The elasticity of the human will
Towards the end of December 2011 as usual I embarked on my ‘monthly’ purchase of books for January 2012. (Ideally monthly but this never happens as I get excuse to purchase more any time I pass by a bookshop or other book stands). Among the books I purchased is the memoir by Immaculee Ilibagiza, Left to tell.
This is one book that is very hard to put down as Immaculée shares her miraculous story of how she survived during the Rwanda genocide in 1994. She describes her experience in words that left me glued to the book, turning page after page not able to put it down. She was a 22 years old university student who happened to be at home by chance during the Easter holidays when horror struck. She was the only daughter in her family and her brother was not allowed to stay in the hideout for long. She and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s house for 91 days! They could not speak or even flush the toilet until another toilet in the house was flushed to avoid being detected. The pastor made efforts to give them food and that was assured hence they had to battle hunger, unhygienic living conditions to extent of having lice in their bodies. Several times they came close to being discovered by the blood hungry young men that were slaughtering mercilessly. Reading the book once I could not help but wonder where she and the other women got the courage to live on another day. Sometimes one feels that they were worse of alive than dead. However, Immaculée didn’t give up but even used this opportunity to see a positive thing she could achieve, she learnt English language. In this captivating and inspiring book, Immaculée shows us how to embrace the power of prayer, forge a profound and lasting relationship with God, and discover the importance of forgiveness and the meaning of truly unconditional love and understanding—through our darkest hours.
It is an amazing sharing that when I finished I sat back and just wondered if there is any limit to the stretch that a human can go through. Her faith increased and she learnt to depend more on God in this very difficult situation. Praying and believing that she would be safe even when the killers were ransacking the bedroom next to which they were hiding. Imagine 7 adult women in a small bathroom that they can barely flush or even sit down, and their biological needs are not on break! After finishing the book I found myself strolling inside a bookshop determined not to impulse buy another book but just have a look at another book that I had earlier noted by Immaculée and just note it for the following month.
I succeeded for several minutes as I skimmed through several autobiographies until my eyes caught one title “not without my daughter” and my resolve dissolved as I literally grabbed that book. I had watched the movie many years ago and the movie had remained edged very vividly in my head. I was thrilled to discover this book and could not wait to start reading. My curiosity was not let down as I immersed myself in this book that describes the story in more horrifying language than the movie. The book by Berry Mahmoody is based on real life story of a woman married to an Iranian. She goes on a trip to visit the husband’s relatives with her daughter but the two weeks turns to be a long term arrangement. The husbands turned her and the six year old daughter into prisoners as she was not free to leave Iran at will. She also suffered a lot of violence in the hands of the once very loving husband. Her trauma and attitude of Iran is depicted on how grisly she describes life in Iran, barely appreciating much of what Iranian culture had to offer. The only chance she had of getting out of Iran was if she went alone and left her daughter hence assuring her return. While the movie and book have been surrounded by controversy with the husband indicating bias as several reviews indicate, the experience leaves one moved. The near giving up incidences were so many, the patience that she had to gather in order to carry out her plans is amazing.
The movie doesn’t really capture the whole story as depicted in the book!
I have just finished reading another book, real life experience of a Kenyan man “Solace in sorrow” by Steve Mbugua Thoithi. He narrates how after being a successful career man, getting a good paying job immediately after his Masters degree, he suffered a mysterious disease that baffled even medics. He underwent surgery and many scans without the problem ever getting resolved. He found his peace in God, starting a relationship with God, something he had neglected in his youthful days. As he narrates his experiences that made the simple act of breathing being a painful experience, his wife Mary stood by him all through.
These experiences confirm one thing, human beings can stretch and undergo a lot and snap back with efforts. The three books have a common thread of developing a close relationship with God and having faith that all will be well. This is easier said than done, but reading these books I thank God that I really have never been through ‘an experience’! I gain strength in knowing that faith is can move mountains! There is no limit.