A Tale Retold by a Beloved: The Story of Kanana
Sometimes one doesn't know where to begin a story and sometimes you do not know how to finish it. Then comes a spark of inspiration and everything falls into the jigsaw and lo and behold the story is completed.
This is one such story that is more of a fantasy and a dream. It brings out something more than an everyday relationship. I recollect a few days back, I had booked for an overnight stay in the desert in a Bedouin camp. The aim was to witness an exclusive belly dance. I have traveled all over the world but the Arabian belly dance is something unique. One reason is the aura and atmosphere around which seems like taking you back to the tales of the Arabian nights. The desert sand dunes, lovely muse, and a wonderful tale are ingredients of an exotic scenario.
I was visiting the southern tip of Arabia. The guide was a man named Mohammed and he told me that the entire visit is going to cost me a lot of money. More so because it was going to be an exclusive evening with a special belly dancer. I agreed with the request that the girl who was going to dance should be beautiful.
" Huzoor," the man replied," you can rest assured on that score and mostly it will be a Lebanese girl who will entertain you."
Readers may well ask why I opted for this music- dance but the fact is I am temperamentally fond of something bizarre and I thought that an exclusive dance and good company would be an elevating experience for me.
The day dawned and I drove down to the pickup point. A Land cruiser picked me up and took me further into the deep desert. It was the month of December and cold as well. The Land cruiser whizzed past the sand dunes. On that day a cold wind blew but the sky was clear and the stars shining in the sky. All in all, it looked like it would be a thrilling night and an exotic experience. I was alone in the Land cruiser sitting in comfort. Outside it was pretty cold but I didn't feel the cold in the vehicle.
As we reached the Bedouin camp the vehicle pulled up. It was a pretty isolated place but there were electricity and water available and it appeared there were a couple of more visitors. I could make out that most of them were Americans.
I sat down in the corner of the square carpet located in the center. This was the place where the belly dance was to take place. I sat on the carpet with legs folded. I waited for the dance to begin. At the same time, a man came up and informed me that a barbecue spread was laid out and whiskey was available on payment.
I asked for my favorite brand, Chivas Regal and a double large peg. I went up to the buffet laid out and filled my plate. The whiskey came and I began to sip as I returned to my seat. Arabian music began to play. It was not long before the lovely girl entered in the center of the carpet and began the lilting dance.
The Story Develops
The dancer was an expert, at least I thought so. I do not know the intricacies of belly dancing but I was struck by the beauty of the dancer. She was not very tall but she was extremely fair and with my knowledge, I was sure her ancestry could be traced to the Slav girls from East Europe, kidnapped a hundred years back by the Corsair Pirates and the Turks for their Harem.
My guide came close to me and whispered in my ear
"Hazoor is this girl okay? because she's the one who will give you company later in the night" I did not reply but gave a thousand Dirham note to the young man. Taking the money he vanished into the darkness.
I had maybe three or four more pegs and then realized the show was coming to an end. Other girls also danced. The girl who had danced first in a blue dress came close to me and smilingly caught my hand. There were clapping all around and I decided to walk away.
I reached my air-conditioned tent and lay down on the bed. I was in anticipation of what was going to follow. My watch showed the time at midnight when there was a soft rustle and the girl entered the air-conditioned tent.
Whether she was a professional, I'm not sure because at that moment she just looked like a very young girl, so vulnerable that I decided to play the good samaritan, than to satisfy any carnal desire.
Somehow the desire to possess the girl went away and I just enveloped her in my arms and looked out of the window. The stars could be seen but inside it was warm. As a gathered her in my arms, I asked," what is your name?"
"Does it matter?" she replied, "I could give you any name and you wouldn't know whether it's my name or not."
Ït's ok," I said, "you don't have to tell me your name but what are we going to do?"
She looked at me quizzically. Her eyes fluttered and the eyelashes accentuated her beauty. She did look desirable but my resolve has been made and I wanted to delve into the inner soul of the girl. I told her, "why don't you tell me a story that would be a nice way to pass the time."
She again looked at me and her long eyelashes shut and opened. She said," you are one hell of a man. You are strong and muscular and yet you just want to listen to a story?"
" Yes, I want to listen to a story." I kept my arms around her and she looked at me with clear blue eyes and replied, "ok, I will relate you one."
"I will tell to you an Arabian story and I hope you will like it."
She paused for a moment and continued, " once upon a time more than 1500 years back, the Greek army invaded Arabia. At that time it was known just as Arabia. In the north of Arabia, the battles raged and the Greeks were victorious. There were three battles and the Greeks defeated the Arabs.
