Friday, March 8, 2013

Orabi Pasha (founder of Zahira) and Caroline Corner: Part II

This is a two part post of two chapters of  Caroline Corner's The Paradise of Adam The Record of Seven Years Residence in the Island published in 1908.

The main reason I am posting the chapters because it references meeting Orabi Pasha.  Orabi Pasha (Ahmed Orabi) was a Egyptian army general, and nationalist of fellahin ancestry (peasant class) who led a revolt in 1879 against Tewfik Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, and the increasing European domination of the country.  He was defeated by the British and exiled to Ceylon in 1882. His home in Halloluwa Road, Kandy is now the Orabi Pasha Museum and Cultural Centre. During his time in Ceylon, Orabi served to improve the quality of education amongst the Muslims in the country. Zahira College, Sri Lanka's first school for Muslims, was established under his patronage. Orabi Pasha Street in Colombo is named after him.

CHAPTER XXVI  (Previous chapter XXIV here)

Perideniya Botanical Gardens and a clairvoyante
dream — A greeting from Ardbi Pacha — Both
Arabi and Cynthia are charmed—Cynthia learns to
make " mocha " from the venerable Pacha—Funny
little Nubians ! — Arabi Pacha's piteous longing,
"only to return home!"

IT was while here at the mountain capital that they availed themselves of making the acquaintance of Ardbi Pacha, the Egyptian rebel, as he has been erroneously called by those not conversant with his purpose and his aim. As head of the War Department of his native land, Ardbi, possessed of a personality born to attract and to lead, had been chosen as the defender of justice and the rights of his people—a man of "singularly uncommon honesty," as Lord Charles Beresford, his adversary in the campaign of 1882, honourably designated him. But this is no political treatise. All 'tis necessary to say is that Ardbi Pacha, having capitulated, was then an exile, a British captive in Ceylon. It had been arranged that Cynthia and her husband should drive in the early morning to Perideniya, to visit the Botanical Gardens there, prior to making a call on Ardbi Pacha, who, with some of his family, was at that time residing in a comfortable bungalow situated at top of a hill midway between Kandy and Perideniya. Soon after daybreak, accordingly, they started in a victoria. The mountain air was fresh and invigorating, although once the sun is up the mountain capital soon becomes hot almost as Colombo, until the tropical sun goes down. Tickets to enter the gardens had been taken; all they had to do was to enjoy that delightful drive in the freshness of the morn.
Few people were about; those few, however— natives going to or returning from their bath— contributed to the picturesque scenery. It is marvellous the grace with which a native's dra%pery falls in folds. Careless, unpremeditated; no sculpture could manifest more perfect artistic effect. The gorgeous colours, moreover, blend, always harmoniously, no matter how vivid, while the gait of the Oriental is dignity with ease combined.
Cynthia, accustomed as she was to driving through one of the loveliest portions of Europe— Southern Austria—experienced a new sensation now: the spell, the fascination of the East, incomparable to any other as it is indescribable. Silently they drove along, the giant trees casting a pleasant shade, until on turning a corner Cynthia started.
"Ah!" rising to her feet in the carriage.
"What place is this? I know it well; I have surely been here before!" she exclaimed, excitedly.
"The entrance to the Botanical Gardens. We get out here," was her husband's reply.
"The— entrance — to—the—Botanical—Gardens," repeated Cynthia alighting, yet keeping her regards fixed on those iron gates, with the tickettaker's shed just within, at an angle of the road. "No, I have not been here before. And yet it is all so familiar. It was a dream I had, repeated again and again in my early girlhood. Now that dream that haunted my youth is realised. Every detail I have beheld before. All is familiar to me. I will show you where the paths lead. Come."
They entered, giving up their tickets at the shed, and Cynthia trod those magnificent gardens, leading the way as though it were familiar to her —as indeed it wasin dream.
Let psychical research explain this. Cynthia relates the fact only, at the same time recalling those lines of Rossetti:
