If you are not looking for it, you will miss it; the house on Potomac Street. Its facade is flush with its neighbours and there is nothing remotely distinct or memorable about its appearance. It is just like any one of the other historic houses that line the cobbled street. It is three stories high with its entrance on the second level, keeping the 1st floor below grade and from view. There is a small gate separating the sidewalk from the property and a skinny patch of grass right next to it. The walls are an aged, white washed brick and the entrance is an old wooden door. Its current owner has made an attempt to place a stamp of identity on the building by arranging potted plants mounted off its wall. The plants are dying, sickened quickly by the oppressive heat unsuited for its species. This apparently was not crosschecked before they were placed outside for their doomed fate. What used to be petals are sallow grey and shriveled. What used to be a proud ode to nature's aesthetic now droops over the sides of green plant boxes, dripping water desperately intended to resuscitate it back to life. In its own way, the house has a unique blandness so that if you are not looking for it, you will miss it.
But I am looking for it. I have been looking for it for the past thirty minutes, trudging along cobbled paths in heels that are alarmingly tight but pretty around my swollen feet. I have been trying to hurry my approach to the house but I am tired, hot and hungry. I can only move as fast as I am and since I have no car unlike the slender brunette murmuring into her blackberry, ensconced behind the secure comfort of her air conditioned BMW, I must arrive at my destination, dripping with sweat much like the dying flowers in front of me.
There is a bell. It does not look like it works but I press it anyway. In this part of town, you never know. Things that look old are really not so; just carefully selected to imply that they have been there for a long time. I take a deep breath and reach up to smooth what I can of my hair. It's care has declined horribly and its appearance is much suited to the plant box. It will have to do. If what I seek here is what I get, then hopefully in a bit, there might be hope for my head's crown. That's what my mother calls my hair: my head's crown. Today, my head's crown is wilted and wet.
The door opens.
An old lady appears.
"Hello," I say, "I am here for the interview"
"The help goes around the back."
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
I don't cry at movies. I have sat through some of the most heartbreaking stories and walked out to the amazement of those in my company with eyes as dry as the desert. On Wednesday, I cried. No, I wept. I was watching The Stoning of Soraya M, a movie based on a true story written by the Paris based journalist Freidoun Sahebjan. It did not matter that the story was set in 1980s Iran; with each word spoken, each action made and finally, with each stone thrown, I felt I was watching a scarily possible scenario in my home country of Nigeria.
Zahrah, played by the gorgeous and timeless Shoreh Agdashloo is the powerful voice of conscience in this story. She must brave the controlling zealot mob, the corrupt justice system of a religiously regulated village to tell the story of her how her niece Soraya, played by Mozhan Marn, accused of adultery by her mean-spirited, divorce seeking husband was buried up to her waist in her bridal whites and stoned to death by a mob of males ranging from the very little to the very old. Taking her story under perilous circumstances out of the village and to the rest of the world is the character writer played by Jim Caviezel.
In one of the most defining moments of the film, the village mayor says to the weeping and bewildered Soraya,
"According to our laws, when a husband accuses a woman of adultery, she must prove her innocence....subsequently, when a wife accuses her husband of adultery, she must prove his guilt."
To which, Zahrah retorts, "...So all women are guilty?"
The movie's ending is as harrowing to watch as it is spectacular. The filmmaker in me, applauds the techniques and execution and the woman that I am weeps. Soraya, is me. She is you. She is every woman. It does not matter the society, western or non-western, when a woman is accused, she is stoned. Sometimes, it is with rocks, words, fists, loss of opportunity, abuse of her basic rights, abuse of her person, abuse of her mind. She does not have to do anything major, she just has to be a woman.
I had to wait a couple days to write about the movie because it so broke my heart. What would I do in the same situation? What could I do? What should I do?
I think I will for now, till I can do much better, do what Zahrah did. Speak up against any injustice. It is written somewhere that "An unjust law is no law at all"...and there are many many unjust laws.