A QUEST FOR LOVE IN PARADISE
By Hamse Ismail
Hamse Ismail is a young writer and activist based in Hargeisa, Somaliland. He is also a former Mandela Washington Fellow at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE. Mr. Ismail wrote several short fiction stories. His most recent being the Mediterranean Bird: A Quest for Love in Paradise. The story presents the treacherous journey undertaken by Omar from Hargeisa to Oslo. Omar is a love-motivated unemployed college graduate determined to meet his long-term girl friend, Zahra, who lives in Oslo. Zahra was re-united with her family three years earlier whom she was separated from during the Somali civil war.
The story encompasses the countless hardships encountered by young African migrants in their quest for better lives.
Below are some excerpts of the story.
Omar leaves decides to leave Hargeisa without saying good bye to his parents and siblings. He boards a bus bound for Ethiopia
…….One summer night, Omar sat on the edge of his bed alone in his room. His eyes were fixed on the beautiful portrait of Zahra on the bedside table. Her perfectly arched brows, small straight nose, her luminous heavenly white teeth, deep black hair with delicate curls that flowed over her shoulder were all reflective of her bubbly outlook. With his chin resting on his right hand, his feet dangling and finger toes loosely touching the floor, he thought of the long, tumultuous and penniless voyage ahead……Omar together with other migrants are kept in a secret warehouse on the Ethio-Sudan border pending a border to Sudan. He then has physical fighting with one of the smugglers as he defended Fatima from rape. The smuggler is subdued but Omar sustained a non-fatal head injury.……… The guard had angrily looked at Fatima and pointed to his gun behind his belt and quickly left the room. As they all silently waited for the sunset; the two guards entered the warehouse and asked Fatima to come out alone. Everybody was worried and it was obvious they wanted to rape her. Fatima refused to move out as they forcibly tried to push her out. Omar immediately intervened…… His move irked the two men as one of them tried to take out his gun and before he did, Omar dived into his waist and knocked him down to the ground as both of them struggled to get hold of the gun. In the struggle, one shot hit the roof. Everyone was terrified and tried to take cover. The other guardsman hit Omar in the head with a metallic bar from behind. Hassan and Jibril, at the drop of a dime, came to Omar’s rescue and quickly hit the guard to the ground from behind. Omar got hold of the gun and pointed it to both men as he touched his head with his left hand to feel the blood oozing from his scalp……… An angry Omar asked if anyone had a rope to tie them. One man with a Hargeisa accent came forward with a short, weak rope. They tied up both men and warned them he would shoot if they dared to move. Fatima removed her headscarf and tied it around Omar’s head to stop the bleeding.
In the heart of the vast Sahara Desert, people traffickers hold them hostage, asking for ransom. After paying them, they proceed to Tripoli.
…….. It was obvious the two groups were competing for who would take them hostage first like two twin hyenas competing for dead beast……. They all sat waiting patiently as they listened to the gurgling croak of a raven flying overhead. Most of the people at the camp looked withdrawn and emaciated and being at the mercy of such ruthless smugglers, most of them had bruises on their faces due to the severe beatings……. Under the baking sun, they saw human and animals carcasses along the way…… He felt sad to see vultures hovering around human remains as the desert foxes scrambled for them too…… He was mesmerized by the sheer expanse of the parched landscape of the desert from a small collection of sand to a large orange sand dune sculpted to perfection by wind under the perpetual clear sky. It was an architecture that naturally emerged from the earth. He had watched medieval buildings, camel caravans and wondered the slow pace with which life has changed little through the centuries.
Omar and his fellows stand at the sea shore waiting for the boat to cross into Italy.
……Working under the canopy of darkness, Warsame and his fellow smugglers organized the boat. They sneaked into the sea shore like denounced disciples boarding Noah’s Ark ahead of an inevitable flood calamity. Omar stood at the edge of the sea. His anxious eyes stared far out to the sea. The white foaming of the waves swept towards him bursting under his feet. The rumbling of the great voice of the sea felt indifferent of their long and uncertain ride from Hargeisa to the shores of Tripoli. Their attitude matched the water: dark, miserable and restless. The horizon rose and dipped so that it was difficult to identify where the sea and the sky blended against the unbroken darkness. None of them could measure the depth of the darkness…….
The boat capsizes in a heavy storm. Nearly half of the migrants drown. Omar struggles to save Fatima but she finally drowns
…… The rain came down in violent torrents and the waves became ferocious. The boat had insufficient stamina to sail against the raging winds….. Some migrants were swept overboard and thrown to their deaths like stones thrown from a sling….. It capsized in the mighty tempest… Omar resurfaced looking around for his companions. He saw Fatima in the distance and swam towards her. He noticed she did not know how to swim. He pushed her to a panel of wood buoyant enough for two people…… The waves drew them down under the water again. When Omar resurfaced he looked desperately around for Fatima but he could not see her……. When Omar resurfaced he looked desperately around for Fatima but he could not see her…… He dived back in the water and saw her lifeless body drifting underwater. Her face was stony and frozen. He swam after her, but she sank faster than he could swim down and her body disappeared. He watched her body vanish in grim and silent valediction. Fatima was gone, forever. She could no longer wrestle with death.
A rescue vessel saves them. The surviving migrants are taken to Italy.
……… At the crack of dawn, they sighted the lights of the Italian island of Lampedusa glittering in the distant horizon. This was southern tip of Europe. Omar stood up to gaze out the lights like Moses watching over the promised land. Few surviving migrants could stand up on their own volition and effort. His eyes dwelt on the lighthouse and the lights of many ships lying abreast in the distance. To him, the lights represented the calmness of nature amid the toils of the individual or perhaps the unconcern of the universe. It filled him with acute sense of wonder….
Omar escapes from the migrant centre in Italy to head for Norway. He passes several European countries before reaching Oslo. He faces challenges with immigration officers. He is finally granted legal stay. And after Zahra, the two finally get married.
…… In the evening, the guests started pouring in and were served with refreshments. Omar eagerly waited to get a glimpse the beautiful sight of Zahra in her wedding gown. Soon the hooting sound of the car was heard as the ululations of women intensified. Zahra, followed by bridesmaids, entered the wedding hall as guests stood up and craned their necks to see the bride…… ‘Yes we did it’ said Omar as he recalled the shadow of sorrow and death, his tried love for her, had walked. Omar got an everlasting happiness and joy from the marriage to Zahra which came so close to being shattered by the boat accident in the middle of the Mediterranean. He thought his survival story was exceptional and so was his love. To finally have Zahra as his wife was the most wonderful thing in his entire life and the couple lived happily together ever after. Omar had learned that for life to be meaningful, a man had to have something he dared to live for. His audacity was to f