Unity Games – Dubai
Dubai is bustling with humanity. Again. The balmy weather, spectacular New Year’s fireworks and the irresistible itch to splurge at the soopa pricey malls in this city is too much of a pull. I suppose. The hotel I usually stay near the airport costing around US$70/night has shot up to US$360/night for the last week of December so I have to contend with a more modest one in far off Barsha. A taxi driver, usually a good source for local going-on tells me he had a lady from Europe looking for a hotel room a couple of days ago. He took her to almost every hotel on S. Zayed Road, and that’s an awful number of hotels, but could not find a single room, at any price, in three hours of looking. That’s deep.
The venue for the Unity Games at the Iranian Club is similarly packed, with milling Khojas from across our dunya rubbing shoulders and competing in sports – traditional volleyball seems to be the all-time favorite. A great way to know the Khoja fraternity at the exclusion of others, if that is the taqwa yardstick we are supposed to follow. The various candidates for the position of the upcoming WF President elections are also here, campaigning hard, shaking hands, forced smiles on their lips and all. It must be a tempting and rewarding chair to be in for four years, perhaps more, what with the effort and money spend in winning votes for the unappreciated hot seat. No?
The Dubai organizing team has done a superb job of putting the event together, with the various competitions going off without much ado. Marrying the varied needs and demands of worldwide Khojas can easily make the most docile of humans want to wage mother of wars. The athletes are young and full of energy as they vie in the various games. This effort is much sullied with the liberal use of tobacco, vaping and cancer sticks, cuss words, artery-clogging pulao, and mandazi intake. Some vices are better not questioned, and the offenses tolerated for the sake of Khoja unity, I expect.
I’m in Dubai for a brief few days, on my way to the Philippines for a school project for a poor community in a remote area close to Mount Pinatubo, some eight hours drive from Metro Manila. I am also here to distribute the copies of my memoir, Vivid Imaginations – A Memoir to donors who have purchased a copy benefiting some 660 CAI donor sponsored worldwide orphans. So I am doing this and guess who I bump into? The extra bright goofy dentures of Mullah Mchungu, grinning at me, sitting on a wheelchair, his torso covered by a warm shawl to keep away the rather cool December wind blowing our way. My heartbeats go off in every direction as if they have a mind of their own. It takes a few minutes for my gushing blood to steady after I greet the grinning Mullah; those grinning dentures are pretty daunting, especially if unexpectedly encountered. Apart from the inane grin on his face, the old man seems to be in good shape.
Kisukaali, he rasps, I knew you’d be here. Can’t stay away for too long from the Khojas, can you? A fruit never falls too far away from the tree trunk. does it? How many people have you been able to butter up and for how much?
He guffaws in prolonged laughter that ends in protracted coughing. The urge to thump his dentures away is strong but I ignore his insulting words and greet him instead.
Aree, ghadeera, spare me these formalities and don’t waste your and my time, will you? What if I told you I have the runs, would you care? So save your breath. Come and sit by me and tell me what all mischief you have been concocting. Nobody else will talk to us old farts anymore. He waves his fingers towards the crowds of people milling around us, helping themselves to mandazi and chai. See them? All young and cocky, as if they’ll accomplish the feat of a century by smacking the volleyball across the net. Even my daughter has abandoned me, plonked me here all alone and gone to gossip with her pals from Dar es Salaam. I didn’t want to travel but she dragged me to this pricey city with its chilly weather. It is unreal how much our women can talk, no? They talk on WhatsApp 24×7, even when taking a dump, now they’ve spent a fortune to fly all the way here and they want to talk some more. Sit, sit. I won’t bite, I promise. I have no teeth, only dentures. Hehehehe…
Oh, dear. So I sit with him the next thirty minutes or so, listening to his self-righteous interpretation in this advanced stage in his life. For a man critical of his daughter and others gabbing away in gossip, he is not too far behind. Nevertheless, his take on many matters is deep and insightful.
See that man Kisukaali? The one shaking hands all around and smiling away? I’m sure you know him. He’s the new wannabee for the helm of WF. We African Khojas in general and the WF, in particular, follow a well-defined biased hierarchy for who we want at our wheel, so he stands a good chance. The resources of the WF are working for him. Illegally and unethically, I might add. Human nature is so predictable no? We don’t or can’t change, with buried heads in the sand, unable or unwilling to look outside our comfort zones. You know what I’m talking about don’t you, Kisukaali?
I want to say no, I don’t, but he gives me no room to open my mouth, so I shut up and listen to him. It’s a waste of effort and time arguing with this guy.
Also, he’s from a prominent family. East African Khoja family, not an Indian or Pakistani Khoja. Ever wonder why the overwhelming majority Indian / Pakistan Khojas, WF members, have never been in any meaningful position at the WF, Kisukaali? He does not wait for my response. Because the discriminatory system in place does not allow it. So the powers to be will push him through. I’ll be surprised if he loses. The other two are severely handicapped as well, so stand limited chances of winning. Unless disunity within the top Khojas ranks skittle his chances. There are murmurings of discontent from several fronts. You must have heard or read of them?
I shake my head no, vigorously, and want to tell him I am not too interested in the larger Khoja fraternity but he ignores me once again.
Yup. The rumor mills are abuzz about this candidate in particular. They say he’s green in the ears, with very little management expertise and some spectacular failures in other past positions he held at WF. Also, he is a resident of Dubai now so it’ll be interesting to see how his backers spin the required googly to make their plot work. Dubai can’t legally, procedurally nominate him for various reasons. But I still think he’ll probably win. Cause he’s a Khoja from Africa with a known family name and that puts him as an infallible front runner. I hear he’s flying all over the world to garner support, coming to your home in Sanford as well. You should run back home to listen to anything new he has to say? The guy snorts in solo mirth that I do not feel nor understand.
The Mullah is thankfully quiet for some time, lost in his thoughts so I get up and try to wish him goodbye, but he answers not. His eyes are closed and he seems to be taking a nap since I can hear him slightly snoring. I walk away quickly.
Vivid Imaginations Shipping Update
Vivid Imaginations – A Memoir for the benefit of worldwide CAI orphans is out and shipped. Expect to receive your ordered and paid copy/copies early or by mid-month January 2020 at the latest. Insha’Allah; international orders will take a bit longer. Thank you for supporting the 600 plus orphans under CAI care, sponsored with your dollars.
Please do let Murtaza Yusufali murtaza.h.yusufali@gmail know if you have not received yours within the next two weeks or so.