Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Love

How do I describe it? You have been there every step of the way. You have been my only support when I was abandoned by all and loved by noone. You have been the answer to my prayers and the balm on my wounds. You havetaken me by the hand and guided me through the darkness of despair and over thethorny grounds of life. You gave me everything, and asked for nothing inreturn. Whenever I was lost, depressed, lonely, whichever way I turned I sawYou, always and everywhere. Everything you promised me came true. I wasthankless, hateful, dissatisfied and impatient, and still You took me backevery time I dragged myself, broken and defeated, to You. You covered all mysins and imperfections and presented me in the best possible form. You gave mefamily, security, health and a good life. And still I fail, time and timeagain, to thank You as should be. If I should spend my whole life trying toreturn a fraction of what You gave me, or 100 lives, I wouldn’t come close. You don’t need me, I am nothing to you, and yet you treat me like I’m the only onewho matters. If I should spend my whole life, or 100 lives, worthless as theymay be, trying to describe all that You have been to me, all that you havegiven me, all that you have made me, I wouldn’t come close. You are the Only One who matters, the Only One who has and always will be on my side. You arethe Only One who’s forgiveness I crave and who’s mercy I need and who’s recognitionI beg for. I have no one but You to turn to, for I know that You will always bethere for me.
I love You, forever and always, and wish that on that Day, You will love me too, and take me where You are, and let me see You if only fora second. For then I will know for sure that I have made it to the one placethat matters. That I have finally won the battle, and that my long, longjourney has come to an end. That I am Home. With You, my Love.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wake-up Call


Isn’t it the most irritating thing when you wake up to the reality that things are actually nothing like you thought they were, and that, deep down inside you knew that all along? You suddenly realise that the uneasy feeling of things not being quite right was true. And you also realise that that feeling was there since as long as you can remember and that it stared you in the face every morning and every night and you still brushed it aside as nonsense.  And when things finally fall to pieces around you, you wonder what in God’s name were you thinking, dragging things along for so long? That has to be the worst part. The part where you realise that you knew all along it would never have worked out. That it was all wrong. That you don’t want it anyway. That you’re not and never will be satisfied with the way things are. That you don’t feel the way you act like you feel, and that you know those feelings are not mutual. Why do we do these things? Why?
Do I hate you? That depends, really. I’m not sure what it depends on, but it just does. Hate is a very powerful emotion. You have to deserve that emotion. And not many people deserve an active emotion like hate. Indifference would suit them far much more. Because not many people are really worth an active emotion at all. Just indifference. They have no place in your life, have no part in your day. They are not worth you spending such effort as hate entails on them. Therefore, I would rather not hate you, because I just can’t be bothered to.
You think you mean something to someone. Not much, but at least as much as they mean to you. The worst feeling in the world is realising that you don’t. And never did. And never will. That actually, you no place in their life, have no part in their day. Yes, you are liked, you are welcome to spend time with them, etc. But do you really, actually mean something to them? Not really. If they would have to choose to have one person to have by their side in the most important day of their life, it wouldn’t be you. You wouldn’t even be the runner up. Is that enough to make you hate that person? Not really. You can’t force people to want you and you can’t complain when they don’t. You can just curse your stupidity that you thought you were worth something to them, when all the time you knew deep down inside that you never were.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Infamous Unfortunate: Memoirs of a Kumsari 3

Ibrahim jumps off and Abbashar slows to a stop again, as a woman waddles up behind the bus, a 4x4 carrying roughly 200 shopping bags and dragging a long line of kids with ice creams behind her. She roughly pushes Ibrahim out of the way to get on. If students are every bus driver and kumsari’s worst enemy, then women are a close runner up. They take twice as long as anyone to get on or off, they talk too loud, almost never pay the whole fare and are always carrying things that take up extra space. They’re always getting into fights if someone bumps into them and their clothes are always in everyone’s way. Ibrahim watches as she squeezes through the door and down the aisle, knocking everyone around her with her bags and children, puffing and wheezing and stopping more than once to drag her toub up from the ground. She looks around for a suitable seat, stepping back and forth on a couple of toes more than once, until she settles on 2 adjacent seats next to the window. She then proceeds to push and squash her 5 squabbling children and their ice creams into the seat and settles herself in next to them, placing the shopping bags underneath her where they slide up and down, leaking their contents onto the floor under the passengers feet. Abbashar watches silently in his rear-view mirror until this well known procedure is finished then revs his engine and slides back into traffic. Ibrahim hangs from the door and looks in at them through the window, anticipating the argument that he knows by heart. He watches as the children lick the ice cream off their hands and shove each other around, crying and kicking each other. The woman busies herself by looking in her purse, rifling through her shopping bags and occasionally delivering a debilitating pinch to one of her children’s thighs. Ibrahim reaches in through the window and jingles his change at her. She hands him some coins without looking up from her bags. Ibrahim counts the coins while keeping one eye on her and her children as one of the kids pushes his ice cream cone into the head of the person sitting in front of them. As expected, the fare is incomplete.



