“In my novel The Doodler of Dimashq I found expression for a profound grief that I have been holding inside my heart”

Kirthi Jayakumar Gya 1
Kirthi is also a lawyer who specialises in public international law and human rights (Kirthi Jayakumar / Facebook)

Kirthi Jayakumar, one of our Global Youth Ambassadors, tells how images of terrible events led her to write a book about a young woman in Syria.

There are very few global events I remember in the most distinct way imaginable. These are events whose records in my memory are tied with exactly what I was doing at that precise moment. 

When 9/11 happened, I was getting my palms adorned with henna by Mrs Abbas. The two of us sat and watched the news on screen, with our hearts in our throats. 

When the brutal gang rape in New Delhi was reported, I remember I had just washed my hands after dinner, tears stinging my eyes.  

When pictures of Aylan Kurdi appeared two years ago on September 2, I remember I was reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the 14th time. 

Kirthi Jayakumar Gya 4

Kirthi has completed a novel entitled The Doodler of Dimashq (Kirthi Jayakumar / Facebook)

For life, the memory of the little child lying on his stomach, face down, as the waves lapped at his lifeless form, will remain etched in my memory. 

In the hour that followed, I found myself furiously drawing Aylan’s form in my notebook, doodling his tiny body, and sending a prayer up to whatever form it is that holds humanity within the palm of its hands. 

Two years after that, I would find myself rolling into a new year, as January 2017 turned round the horrific nightmare of 2016 into a year of promise. 

On January 1, 2017, I would find myself with the tiny amoeba of a story forming itself in my head, the protagonist growing stronger and stronger as my mind would paint a new shade of her life in the form of words. 

Listen to Kirthi talk about peacebuilding in the Better Angels podcast

These words would grow and grow and grow into a vortex, until the narrative of the Syrian civil war would come alive through the voice of this young woman Ameenah.

The end product was a 202-page novel that I called The Doodler of Dimashq. In it, I found expression for a profound grief that I have been holding, and continue to hold, inside my heart.

Many of us grew up reading and acclimatising ourselves with stories from the Holocaust. 

Many of us learned that there was a certain depth, a profoundness associated with the words “never again.”  

And yet, in each year of our childhoods, adulthoods and the crevices in between, we saw photograph after photograph carried in the newspapers around us – the Rwandan genocide, the Srebrenica massacre, the Guatemalan Mayan Ixil Genocide, children in Gaza, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Iraq … and now Syria.