The following is a translation of an excerpt from “A Soldier from Oman: Memory’s Nectar” by (ret.) Inspector-General Said bin Rashid Al Kalbani
Retrieving the Tale
Many of us see nothing in our lives that merits documentation. If we do, we tend to delay it as a project requiring further time or further maturity. No wonder we see but a few people who take it a duty unto themselves to narrate their life stories for the succeeding generations, explaining to them as they do the path they trod, the dreams they harboured and the obstacles they faced. Our reluctance to document our lives comes across as ironic in the face of the fact that we do, indeed, narrate thousands of times to our sons and friends. We talk about our past, what we did and what we said, how we discovered ourselves in its terms, how it was different from the present.
We cherish our past, relive its sweetness and vivacity, despite the fact that our present may glow with pleasure and comfort. Our past is but a school from which we learn patience and perseverance.
I understand my tale of birth, childhood and work is no different from that of my peers. Our childhood, though hidden behind the mountains of the past, hasn’t left our hearts. It manifests itself as yearning, as a spiritual journey into our deepest souls. Those sons, friends, peers, relatives who heard our story find it worthy of being transformed into words, written on the page; some might not see it so. I, nonetheless, decided to go by the well-intentioned advice of my loved ones.
Before setting a word on the page, I sat back and pondered for a considerable period of time: what should I write? What is it in my life that deserves to be written about? Which details are cumbersome and, thus likely to cause boredom and which are stimulating, thus likely to grip the reader’s attention? Settling on a particular course was no easy matter, as what one thinks too ordinary to mention others might think too exceptional to omit. Our reflections about our own selves vary from those of others.
Whatever I narrate to you is not an autobiography as such, but rather memory of a generation which lived between two distinctive periods, the pre-Renaissance Oman and the post-Renaissance Oman. We are talking about a generation whose childhood was so different from that of our children; places have changed and so have times and details.
Once settled, I began to dig into my mind. Retrieving the past is not an easy task, especially if one’s life brims with all manner of events that crisscross many decades. But it is the steadfastness of my well-wishers that has galvanised me to go ahead on life’s path, and it is the same steadfastness that urges me now to retrieve that path. This retrieval is bound to be reductive, though. Years and years have accumulated; retrieving them is akin to entering a dark cave. But I shall endeavour to do so in the hope to find a torch that will brighten that cave.
As I enter the cave and happily live my past moments, I see myself surrounded with jewels I thought I had forgotten: one story leads to another, no sooner this page ends than my pen invades the other. I decided to let the pen take its natural course, not hindered by any methodology or ideology.
I conclude this introduction with the hope that the current generation would consider our legacy with an open mind and an appreciative heart.