Dervish Kitchen - Landa Ruweha
20 supporters

Letter #3.2: Call of the Void

Mar 24, 2023

Continued from the previous letter Wishing on a Moon

Dear Adam,

Over the next few months, the situation got worse. The assets freeze wasn’t a clerical error as my lawyer had suspected, it was merely the first step in a protracted legal process where I had to show I wasn’t  responsible for the debt. 

2 months later, the war in Ukraine erupted and with Poland at the forefront of the conflict and the prospect of WW3 looming, I lost it. 

My health took a turn for the worse and I went into deep depression. And yet, every time I’d find myself despairing, the voice would speak to me again saying: WRITE! 

In April, I finally plucked up the courage to publish my first letter to you and later managed to post 4 in total. 

By now, I knew the drill. Whenever I was in a bind, it was because I was not writing and I’d hear that voice again. It was no longer the voice of the void; it was my dad’s making the same plea he had made for 25 years:

“WRITE! You were meant to write. Write!”    

I was not a born writer. I come from a family of writers and poets, but I didn’t show any real literary promise growing up. 

It’s true that I loved poetry and I did compose a few primitive poems and rhyming pieces of prose but that was it. The thought of becoming a writer didn’t cross my mind nor did your grandpa think of me as such until I was in my final year of high school. 

I told you in a previous letter how I honed my English by reading Newsweek and Time. So when our English teacher asked us to write a short essay on a topic of our choosing, I put my passive knowledge into practice and wrote a syrupy ode to my hometown, Latakia. The teacher loved it and gave me the full mark. 

But for your grandfather, an avid reader and a staunch Anglophile, it made him see me in an entirely different light. 

Yes, his own father was a poet who started a newspaper where he published his fiery political views and his uncle Amin was a bestselling author whose books could be found in almost every home. This is why the Ruweha name had become associated with writing. You could even say that it wasn’t only the name but also the genes because my father’s cousin Ghada is an icon of feminist writing and her name is recognised across the Arab world. Her mother was Salma, your great-grandfather’s only sister, and Ghada is very much a Ruweha in her rebellious nature and knack for words.

There were other relatives who dabbled in writing but they all had one thing in common: they wrote in Arabic. What excited my dad most was that I could write in English because it meant reaching a global audience (this was back in 1990 before the internet had become a thing). I wasn’t really interested in reaching ANY audience, global or otherwise, because I didn’t think I had anything worth sharing.

Over the next 25 years, your grandpa would badger me to write at every possible occasion. When I moved to the UK to study, he tried to persuade me to study English instead of Engineering. When I moved to Poland for one year in 2000, he submitted my cv behind my back to an English-language magazine. Needless to say, the interview was a disaster and I never got over the humiliation of being sent there unprepared like a lamb sent to slaughter. 

Later, when you and I moved to Poland in 2009, I accepted a commission from your grandpa to write children stories that had a strong moral message. Again, he was relentless in his effort to get me to publish them. It was an invaluable experience that taught me a lot about self-publishing but I wish I could invoke “the right to be forgotten” with that book as it still shows up whenever people Google my name.

The only form of writing that I truly enjoyed was blogging. I started a blog shortly after you were born to document your early years (sadly the platform closed and I didn’t get a chance to download a backup). 

Later, I moved to a platform called Blogit where bloggers got a cut of the subscription fees based on how much their posts were read. The Nomad Mum’s Diary became a lifeline at a time when I was struggling in my marriage to your dad and had few people to confide in. I “met” so many awesome folks there, some became lifelong friends.

Our move to Poland meant I was spending more and more time on earning a living and taking care of you so I had no time or focus to pursue writing but that would change when your grandpa decided HE was going to write a book.

Photo credit: Chris J. Davis @chrisjdavis on Unsplash

The story continues here with A Tale of two Books

Enjoy this post?
Buy Dervish Kitchen - Landa Ruweha a coffee
Sign up or Log in to leave a comment.