‘Yaaaa ostaza,’ he grumbles, as a man covered in ice cream jumps out of his seat, yelping, and tries to reach down the back of his shirt. No one hears Ibrahim in the uproar; the children scream in fright, the man and his neighbours yell and knock into each other and the seats and the woman screeches and slaps the wrong child, shouts at the ice-cream victim, argues with everyone around her about whose fault it is keeping their heads in such close proximity to innocent children with ice-creams, and so on and so forth. Ibrahim clambers into the bus still jingling his change and tries to bring to subject back to where it should be: his money.


‘Ya ostaza, billai adena bagi algurosh di yakhi 3aleik Allah ane7na ma 3indana zaman lelkalam da wal3ishreen shafi3 al3indik deil da 7ata ma bijeb nos alqema almafrouda-‘


Oblivious to Ibrahim’s entreaties the fight continues, the ice-cream victim with a murderous look on his face and growling in response to the woman’s indifference to his condition and spitting fire at him, the bus, the government and the world in general, all the while the child who had lost the ice-cream wailing about his loss, the child wrongfully punished crying about her punishment, the other three children either busy with their ice-creams, crying in sympathy with the other kids or sticking their tongues out at the public.
Abbashar slows down and parks on the side of the road, looking in his rear-view mirror and sighing. Fights  are more than a usual sight in all modes of public transport, and it is not an unfamiliar scene to see an entire bus parked at the police station every once in a while. As usual, anyone within hearing, including everyone on the bus, has become involved in the fight; either holding back the ice-cream victim, holding back the woman, holding back the child who lost the ice-cream, tutting about the situation in general and children-these-days in specific, complaining about time lost getting somewhere important, and, of course, that it was all the kumsari’s fault.

Ibrahim jingles his change, seething at the woman and trying to get a word in between her steady flow of woman-talk, but to no avail. His voice rises bit by bit over the uproar around him and soon enough he is shouting at the top of his lungs that he JUST wants his STUPID MONEY or ELSE there will be CONSEQUENCES!
No one even looks at him twice.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pilgrimage

All this talk these days about hajj brings back all sorts of memories. I always used to wonder why some people went to hajj year after year. Was it because these days it’s a sign of wealth and a sort of status? I wouldn’t doubt that, since in our country a certain proportion of people are usually the most frequenters, and their packages the most luxurious. Was it because, between each pilgrimage and the next, they had accumulated enough sins to make the trip a necessity? Possibly. That’s one concept I can understand. Or was it because they simply loved it? That’s something to think about it.


To describe my own experience, one word I would use would be: emotional. Before even leaving the house it had started: people we hadn’t seen in ages came to wish us good blessings and good luck. Asking us to pray for loved ones: children, parents, siblings, the starving back home, the fighters across the ocean, the Muslim nation as a whole. And then, loading the car in the dark of the night going to the airport, neighbours waking up and coming out to see us off, some of which I hadn’t seen or talked to in years. The airport itself, teeming with people, those leaving and those dropping off, everyone bubbling with excitement, myself not excluded. And then, heading towards the House of He Who is Most Merciful and Generous, to pay my modest respects and ask for forgiveness: I got into a fight. In the airport bathroom. With some stupid cleaner who didn’t want to do her job and clean the water that had spilled on the floor. My mother stared at me as I told her off for telling me off and then followed me out as I seethed with wrath at the ill manners of the ill-treated with non-Omanis. Bad start? I guess. And that wasn’t the only fight I got into or the only shouting I did before the trip was over, but let’s not talk about that, ahehheh. *cough*

The first views are everything: first view of Al-Qubba Al-Khadra in Medina, first view of the Prophet PBUH’s final resting place. Jostled around by the crowd and tired from the long wait in a disorganized line to reach the place, I thought of things other than where I was going, but the minute I stepped into that narrow chamber with the colourful carpets and columns and the pigeons above us on the beams, and the inscriptions visible over the barrier marking his and his companion’s graves, I felt a touch of it for the first time, and broke down. In the midst of the frantic prayers, shouting, crying, greetings and pushing, I cried for the first time, praying that I would never go back to the person I used to be, reaching out to the grave of the friend we all loved without knowing, prayed for without thinking and believed in without seeing.

From there to Mecca, passing through the Meqat and watching the crowds collecting, men changing from colourful outfits and different costumes into one colour, one uniform, and all tongues murmuring together one chant:

لبيك اللهم لبيك، لبيك لا شريك لك، لبيك! إن الحمد و النعمة لك، و الملك! لا شريك لك!

