I sit at my desk, minding my own business, at peace with the world and, for a change, the world at peace with me. There are no bombs exploding down the street, no lunatics with Kalashnikovs wondering the street taking potshots at everything that moves, no delayed aircrafts with silly excuses of late incoming flights. The house is deathly quiet, the family lost in slumber; only the humming of refrigerator in the kitchen and ticking of two clocks disturb the earthly stillness of this chilly morning here in Sanford, FL; a cup of hot chai keeps me warm. I am well rested, jetlag from multiple flights to multiple cities / countries beaten silly. Why, I am ready to battle the world!
My cellphone rings loud, shattering the peace, startling me. I peer at the number on the screen; a call from Tanzania? Huh, who could that be now?
Hello? There is crackling and whining on the line. Hello? I repeat.
Kisukaali? Asks a quarrelsome, quivering voice. This is Mullah. Sallam aleykum.
Oh, it is Mullah Mchungu; I tense. Now why is he calling? From Dar? This call must be costing him plenty. Is he all right?
Sallam Mullah, habaari, how are you? Is everything okay? Are you in Dar? To my ears, anxiety sounds clear in the tone of my voice.
Aree ghaando, why do you care? Of course I am in Dar. Listen, calls from your end are very cheap, please call me back. This call will bankrupt whatever little charity money I steal from my son.
The line goes dead. I stare at the phone, dumbfounded. What an obnoxious turd! He must get his head examined if he thinks I am going to call him back. In the end, it is I who needs my head examined. Doubts, worry, guilt and curiosity all combine to make me return the call in less than five minutes. And he knows it, knows I will call, what with the trap he has slyly laid out.
Ah, Kisukaali. So easy for you guys to make these calls from the US, nai? It is pure robbery from us here in poor Tanzania. Listen, I need your help. I want a nice girl.
I very nearly drop my phone and scald my tongue from a sip of hot chai I have just sipped; did I hear him right? Mullah Mchungu, for those of you that don’t know him, is an ill-mannered grumpy old man of very mean disposition. The only reason I have anything to do with him is pity for his old bones, the disregard and neglect he gets from his only son Ali who lives right here in Sanford. I am about to lose my temper and yell some choice words at him when he, as usual, interrupts.
Ah, Kisukaali, he chuckles, don’t get your chuddy in a tight twist, I know what you are thinking. I wouldn’t know what to do with a girl, nice or mean, even if you could find me one. That would be a herculean task for my age of seventy-seven, nai?
Well, what the hell! I am convinced the old man has finally lost his remaining marbles. I don’t know what to say; so I keep quiet and we breathe down on each other’s receivers for a moment.
Hello? You still there, Kisukaali?
Yes Mullah, I am confused. How can I help you, exactly?
Aree Ghaando, I told you, nai? I want you to find me a nice girl from India or Afghanistan, or from wherever else you keep hopping around the world all the time. A nice, susheel, Allah fearing, respectable, reasonably educated, reasonably pretty, not too tall...not too short or plump either, English speaking, who respects her elders, obedient and a good cook. Can you do that for me?
I didn’t think these species of humans existed any more but I bite my tongue.
Mullah, I am sorry, but I can’t help you in this regard, I say carefully. I am not in a position of a matchmaker. But out of curiosity, why do you need such a person, what for?
Mullah Mchungu does not respond for a while; I can imagine his face darken in ire and irritation for he is easily prone to such emotions.
What for? What kind of question is this? Why would anybody want a girl like this? For marriage of course! My grandson is now twenty-one. Remember Zain Ali? My son Ali’s son from his earlier marriage? For him. I want to find a nice girl for Zain before he gets a nasty Khoji one in the US or Canada or the West generally. His father is actively looking for a girl for him and I want to disrupt his search. That witch of his new wife is trying to hook up her cousin, another witch I am sure, and I want to stop her at whatever cost.
Geez, am I wasting my good money and excellent disposition for something so bizarre? I need to end this madness pronto.
But Mullah, I can’t really see how I can help. Girls, especially one that fit your criteria, don’t grow on trees. Sorry, I can’t help you. You would be better off approaching many women in our community that do this service. I can find out whom in Dar and will let you know. Okay?
But I don’t want someone from our community, Gaando! I don’t want another Khoji troublemaker! Grumps Mullah Mchungu, would I be butting heads with you otherwise? You can help others but not this old dying man. If Ali’s wife succeeds in her plans, I will surely suffer and I’ll hold you responsible. All I want for the remaining days of my life is to see Zain with a good wife who is uncorrupted with Western or Khoja values, who may serve me a few years so I can get some peace while I die...
Well, I’ll be damned; whatever is wrong with a Khoji?! This conversation is getting nowhere and I suspect my temperament will hit a short fuse if I continue with this exchange, something my upbringing will not allow towards an elderly person. So I vaguely promise I’ll put a word out to my contacts overseas and see where we get, then hang up.
So any of you who know of a nice, susheel, Allah fearing, respectable, reasonably educated, reasonably pretty, not too tall...not too short or plump either, English speaking, who respects her elders, obedient and a good cook girl, well, you’ll be doing a good service to Mullah Mchungu by contacting me.
Note: For varied reasons, I have replaced actual caller’s name with the character of Mullah Mchungu, a figment, perhaps, of my imagination.