Tuesday 11 December 2012

A tribute to Hikmat Basmaji

Dear Hikmat,

I am writing to you this as a tribute to our short but close friendship. Wherever you are I hope you will see this and have a good nostalgic smile.  A smile, that at first sight so happily we shared together here in London that was to be first of many truly entertaining times together.  As it turned out a meeting of heart and minds that eventually became a full blown laugh during our times together in Baghdad.  I want to take this opportunity to thank you again and again in addition to the thousand times that I did thank you for all your help and kindness you have shown me.  With your consistent and single minded efforts you tried so hard to secure my long lost but rightful inheritance.  Remember, as I later discovered and came to appreciate, to me, you were a precious find of long lost relative.

It was friends at first sight! If you remember, we had met here in London at your sister’s house,  Hannaa, hitting it so well from the word go.  I followed this by taking you out on a car ride to show you London’s attractive riverside.  Your speculative mind was wondering on the feasibility of rental and purchase values of properties but in contrast I tried to interest you in the historical context of old buildings’ historical perspectives.  I think you reluctantly but finally listened to my narratives but that was the first of many brick by brick building of our friendship.  Over many pints of Pale that evening our friendship quickly cemented. 

Even then I warned you not to expect me to pay the £50 fine if caught without the safety belt on.  Little did I know then money would be your driving force as that belt went on instantly.  Since then, I have come to know you better that many others who knew you for longer.  Your qualities and values were decent and honourable that stands head and shoulders above many.

After some 50 years absence I finally went back to a country I no longer had empathy with except it was a country of my birth.  I was in the middle of Karrada searching for our old family house.  After combing some of the streets it was serendipity, I’ve found it! Once inside I started to have my doubts somehow.  The tenants told me the house belonged to someone, a guy who does not live in Baghdad, he only comes and goes.

I asked, so what’s his name?

Basmaji they replied!

Basmaji what?

Hikmat Basmaji!

Basmaji House

I just leapt out of my seat and my mobile phone went into overdrive.  You came, we hugged, and we laughed much to the bewilderment of all around us.  You took me round to show me our real house which was still standing but almost derelict.  Far from the glory it was once was.  My childhood happiness was all in that house. 
Oufi House

From that moment on, your care for my interest was ceaseless.  Your love for Baghdad was rubbing off on me.  You re introduced me to the Karrada I once loved, Asfar Street, Abu Klam,  Irgheta , Abu Nawas Street, Nadi Al Hindya, Nadi Al Elweeya  and much more to the simplest poor man’s food as well as the street food from Arabanaat.  I think I gave up hygiene to the mercy of the gods.  I enjoyed every minute and I knew you enjoyed the fact that I was enjoying it all.  There were times when you did go to extremes but you did not mind my refusals because I knew then your happiness coincided with mine.  You were so sensitive to my care.    

Thank you Hikmat for your help and kindness you have shown me; at all times, you knew how grateful I was to you.  I shall never forget you and I shall never forget your genuine efforts of help.  Our paths will surely meet at some stage.  Until we meet again, good bye my friend!

Yours very sincerely,

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