Now that I am getting on in age (still gives no one the right to call me uncle, chacha, mama or any other silly titles), I look back on malicious but memorial childhood actions that I much regret. These silly but hurtful activities, over forty-five plus years ago, shames and saddens me immensely. I am taught, as a Muslim, to repent and seek forgiveness for wrongful actions from the very person who is aggrieved. There is nothing I will not do to seek this pardon; any place I will not go to beg forgiveness for my unforgivable actions. Alas, the person is long dead. And I do not know where he is buried.
There was a madman roaming the town of Tanga, Tanzania in the late sixties, you see, who we called Mwaleemu Kichaa (Mad Teacher). He was, the more knowledgeable among our elders then explained, was once a religious teacher, now struck with demons. Overweight, unkempt, mangled hair with gleeful lice, clothes in tatters and emitting evil unwashed body odor, Mwaleemu Kichaa would roam the streets adjacent to the Khoja mosque in Tanga and we kids would have a field day. Tormenting him, that is. We would gang up on him at night, after magreeb prayers, excited, but fearful also, for Mwaleemu sometimes demonstrated surprising agility at giving chase, and taunt him with curses. Mwaleemu would respond with colorful obscenities of his own, which would prompt us with justification to pelt him with plentiful pebbles, until he would run for succor to Akber Tharoo’s house. Akber Tharoo was the only person Mwaleemu would allow near him, probably because Akberbhai was a kind man who fed Mwaleemu loaves of bread and tea. Akberbhai would admonish and shoo us away, warning he would report our cruel behavior to our parents. This threat would most certainly curb our appetite for more torture to the madman. Until the next time.
I forgot about Mwaleemu and my dreadful behavior as I moved past Tanga and became an adult. But now, his image haunts me at times and I strongly rue my treatment of the sick guy. I pray for him, that his soul is happy with his Lord. So very, very, very sorry, Mwaleemu Kichaa, poole saana. I hope you will forgive me on the Day of Judgment and the reprisal you choose to avenge will not exceed the taunts and pebbles I threw at you.
I board the Hyderabad - Mumbai flight, which is jam-packed. The cabin air is full of varied smells of body odor, thinly masked by scented vapor that Spicejet wisely emits from the aircraft’s air-conditioning vents. It is very chilly, after the hot and humid conditions outside; I instantly shiver and press the call button. After most of my fellow travellers are seated and there is space for movement in the aisle, a cabin attendant comes by and gives me a tired smile. I complain about the chilly air and request the AC be turned down.
Shobha, (that’s what her nametag states), arches an eyebrow my way, blows out her pudgy cheeks, straining thick layer of makeup and gives me a bothered, harassed look. She is a plump gal, obviously fighting a losing battle with her midriff. Shobha has probably been on her feet for several hours, being hassled by travellers like me making seeming frivolous demands. I feel sorry for her and tell her to do it when she has some spare time. Shobha’s large eyes get even larger in unbelief, as if I have blasphemed, tells me she’ll inform the Captain, then leaves in a huff; the main doors have closed and she needs to do the safety demonstration.
It is while Shobha playacts possible disaster scenarios that I notice a spectacular specimen of a human seated across the aisle, two seats front and right of me; I am immediately mesmerized. I have seen some very handsome people in my life, but this guy is gorgeous, absolutely flawless. From the handsome fair chiseled face, to immaculately cut thick hair to the very clothes he wears, he is impeccable and every man, woman and even children gape at him in awe; I begin to feel sorry for myself in an instant. Jeez, Allah, is this fair? I groan. Here I am, running thirty miles a week and still struggling to shed belly fat, my head is almost barren and hair that is supposed to grow there now make sporadic appearances in my nose and ears! My mood turns ugly fast-fast.
Allah answers me lightning quick however. It is while the aircraft is taxiing for takeoff when I notice the Divo with a finger busy up his nose. This act in itself is common in India and I am used to it. Travelling great distances in snarled traffic on busses and trains, people get bored and a finger inevitably finds comfort up a pollution filled nostril. He extracts a booger out, studies it intently and then casually feeds his mouth; again, again and yet again, in quick succession. Ayooo! I freak out and a loud squeal escapes my lips, startling everybody around me, including the Divo. While they gawk at me, astonished, Pushpa comes running, disapproval written all over her face. Is there a problem? She demands from all of us, not sure who the culprit is. The elderly lady seated next to me raises an accusing finger towards me and Pushpa’s face darkens even more. Is there a problem Sir? She demands. Why did you scream? I shake my head violently. No, no ma’am, I say, no problem at all. I hurt my finger tightening my seatbelt, is all, I lie. I smile, hoping to placate her but she gives me a steely stare and tells all of us to behave, we are about to take off.
I keep my face averted from the Divo all the way to Mumbai, even though the urge to see if he is at it again is heavy-duty. But I repent to Allah earnestly, immediately, and thank Him for ALL the bounties He has bestowed on me and my parents and pray that I may do good that pleases Him and that He does good to me in respect of my offspring’s; surely I turn to Him, and surely I am of those who submit.
The Chief Minister’s Assassin - A novel
My novel (print version) has sold almost 300 copies so far, with fantastic reviews. Not bad, really. Those interested can now purchase a copy for US$20 (proceeds still benefit CAI’s worldwide orphanage projects). A copy can be ordered from:
Me in the USA - firstname.lastname@example.org
Fatema Alibhai in Canada - email@example.com
Sabira Somji in Dubai - firstname.lastname@example.org
Nazir Merali in the UK - email@example.com
Murtaza Bhimani in Tanzania - firstname.lastname@example.org.