Currently, I am reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk. The city of Kars in Turkey is a prominent character in the novel.
I hadn’t realized I had an affinity for writing that explores places as intimately as Pamuk does. (He also writes about snowflakes really well. And bursts of cold air.)
And then I wondered if it is because I am living in Doha that I long to come in from the heat, after work, and curl up with the cold of Snow.
The city of Doha is a lengthy blog post all its own. I used to wonder why bloggers wrote about it with such wrung-out voices. Now that I am here, I understand.
I think it’s a blessing that I’m reading this book – which I borrowed from my husband who borrowed it from a friend. Pamuk does chilly really well and every time I open the book, I suspend my inner-writing-critic, the one that says but the author keeps Telling not Showing. I just let the snow fall on me like this:
“…in the snowflakes whirling ever more wildly in the wind he saw
nothing of the impending blizzard but rather a promise…” pg. 6
There’s been many blessings, small snowflakes, here in this heat. We gamely counted many when we first arrived and saw our surroundings through voyageur eyes. The city scape: steely and modern and yet speckled with enough dusty domes and spirals to give it that fables-of-yore feel. You know, totally catering to our North American expectations in a cute and quaint way!
Then our settling in process happened as the city woke up to the Return of the Expats and the re-ignition of the construction machine, after the Ramadan lull. That’s when the curtains closed on the quaint fable. That’s when I stepped out to go to work and saw the laborers after their long overnight shifts waiting for their buses, right across the street, all lined up.*
Thin, old oh so very old some of them.
Every city has a feel – do you not agree? This city feels like it is watching, watchful. There are eyes all around, some staring at the haves from across the street while many are averted, like mine, trying not to see the injustice. That is right across the street.
But, yes, there are snowflakes. Like meeting people who feel so strongly the same way. Like teaching myself not to stop seeing.
And seeing that there are many ways to bring change. Writing paves ways. Margaret Atwood said that Pamuk narrated “his country into being.”
Could a better place be narrated into becoming so?
I will scan for those snowflakes in Doha.
Here’s an excerpt:
Last [in class], like most places but a bit to an extreme, are workers. No matter where they are from, labors get treated like slaves here. It’s the issue of the decade in Qatar, till 2022 World cup it will stay the main issue for human rights organizations.
The sponsorship allows their companies to make them work whenever they want, and the workers don’t report it, and sometimes they do, but it gets ignored.
~ from Mostafa Sheshtawy Blog