THE WORLD IN THE EARS OF A CHILD
In the impoverished district of Karantina in Baghdad, where I spent most of my childhood, most families lived in one single room in small and miserable tenements. There, they lived, cooked, washed , bathed, slept, made love, produced kids and died. Parents, children and in laws thrown together. Young boys and girls in their puberty would hear the exchange of words, the ‘Ahs’ and ‘Ohs’ of their parents as they engaged in the acts of the only pleasure they knew in their wretched lives. Sometimes, when there was some light coming throw the small windows, they could see the limbs of their mums as they went up and down, accompanied by the Ach and Oy. The younger kids, only half asleep, could hear what sounded to them as mysteries of the language.
Many amusing situations arose out of that intimate life. Salima, barely seven years old, was asked by her teacher about the benefit and use of light. ‘Yes Miss, we suck it.’
‘ Stupid girl! How do you suck the light!’
‘ Miss, I heard Dad last night saying to Mum, “Switch off the light and suck it.”
As he was about to go to school, Sadun found that his bicycle was stolen. He reported the loss to the police. They asked him the usual question, did he suspect any body. ‘ Yes, I think it was my father.’
‘ How comes?’
‘ I heard him early in the morning saying to Mum, ‘ Ride on it and push before Sadun wakes up.’
Of course, in this closely knit society, there was a great deal of illicit fornication going on. One child saw his mum bathing herself in a tin tub to wash off the janaba , the sin of the previous night’s tumble and hustle. Her son couldn’t escape noticing her sagging breasts. ‘ What are these Mum?’
‘ Oh, nothing. Just a couple of balloons,’ said the embarrassed woman.
‘ Our neighbour, Wahida has bigger balloons.’
‘ How do you know?’
‘ I saw Dad blowing them for her last week.’
Oh, the blessed kids in their innocence!