Such short phrases, such heart filling meaning! We are coming to You as You call us! To You and only to You, asking for forgiveness, hoping for recognition, to bask in Your Glory and beg for Your Mercy! To You we are coming!

The first view of the Haram in the dark of an early morning, still chanting, our adrenalin running high despite the many hours we have been awake and the exhaustion of the journey. Arriving just in time for Fajr prayers, walking between masses and masses of people, sitting, standing, leaning, praying, and still far away from the actual grounds. So many people! I don’t think I have ever or will ever again see so many! After prayers we head into mosque for the first Tawaf, and I have my first view of the Ka’bah. What I sight! I don’t remember what I thought or felt, but that it was so overwhelming my mind was blank. Also, the fact that I was terrified of being trampled to death under the millions of feet that were marching alongside us sort of shifted my focus. And so many people!

I won’t go into more details, except that for those 9 days we were in another world. We didn’t care about food and many times went without lunch and dinner without even noticing. I was in awe at all the things I saw: a man crying and falling down on his hands and knees, crawling towards the Ka’bah; young couples and old, marching through the crowds and holding on to each other for physical and emotional support; young sons carrying their aging parents tirelessly and devotedly and pointing out the sights for them; so many people lost in their thoughts and prayers, kneeling, crying, praying and praying and praying. And so many people!

And then suddenly, it was over and we were back in our quiet, clean home. We slept for days. More people, many of whom had never stepped into our house before, came to welcome us back. On the third day we remembered that we have a TV and turned it on. It was so strange, listening to all the talk about the South and Palestine and the Tunisian kid who had set himself on fire after being slapped by a woman. So strange. Like news from another world that had nothing to do with where we had come from.

I don’t know how other people feel about hajj and what makes them keep going back. For me, I feel a stab of painful longing every time I look at the pictures I took, because I miss it. I hear of people going this year and envy them. I think about all the time I wasted getting there and wish I had longer.

I feel like that was home, where I belong, and the rest of my life is just a holiday.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Infamous Unfortunate: Memoirs of Kumsari Part 2

2


There are a number of occupational hazards associated with being a kumsari. Any job that necessitates dealing with a large number of people at a close range has its dangers. For example, jailers and their prisoners; teachers and their students; waiters and their customers; and kumsaris and their passengers. The general area of Khartoum is geographically not that big; however due to the amount of traffic, the quality of the streets and the number of traffic police, a journey from Bahri Almazad to Alsoug Alarabi that would take around ten minutes in any other country would be completed in a little over an hour in Sudan. A whole hour with a large number of people of various sizes and tempers, in various weathers and financial situations.

Ibrahim is generally a nice person with a mild temper. It comes from listening to all sorts of things on the radio that plays 24/7 on old Zooba’s prehistoric stereo. When you take out all the crappy music and bland talk shows, there are various educational and cultural topics that teach Ibrahim a lot about the world beyond his. He is listening to one particular radio show on a particularly sunny morning on his second run to the downtown, while strolling down the aisle and jingling his change at the passengers; a polite way to ask them to please pay the required fare instead of the usual snapping of fingers in their faces which he sees as vulgar.

‘Miya tani’, he smiles, as a blue-clad man hands him a few coins short of the standard fare. The man glares at his impudence and growls that he doesn’t have it and looks away. Ibrahim moves a couple of rows down and encounters another incomplete payment. This time it’s a young woman in a police uniform who doesn’t even look up from her magazine as he asks for the rest. Ibrahim stays put for a while jingling his coins and wondering if these people know the amount of money Abbashar pays for taxes, gasoline, spare parts, bribes and tickets and then decides it’s not worth it. He moves on and looks up to find 8 boys in school uniforms crammed into the back row, smiling at him over their transport cards and one penny each. Ibrahim stares back at them, wondering how they got on the bus in the first place. Students are allowed to pay half the original fare for transport and are every bus driver and kumsari’s worst enemy. In an effort to make up for the lost money drivers allow only 4 students per bus. These kids obviously got in through the windows.

