The old gentleman just stood on a hill watching the devastation of the rain below. There were less than 15 houses in that little hamlet in Musannah. The strong current of water from the Wadi flattened all the houses. One of them was his home for the last 86 years.
He was standing on a small hill looking down at the village as the water submerged almost everything down below. There were racing thoughts in his mind and his grandson, who was standing next to him, knew what he was thinking. He gently placed his hand on his grandfather’s shoulder to comfort him.
They were standing in silence looking below for more than a couple of minutes before the man spoke.
He pointed to his grandson all the places that were precious to him and now were under the water. To start with, his own father built the house, dug a water well, started farming and reared animals to make a living for his children.
In just six hours, intense rain had erased a lifetime of achievements. But not just his father’s house but other homes that were built around the same time. To try to comfort his grandfather, the young man, who is just starting his first year at a university this year, said, “The government will rebuild all the houses and you and your neighbours will soon move to new homes.”
“ We are grateful,” he said but probably he was not thinking in terms of material possessions.
What he lost was more than his home. Memories that no money can put right. When he came down from the little hill and walked back to the car, it was obvious to his grandson that there was nothing for his grandfather to come back for in that little village. All that will be there is a new home but not the emotional footprints that have been washed down to the Wadi.
There will be no more cows to milk, eggs to pick up from the chicken coop, the birds that nested on trees around his house, the crow of a rooster early in the morning and the occasional cat who brings its babies in his back yard. Most of all, he later confessed to his family in Muscat, he would dearly miss the comradeship of his childhood friends when they talked in the mosque’s courtyard after the evening prayers.
Sometimes, it is the sense of belonging that keeps older people going, not the new rich surroundings around them. To them, ‘familiarity does not breed contempt’ but keeps them on the happy side. Obviously to him, keeping up with the gossips with old friends in old familiar surroundings cannot be compensated by anything.
But it is not just the storms that obliterate the lifetime memories for people like him. It is also the bulldozer of modernity that turns villages into cities. It is another culprit to blame. We call it progress as we move forward in the hope of improving our lives. But for some, what they are leaving behind is precious and no amount of luxury can make their lives better.