The Divided And Broken Khojas – 2020
was a time, in recent history, when seeking and holding public office was an honor and prestige. The primary motive was to serve, for the pleasure of Allah, of course. People jostled for a primetime audience at local jamaats, pitched their candidacy and the best man, generally, won. In my teenage and prime years, we had one man at the helm of the Khoja fraternity at the World Federation, Mullah Asghar. He was an arresting personality, for sure, and there were not many that could match his knowledge, language skills, and wit in oration or debating grit. True, like all of us, he had his few flaws, but as a unifier and orator, he was almost unequaled. I had the privilege of hosting Mullah Saheb and S Akhtar Rizvi when their vehicle broke down on their way to Mombasa from Dar when they sought refuge at my duka in Tanga, where I was deep in magendo trade during the 1970s. Surprisingly, to me, the Mulla was well versed with both the Yusufali and Mawji sides of my family, since Kilwa days. I spent a good few hours with him and S. Rizvi, over a modest lunch after Zohrain salaat.
Mullah Asghar, unfortunately, did not leave a strong follow-through legacy after him. This is an all too often – innocent – mistake we all make, but the repercussions can be painful, as the subsequent events that transpires(d) with the Khojas of WF pann(ed) out. The subsequent leaders of WF, well-meaning I assume, tripped and bloodied their noses. And thus, the mess we find ourselves in.
So, the current WF elections are over and done with, A winner has been declared after a sullied and not so fair and transparent, blemished election process. With so much acrimony and badmouthing that were the primary ingredients in the current WF presidential elections, I’m genuinely surprised anybody would want the position, let alone an aalim. I would have thought a stringent follower of Imam Ali (a) would have promptly distanced himself and fled from the sad and sometimes comical fracas exercise we were subjected to. Kheyr, we reap what we sow; our burden to bear, no? I wish the winner well, obviously. My earnest prayers are for the leadership to renege on their idealistic but unrealistic Khoja-centric promises during their campaigns and try focus on helping / solving the global Muslim Ummah’s issues we face. Transparently?
Shaved Legs Dilemma
At age 62, you’d think I’d be winding down and settling in to hibernate out life until I’m put 6 feet under. Not so. I’m getting in all sorts of trouble with my rigorous 30 miles a week running schedule. All the medical experts examining my knee are at a loss as to why there is a growing extension on my right knee. Some say it is excess cartilage, some say it is an extension of the knee bone but the specialists who examine me last are genuinely at a loss. Whatever the case, the rapidly whatever-it-is thing needs to be removed and tested to ensure it is benign.
So I end up on a hospital bed at Bhatia Hospital in Mumbai under the care of Drs. Mohsin Merchant and Ishtiyaque Khan, leading orthopedic surgeons in the region. The hospital is as ancient as Adam (a) but surprisingly, everything works. The room is comfortable, the many nurses popping in and out for tests and questions before surgery efficient and amiable, the all-veg food bland but edible on an empty stomach. Then walks in a dark, wiry, short Maharashtrian Manhoos, waving a hair clipper.
Hair, he says in Marathi, I need to shave your legs. Out with your bottoms, everything!
I gulp. Hard. Not again? I had a similar humiliating experience when my bloody kidney stones were taken out a few years ago. So I modestly cover my groin area and the man has a go at shaving my right leg all the way up to my groin. When he tries to go further, I refuse and roughly push his hands away.
Aree Sahib, he exclaims, hurt and offended at my forcefulness, the nurse told me to clip all the hair everywhere!
To hell with the nurse, I respond hotly. My groin is miles away from my knee. Don’t go there again.
We glare at each other for the few seconds before he shrugs his bony shoulders, gathers his paraphernalia and huffs his way out, taking his overwhelming onion, garlic and masala B.O. with him.
I’m supposed to be operated in the PM but the leading orthopedic surgeon, after one more exam, calls for another MRI before he’ll put a knife to skin. The MRI is inconclusive so they decide to remove the growth the next day. I am on pins and needles. My trip to 5 African countries begins in a couple of days; I don’t want anything to jeopardize the CAI project inspections and due diligence. I spend an uncomfortable night in the cot, tossing and turning, dreaming about a mightily Marathi Manhoos trying to get under my undies.
The surgery next day is painless. What surprises and scares me is the speed with which the anesthetic drugs work. I am talking to the anesthesiologist about my writings one second and I’m gone, dead, the next. Later in the day, I plead with Dr. Merchant to let me go to my hotel that same day, as I cannot fathom spending another night at the hospital. Since I am in good shape and have weathered the anesthesia well, he signs the discharge papers and I am back at the Suba Place, Colaba by 6 PM and eating well-deserved mutton boti kababs and biryani after magreeb at Bare Mia Chote Mia close by. Burp.
Next day, I am ready for my next trip, the change of dressing goes off without an issue and Dr. Merchant is optimistic nothing wanton will affect my travels as long as I behave myself and not begin running for a good 2 weeks. This puts a damper on my spirits somewhat but I console myself that I’ll be so busy traveling and visiting the projects the days will pass fasta-fasta.
I have one major problem that is bothering me. I am most comfortable traveling in shorts, especially in hot and humid Africa. But the contrast between my unsightly two legs is off-putting, one smooth and attractive and the other full of hair. I eye my beard clippers and act on an impulse. Moments later, the left leg is equally eye-catching. Both same to same.