Le Grand Voyage

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Son: Why didn’t you fly to Mecca? It’s a lot simpler.

Father: When the waters of the ocean rise to the heavens, they lose their bitterness to become pure again…

Son: What?

Father: The ocean waters evaporate as they rise to the clouds. And as they evaporate they become fresh. That’s why it’s better to go on your pilgrimage on foot than on horseback, better on horseback than by car, better by car than by boat, better by boat than by plane.

          It’s a long journey to mutual understanding, hurdles to overcome in terms of generation gap, religious and cultural differences and the varied modes in communication. Father and son set on a road journey to Mecca, the holy land for the people of the Islamic faith. The father has instructed the son to drive him from France to the Saudi Arabia despite the fact that he could have bought an air ticket and be comfortably transported to his destination. The son though upset with the decision, especially when he had to leave behind his girlfriend and at the risk of failing his promotion examination, failed to demand for an explanation from the father. Perhaps if he had done so in the beginning, he may be spared of the responsibility or he would have gladly set out on the journey.

          Throughout the journey, there were moments of tension and truth, father and son at loggerheads and just seemingly repeated scenes of a simple meal together. There were not many conversations exchanged between the two, especially when they were in the car and on the road. Somehow, the same expressions of quiet frustration and anger remain on their faces at most times. Still, it wasn’t a boring movie as there will always be the appearances of some very interesting characters. Maybe I wasn’t paying much attention and thus couldn’t understand some parts of the storytelling, such as the mysterious old lady who insisted on travelling to some mysterious “Delcic” place which apparently does not exist. When the duo left her behind at the hotel, she gazed out of the window in solemn sadness in her eyes, only to reappear before the son when the father got hospitalised in another town. Who is she and why is she being planted in the journey? What is she trying to teach the father and son in their pilgrimage? Then there was the sleazy man from Turkey who claimed to have a family in France and found his way into joining the duo in their pilgrimage. With his contrasting traits from the God fearing father, the man is a father figure much adored by the son, but the father has doubts about his character and one fine morning, he was accused of stealing their money after the son came back drunk the night before. Yet the son later found the so-called missing money safely intact in the socks underneath the car seat. Could the father have accused him so as to shove him away as he is a threat to the father and son relationship? Or is he truly up to no good? Again, what is his role in this pilgrimage?

          The father said that the pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the five pillars of Islam that all Musilims should observe if they have the financial means. He told the son of his own father’s pilgrimage and how he had waited for his father’s return from the journey. He prayed 5 times a day, and regardless of his whereabouts, he will and have to pray. He is a man of faith and he practices his faith, vividly expressed when the son seek his forgiveness after his amoral flirting behaviour was discovered by his father. I admire the father’s steadfast love and faith, I adore his “action speaks louder than words” disposition and I am impressed by his acts of compassion and wisdom. 

          I ever dreamt of Mecca even though I am not a Muslim, the pilgrimage is always a heart-wrenchingly beautiful idea, an unforgettable experience. The scene of the pilgrimage is both spectacular and impactful. When the father failed to return from his first day of prayer, the son waited from day to dusk. His last glance at his father in the white robe, a smile on his face as he went on to join the rest of the pilgrims shall remain etched in his mind/memory for as long as he lives. Then the son set off in search of his father, only to be swarmed by the massive crowd and he started to blurt out in anxiety and perhaps fear, spouting French instead of his native language. He is in every sense a foreigner, in terms of religion, he is a secular and culturally a French-Moroccan, in the land his dear father will lie forever…

          So what would he have learnt? Compassion and love, and also wisdom and not mere knowledge. The father reprimanded the son to know how to read and write but not known life. He had reminded the son of who we are but the mist that will disppear soon from our earthly existence and thus, he had stayed close to his god throughout his living hours. He showed his son the meaning of giving even when they could only survive on bread and eggs on a daily basis and he has shown his son how his faith will eventually lead him to his holy land even when he couldn’t read the map. If life is indeed a journey from day to dusk, how should we be leading it?

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