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The International Writers Magazine: All Are One

Eerily resemblances
Dr Marwan Asmar

The resemblance is eerie. He is the same and the same and the same. Every time I go to the Friday khutba (sermon), two particular individuals among the hundreds who attend, have a deep and lasting impression on me as if I had seen them before somewhere.

The first individual is the exact look-a-like of that famous and sometime facetious but lovable Syrian actor Dureid Lahham who I remember him for his Ghawar Al Toushe black comedy roles back in the 1970s. The man who comes judiciously to the mosque every Friday is the spitting image of Dureid/Ghawar or both. Right down from his wooden-framed glasses to his facial expressions, eyes, features, nose, mouth, he is the same man. I smile and seek to look the other way to the Imam who would then be starting the khutba.

But then I look around and recognize somebody else, a man in a dishdasha (flowing robe) and hatta (headwear) who is the exact spitting image of an actor I used to see in British films and television back in the 1970s. He looked exactly like Ronald Fraser, a British actor who once starred with Beryl Reid and Susannah York in the Killing of Sister George, a 1967 movie, and many other roles of course.

"What is this", I say to myself, two people from Syria and Britain in my neighborhood in downtown Amman, "this can’t be possible". But then I think about the words of God, that we all came from one father and one mother, Adam and Eve and thus we are really brothers and sisters who are similar, have featured connections and even look the exact spitting image! We were but one and now we are many but we are still one colossal, gigantic leap of human development.

Further, when God, the Almighty, created Adam, he send down Angel Gabriel to Earth to take huge sand coverings from East to West, North and South, and take up to the heavens for the creation of Man so the fathers and the sons after him have children that would represent the different traits, and color of humanity, the Chinese, the Africans, the whites and the Red Indians to name but a few.

A couple of years ago we had over a young woman from Indonesia. As we would say, her skin was slightly yellow, somewhat squinted eyes, a natural from far south-east Asia, yet she looked very similar to some relative of mine who since died in a remote village in Palestine. Hooray I used to say when I would frequent the West Bank, we have a Chinese amongst us!

What’s the connection? Despite the fact there are thousands upon thousands of miles/kilometers between Indonesia and Palestine, you might ask? Well there isn’t any, apart from the fact that she is a Muslim and can read the Quran, but not really understand a lot of it—no offence to the Indonesians whom I respect very much.

It never ceases to amaze me, geography sometimes does not seem to be making a blind bit of difference to our shared cultural traits, our humanness, our habits, indeed we are bound by something very earthly, our blood, the sense of smell, our hunger and need for sleep, this is what makes us similar, and even one another.

Just a couple of years ago as well, I had a young editor working with me which I actually brought her on board most of all because her late father was a well-known Palestinian revolutionary. As I would go home at night, I’d find her there in front of me. But of course she wasn’t there, but I continued to see her in my mother’s Sri Lanki maid.

Of course the spitting image wasn’t there, but I could tell, the features, the dark skin, the cheek-bones, the nose, the mouth, the slight deportment, and that mellow almost squealing voice, there was an uncanny resemblance as I look at both young women and secretly compare their starkness as divided by language, race and color, yet giving me the same emotional vibes.

So today, when I take a mental trip down memory lane, and want to remember the fond chats, the anger, the discussion, the voice and the almost ideological mellowness, with that incredibly vivacious young editor, all I have to do is look at that maid from Sri Lanka who has become to me a true patriot for the service she provides, and which we Arabs should feel greatly thankful for many years down the road.

Of course as the years go by the image association slowly fades with that young editor, who by now must have grown older, and her face takes an even backer seat at the back of my head but we are as closer together as we think, although our relationships is governed by different prejudices and though patterns underlined by the fact that two people must be one and the same thing. Two anecdotes stand out in particular.

One day in the 1990s I expected to see the chauffer of one of our writers called Imad, and having been taken by the person in front of me for the next two minutes as I chatted I said "you are not the cheerful, talkative guy, I saw last week." He looked at me and simply said, in a drawl kind of way, "I am his brother."

"You’re kidding, you are Imad, you are the spitting image of him, listen people, this is he," I said as they looked and nodded their heads in agreement.

The other incident happened to mean when we just buried someone. I came back to the grave only to see the person we’ve just buried. I was just trying to get the words to say, "we’ve just buried you" till he quickly interjected, "no, no, I am his brother."
"Fantastic", I blurted and it would have been had the man really risen from the dead! But this goes to show we are all in the end one and the same, English, Spanish, Jews, Arabs, Germans and Chinese. So why do we fight!

The author is the Responsible Chief Editor of Jo Magazine, an English monthly based in Amman. From 1993 till 2003, he served as the Managing Editor of The English language weekly, The Star. Marwan Asmar calls himself an "ambidextrous writer" divulging into anything that tries to provide a buzz from politics, economics, culture or society. He received his Phd from the University of Leeds in 1990 with his dissertation on "The State and Politics of Labor Migration on Kuwait".

© Marwan Asmar June 2008

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