/ have been here before,
But when or how I cannot tell:
I know the grass beyond the door,
The sweet, keen smell,
The sighing sound, the lights around
the shore.
* * * * #
Arabi Bey, or, to give him his full name, MuhamedIbn Ahmed, Arabi Pachas eldest son, was to meet them at his father's house. As up they mounted to the bungalow by the zigzag footpath hedged with roses—glorious roses from seeds of trees grown on the Bosphorus, roses large as a saucer, and laden with perfume that scented the air within a radius of, say, half a mile —as up they mounted Arabi Bey descended to meet them.
"My father is charmed to make your acquaintance," said he, shaking hands with the visitors.
Upon entering the bungalow a commanding figure dressed a VEuropeen, except for a fez, rose and bowed low. Then a hand was uplifted in military salute.
"How do you do? We are so pleased to come to see you. I hope you are well?" said Cynthia, coming forward and offering her hand.
The grave, sad countenance relaxed in a smile. "May I sit here—beside you?"
The smile expanded. Cynthia—that strange "writing woman," friend of Princes, Peasants, Prisoners of War—everybody, but—snobs, shams, and sycophants—took her seat on a cane chair beside Arabi Pacha on his prayer-carpet on a divan.
What impressed Cynthia most in this her first interview with Arabi the Exile was his Faith in Providence, the Almighty.
"What the Almighty decrees comes to pass," said he, quoting the Koran. "What He desires not happens not. All power is with Him."
It was impressive, to say the least of it, to hear with what clemency, what resignation, and with what unshaken faith this defeated warrior spoke of his defeat. The Koran, ever by his side, had been his guide, was still his guide, would always be his guide.
"Remain constant in Faith, and you will merit commendation and gain eternal repose," was now as it ever had been his text. And unlike some others, not of Moslem Faith, he acted on and up to it.
"I felt in my heart our fate—the fate of all Egyptians—was in the hands of England," he said. "It was for England to continue and to complete the work the Almighty had decreed I should begin—and England will" he added.
But the fragrant aroma of coffee caused the conversation to take a different turn—real Mocha.
"What delicious coffee!" exclaimed Cynthia, to give the conversation a turn. Arabi Pacha smiled.
"Now," went on the old man, quite cheerfully, "I will teach you to make coffee as we do. Then tell me how you like it." Forthwith he commenced handling the brass utensils on the tray brought in by an ebony-black Nubian, grinning from ear to ear. Excellent coffee it was. Cynthia had three cups, to Arabis apparent delight. Then, in the midst of lively social chat, in which Arabi Bey (the eldest son) and his brother—a remarkably fine, handsome young man—joined, the curtains were drawn, and in scampered three or four chocolate-coloured youngsters with closecropped hair on shining pates. What little hair there was was " laid out in paths," so to speak, tiny, close-cut ringlets in rows across the head—a most peculiar effect. Their faces, although far from prepossessing, were full of animation, and just now expressive of great joy. Rushing up to the commanding figure on the divan, they threw their naked brown arms around his neck, pressed their flat noses against his cheek, and literally smothered him with caresses, chattering volubly all the while. Arabi, the leader, the commander of men, accepted these ebullitions of affection in the spirit of the intention. He bore those caresses with the spirit of happy resignation. Indeed, this big, brave warrior allowed those little half-castes to do what they liked with him. Then, giving them sugar and sweetmeats, they turned their attention elsewhere, scampering round the visitors "like cannibals around a fat missionary."
"What funny little creatures! Who are they?" asked Cynthia, throwing them lumps of sugar.
"My brothers and sisters," was Arabi Beys reply.
# # # # #
Ahmed Arabi, the Egyptian*
One of the many gracious and kindly actions of His Majesty King Edward on accession to the throne was to cancel the captivity of Arabi Pacha and his brother exiles, and permit them to return home.
* Arabic autograph in Cynthia's birthday-book.

No comments:

Post a Comment