Ibrahim collects his change in disgust and moves back to the front of the bus, climbing over legs and bags and middle seats, to count the loss and calculate everyone’s change. He leans out the window and breathes in the dusty afternoon air. The scenery around him changes from hair salons and restaurants to shop fronts and service buildings. The main referral children’s hospital Ahmed Gasim to his left flanked by the area’s electricity plant, and to his right a number of shop fronts and dry cleaners. The roads are dusty and broken, with a wide range of pedestrians walking in all directions including across the street without warning: men old and young, women old and young, children homed and homeless, dogs, goats, donkeys, a cat or two. They pass the traffic light and pull over to let passengers heading to Omdurman off and those heading to Bahri on. Abbashar revs the engine a few times to hurry people up; this traffic light is particularly infested with traffic police. Slowly they move down the road, old Zooba chugging and creaking as Abbashar expertly swerves out of the way of pot holes and rocks on the street. A passenger snaps his fingers to be let off and Ibrahim whistles and leans out the window again to signal their destination to the people on the road as they stop in front of Saad Gishra, a large, popular market place where anything can be found: silk from India and Dubai, shoes and sandals from Turkey, children’s clothes from China, whitening creams and relaxers from KSA and gold both fake and real. There are black market money changers, tailors and shoe shiners, book sellers and traditional healers and you can fix everything and anything for a small price. It is an important stop on the Bahri line and a number of people get off as others crowd around the door to get on. Ibrahim leans on the side of the bus looking up and down the street until Abbashar starts moving and then he hops back on. They’ve only gone a few meters however when a voice screeches at them to halt.

‘HOY!’

.....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Zainab



The thing about working in the ER is that at some point you kind of feel like you live there. You’re there at all hours of the day and night, weekends, national holidays, birthdays, etc. You see the same faces starting from the security boys to the orderlies, nurses, cleaners and of course the doctors. You also see the same patients over and over again. Every hospital has a collection of customers that seem to also think of it as their home. They’re there at all hours of the day and night, weekends, national holidays, birthdays, etc. The know which nurses cannulate the fastest, they know which doctors they don’t want treating them: ‘Oh God, it’s that Sudanese girl again, no morphine for me this time.’ They know the shift in charge by name. They know the doses of the medications and even correct the junior doctors sometimes. They even get invited to staff occasions, like food fairs and weddings. There are old men neglected at home who come for a little TLC, there are drug addicts coming for their fix and are willing to wait outside all night to get it. There are alcoholics who keep falling off their wagons again and again. There are psychotic patients who won’t take their medications and keep relapsing. And there are unfortunate children with stupid parents that either don’t know how to take care of them or don’t want to take care of them and drag them to the ER twice a week for a runny nose or a rash they’ve had since birth. And there are people like Zainab.
                Sometimes I think we do more damage to people than use. Like this girl Zainab presented first with a urinary tract infection and a year later had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, motility disorder, hypocalcemia and vitamin D deficiency and hypothyroidism. Now she has to be catheterised because she can’t urinate herself and keeps going into retention. She has also has chronic constipation and the only motions she passes is when her colon is so loaded it overflows. She is depressed, smells bad all the time, has lost weight and has the worst possible parents someone in her position can have. I still don’t understand how she deteriorated so much in such a period. When I saw her a year ago she was just a shy, slightly subintelligent girl of 19 who had a problem going to the bathroom because it burned. Bit by bit she stopped going to the bathroom at all. Her parents brought her 3 times in one week and couldn’t understand the concept of actually taking the medication prescribed and giving it more than 24 hours to work. It was so irritating. However, things just got worse for her. Eventually an Xray showed that her colon was so loaded with faeces it was pressing on her urethra to the extent that it was blocking our urinary outflow.
From there things just kept getting more complicated. In the months before then and last week I was lost in my own adventures: numerous exams, sudden richness and just as sudden bankruptcy, a short-lived engagement and an eventual breakup, as well as other dramatic events that kept me oblivious of my surrounds. I saw her last week and didn’t even recognize her at first. She was so thin, exhausted and just plain miserable. She looked sweaty and her clothes were hanging on her. She was in pain and crying because her bladder was so full and she couldn’t pass a drop. And her mother was holding her by the arm and dragging her along. She was treated that day and discharged and came right back again the next day. Another XR, probably the 9000th she’s had this year alone, showed as usual an overloaded colon. I was standing on the other side of a wall separating her cubicle from the corridor, and from there I could hear her crying that she didn’t want an enema or a manual evacuation the second she heard about the Xray findings. I could hear her parents hissing at her and telling the doctor to just ignore her and do whatever they want. And I heard the slaps and her screaming, and her father damning her and her obstinate idiocy. I couldn’t handle it and walked away.
My heart breaks to see people that have to turn to an ER for the comfort they can’t find elsewhere. Every time I see that 80 year old man who lives alone and has so many children but no one to take care of him I curse the fate that handed him such thankless beings. Every time I see the SCD patients who are hooked on the narcotics they’ve been fed since they could walk I wish such things weren’t even invented. Every time I see Farid crying in his cubicle from the abdominal pain and the shame that he had again lost his fight with the bottle I wish I could find that part in his brain that keeps dragging him back to it and cut it out. And when I see Zainab in all her endless misery with parents who are sick and tired of bringing her back and forth every day and having to explain her embarrassing condition to people, I wish I lived and worked somewhere where I didn’t have to know about her and people like her.
Perfect health and loving family are so underrated.