lundi 27 juillet 2015

THE CHAUFFEUR WITH A BIG SOUL : ATMANE THE FRENCH ALGERIEN AMAZEGH

he was dressed impeccably, waiting for me at 17 boulevard vaugirard, the address of the Montparnasse Station in Paris. His car was clean and shiny. He looked me as I was struggling with my luggage and my jacket on this hot humid parisian day, and we recognized each other immediately, even before we exchanged any words.
I sat in the front, I told him, in this way we can talk our way to the CDG Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, he was pleased. We talked about Amazegh his people, the original people of North Africa (Arabs are not native to that region and conquered that area which they called Maghreb or the West). We talked about the Amazegh (popularly called Berber in the west or Moors in English historically). He was happy to hear that Tariq ben Zayad who conquered Spain was an Amazegh and that Gibraltar is a corruption of Gib el Tariq , meaning the rock of Tariq.. 
When I said I live in Cuba, his eyes lit up. I have been to Cuba five times, I love the Cuban people and their friendliness, he exclaimed. Needless to say our friendship was sealed by this time, and our conversation covered a lot of subjects as we traversed through the beautiful sights of Paris, Palais Royal and Pont Alexandre, then on to the peripherique.. Paris is like a museum, he exclaimed with joy in his eyes. He spoke English very well, he said, more than 95 % of his clients are non french and he said, every one speaks English, to which I added, except the French! He was impressed with the Cuban Health and Education system and that every one was entitled to a good education. I told him that France has a good educational system but it is available to only a few elite people, not democratic enough in its selection. Many of his guests are from the Middle East and he said that the patrons from the Gulf states all spoke English well enough to speak to him in English.
He had a good view of Cuba, as we talked I realied he had a view of Cuba, not as a tourist but he viewed cubans as fellow citizens and not as a tourist views a native population. he wants to come back to cuba for further visits and I gave him my card and told him that it would be my pleasure to invite him for dinner if we coincide in Cuba.
He said that in Cuba, every one embraced him when he told them he was from Algeria. As any Cuban knows, Algerie was the first country that Cuban International Medical Teams went to and I have a photo of Che Guevara arriving at Algers in 1961 begin the cooperation between Cuba and Algeria!
I asked him, what is your name?  he replied ATMAN, i was surprised and asked him to spell it and he did, as above ATMANE. Did you know that ATMAN means SOUL?  I am learning a lot from you, doctor , he smiled and acknowledged. 
We avoided talking politics or religion, he was proud to be Amazegh, and he pointed out, Amazegh means FREE PEOPLE, I am Free he said, to do what i want and how I worship. It is true there are Berber Christians and Berber Jews!
He has to have a broad mind, he meets many clients in his job, he keeps an open view and he has noticed that it pays in the end in that many clients stay with him for days on end, engaging his services through the service company he is employed.
I wanted to show a token of my appreciation and what he said amazed me
Doctor, when you are in another country tomorrow, please look for a family who need money more than I do, please arrange a dinner for them, and I would please me no end. It will be done with my heart.
When was the last time, you heard that from a chauffeur or a taxi driver, especially in this unfriendly city for travellers, Paris? Why cant the french smile like the genuine smile of Atmane, which comes from his heart rather than his outward appearance, in this city which prides itself in keeping up the outside appearance so well ( coutoure, parfume, shoes etc)?

Atmane, my friend, is a credit to his employers, a credit to his people Amazegh and also to his adopted land, France. 
I chuckled with him when I told him the story of trying to get something done at Montparnasse station where no one was friendly and even less spoke English.
He is a proud addition to France and to Europe and to humanity.