• Literary Impulse

"Her Name Means 'Fountain of Paradise'" by Jamie

In a small shop in Jordan today, I met a man delighting customers with his craft.

“Canada,” I replied to his query of where I was from. “You?”

“Syria.”

“What city?”

“Homs.”

“Oh, wow!”

“You’ve heard of it?”

“Seen pictures. It was beautiful, before the war,” I replied.

After watching him work silently for a bit, I gently inquired, “Did your family make it safely out of Syria?”

“Mostly,” he said softly.

A few seconds passed. “My brother died.”

Another pause of breath and heartbeats, “So did my daughter.”

The revelations hurled my mind to the back of my skull like shockwaves. Furnace blasts. I was instantly regretful of the desperate agony I had dislodged in this man before me. My heart staggered at the thought of the young father’s disinterred lament.


“Oh! I am so sorry,” I gasped.

After a moment’s silence, I asked, “How old was she?”

“Six months.”

Six months? His little girl? Only six months old?

Just a baby. Killed in the conflict. I wasn’t prepared for that. Unfathomably more deeply, neither was he.

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered.

I labored to gather another breath. Struggled to emerge from the disturbed dust and rubble that had just fallen around our hearts like debris from a bomb.

Not wanting to jar loose further hidden chunks of concrete or twists of iron rebar that might amplify his untold agony, I sensed the need to tread cautiously. And yet, I couldn’t extricate myself — either of us — from this inner sanctum I’d blundered into by simply freezing into fearful silence. I recognized I didn’t belong here in the sanctuary of his anguished memories of his fallen daughter.

And yet, here I was. An innocent intruder on this holy ground. I wanted to honour this man and the memory of his precious girl. Not cause any offence. Nor any harm.

With trepidation, I ventured the only thing I knew to ask, “What was her name?”

“My daughter?” He gaze lifted beyond the shop’s plate-glass window.

“Tasnim.” The whispered name floated angelically through the window pane.

“Tasmin?”

“Tasnim,” he gently corrected.

“Ah. Did her name have a meaning?” immediately cursing myself for using the past tense again.

“A meaning? It’s from the Qur’an. It means…” He stammered a bit. “It means…” His hands sprung upwards, fingers outspreading, as his tongue dug to find the words. “When you find water…in the desert.” Hands motioning again.

“Oh. A spring?”

“A spring? Yes,” he said haltingly, with a slow nod.

I swallowed, tears welling. “That’s lovely.”

We turned to small talk for a bit. Of how long he had owned this shop. How business was. How difficult it was to be starting over, in a land not your own.

Then, he slowed to finish my order with a delicate touch. Time was elapsing. I did not wish to leave abruptly, as one who brushes past a grieving family to the coffee and sandwiches at a funeral reception.

Perilously bridging religions, tongues, cultures, my parting words would be few, yet from the heart. One father’s soul to another. A meagre offering, to be sure. Yet I hoped they might be graced beyond my powers to minister as a trickle of healing tonic to this sweet man’s loving, wounded heart.

“May you see Tasnim again…in Paradise,” I said. It was my heart-sprung hopeful promise. Certainly, whispered as an urgent prayer.

His eyes caught mine for a moment. They held knowingly. Radiated a warm embrace.

His smile spread slowly then in full bloom, like a garden sprouting lilies in matching white rows.

His face emanated a wave of peace. “Inshallah,” he nodded with evident longing. God willing.

“Inshallah,” my affirming invocation in return. “Inshallah.”

The gentle father wrapped my purchase with care.

We shook hands as I lifted my eyes to meet his with honour. Then slowly broke away in reverence.

“Come again tomorrow” he said kindly.

“I will. I will. Inshallah.”

I crossed the street to my lodging. Hooked onto wifi and punched in “Tasnim.”

“Tasnim is a Muslim baby name.” Meaning: “Fountain of paradise.”

As I think of our encounter — brief, yet eternal — tears begin to flow.

Dear, sweet Tasnim.

May heaven hold you tenderly, close to your divine father’s breast. Until your loving earthly father comes to your side for time beyond time.

Please know this: He has not forgotten you. Your name hovers on his lips.

From your place in Paradise, your name, cascades ‘cross lands, Tasnim.

Lands tragically scorched dry of love and kindness, whipped by dark winds and unseen powers, lashing the innocent with war’s fiercest flame.

Tasnim. Gurgling, gently, relentless.

Sweet spring of life. Gurgling, gently, relentless.

Sweet spring of hope. Gurgling, gently, relentless. Healing’s promised flow.

May your waters stream with peace, Tasnim.

May the hearts of all the mothers and fathers who’ve lost other sons and daughters soon find themselves in a sweet oasis, drinking deeply of the fountain of peace.

Inshallah. God willing.

Amen. Let it be so. Tasnim. Tasnim. Tasnim.

(c) Jamie


Editorial comment: Wars, they break people. In Jamie’s beautifully poignant piece, he captures a heart-breaking story of one such father lamenting the irreparable loss. But the human spirit, ever so resilient. Always finding a way to travel through the grief and hopefully find solace in something, somewhere.

-Som

 

New Delhi

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