Antwan, the name was Arabic but the man didn’t look like a local. His complexion was fair rather than swarthy, his hair though dark had reddish tints that didn’t come out of any bottle and his eyes were a clear, startling blue.
He was our guide in Dubai and had intrigued me from the time I had first set eyes on him. A few carefully worded, subtle questions revealed that while his father, Ahmad, was a rich Arab, his mother was Irish.
Ahmad had met Shannon, in a bar in Dublin. Over pints of Guinness, love blossomed. One night after a drink too many, Ahmad proposed to the girl with laughing blue eyes and unruly red curls.
Shannon accepted the challenge of moving to a barren land and setting up house with a man she had known for little more than two weeks, her family’s pleas falling on deaf ears.
Second marriage But in a strange land, surrounded by dark strangers, the thrill of adventure had quickly wilted. Ahmad was charming and chivalrous but she realised too late that he was not the man of her dreams.
With desperate fervour, Shannon had tried to keep the fire in her heart burning. But even that died out in the torrid desert heat.
A year after she arrived in Dubai, Ahmad’s mother had suggested that he take on a second wife who would share his need for an heir.
Shannon was appalled, more so when she realised that Ahmad wasn’t averse to the idea. The next morning, she quietly booked herself on a flight to London. She left home with just her handbag and arrived in Dublin, two days later, travelweary and heart-broken.
Shannon never saw Ahmad again but she did discover, a month later, that she was carrying his child. By then Ahmad had divorced her and married a local girl who was also pregnant.
Contemplating abortion Shannon contemplated an abortion but her religion forbade it. And eight months later, Antwan entered the world, unwanted and unloved. Shannon had deliberately chosen an Arabic name for her son in the hope that it would endear him to his father.
But Ahmad didn’t show the slightest interest in his first-born. His new wife, Nusrat, was in the last stage of her pregnancy when Antwan was born. Ahmad refused to leave her side.
She showed her appreciation by presenting him with an eight-pound boy child, who was welcomed as the legitimate heir to Ahmad’s million-dirham empire.
Shannon refused to accept Antwan as her own. He wouldn’t let her forget the past and get on with the future. He was Ahmad’s responsibility and she sought legal help to ensure that he accepted Antwan.
When the boy was five, he was put on a plane to Dubai, alone. Ahmad met him at the airport and took him back to his home without speaking a single word.
Home.. not alone It took just 24 hours for Antwan to realise that he was as much unwanted here as he was in Dublin. His stepbrothers and their friends were always ragging him because he looked, spoke and behaved differently. His stepmother hated him. And his father was coldly indifferent to him.
Antwan responded to the negative vibes by turning into a rebel without a pause. His growing up years were turbulent. He spent most of the time in different boarding schools because he couldn’t last in one for long.
As a teenager, after one crime too many, he landed in jail. The six months there sobered him. Eventually, his father bailed him out. After that Antwan changed.
He got himself a job as a tourist guide. Eventually, he met a girl who loved him even though he was ‘different’. And she gave him a family of his own. Today, Antwan is finally home and not alone.