Thursday, December 04, 2014

Dear Shahanaaz

Dear Shahanaaz,

I have wanted to pen this letter since August but somehow I was not able to find your email address. By sheer coincidence I stumbled upon your FB profile the other day & decided that this letter would finally find its rightful recipient. 

I am working with an oil company & was recently relocated to Iraq. It is a country that has always fascinated me, I knew since university days that my career choice would potentially take me here somehow & to say that I was glad when I finally landed the opportunity is an understatement. I wanted to learn more about the country before the relocation when I made my way to a local library in July & discovered, much to my delight, your book about your foray into the country circa US invasion in 2003.

Now to backtrack a little bit & put things in context – I was a mere schoolboy in 2003 at a boarding school with little connection & even less interests on the goings-on outside world.  In recent years, I have been trying to act like a responsible global citizen & catch up on all these historical events that I missed & found the cyclical tragedies in the Middle East to hold my interest.

Your book, written a whole decade ago now, offered great insights into the life of everyday local Iraqis who suffered greatly at the hands of factions hungry for power. I revelled in the works of war correspondents like Robert Fisk & ├ůsne Seierstad & while it is not a fair comparison, it is heartening to know that we too have our brave, single-minded journalists in our mix who are willing to go extra distance to be the first-hand witness of history & bring the stories home. Similarly I revelled in your descriptions of the Firdaus Square of Baghdad, the flowing Tigris, your encounter with roadside fish sellers on your drive down south & the depressing ruins of the once-mighty Babylon. Oftentimes we chased for the next big news, the latest scandals but it is the ground work & perspective of people like you that are priceless & ought to be celebrated. While I have so far not been able to visit the above places during my stint here because of the tight security measures, meeting & working with the Iraqis – most of whom have had first-hand experiences of the country’s turbulent years – has been an eye-opening experience, one that I am sure you of all people can relate to.

I look forward to reading more of your enlightening piece. Have a good day ahead & cheers!


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