Close to the border where the fighting was taking place lived a Bedouin tribe. The chief had three sons. He called his sons and told them 'look, sons, the Greek army is winning and it is about time we do something and throw the Invaders out. I want all three of you to go and fight the Greeks.'
The two elder brothers just got up and left. It was obvious they would join up with the Arab army and fight the Greeks but the younger son said he will only fight if it is for Allah and Arabia.
The old man was infuriated and wanted to know whether he would go now to fight the Greeks.No the young man whose name was Kanana replied,' I will wait and see what happens.'
Days passed and the two brothers never came back. The father turns to the son and says, 'your brothers have not come back, at least go and look for them.'
Kanana didn't reply and left the room. He came out and mounted a camel and set out into the desert. As Kanana left he was unaware that a platoon of Greek cavalry had surrounded the Beduin camp and taken the father, the Beduin chief as a prisoner.
Kanana stopped at a small oasis small and drank water to refresh himself. He was wondering what to do and then decided to ride straight to the Arab army camp. He entered the camp and walked straight to the tent of the commander in chief. The venerable warrior came out and looked at Kanana. He asked why he had come and what he wanted.
Kanana replied, 'General I will go to the Greek camp in the mountains but I will request you to come close to the mountain because I may have a message for you.' Saying this Kanana mounted his camel and began the ride to the Greek camp. The general believed Kanana and resolved to ride alone towards the `Greek lines.
Kanana reached the Greek camp an entered. As he entered the camp, he was accosted by Greek soldiers who pulled him down from the camel and took him before the prince.
The prince looked at Kanana and said that he knew who he was because his face is similar to his brothers who were his prisoners. He further added, now I also have your father in my custody.
The Finale and Moment of Truth
How do you know all this? asked the young lad. I know because I am the winner. ˜But I have a proposition for you. I saw you coming from the camp of the Arab army. Tell me what message you bring me.?'
Kanana replied 'I have no message for you accept that you release my father.' The Greek Prince smiled, 'ok my man, I will leave your father but before that, you must give me the blood of an Arab.'
Kanana looked at the Greek Prince and without batting an eye said, ' I will give you blood. How would you like if I give you the blood of the general of the Arab Army.' The prince was delighted, 'that will be wonderful because let me tell you I am going to finish this fight as quickly as possible because my rations are running low and I have no replenishment.'
He continued, 'It will be a great help if you can kill the general because then I shall not only win but release your brothers and father.'
Down below far away Kanana and the prince saw a lone horseman approach. The rider rode slowly as if in a pensive mood. The Prince looked at the boy and said,' he is the general! the man is within range take this lance and kill him I will release your father immediately.'
Kanana picked up the lance but threw it away. He said,' I need a heavier lance' Kanana selected a heavier lance and raised it to strike the rider below.
'Ata boy' the prince clapped his hands, 'now is the time my man, do it. Throw it at the general and kill him.'
Kanana took the lance and with a mighty heave threw it at the general. The lance glistened in the sunlight as it sped in an arc towards the general. The Prince was laughing and clapping but then he stopped, 'my boy' he said 'you have not killed the general you have only hit his horse. You missed your aim. As you have not kept your word of killing an Arab, I will not leave your father.'
Kanana observed the Arab general dismount from the horse. He pulled out the lance and read something on it. Then he raised his hand in blessing towards Kanana. He had written a message in blood, it read general, the Greeks have no supplies strike them in the rear now and victory is yours by the grace of Allah.'
Kanana looked at the prince and said,' you want the blood of an Arab? I am giving one to you -my blood.' He lifted his dress and showed the dagger buried very deep in the stomach. Just then a soldier came running.' Your Highness the Arab army has struck in the rear the battle is lost,'
She looked at me said, "the story is over, did you like it?"
"Loved it ", I replied, "now you can go."
The sun was rising as I kissed the girl again indicating she could go.
She got up and looked at me.
"You are great. The greatest man I ever met. My name is Kayla and that's my real name. I am from a village close to Beirut. You are a man I could spend my life with forever. She bent forward and kissed me a soft lingering kiss.
"If Allah wills you will come to my village and take me. May Allah with you."
She left and I felt at peace. I came out, the sun was rising. Mohammed came. He was smiling. "Sir, you are relaxed."
"Yes," I replied.
I gave him another thousand dirham note and motioned Muhammad to take me back. Did I go to Beirut? that's another story.