many on the island, oblivious to the piece of history that has just left.


At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am afriad that I am one of the people on the island who are also oblivious to this piece of history. Who was Ahmed Al-Dhawwadi, why was he in 'exile' and what is this 'underground political organization'? I thought those were banned!


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