Same Script Different Past
By Michael Ngigi
I see things. I see through things. It’s slowly dawning on me that I’m in the wrong profession. I should have been a priest. I can see through people and their past. I’d make a good priest to confess to for that matter. Or maybe I should have been a customs official. I have x-ray vision too. I can see what’s in your purse. What’s in your heart. I am yet to find out if this ability is a blessing or a curse. But in the meantime…
I’m seated on the Metro that runs from Sharaf Dg to Al Rigga with this gorgeous woman from my dreams. It is rush hour and the train is full of people from all over the world mostly asians. Almost everyone looks tired and worn out save but a few. It’s been a long, hard day. My eyes sweep wide and my visions begin. I have met everyone in the cabin in a life before.
Meet Yana Koirala. In her twenties, she looks like an actress. Slim, big eyed and wearing an almost permanent pout. She’s wearing large golden loops and a shiny quartz and white gold necklace. She looks spoilt and accomplished. She is used to the gazes and stares. There she seats, like an Indian goddess atop a king elephant. It almost feels like she is silently wishing we were her type, so we could have a conversation. If we only knew!
Yana was born in Calcutta in the eighties, she doesn’t have an idea when exactly. She was part of the huge population of street children. She has never known who her parents were. The only significant person she knew but now hates is Khalid. You see Khalid is a pimp. He picked her up from the streets with a promise for a job and better life in the UK. She endured four months in a container at sea only to find herself on the backstreets of Dubai.
That’s history now. She met and got married to a wealthy Emirati. She now spends her days shopping and visiting friends. She won’t agree to have a driver as she doesn’t like being followed around. No, she wouldn’t let her husband know her past. For now, everything is going fine. Let’s keep it at that.
On the far corner Bayani Benjie looks exhausted and beat. A Filipino native from the Hiligaynon minority tribe, he is tall unlike most of his country men. His hands are rough and his eyes are sunken in a deathly gaze. He works hard for a meagre pay. He doesn’t mind it though. Back at home he is a wanted man. The high court charged and sentenced him in absentia to hang for murdering a minister’s son. He doesn’t feel guilty. In fact he’d do it again if he had the chance. How can you forgive the man who raped and strangled your nine year old daughter?
Bayani sleeps in the open desert. He has no family and no friends. His only possession, a picture of his dead daughter. He chose to run to Dubai in the hope that he would find his daughter’s mother who came here as a casual worker. It’s been seven years now. The search continues.
In the seat across seats an elderly Pakistani couple and their teenage daughter. The Al Zardaris have been here for the past 3 years. Life is hard but they’re happy. A native of the Hiligaynon territory of Sindh province, Mr. Muzamil Al Zardari deserted the army after being ordered to kill a group of women and children. He can’t go back anytime. He has to make this [their new life] work. That is why he looks pale and haggard.
His daughter has seen this face many times and in a way she feels it’s her duty to make it go away. She takes his hands and pretends to read his palms. She says he seems to have a bright future and that all will be well. The whole family smiles and tears well up in their eyes. Tears wash your eyes clean of dirt and a smile keeps your heart healthy.
It’s getting dark and as I try to look out the window, I see us in the reflection. I came here in search of something I couldn’t quite tell. My heart had been uneasy and it needed emancipation. I believe we have lived in a time before this. If you disagree, the tell me. Why do I always get this feeling of déjà vu whenever I’m with her? She can read my thoughts as well as I can read hers. She came looking for a better life. I don’t know if she’s found it yet. Everything seems to be okay between us. In fact I want this ‘thing’ to last our lifetimes if not for eternity. She looks at me and smiles. She knows what I’m thinking. What we both don’t know is, tomorrow we are going skiing and something great will happen.
As the train cruises to our destination, I can’t help wondering if anyone else feels like I do. That we are all part of the same scene in the same script despite different pasts.
“Al Abuwab tu blak” door closing.