By Sazan M. Mandalawi
Nuclear family is still very much alive in Kurdistan and inspires hope to entire generations. In fact, the elderly do not have to leave the family for a nursing home. Sazan Mandalawi explains more.
I have come to enjoy my regular visits to the orthodontist, as you may understand a five minute doctor’s visit results in five hours of patience in the waiting room. With the most recent visit, after an hour of reading Ambrose and Brinkley’s book Rise to Globalism with history of American foreign policy. The words on the page became scribbles and squiggly lines in front of my eyes. Clearly, not learning anything, with the sound of the Mulla’s baang – a call for evening prayers – closing the book I placed it on my lap, looking around the waiting room, and down on the street through the window, I realized just by observing, we can learn and observe so much about Kurdish people.
I can write about the reckless driving in Erbil’s medical road, the endless long waiting hours, the pregnant mother with three toddlers, the crying child, the Taxi horns, the bags of prescribed medicine and the topics of chit-chat and gossip in the waiting room.
Nevertheless, what caught my attention was observing a young man holding the hand of an elderly man, clearly his father, with the other hand placed gently on his shoulders, above the arched back, guiding him across the busy street. I thought at that point he would let him go, I was mistaken, as they walked a little further and until the point my eyes could follow them into the doctor’s center he kept his father close to him, like an overly precious gem that he was so cautious about to keep safe.
The picture was clear in my mind, an ill elderly father, mid seventies I would imagine, the son brining him for a doctor’s visit. This is not a rare scenario in the region. In fact, the bond and care a family share is undeniably one of the most beautiful and inspiring features of the Kurdish culture.
This particular incident I observed that day reflects and reveals a great deal about the importance of family bond here in the region. I have come to realize the sons and daughters as they grow they remain loyal to their parents who sacrificed everything for them. In fact the society has stereotyped any child who puts their parents in nursing homes as heartless, disloyal and careless.
I compare this to abroad, in most cases after a certain age children leave their family’s house to live on their own or couples move in together. Whilst children are at school, parents have full time jobs, family time is little, and leisure time is usually spent with friends. As parents age, some begin to save for nursing homes, a loyal son would visit his mother or father on the weekend, either at their place, or to the nursing home. I learnt in our society this is different, as much as children grow through the eyes of their parents they remain children, and after every prayer a mother would pray for each of her kids, one by one. Furthermore, the kids themselves, as much as they grow they feel the need to be close to their parents.
Occasionally, even after marriage if there are no financial problems, the son may see it as his duty to stay and live with his mother and father, so not to leave them alone in their elderly age and in case they need anything. Here there is self sacrifice for the sake of his parents, this should be realized and appreciated. In other countries, in some cases, as children grow the family bond to a degree breaks apart; every individual moves into their own path and take their own direction in life, seeking their own interest. Unlike here, the western culture does not encourage making certain decision in life for the sake of your parents.
As long as it is not extremely self sacrificing, this bond and feel of responsibility towards parents and family members is another one of the cultural aspect of Kurdish people that make them so unique and special.
The young gentleman I was referring to earlier who took the responsibility to take his ill father to the doctor feels this is the smallest thing he can do in return for all the sacrifices and hardship his father suffered for the sake of him and his siblings. A tradition and culture as such should be closely cherished to the heart and make every Kurd proud, indeed, scenarios as such make me a proud Kurd. Kurdish parents suffered a lot in bringing up their children, and they deserve the extra attention and care as they age.
This column was published in the Kurdish Globe newspaper on Saturday, 16 May 2009, 08:31 GMT