It’s been almost three weeks since I moved to Khojasville located in Magnolia Park, Sanford, FL. This alcove is where about 40 Khoja families either own or rent properties. These Khojas, whose ancestry can be traced to Gujarat in Western India but once made East Africa home, share a common religion, culture, and food. The more readily known (from many others) Khoja caterers, Musty Shivi lives in the vicinity so his abode is a place of pilgrimage for many of lazy us picking up lunch or dinner. So, it is common to encounter a familiar face while maneuvering in and out of the gated community. Although it is increasingly difficult to gauge between friend and foe these days, what with the increasingly bitter divide between a few passionate Hayy (navvi masjid) and HIC (jooni masjid) patrons. With passions high, a smile or salaam is at times met with icy glares that can rival a Niagara Falls freeze on a January day.
I will not swear by it, but it is an unmistakable smell of frying samosas that wafts to my nose as I start my jog towards the Sanford International Airport, some 3 miles away. I have no clue which Khoja tongue will taste fried samosas today but I furtively scan the passing homes anyway, to see if I can spot a familiar set of eyes peeking from windows as I jog by; I may have to contend with whisperings of an adult Khoja man running around in briefs showcasing hairy legs. These inane talks still make the rounds here in Orlando, believe it or not, just like they did in Zanzibar or Mombasa or Tanga some 50 years ago… Growing up in Tanga, I remember babbling mouths (and vacant minds) discussing the taste of their neighbor’s dinner way before it was cooked. Not that I care, I write this only because I was an elderly gentleman’s ire for possessing ‘feminine traits’ because I wear an earring for personal, medical reasons. And for writing ‘bhoondu bhoondo’ stuff in my Blogs. And for possessing wayward opinions on radical or airhead ‘aalims’. And…
The jogging terrain to the airport is familiar; I used to run it frequently about 10 years ago when I first moved to the Orlando area. Except I used to complete the 6-mile roundtrip in an hour and I can now only do 5 miles in that same time. Still, not bad for a 63-year-old Khoja man with hairy legs, no? Alhamd’Allah. Apart from the opportune time this solitary hour provides, where I lose myself in a sort of a trance in Allah’s zikr, it also is an opportunity to reflect on the rapidly passing hours, days, weeks, months and years of my life that will culminate towards the eventual tote to my permanent abode six-feet underground; I can feel the pull towards this finality already. This is also an opening for my mind to focus on trivial matters, not requiring too much brain power or focus.
One hot subject of us global Khojas. I wonder what in the world is going on with our supposed leadership at WF? My, my, the almost daily emails of conspiracy theories and mud-slinging making the rounds between irate Khojas is enough to make Peter Falk of Columbo scratch his scalp to a tizzy and put fire to his cold-dead cigar without a lighter. What is it in the leadership of this thankless job at the helm of WF that is so lucrative and appealing that we can recklessly, shamelessly sink into so much muck? It gives me a headache trying to make sense of whodunnit. I suppose power corrupts. Absolute power?
Still on the subject of Khojas, locally. I had ignored the Eid speech given by our enlightened and honorable President of HIC, Mahmood Dhala, for I do not like to be distracted by vain talk or unnecessary poroojo; there are too many more pressing interests to pursue. However, a good friend of mine urged me to give it a listen, for fun’s sake, he suggested. Predictably, I am disappointed. To be indulging in partisan politics and mudslinging the day after we say farewell to a month of mercy and compassion is silly audacity; unwarranted. The tirade would have had some traction if it was original, but the gentleman was mouthing words that were obviously not his.
Talking about tirades. I say, there was (almost) a book written in response to S. Nuru’s comments on the current Black Lives Matter debate. About 3,200 words of gobbledygook in commanding English. Good command of English vocabulary and long rambles do not equate to logic. Completely missed Nuru’s timely and very realistic, reasonable recap of racism within the Khoja community and at large. Thanks, Shaykh, keep up the good work and pointed reminders for those of us who have heads buried in quicksand.
I was supposed to have migrated to Dubai by now, closer to the many CAI projects that I need to get my soul into. Until the accursed Corona Dudu came knocking, I was tired of flying back and forth the 16 hours each way on an airplane every other month, in addition to the hours of grueling internal travels in countries like Afghanistan, India, and many poor African countries. Dubai would have been somewhat of an ideal logistical place to live. With Emirates offering easy, short-haul nonstop service to all the countries CAI serves, Dubai was the place, not ignoring the gastronomical haven the city can be. Not sure what chaos the bloody lockdown has brought about the household named city. But as we all know, we plan and He plans, and He is the very best of planners. Dudu Corona made a no-nonsense presence and my plans went into a tailspin. So, I am stuck here in Sanford, having sold my home and forced into renting a comfortable townhouse in Khojaville in a neighborhood of at least a dozen Khoja homes in a five-minute walking radius. It’s more compact than the one before, but cozier, I think.
Since I have traveled all my adult life, even when I was with corporate America, when I was dispatched to places that I had not even dreamed of, this Dudu imposed restrictions are stifling. Instructing non-native English speakers to undertake project tasks is one frustration I can try and resolve by exercising patience I have very little of, but not interacting with the orphans and other children CAI donors educate and who long for our visits is maddening. For me. There is, however, a light at the end of the dudu-imposed tunnel. John Pombe Magufuli, the honorable President of the Republic of Tanzania, steadfast and unwavering, just like our honorable Donald Trump, almost, has paved the way for businesses to open up and international travel to resume; foreign flights have already begun landing at Dar es Salaam. So, Allah willing, I might find myself in Tanzania and Sierra Leone shortly, picking up the pieces of four CAI schools that are waiting for the green light to continue construction.
Hapa ni kazi tu!
Do Black Lives Really Matter? – Looking Within Me
I received an avalanche of feedback regarding this Blog, overwhelmingly positive and supportive. A fraction of them pushed back, resentful that I had ‘attacked’ their parents and grandparents unfairly by labeling them racist. The more vociferous pushback was from my blood relatives, accusing me of being insensitive for calling my parents (and their blood by default) racist and demanded an apology. I usually do not entertain comments or such demands regarding what I write; an exception here.
- If the parents were indeed inclusive and treated the Blacks in Africa fairly, there is no issue, is there now? They have nothing to worry about; we can breathe with a guilt-free conscience. I stand by my opinion and no apology is warranted. Nor offered.
- My parents, especially Mama, was the most Allah-fearing person I have associated with for 41-years. And she was very fair and compassionate in her dealings with the servants we employed. I attribute my life successes to her uncompromising moral values and her prayers. She was, however, not an infallible, and had an acquired racist mindset, like an overwhelming of us born and raised in Black Africa. This is a fact and may Allah have mercy on us.