SONG OF AN ALMAJIRI~ (Tale of a begger boy)

He just sailed away with his sad thoughts, with the immediacy of his worries that will not abate any recently. His traveling thoughts had never detoxified his situation but he had somehow made it a pleasant habit. Like many times before, his mind recoiled, leaving his body still sitting there like a very lost malnourished puppy; scared, uncertain and alone.

The sandy banks of the seasonal river receded and repeatedly lost ground as the fast running water they channel eroded their loose soil right before his sad eyes, but he does not notice all this. The snobbery of his state of mind wasn’t meant to be insulting. It was only prompted by its rich abundance of worries.

His eyes see everything as they flicker their lashes in continued sight, but his sailing mind does not notice the spectacle the heavy rains had created of everything around his open choice of secluded refuge. The birds barely up in the low fruitless trees shading the water, sang cantatas in quick short bursts. Without rhythms they sang, in a sequence so irregular.

They fill the domesticated wild with their songs. He hears but does not share the pleasantness of the soothing but seemingly haphazard tunes. Their apparent mutual superlative discourse was saying much more than time could ever reveal. They were literally slandering the parallel dominion that belittles them.

He just sat there on the ridged out long stretch of sandy hill, bordering the trees and water, beside the overflowed bank, watching the dirty water race away with that contentious submissiveness it incredibly has such an expounded embellished mastery over everything else with. Water’s frailty is its strength. Its functionality makes its simplicity nature’s own most conventional dictum. He sat there in the lusterless present yet with the past that will never reply to his invitations, no matter how he might put it. He just sat there alone from the world, with his thick flood of so many unpleasant thoughts.

The first person he remembers is always his mother. She was singularly the most dominant being in his short life, so far. She had never said a thing about his father and he never asked because he trusted the fact that she will tell him when she felt she should. But he knew he should have a father, every other child in the village cruelly reminded him of it.

He loved his mother too much to worry her and he pretended he was stupid like a child should, respectfully. He let her control all their conversations. When she talked, she puts bits of platitudes in his mouth and made it sound like it was his idea. She managed their discourse with these silly bits like she would have done a well trained donkey without the slightest qualms.

When she told him he would not see her ever again, he had simply laughed. The mere thought of it was too stupid and shocking to be credible. Her indefatigable attitude of ridiculing his perception of reality and fiction had been a continuous source of humourous entertainment for both of them in the past, so he made the appropriate mockery of this statement too.

She was ill in bed when she finally thought he should know about his father. Then realized she probably didn’t know who his father really is. She was thin and couldn’t eat anymore, so he and his cat ate all her meals. Though he was so young when she later died with her noxious knowledge of what the city’s fun filled freedom does to naïve adventurous village girls, he also painfully knew. And this trail of thought led him to his cat next.

He pictured its black flurried coat as it always appeared to prefer it; moist and shaggy. It spends the whole day working on its state with it tiny pink tongue. It was the smallest kitten of five, when it was given to him, painfully thin and barely able to carry its weight on its frail limbs. It took to him like it would a second mother and he gave it a quarter of everything he eats. Though the cat ate everything he gave it in those long two months he had it, it didn’t survive. His cat also died.

It is uniquely strange how days always seemed to have appeared much longer when the perceiver was younger. The swifter passage of time always seems to come with the rational assessment of the usage of time. The restful utilization of time at various ages is given so many varied conceptions to illustrate this point even more. An inactive day that is leisurely spent by an adult is perceived to be wasted by an early teenager.

As he supposedly wasted that quiet wet afternoon idly by the dirty running water, his reappraised assertion of his present situation weren’t ill conceived, but the haplessly penned up anger they reflected within him was just ill mannered. Then next on his mind was his grandfather. He remembers him easy enough because he had such a very distinguishing character that wasn’t unnecessarily nice when he didn’t feel like it.

The old man didn’t pretend. He was a scoffer that continually showed his discontent with the dishonorable circumstances that made the boy his grandson. With the most solemn rude words, he always reminded the boy that he was his mother’s father. The fact that the old man could easily break the egocentricity of his spontaneous dislike for the boy’s origin and still show him considerable favouritism, spoke volumes for the aged man’s fair personality. The boy warmed the old man’s heart and he loved the boy so much, but he always had a strange kind of difficulty in showing it when they had visitors.

The boy was scared of the old man at such times because he shouted at him and never used his pet name for him then. It almost appeared like where the boy was concerned, the old man had to rashly claim to be ready to accept the boy as a demeaning relative, when he wasn’t ready to face all the appending less prestigious societal circumstances. The impassioned plea of the honest affection he had for his wayward returning daughter had made him accept her when she suddenly returned home from the city, helplessly ill like a bad fruit and with a fatherless son.

