Monday, July 19, 2010

A Scent of Rose Water

He clung to his mother as they walked towards the Moulid, smelling the soft scent of rose water that floated from her head scarf as the evening wind blew refreshing ripples of cool air against their faces. He was the happiest little boy in the world. At last he was going to theMoulid. How he had pleaded and cried to be taken there. Many in his family, even those younger than him, had gone before. They came back with amazing stories: of parades of chanting men in flowing white robes; of storytellers chanting tales; of puppet shows; of brightly coloured swings; of games they played and little trophies they won; of magicians, toys and delicious sweets. How he longed for that world! But he had never gone. Every year the Moulid came and went to their town but he was left at home, never allowed to go.
“There’s nothing for you to see there” his mother always told him. “You’ll only get lost or hurt my sweetest”.
And when he cried in anger and desperation she told him that he was her special little boy, that she would bring him beautiful gifts, that she would bake him his favorite cookies…she promised him so many things. But he never calmed down until she took him in her arms and hugged him tenderly, holding him until he fell quietly asleep amidst the soft scent of rose water.
But this year he was adamant. He was already ten years old, he wasn’t a baby anymore. He had a right to go just like everybody else! She finally acquiesced after his incessant pleading. They would go…but on one condition…he would stick to her no matter what. He would make sure to always hold her hand and never wander off on his own. She warned him it would be crowded and easy for a little boy like him to be lost.
Yes…yes… yes…he had agreed to every word she said…he was in seventh heaven…at last he would go!
As they approached the Moulid grounds, he shivered with excitement as his body vibrated with the multitude of sounds, voices and music that met his ears. The air was thick with all sorts of smells: incense, tobacco, spices, dust, endless aroma of familiar and unfamiliar scents. He was in utter awe and rapture to what his senses were capturing as he clung to his mother, feeling safe in her presence as they both slowly navigated their way deeper and deeper into the crowds, slowly discovering this magic world he had always dreamed of.
He was overwhelmed by the mesmerizing devotional chanting emanating from the many tents that were erected around the Moulid, at times finding his body swaying back and forth to its rhythmic beat; he giggled with delight as he listened intently to every word of the puppet show; he was thrilled by the ride he took on the swings, feeling as if a hand was lifting him up into the heavens; he ate and tasted a multitude of delicious sweets, savoring new and unfamiliar flavours.

Music filled the air, but it is one particular sound that caught his attention …it was the melancholy singing of a rababa…how he loved it. It must be a storyteller chanting his tales. He followed the sound…slowly slipping away from his mother’s side…moving in the direction from where the music came. Before he got too far the rababa stopped. He stood there for a moment, hoping the music would resume, but it never did. He suddenly realized that he was standing all alone…not knowing in which direction to turn. He called out to his mother but she was nowhere near him. For the first time since he came to the Moulid he began feeling a deep sense of fear…people were bumping against him…he fell several times…he was all alone…not knowing where to go or how to reach his mother…was this what she had meant by being lost??? He stood there in horror and began crying…yelling out for her.
“What’s wrong little boy?” he heard a man asking him. “Are you lost?”
“He seems to be blind”, came a woman’s voice. “How could anyone leave a blind child all on his own like that??” she added with indignation.
Just as more people were gathering…just as he was reaching the pit of despair, he felt two strong hands holding him by his armpits, lifting him up in the air and in a fraction of a second he found himself in his mother’s arms.
“Didn’t I tell you not to leave my side” he heard her shouting in a panicked voice. “You scared me to death”, she yelled as she held him tighter.
“Sorry mother”, he sobbed with relief as he began feeling safe again in her comforting arms and the familiar scent he adored.
“Don’t I always tell you to be extra careful," she said in a more tender voice. “You’re special…your eyes can’t see like the rest of us…you can’t wander off on your own like that”.
“Yes mother”, he said in a weak voice as he buried his face in her bosom. He knew she was right…but he had just wanted to listen to the storyteller and the music of the rababa.
Despite this scare, coming to the Moulid was a dream come true. It was a world that had aroused every sense in his body and would forever remain etched in his memory. But fornow, he was happy heading back home…wrapped in the safety of his mother’s embrace…and the soft scent of rose water.