Book: The Taste of Patience
Author: Mohammed Eid
Reviewed by: Saleh Abdullah al Khamyasi
THE Taste of Patience is both an autobiography and a semi-novel written
by Mohammed Eid. He lucidly documents a tragedy he was a victim of and
narrates the ramifications of such an unfortunate event on him. It has
about 230 pages and was published in Beirut in 2001.
As a young industrial engineer, graduated from the United States of
America, Mohammed did not know what destiny had in store for him. Upon
his graduation he returned to Oman and joined Petroleum Development Oman
(PDO), where he was posted in Marmul as a site engineer. Like his fellow
Omanis, Mohammed got married and initiated his family life, immediately
after obtaining a job.
The author frankly and transparently narrates his experience of being
handicapped, yet he leaves out so many details for his readers to
speculate and imagine. However, he justifies such an approach with the
fact that what he left out is intertwined with the privacy of others.
After being reticent for twenty years about his handicap as a result of
an unfortunate and tragic accident, he narrates his experience with such
an incident. In part one of his book, which he labels the Taste of
Patience he reveals how his handicap necessitated him to change and
dictated an adaptation to everything in his life. He stated" I have
found myself in a world governed by the rules of handicapped yet I was
facing this reality with my mental state of mind prior to the accident."
After spending the holidays with his family, Mohammed was full of joy
especially that this would be his last working week before his annual
leave. This breaking point will lead to the long awaited honeymoon and
would be a departure point. He was supposed to be stationed in Muscat.
He was on his way to Muscat through which he planned to proceed to
Marmul, his work place. After covering almost half of the distance he
saw at dawn two huge camels intercept him and within a fraction of a
second he found himself slamming his car brake to avoid them.
Unfortunately the car skidded and Mohammed was horrified when his car
hit one of the camels forcefully. As a result the animal flew in the air
to land with its heavy body on the car roof and hit Mohammed on his
head, causing injuries and unimaginable disruption in the life of the
After the accident he was taken to Ibra Hospital and then Khoula
Hospital where he was diagnosed as having a spinal cord injury. He
accepted his fate with courage and patience. This was the starting point
with agony and pain. From Khoula Hospital he was taken to London. There
he was subjected to an intensive painstaking rehabilitation and a
specialised physiotherapy program.
In this literary work Mohammed depicts the consequences of this handicap
and describes how it has affected him physically, socially,
occupationally and in his personal life. He further elaborates on the
social stigma towards the handicapped and categorises the attitude
towards them in three main ways.
1) Feeling sympathetic but petty towards the handicapped.
2) Being annoyed but nervous when they come across a handicapped person.
3) The assumption that the handicapped person is always in need of help
and therefore they ignore him.
He advocates that being handicapped does not mean that a person is
mentally sick and cannot think and lead a happy life. He stresses the
importance of one's attitude towards himself as a determinant of how
people would react to him. The handicap imposes a solitary life where he
found that his interaction with people decreased but the quality of his
social circle became even better. On the occupational sphere he found
himself a translator rather than an engineer.
Changing his paradigm to manage the new reality was a formidable task
but Mohammed has proved it to be a possible mission with discipline,
dedication, unshakable determination and a lot of patience. Mohammed
remains thankful to all those who stood beside him in his distressed
moments. He appreciates the gesture that Petroleum Development Oman took
towards him. Among those whom he cannot forget, is Dr Harvey the
previous head of the Medical Services who spared no time and efforts to
facilitate things for him in his rainy days.
This incident seems to unveil so many masks and reveals that there are
so many who have changed colours and drifted away. Although the world
has changed and material values have dominated human relations, there
are still people who passed the test of life and came out with flying
colours. We see this in several places within his autobiography.
In the second part of this autobiography, one can trace an element of
alienation. We can see that Mohammed reminisces in the past for a
soothing remedy. He rolls his memory to his childhood days and cherishes
the memory of the environment he grew in with its simplicity of
relationships and difficulties in terms of livelihood.
