Written: 7th Nov 2002
Writing was a passion. I could not describe it than as poetry but I had so many ideas through which I wanted to help those less unfortunate than us. My thoughts were scribbled in magazines, cooking books, whenever an inspirational writing emerges. However, being an Arab of African origin, I was not so sound of my writing in English language. My confidence built up through encouragement from well-wishers and friends. Sometimes I took part in poetry competitions. While winning in competition was not a great success, however publishing my poetry in their anthropology was an adequate achievement to me.
Much more poetry had been compiled. A number of them were either torn or lost, as there were shattered in pieces of paper. Yet the hobby did not die away. I recall that it was between 1998-1999 I met Mr Riyadh Al Busaidi, a veteran businessman who owns a designing company. He was a father figure, in his calm manner, yet with firm approach to his business. I felt so comfortable to approach him to float my idea.
"Mr Riyadh. I have collection of poetry. I would like to shape them in a book, which the sale of this book will be exclusively meant for children, affected children. I need your help and advice." He replied, without taking a second to think: "Nasra let me look at your work. I might able to connect you to the right people." A little that I knew from that day onwards the link began to emerge. Back again on the computer, deleting and replacing poems I was out of papers and I was only able to copy the file of my book and save it on the floppy disc. There I was knocking his door again. Instantly he looked at some of my work. "Well I never thought you had all this collection," exclaimed Mr Al Busaidi after reading a couple of my work and examining the size of the file. I was overwhelmed that I heard his comments. "Well! Will you help me to design the book."
The news of my father's illness, who was living in Zanzibar, was shocking to me. My father, who was my candle of life, was always healthy and only complained about his knees. He was always full of life. I have not seen my father for almost three years. My contact with him was very little as I hated letters and he never wrote letters until he was written to. I was shocked to see him on the bed. With all the pipes and walking stick. It was really a tragic sight for me. I did not cry nor did I show that it hurts to see him like that. He had cancer, but he stood so strong.
One day I took him to the hospital, he was proudly telling everyone that I am his daughter. I made my mind that I will stay over in Zanzibar but my raising mother assured me that I should go back to Oman and look into my future. She affirmed that she would take good care of my father. A month after I was back in Oman, my dad had passed away. I will always remember him saying: "Nasra, stay here with me, I will take care of you." Yet I was so far away and had so little contact with him, I could not bare the thought knowing he was no longer with me.
The study and the job kept me occupied. The thought of pursuing what I had dreamed did not leave me alone. However, I wanted to lock myself in self-solitude to grieve. I was never given a chance to fall under depression, having my mother and family surrounding me with their love. I had to pick up the pieces again of achieving the dream that so my father could watch over me and be proud of me.
Thinking so loud: "Dr Zakia Al Lamki." Dr Zakia Al Lamki she was the head of child health Department of Sultan Qaboos University Hospital. Previously I helped in fundraising activities to help children touched by cancer. A new hope, a new path it seems. So I addressed a letter to her explaining the concept of the book and requested her to use the children creative work as a background for my book and making a point that the book will be sold for fund raising to help out the children. She immediately endorsed the idea. The process of creating the book had taught me the meaning of patience. "Mr. Riyadh I have to show something to the sponsor." The process of designing the book cover started. What colour would you like it to be?" Green, I thought, as the color of plants and nature, and no color could please the eye as green does. The actual designing of the book started. A friend of mine offered to help with collecting children painting. He organized the painting material and visited the children. On that day I was expecting that he would be back with the children's painting. "Nasra, hearing the mother complaint about her child is weak and refusing to eat, I stayed there persuading the child to eat, I could not force her to paint while she did not eat the whole day," it made me realise how valuable this plaiting are.
In a weeks time I got a call from Mr. Riyadh. "Nasra you have to see the design of the book". Right away smiling as he explained to me the concept: "Unfortunately Nasra we cannot use children's painting, not all of them relate to the poems." I did not think of other alternatives. I called Dr Zakia and informed her about this news. She was disappointed. I felt depressed, knowing that I got carried away in designing of the book. I had gone through soul assessment. I scolded myself for forgetting how valuable children painting. It was not an easy task to paint with agonizing pain and bearing through the chemotherapy treatment. The idea of the book is to help the children and without the children's painting it means nothing. "Mr Riyadh if half of the poems needed to be removed to give space for children painting then we have to do that." He looked surprised: "What do you mean?" I expressed my point view. "We will keep children's painting by itself," so there it was after each five poems there was two pages in between with children paintings. The creative work of children, conveyed their feelings and thoughts. It all became the title of the book "Collective Thoughts".
Seeking for sponsors was not easy. The thought of my meeting with companies was not a good idea so I requested the help of a publishing house, who agreed to support. I thought the task was easy but three months was over, I only had 600 Omani Rial ($1554.40) and needed 1300 Omani Rial ($3367.87) to be able to print. "Please God help me, I just cannot give up the hope," under my breath pleaded to God.
As I was talking to the senior staff in Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, she told me that its best to contact Dr Alex, he has ideas that could help. Next day I contacted Dr Alex. Indeed Dr Alex was a great help. He organized for me to send a letter to a very prominent businessman. In a weeks' time I got an appointment to meet his personal assistant. Meeting the personal assistant, I was not sure what to expect. A lot of questions I was asked, but I never thought I was able to say what I have told him on that day. "I have reached this far and there no way I could go back," and before I could greet him goodbye I requested him: "The person that you met today has only her poetry with it she want to help the children." I could not imagine that after three days exactly I received a call from Dr Alex stating that I got confirmation and the book will be completely sponsored. I did not know should I laugh or cry. I could not help it but to cry. "Thank you God, I finally reached this far."
It was September 28, 2002, in Intercontinental Muscat. Guest started reaching gradually. By 5.30pm it was almost a full place. My brain stopped functioning. I felt so nervous. My head started to go round, but I could not stand there being clueless. Between the quick running dedicating jobs to each one who offered to help.
"Nasra, we have to start now." As I started addressing the audience, I began to pull myself whispering under my breath: "Here you are Nasra, the launch of your book."
All Painting are painted by Children Touched by Cancer at SQU Hospital in Oman