I Want To Die

I Want To Die

I Want To Die 150 150 Comfort Aid International

Kisukaali, I want to die.

These words are from Mullah Mchungu as I sit alongside his bed. I feel safe, as the menacing walking stick that he sometimes brandishes is nowhere in sight. He is ailing again. At just over eighty years old, I’d expect his human engine to have ups and downs, and aches and pains to become part of old age. But the Mullah has other reasons for his ailment.

I’m sick because I was made to wait for my dinner until after 10 PM at the imambargah day before yesterday! That exploded my stomach acidity levels so high my gut almost wilted. Were you there?

The Mullah is referring to the commemoration of the birthday of The Lady of Light (s) at the Khoja Imambargah here in Dar es Salaam on January 12.

No, Mullah Saheb, I was in Mombasa for work.

Bah, says the guy impatiently, which gets him into a coughing fit and then clears his lumpy throat. Hameesi, his lifelong caretaker and companion leaps forward with a makeshift spittoon and the Mullah empties the harvest into it. Then gently, as a mother would do to an infant, he cleans the old man’s lips, adjusts the pillows, and walks away, standing guard with a watchful eye towards his ward. Hameesi, too, seems to be aging – I see a lot of gray in his wooly hair and his face is etched with patience and wisdom.

Kisukaali, I never go to these functions anymore, but I made an exception for my friend’s grandson, whose wedding night it was. And also, because it was my Sayyeda’s (s) birthday. What a disaster! It was a very warm and humid evening. Most everybody wore their finest outfits. That means too much and too heavy. I was hot, bothered, and sweaty, even with the a/c’s on full blast. I was hungry by the time the lecture ended and was looking forward to the customary waleema biryani.

Just then, Hameesi enters totting a tray with a mountain of steaming mouthwatering bajias, a bowl of fiery coconut and tamarind chutney, and steaming chai. Hands down, the bajia, chutney, and cardamom-free chai treats that Hameesi makes are the best mid-morning snacks that I have eaten, ever. I always tease him to open a restaurant and he’d be an instant millionaire. It is only after I wolf down these three and clear my sinuses that the Mullah continues.

The wilaadat lecture ended on time, for once. Then the kaseedas began. My tummy’s acid was already making me uncomfortable, but I was patient. They were bearable because of my love and respect for the holy Lady (s). But then, the powers took over the mic and it was all downhill from then on.

The Mullah was interrupted by his daughter, who lives a short distance away, stepping in to ensure her father was okay. She makes sure her dad has taken his medication, discusses the menu for the day and tomorrow with Hameesi, and then departs, leaving a heady scent of oud in the air.

The guy goes on and on and on about building a hospital for the Khojas in Dar, continues Mullah Mchungu. It is past 22:00 and the guy and his team do not tire talking. Two just-married couples sitting in uncomfortable clothes and makeup trying to maintain continuous fixed smiles for the cameras, impatiently waiting to be in their partners arms and these dudes go on and on. What is it with alims and politicians? Give them the mic and they think we have nothing better to do or go to but listen to their repetitive mantra? It was only when my friend intervened that a few of us were taken away and fed separately. About four bloody hours after I have my usual dinner.

The man is raging livid and thrashes his feet on the bed in anger, triggering another spat of repulsive productive cough that Hameesi adds to the prior collection in the spittoon. I want to say something in defense of the other side but I do not want to be the cause of his sudden demise either. The way he is going, I’m afraid he’ll burst a vein and die of a stroke.

Say something, Kisukaali, don’t be so spineless, roars the man after Hameesi gives him some drool-cleaning attention.

Mullah saheb, I speak warily, these events are the only ones that attract a large gathering. So, the management has to take advantage and share their plans and raise funds. It is for your well-being, sio? A hospital will be built insha’Allah, you will get the opportunity of quality medical care, you will be taken care of by trained nurses, have access to genuine medicines…

Spare me all that, ghadhera. You think I want to live a minute more in this mess of our dunia? My son and daughter pay for the medicines that keep me artificially alive. I can’t enjoy a satisfying fart for fear of soiling my pajama that poor Hameesi will have to wash. But for cotton-picking sake, why not use social media for the fundraising? Look at the consequences of what happened – the brides and grooms are probably still cursing the guys for cutting into their nuptial night, he had me nearly dead because of the increase in acid levels in my tummy and they have probably turned off many potential generous donors because they have no discipline of time and crave hoob-ul-mic.

I look at Mullah Mchungu in exasperation and he looks back at me with unabashed defiance. What kind of logic is this? Since I have nothing to add that will convince him to be more understanding, I prepare to leave.

Kisukaali, the aggravated man says, I am past my usefulness. I am a burden and a pain for all, including my children. I want to die. We should be left to die after we are done with productive life. These cost of medications and maintenance that keep us like breathing vegetables should be spent on other useful, productive causes. Now, I have said what I want to say and I want to rest, so you may leave. And tell those nincompoops to limit their speeches to a respectable five minutes. We humans stop listening and caring past that time. Especially on an empty stomach!

It is with a heavy heart that I leave the Mullah; he has made me sad with all the talk of dying. Hameesi, too, has melancholy written all over his face which brightens a bit as he accepts his usual zawaadi gift that I press into folds of aging hands. I go out into the streets to battle the blazing summer sun and steam.


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