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Can a woman devastated by war become an unlikely beacon of hope? Kirthi Jayakumar’s book The Doodler of Dimashq tells the story of just such a woman.
Art is cathartic. It is.
With enough colouring books for adults trending now claiming to help in de-stressing, it only proves as much too. I find sketching relaxing too. Many a times, I find myself puttering with pens and pencils drawing a flower here, a butterfly there.
But there is a difference in what I doodle to escape drudgery or to relieve everyday stresses and what the ‘Doodler of Dimashq’ protagonist doodles.
The book is a story of ‘Ameenah’ a young girl barely into her teens in a war torn Syria. As war comes knocking at the doorstep of her city, the teenager who is like any other and doodles for fun, finds herself married and transported to an unknown city at a tender age. Her angst and desperation of holding on to her childhood changes her doodling into meaningful strokes which she treasures close to her heart, hidden from the world.
As Ameenah warms up to the new family, adjusts to the idea of being a wife, grows fonder of husband and falls in love with the city, the very reason for which she was scuttled off from her city to new environs, comes to devour all that she had ever known. The war annihilates not only her hopes of embracing the comfortable lap of her parents ever again but also wipes out her future leaving her both orphaned and widowed in a stroke.
Bereft, it is again her art that keeps her sane in coming to terms with her lost world. She doodles on whatever and with whatever she finds to keep her memories alive, to tell the world how beautiful her city and her people were. She draws on pieces of destructed walls, on paper, cloth, wood or anything and becomes the beacon of hope ‘The Doodler of Dimashq’ for all the survivors of war.
The story written by Kirthi Jayakumar, an activist, artist and writer from Chennai, brings the tragedy that war inflicts on real people to light. Though the author has not lived through the devastating war but the story has captured the poignant truth, the trauma of people in Syria who saw death lurking around the corner.
The author has very compassionately given a face to thousands who lived every day unsure of surviving till next day; lived in fear of losing a child, a parent, a partner, a friend; picked up the remains of their loved ones from the crumbling walls; were cruelly driven away from their homeland.
The story makes the reader relate with war and its bloody aftermath via ‘Ameenah’ which otherwise was a piece of news from distant land to many of us. It gave me goose bumps to read about plight of Ameenah. The story paints such a vivid picture that I felt as if I was amidst all mayhem looking at Ameenah fight the despair holding on to her memories in her art.
Each chapter starts with a small doodle and how the pattern in the doodle displays a certain thought. While the idea of integrating story with the doodle trivia is novel, I would have personally liked to see doodles more related to story preferably ones which Ameenah is supposedly drawing on various surfaces in remembrance. That for me would have made the story more real and more heart touching.
Yet the story is woven with real feelings attempting to celebrate that tiny ‘never say die’ spirit of mortals and makes for a moving must read.
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Top image via Pixabay and book cover via Amazon