He approaches his readers through a memory of a young boy named Awad
since he was born after the demise of his elder brother. He became
literally a replacement for his brother according to the then rituals.
Awad grew up with the nomads and enjoyed their characteristics. In snap
shots he reflects the essence of the daily life of a nomadic community
and describes their customs and rituals. It is clearly evident that
their life was simple and that they think in terms of team spirit.
One relative of the chief of the village came to visit his father-in-law
and brought a radio along with him. Such technology was unheard of. So
it became a controversial issue among the inhabitants of the valley
until they compromised with it. Innocently playing with his colleagues,
the boy was not aware that soon he would leave this place to join his
relative in a coastal area that does not resemble his birthplace and was
unknown to him.
When the moment of departure came, his father rented a camel guide to
help the family transfer to the new destination. The trip was commenced
through the desert where they had to cover sand areas and climb
mountains and reached Sur from the eastern side. The boy was amazed when
he saw the sun rise from the sea. He could not help but wonder why it
rises from the mountain back home. Several thoughts crowded in his head
but it was not the time or the place to satisfy his curiosity.
The sea represented a different culture to the young boy. He was taken
aback with many features of the city and its inhabitants. He elaborated
on many themes such as life style, building, solidarity, social
structure, customs, rituals, geographical parameters, traditional games
and above all certain characters that are not from the elite group in
the society yet each had a thought provoking story.
The earlier days in the city were just an ultimate culture shock for the
boy. He felt a sense of alienation and did not seem to be able to make a
smooth transition accepting the youngsters around him. His accent seemed
so difficult for them to comprehend. His attire was strange too. He
neither knew how to swim nor to fish. This triggered sarcastic remarks
against him. This attitude led the boy to the local market where he
gradually became a familiar face and mingled with the elders. He was an
eyewitness to so many intellectual and entertaining debates.
His curious nature resented routine and therefore he attempted to
explore the various aspects of the local market. He made a habit of
roaming around the old sales ladies and was fascinated with the
surroundings. Their sweets seemed to tempt his appetite so he had an
affinity for them. His wandering mind took him outside the market
parameter where he saw a group of adults playing a traditional gambling
game but what was even more stunning for him was a girl named Shamrook
who was playing with them. Such a scene was striking in a conservative
society. Later, he discovered that she worked hand in hand with the men
selling fish and exchanged vulgar talks with them as well.
The parents did not tolerate such deviation from the part of their son
therefore; they decided to take him to the Quranic school where the
discipline and toughness of the reputed female teacher with her long
stick was enough to get him on the right track. To their dismay the boy
with his nomadic upbringing could not tolerate the stifling environment
of the school. Therefore, he ran away to his grandmother in the valley
where he grew up in, without informing his parents.
This incident created contradicting views among family members to an
extent that some had taken an oath that if something bad happened to the
kid the teacher should be responsible. Afterwards the boy was taken to
the city's regular school and along with his close friend, Mohammed
formed a cozy twosome. They always sat together, went and came together.
When Mohammed was late his friend would reserve his seat for him. He
always put his walking stick there to signify that the seat was
The author takes us on a panoramic trip in which he describes the
various places of the city. He also elaborates on the tribal composition
of the place and its rituals. He touches on the Indian community, and
explains their role in commercial activities. He goes further and
highlights the strong ties that have existed between Sur as one of the
important seafaring and commercial centres and the other coastal areas
such as India, Africa, Yemen and the rest of the Gulf countries.
The author mixes his language with some colloquial words but does not
fail to provide an explanation for them. This seems to add flavour to
the context and the readers cannot help but visit the past with their
imagination and appreciate the environment. This book remains to be
translated and put before non-Arabic speaking readers to appreciate this
realistic story and comprehend the lessons in it.
This masterpiece would add value to world literature because it is
narrated with the utmost sincerity and honesty. If Nelson Mandela had
walked a long way to freedom, for which he had to undergo unaccountable
sacrifices, Mohammed on the other hand, walked a long way to discover
that patience has a rewarding taste.
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