Was it fun?
This is a question someone asks me the other day, after I complete a seven-mile run. It is a question frequently asked by many who I encounter. I guess it is out of politeness and a conversation starter perhaps, because nobody really cares a hoot if I run seven or a hundred miles, yes? Many runners will simply say yes, but I am always at a loss as how to respond. It is never fun in the literal sense, obviously. The feet hurt like hell; the lungs gasp for air, and the unceasing wish is for the torture to end. Soon. I question my sanity sometimes for repeating this routine for the last twenty-five plus years, pounding away around 1,200 miles every year. That’s over 30,000 miles already, more than the distance around the world by about 5,000 miles! It is only when the adrenalin hormone kicks in at about the mile three mark that the ‘feel good invincibility’ perception gets going. Yes, it’s fun then, I suppose. It’s a fantastic way to keep the weight off and be able to eat the kinds of food I love. More importantly, running helps me meditate for almost the hour it takes me to complete the seven miles, think over life’s challenges and focus on possible solutions.
Runners, according to a Runner’s World magazine study, have a different mindset than most sedentary humans, only because the running process releases unique rousing hormones that affect the brain’s discerning process; one reason, according to the magazine, runners perceive pain only at a much higher threshold. Runners also tend not to take regular pain medication, even at an advanced age, and the dying process is more tolerable. I can vouch for the pain medication but will have to wait for the dying part.
This lady, who asks me if running is fun, hails from Holland and surprisingly, to me, a Muslima. I meet her in Mumbai some time ago at the same hotel I always stay in, The Leela. She is almost sixty, fit as a fiddle, and on an adventure of a lifetime. Her husband, a goora, leaves her for a much younger woman. But instead of lamenting and mourning over the jilt, she waits until her only child, a daughter, marries and then she takes off. Dipping into her savings and a generous divorce settlement from the wayward ex-husband, she buys the finest bicycle money can buy and begins cycling, not looking back. What’s so special about that, you ask? Well, Raihana, her name, has no destination! She pedals away on her bike wherever and whenever she desires, with no planned destination. She stays back in places she likes and moves on when she tires. She has been all over Europe and is now in India, planning to tour Asia until she runs out of money or drops dead.
These people are called Mast Maula Musaafir in Urdu, a phrase I pick up from a Bollywood movie, I believe. I envy Raihana for weeks until Allah slaps me around silly and reminds me that He has bestowed me many similar favors. He cannot present all His creations the same adventures, but His giving is always there, in varied means. So I wind up the envy and look at the opportunities Allah has bestowed upon me with Comfort Aid International. It is impossible for CAI to have achieved the levels of success without His helping hand. Period.
As I turn the last few chapters in my life, I want to dedicate my efforts towards two critical goals within CAI operations - orphan care and education opportunities for the poor and destitute. CAI has about 460 orphans that directly or indirectly benefit from continues CAI donor support. Since Allah has repeatedly admonished us regarding the care of orphans, this benefit must continue or even expand. As I must have earlier asserted, my third novel will, insha’Allah, publish in about a year. Chocolates From My Beloved (title subject to change) will insha’Allah raise US$100,000 (hopefully more) towards the care and upkeep of these orphans. I want you to purchase an EBook copy of this novel for US$50, or a print version for US$100. You will have tons of fun reading it, but even if you think the book stinks, you will have done a splendid deed. So look out for excerpts of the novel coming your way soon insha’Allah. All proceeds (100%) of the book sale will go towards this cause.
An uneducated community is shameful and unacceptable. I assume I am greedy when I ask Allah to grant CAI at least twenty-five schools before I die. Why? He gifts thirty-eight so far! And the restoration of three dilapidated schools in Zanzibar, one in India and two in Pakistan. Now, I want Him to grant CAI at least twelve more for a total of fifty. I’ll be one satisfied banda then. I promise!
Imagine, the existing combined student strength of CAI donor schools is about 23,000 any given time. Even if we don’t count new enrollments from this cycle, that’s 23,000 children with a first-time education opportunity. That’s 23,000 humans, as parents, who will never allow their children to be illiterate. Assume, at a minimum, that 10% of these students break through and attain university status. Think of the potential! It takes but one or two of us to change the world and the human mindset…
CAI, with your continued help, can achieve this feat, and I can die having fulfilled my desire. I am not selfish, honestly. We’ll face Allah together, you and I, hand in hand. On the Day of Judgement and beat our chest in unison with pride, our heads held high. We were so-so in following your commands Lord, but we were mindful of your orders regarding the orphans, we’ll plead. And we were mindful as well, in educating Your creations, Allah. So that they could break the cycle of poverty and live dignified lives in Your service.
The orphans and widows and school children will all attest to this fact and Allah, who is Just, quickly Pleased, extremely Forgiving, abundantly Generous and eternally Merciful must keep His promise and gladly open that almost unattainable Door.