The boy had slept with the old man because the bigger children always bullied him at night, after trampling on him physically and emotionally to their hearts’ desire all day long. The upheavals the boy experienced daily where too lopsidedly unfair to be addressed easily, as they perverted societal justice by ironically buttressing fakeness in their cultural correctness.

The hypocrisy that kind of treatment encouraged was intensely debauchery, so much that it accordingly interposed the fabric of sincerity in the people’s tailored prejudice. Even as the old man had thunder in his throat, the boy only heard the throaty roars when the old man slept. But before the old man suddenly dozes off, like he always seems to do because he never goes to bed until he naps off while sitting, the old man always speaks of the peace that awaited him somewhere else. He always spoke his thought provoking paradoxical sentiments like he was talking to someone else and not his grandson that barely understood him.

He gave the impression he was still struggling with a problem he had since effortlessly solved. He was never uttering any improper vulgarities, even when he was not being particularly friendly. He was a freak for probity and sincerity, tradition and fairness, standard in quality; not minding contradictions woven into his principles by the time induce revolutionized thinking modernity ushers in. Then he died peacefully, like he should.

When the boy came out here, to the new city’s extensive, far from modern suburbs, the first thing that struck him was its emptiness. They had arrived around noon and there were very few people moving around at that time of day. He had a small tin box, a small rolled up mat, an old blanket and a small plastic kettle balanced up on his small head. His mother’s cantankerous brother’s friend’s cousin had brought him along. They had taken a long dusty lorry ride, which he had initially enjoyed. The rough and bumpy ride, he had found pleasurable to his young excitable mind, but it didn’t help him ignore his hunger.

He hadn’t eaten before they set off early in the gray hours of the morning, on the long their trip over a terribly bad road with its weathered remains of decades old tar top still defiantly lingering in utter disrepair. Through the bumpy journey, he had followed every eating passenger’s mouth activity with a pained salivated interest. His childish enjoyment of the rough ride didn’t help his physical state as the dominantly bolted wooden lorry structure dipped, hopped and swayed its creaking frame in and out of crater sized potholes as old as the old man noisily maneuvering the big vehicle along the pathetic apology for a federal highway.

The shrubby landscape plains they crawled pass beside the bad road, appeared more of a drivable prospect than the torture of these hard landed waves they had paid for with their fares, to be ferried on. The head and body aches the entire passengers alighted with wasn’t bearable, by any regard. It was nauseating and a physical ailment. But the excited impact of seeing the city for the first time had initially hit the young lad with its dreamy wonderment, which is so commonly reserved for all first timer sorts that endlessly wade into the city with their concoctions of plain assortments of inabilities and expectations.

That is before the many unsettling abhorrent characteristics the new visitor is unaccustomed to, descends on the whole fantastic setting with its empty recess of intangible importunity, soils it and floored him, bringing him down to dust his troubles. This ideally brought his thoughts to when he first got here and met the callous old man who is his teacher, an insatiable old man so full of calumnies. Few knew that his endless clatters of words aren’t the doctrines he made them out to be but silly platitudes.

His lack of complete knowledge of the sacred reading art had been successfully disguised by his remarkable memory of a life time endless repetitions and ceaseless renditions of the sacred text, which fooled everyone. This was the first person he had ever hated. The old teacher actually beats them for exercise.

The teacher’s whip cuts their backs again and again. The harsh memories of begging for food with a battered dirty pan, which they carry for that purpose, flashed through his mind as he watched the dirty water race pass. He remembered the cooked solid mashed dry grains doled out harden cold, painted with the traceable remain of the cheap red coloured oil, but without any remote serving of soup because the supposedly generous givers had licked it up before doling it out to the singing beggar boys.

The food is always rudely given to them not out of sympathy but as a means of discarding wastage. Their hunger forces them to eat the food, as they helplessly join an age old excess food disposal system. He remembers the frustration of shouting pleas and getting nothing but insults from disrespectful over-fed children, barely his age. He remembers the chasing dogs barking at them, biting them and certainly, the ever lingering presence of hunger and then the memories of the cold.

The harsh cold harmattan weeks that stretched his misery came along like those of the wicked lashes of his much older fellow students. He relived all of the students parked into the single densely crowded room, on the cold bare floor their sparsely covered skinny bodies warmed up. They display their hardly juicy bare fleshy body parts to feed the endless living smoke of mosquitoes that noisily buzzed over the fatigued sleeping boys. And those weekly only baths in the terribly cold and dirty stream. He remembered the utter frustration and pain of it all.

His pains is constant; with his sores that never dry up and heal, with cuts on his heel and under his feet, with rashes in his full unkempt hair, with constant headaches from falls or a deliberate cruel knock, with belly aches from hunger or bad food and with steady beatings the bigger boys gave. He felt the lightness of his body, painful coughs year round. His sleepless fear of death all around still doesn’t keep him awake no matter how hard he tries to stay awake and not sleep off, and die like many of his mates.

