A Conversation With The Palestinian Author, Chaker Khazaal
Last week, I had the pleasure to sit down for a virtual conversation with young and now celebrated Palestinian author Chaker Khazaal. He has lived an extraordinary life with his roots stemming from a refugee camp in the Lebanese capital Beirut. Now, he enjoys success and fame not just as an author but also as an influencer.
From being honored with Esquire Middle East Man of the Year 2015 to bagging the Arabian Business Achievement Award 2019, he is not just a star. To many young readers in the Arab world, he has become a household name with hit novel trilogy such as “The Confessions of a War Child” and “Tale of Tala”.
To many, Chaker’s success story from a refugee camp to a best-selling author remains a story of awe and inspiration. He grew up in Lebanon but later, securing a scholarship at Canada’s York University he was able to fly to and settle in Canada. And now he is a Canadian national.
He has earned respect of every big Middle Eastern star be it the singing sensation Elissa launching the memoir “Ouch” in a gym in Beirut in 2020, or renowned Lebanese TV host and actress Sacha Dahdouh interviewing him about his initiative “Candle of Hope” in 2020. It was the time when COVID-19 death count was shattering hopes and creating a wave of fear and anxiety across the globe.
In April this year, Chaker and OBCIDO Inc. came up with a new initiative – first of its kind in the Arab world – started by a celeb to open discussion on mental health. The initiative titled “Let’s Talk” opens a golden opportunity for everyone who has ever suffered through the horrible phases of insomnia, mental stress, and depression. It makes them feel comfortable in their skin. They find solace in the voice of a celeb who is openly telling everyone about his mental health and want everyone to talk and speak up to find the healing in their life.
I remained awake due to insomnia bothering me through the night with my head full of thoughts about the next working day. It was 1:21 am and while flipping through different insta stories, I also came across the story of Khazaal’s campaign on insomnia. And suddenly without any qualms I reacted with a crying emoji. Within few seconds, my crying emoji was responded with a question from a big name in Arab literature of modern times. The question was, “You do anything about it?” First, I was surprised as I was not expecting a star of his stature to respond swiftly to my crying emoji when his DM already must have been inundated with thousands of messages considering he had around 118 thousand Instagram followers. I was disturbed already by my sleep-deprived state and continued perplexities of battle with insomnia. As I was so clueless, instead of first expressing my gratitude to him for responding, I went on to answer his question. I told him how I started writing poetry initially to deal with insomnia and after several English and French poems, I began writing a novel of my own. He retorted with the word “Beautiful”.
Just then, we decided to sit down for a virtual conversation with Zoom – acting as a provider of the floor for a fruitful and healing conversation between a successful Palestinian author and an aspiring Pakistani author. It is there the seed for a virtual dialogue between a Pakistani and a Palestinian was germinated.
We did set time for our Zoom meeting and despite his busy schedule, he managed to indulge me in a very freewheeling conversation which lasted for over half an hour. I found a friend in him, someone I could speak to and open up to when I felt stressed. Not even for a single minute, I felt like I was interacting with a star; but as if I was conversing with a friend from childhood. Therefore, we concluded that talking is healing and that is how I found my solace in the voice of a star from a foreign terrain. Borders, distances, and differences of ethnicity and age vanished when I spoke up on mental health with Chaker. As a writer myself, I found many of his thoughts and sentiments quite relatable. Here is the link to watch my video conversation with him.