Ibrahim Waheed “Kalaavehi”

When they asked him to give the infant a name, the learned Seedhi called him Sabir. According to the learned scholar Seedhi, that translated from the Arabic as ‘The Patient One’. This was good because patience was a virtue that the pious and the noble were supposed to aspire to have in plenty. This was even better because the infant Sabir’s biological father apparently had very little of that virtue: he had left his wife to fend for herself long before his son was born. Perhaps that was for the best, as one wise man was overhead saying.

Life started as an exercise in patient waiting for young Sabir. He prayed desperately and hoped fervently for a father to look up to. He had to wait two years before his mother married his stepfather. He yearned for love and caring to come visibly into his family. He had to wait one more year before his half-sister Amal was born, to see the amount of love and caring that was showered on her. He did not mind, but actually enjoyed seeing how much everyone loved this little sister of his. And he gained much strength from the weekly sermon he heard from the Seedhi who had named him.

When young boys his age started going to school, Sabir had one more lesson in how much strength patience had as a virtue. He had to wait an extra year before Amal joined kindergarten and begged her mother to allow her brother to also go to some sort of school. Sabir’s love for his half sister grew in strength. So did his inner strength as he entered a world of knowledge. Added to this, he forged a friendship with his mentor the Seedhi and acquired much wisdom from the latter.

They said knowledge was power and Sabir applied greater power in the patience he exercised in controlling his desire for more knowledge than night school for orphans had to offer. His teachers soon recognized a very smart child and urged him to greater heights. They succeeded in urging Sabir but failed in urging his mother to put him in regular school. Even though they sensed a feeling of revenge towards Sabir’s father in her, they could not understand why she had to take it out on the poor child. Sabir, however, had realized this at a very early age and had already learnt how to deal with that sad fact. In doing so, he grew even stronger emotionally as time passed. His guide the Seedhi also instructed him in the virtues of honest work and striving hard to attain one’s goals in life in honorable ways.

As the years passed, Sabir not only understood but also tasted almost all the subtle nuances of what his name meant. When meant waiting for an opportunity to earn some money by doing odd jobs after he had finished his domestic chores, he bided his time. Even when patience meant a small delay in making suitable adjustments to his family’s attitude towards him holding down a regular job after his first religious examination, he took it in his stride. For through it all, he gained comfort from the advice given him by the old Seedhi to the effect that the world belonged to those who stayed sincere to the righteousness of patience.

When Amal was sent to the United Kingdom to do her first degree in social justice, Sabir rejoiced. He also realized that he too could follow in his half-sister’s footsteps to academic excellence. He rejoiced some more when he saw the announcement in the local paper which sought applicants for a full first degree scholarship in religious studies. He knew he had always achieved the best grades in that subject in school. He knew he had the only distinction achieved by anyone in the country in that subject at the General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations that year. He suddenly felt immensely empowered: He sought the blessings of his personal Seedhi and applied!

Two weeks later, when Sabir found out that the learned and esteemed Seedhi had wielded a certain amount of undue influence to secure the scholarship for the latter’s nephew, Sabir’s world crashed down around him. All the strength he had acquired over the years in believing in the virtues of patience left him. It appeared to him that all that he had respected in this world as virtue, honor and justice had deserted him in favor of a cheap, self-serving, ersatz version of a wisdom that perhaps did not exist.

On that day, as the world appeared to laugh at Sabir and his fate, he found himself at the venerable old Seedhi’s residence, staring up at a dead wormwood tree which he had never noticed before. When he looked up into the dead branches of that old, lifeless monster, her thought he saw the old Seedhi’s face smirking at him in mockery. He felt as if someone had reached into his chest, grabbed hold of his soul hiding in his heart, and had torn it out, screaming, into a world that was full of nothing but deep selfishness and no more.

And then his rage left him. He felt all hope leaving him. He felt all goodness deserting him. But there was no bad to replace the good either. Only a sudden sadness filled his heart. He looked at the dead tree and saw it as the old and admired Seedhi and all he had said he stood for!

“O Seedhi! Dear Seedhi! Why have you waited this long to show me what I am? O Seedhi, O Seedhi! Why have you left me this unbearable burden?” He heard himself screaming silently inside his heart.

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  • Kalaavehi  On May 11, 2010 at 12:16 am

    This story is placed here in honor of my friend Hajja Ismail

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