In the like nature of the espoused human temperamental recess of every age and gender, he lost control of all his reasonable thoughts. Only death has power over reason because it defies the divided realm of unconsciousness and sanity. In the tapestry that is the turmoil of reason and emotion, his memories increasingly came in floods. Try as hard as he could to steer his thoughts aright, it defied his attempts and strayed away still.

The widely emotional feebleness of all his efforts didn’t heed the helm of reason and most certainly finally headed for the crushing finality of the rocky coast line of dejected despair. He had apparently set the course for a potentially permanent destructive doom as he repeatedly secluded himself and his thoughts, remained strayed with self pitying worry and sorrow.

His grandfather and mother came around again, vengefully. His cat and dead mates appeared as if to stake a claim. All the dead showed up together again defiantly, as if waiting for him; but not in his empty old village certainly. His village came to mind and all the other village children that still played with him, even though they said they wouldn’t. He remembered the childish meaningless games they played and all the fun they had, away from the huts, in the wild, away far from the big bullying boys. Then returned the pain he had felt since he left them to come and learn to be holy in the ungodliness of a hybrid civilization that does not recognize itself for what it had become.

It still calls itself a virgin when it is clearly an old religious whore on her wedding day. The city tastes of blood, smelt of corpses, sounded like a drowning crowd and yet looks like a prayer field on a holy day. Surely with all this hypocrisy, prayers must have a difficult time to state their pleas at the sacred courts of the Almighty. The worldly arbiters are humanly inclined to value sentiments and honourable intents but not assessable deeds. The motives are always ever portrayed in very fair light and can not be ‘unbiasly’ accepted. And every single judge has to handle his very own case and sentence himself.

He cringed from his loneliness amidst so many others like him, in this expanse of uncivilized caricature of civility, that the abridged abstract of modernity had made this city as all others with its similar history. He tasted his hatred for this way of life and all the people who he recognizes represented it. He moans from the hunger that kept returning to stay for days after every meal. He loathe all the frustration of being unable to change a thing in the physical and emotional cocoon of pain he exists in.

He couldn’t out race his fear of the past that had vomited him and the future which promises to be akin to the permanent present, all patiently waiting for his return to their living quarters. Everything was waiting for him across the termites eaten rotten wooden bridge he had come over a moment earlier, waiting for him to take a break from his real world of abject misery and lounge in fantasies he couldn’t create. He looks at the bridge and cringed from what it suddenly signified at that instant. It represented the route to a past he dislikes but still wants him again, to consume him like it does every body else.

He pulled his thought away from where it strayed and tried to focus on something pleasant. But it lingered on nothing as it searched still, found nothing pleasant because it chose not to. So he returned to his grandfather again and the peace that the old man had said waited for him before he died. He returned to his mother again and what she said about him not seeing her again until after he dies. He returned to his cat and quite suddenly convinced himself that it is with his grandfather and his mother.

Somehow they are somewhere together in peace, waiting for him. The coward seeks to recognize danger and run away. He didn’t feel like a coward because it is the brave who ventures into the unknown and what is more unknown than death. The uncertainties that hold the void beyond death in a firm grip, is really unknown. So when one seeks it consciously and willingly, then one is indeed brave. Suicide is the bravest act of stupidity.

Killing ones self is a grossly imprudent act of desperation that is perceived to be an escape to anything rather than to something, which generally should be regarded as worse and not better. But there is something better in every summation of a situation; and indeed worse. A state of nothingness does not exist, even if it can be perceived and acknowledged by some intangible myth or by some talented concept. In man’s continuously blind search for emotionally spiritual comfort, his conscious choice of death is still a lingering choice in his limited repertoire. But as suicide is thankfully an option and as long as it is, it will be sought.

He is scared but he knows he must be brave. There were only two clear alternatives visible to physical and emotional mind, handicapped perspectives. The routes are either across the rotten wooden bridge or inside the running dirty water. It is not a capricious act, he thought it through. He stood up and jumped into the deep looking, fast running sand coloured water, though he couldn’t swim. He didn’t bother to say his prayers. It would have been his last and a good thing to do, but he didn’t bother because in his hurried thoughts he forgot to remember to bother.

Their wicked greedy teacher, in his near perfect religious stern scholarly act, had told them long ago to always pray first before embarking on anything or else their wishes will not come true. Maybe this once if he didn’t say the short prayer that states in whose name he ventures, his wishes may come true. He didn’t say the short oath-like prayer and his wish didn’t come true, yet again. The deep looking water stopped at his knees. His prayers weren’t ever answered before, so it can’t be because he forgot to pray. He would have asked to live on fairly. Maybe his teacher is right after all; their prayers already forgot them here.

I live to die,
To all knots I tie;
So much I try,
I will still say bye.