The Evil Within US
I have finally submitted the manuscript of my latest novel – Two Blue Gold And Diamond Earrings – to my publishers in India, so I have some time on my hands. I head towards Mullah Mchungu’s apartment. He has been sending me urgent messages through his caretaker Hameesi, requesting me to come to meet him. Dar es Salaam is now in the not-so-hot, not-so-humid period of the year, so the climb to Mullah’s ancient 3rd-floor apartment is not an agony of profuse sweating.
Hameesi, a lot grayer in his healthy wooly mane, greets me with his customary ear-to-ear grin, then disappears to make the regular divine bhajia, coconut chutney, and chai he always treats me with. But he warns me, with a worried frown on his weathered face, that the Mullah is losing his marbles and he may not recognize me. The Mullah, now nearing 84, has an early onset of dementia. Hameesi makes a circular gesture with his fingers at his head and shakes a concerned head, indicating that his ward is losing it.
Please do not mind him if he does not remember you, says Hameesi, a look of sadness on his face, he remembers past events clearly but has no clue of more recent events or faces. The onset of dementia has been sudden and he becomes acutely emotional with most past memories he has retained.
I find the Mullah sitting on his easy all-wood ancient chair, chomping on nothing, and staring into space. He still looks dapper, wearing an all-white, spotless, and ironed shalwar-kameez. It takes him a few seconds to focus on me, but then smiles, and startles me silly.
Ah, Kassamali, ghadhero, he splutters, fire in his eyes, flashing his ghastly dentures at me, where have you been all these days?
I look around wildly, expecting a Kassamali lurking in the bedrooms beyond the living room we are seated in; there is nobody. I wonder if the real Kassamali is ever offended by being addressed as a donkey.
It’s me, Mullah Saheb, I say, leaning forward, so he can see me up close. Yusufali, not Kassamali. Remember me?
The Mullah studies my face and I can sense gears engaging in his brain. The eyes clear, recognition sets in and he smiles radiantly, his dentures almost blinding my eyes. Ah, it’s Kisukaali, he says happily, frailly grasping at my arm. Hameesi, look, it’s Kisukaali. Come, sit. Where have you been, ghadhero? Aree, I may be old, but I’m not dead as yet. How are your wonderful projects coming along? Did Hameesi serve you chai and bhajias? Aye Hameesi, he yells suddenly, almost losing his dentures in the process, bring some chai and bhajias for Kisukaali.
Naleta Mzee, subeeri, Hameesi yells back, dakeeka tano, telling the old man to have patience, that he’ll bring the snacks out in five minutes.
So, I tell the Mullah about some of my travels and CAI projects. But I sense I am not holding his attention. Although his eyes look at me as I speak, his mind, I feel, has lost me. So, I falter and become quiet, and look at a face that is chewing at a void. Hameesi brings along the snacks and I enjoy them for a while. Then, the Mullah begins talking.
Kassamali, he begins and I am about to tell him, again, that I am not who he thinks I am, but instinct tells me to remain quiet instead. Aree Kassamali, he continues, do you remember the time when we make a killing on the imported Engedura yeast from France? Remember? There was a shortage of it in the whole country and people could not make bread or mandazi. The Mama-ntelies selling them had to remove mandazi from their menu. Even so, we bribed to have the whole container in transit sold to us. Then we sat on it some more until the people were so desperate, they adulterated the stuff with homemade junk. It was then that we released our lot for almost five times our purchase price and made so much money. Remember?
A chill cuts through my heart and I stop eating, all tense and harried; the hairs on my arms turn up as if they have a mind of their own. And then suddenly, the man starts bawling. He spews out his dentures that crash to the floor and his mouth and lips take on an ugly shape. A wail escapes him that gets Hameesi running. He scoops up the Mullah effortlessly and, like he’s dealing with a peeved infant, soft-talks to the old man, washes his face at the sink, and carries him to his room. I can hear the Mullah lamenting, imploring Allah to forgive the evils within him.
I wait for a while, feeling miserable, the bhajias, chutney, and chai abandoned. When I cannot hear the babbling from the Mullah anymore, I depart quietly, leaving Hameesi’s customary zawadi tip folded on the side table.
Two Blue And Gold Diamond Earrings – Limited Window
This is the last call to order my latest novel and support the education of CAI donor-sponsored worldwide orphans in several countries. I am printing the exact number of copies ordered and paid for by July 31, 2023.
The sale of my novels helps pay for tuition, books, uniforms, and after-school coaching for about 950 worldwide CAI orphans; I make no money from the proceeds. The novel will be published in September 2023.
Click HERE for a few excerpts from the novel – perhaps you will purchase a copy or two or more? Priced at a modest US$77, one book sale will pay for about 3 months of a poor orphan’s education. Please click HERE to buy and change a life for the better. 1,175 print copies already purchased – Allah bless.