Moosa And Me – A Reunion
Forty-eight years ago, when I am sixteen, Moosa comes into my family’s life. He, too is sixteen, a young, healthy, and strong African lad. He works as a house boy at home and does what is told with a ready smile. Since we are the same age, we kid around a lot. I love to wrestle him. We heave and trash about the concrete floor of my house; I can still smell his body odor which did not bother then, perhaps because I must have smelled likewise. Since he is of stronger genetic stock, Moosa always whoops my butt, but dramatically gives up in mock defeat, in the end, conceding the duel to me. I win. Every time. The line between an Indian Muhindi employer and a black house boy cannot be crossed. Ever.
From about 07:00 up to about sundown, seven days a week, Moosa works like a tireless horse. He cleans the house, washes clothes, irons them, cleans the toilets, sweeps the wide backyard, runs errands, heats bathing water for all at home on a charcoal sigdee, whenever called upon. Then, he helps me mix tons of pili-pili beezari – turmeric – and garam-masala concoction that Mama makes and sells like hotcakes at the small duka shop she owns. Both Moosa and I are covered with the yellow powder and stink all the way to heaven with the stuff. I go and bathe with a scented imported Lux sandalwood scented soap (water made warm by Moosa, of course) while he waits until he gets home to bathe with a locally made Mbuni brand soap that requires physical strength to extract paltry suds from and smells like unwashed feet.
For all this work, Moosa is paid a pittance; I am being generous here. He can drink chai in the morning, perhaps with a stale and crusted roti or two. Leftover meals are relegated to him for lunch. Or, ugaali (a cheap lumpy gruel made of corn flour) and beans. The fresh meals are our prerogative, so are the choicest pieces of mutton or beef or chicken. The left-over discardable cheechra meat or chicken neck or bones with very little meat is for Moosa. Maybe. I love hunching over his lunch of ugaali and spinach mcheecha and he willingly shares some with me. I love this combination of food to this day, especially the one made with coconut crème.
Moosa is an easy, eager to please employee and a simple human being. A hard worker. My sister Sabira longs to sleep an extra hour in Ramadhan and instructs Moosa to come an hour late, at eight, instead of seven. But the guy knocks on the door promptly at seven regardless. My sister is not amused.
I migrate from Tanzania at age eighteen and with this move Moosa moves to the recesses of my mind; I occasionally think of him. Especially when the pain of doing all that he did for me back home bites me. I did not realize how difficult it was to iron my shirt as crisply and wrinkle-free as Moosa did. Even then, the injustice I had inflicted on him escape my conscience.
It is only when I move to the US, get my education with an MBA, become world-wise; especially in the west and particularly US history of slavery that my eyes open up wide. I am deeply ashamed of what we have collectively done to this man. Not with malice and only in ignorance, of course, but this is no excuse. I try making contact with Moosa over the years but something or the other always defers the effort. Now in Dar es Salaam for a lengthy stay, I begin my search in earnest. He is tough and elusive to locate but I persevere and am rewarded. With the help of Ain Sheriff, whose family employ Moosa after I migrate from Tanzania, I finally meet him a few days ago at my apartment. I recognize the face instantly.
It is an emotional moment for me, and an uneven reunion – after 45 years. I am over the moon in happiness at meeting my buddy Moosa again but shocked at how much he has aged. He does not remember me initially, frustrating and wounding my feelings to no end. He thinks for a while and then his face clears and he smiles. Yes, he does remember. The years of hard work have taken a toll on the guy and all the once robust muscles are gone. He is attired in rags, almost. Moosa is retired and forgetful now, giving his much younger second wife jitters. We have one thing in common, second and third wives.
I’ll be inviting Moosa and his wife for iftaar shortly insha’Allah and It’ll be my turn to serve him for a change insha’Allah. My immediate family and I are setting up a fund to build him a small retirement home on a plot of land he owns.
What is the reward of gratitude – except gratitude?
Here is Moosa and Me.
A Massacre – Again.
Another bomb blast and the same Hazara community is targeted in Kabul, Afghanistan. This time, it’s almost 85 schoolgirls between the ages of 11 – 15. Leaving Sayed Al-Shuhada School for home. Done with classes for the day. A school I have visited and passed by several times during my frequent visits to Afghanistan. Massacred. Reason? Only because they are of a distinct ethnic group and a minority in a country ravaged by years of war and violence. Almost all of them were fasting for the month of Ramadhan, hungry and fatigued from a whole day of school work. They must be looking forward to breaking the fast with their parents and siblings, a spiritual and blessed time when family, relatives, and neighbors partake in communal meals throughout the Muslim world. The only thing they broke that evening were the hearts of so many parents, their beloved children shred to pieces. Even animals do not resort to these acts of barbaric brutality.
What can I say? I feel the gush of anger and despair as the news filters through. I am fasting as well, and the bile within me surges and I feel pained and sick as the news filters in. How many must be unjustly slain? How many such horrors must the Hazara people endure? When will they be left alone to breathe free? I cannot begin to imagine the pain the parents and loved ones must be going through. I want to cry and let the anguish out, but there are no tears. Only cold fury. A burning frustration. And a complaint to Allah.
CAI local personnel are on the ground, ready and willing to assist in any way possible. Insha’Allah, the more critically injured will be offered secondary medical assistance. Anything. We may not be able to aid all of them, but the few we do will be a blessing. Our privilege. There are close to 200 injured in this gruesome and cowardly massacre. Perhaps you may want to help?
With a heavy heart, at the losses in Kabul and another ongoing brutality in Gaza, I wish you Eid Mubaarak.
The views and opinions expressed in this Blog are entirely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Comfort Aid International or her Trustees.