I fell in love with the city of Damascus in Syria when I had gone for a week-long holiday in 2004. This was much before Syria was bombed and destroyed. There was just something so magical about Damascus- whether it was the people, the culture, the easy going lifestyle, the warmth, the food- can’t really place my finger on it. Interacting with the local Syrians was an absolute delight for me. I still carry a lot of fond memories of my experience in Damascus.
Which is why this graphic short novel The Cat Man of Alepp caught my eye– I also do love cats. So this was a perfect combination.
The Cat Man of Aleppo is a really short book, about thirty or so pages. But it has a heart-warming story. This is a story of one man named Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, woh had decided to stay in his hometown of Aleppo when majority of people were fleeing the bombings. He used to work as an ambulance driver and decided to stay back and help the injured people. Very soon, he realized that it’s not just the people who needed his help, but also the cats! So he saved up on the little earnings he made, and started feeding the cats.
This task proved to be huge for him, and so the call for help was broadcasted worldwide. Soon, donations started pouring in. Thus became the establishment of a cat sanctuary in Aleppo, all thanks to the effort of one man who worked so selflessly.
Here is what the man himself has to say:
From the cat sanctuary, Alaa also set up an orphanage caring for the orphans who would show up to play for the cats. Soon, he also set up clinics to help the sick.
Alaa’s story is an inspiring one. He shows us what it takes to be selfless, to work for others, to leave your own comforts and go out in the rough and cruel world. He decided to help the cats and in turn help the children who were orphaned. He has a huge heart- from driving around his ambulance, to helping the sick people, to making children happy. It’s never about him, but about the suffering people.
People world over believed in his cause. They helped him out so much that Alaa is able to bring hope and joy and love to the cats and to the people, especially children. Alaa dreams about his city of Aleppo going back to what it used to be like before: a bustling city full of people.
His is a life that demonstrates what one man can single handedly do to change his circumstances. No dream is too big. No goal is unreachable. Whatever we put our heart and passion into, without expecting anything in return, we can do wonders.