March 28, 2023

The big question is ‘why’?

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

A HARRIED father rushes out of the house one late evening and sprints down the block to the nearest pharmacy.  He barely makes it to the steps of the establishment when he notices the electric shutters from inside the pharmacy coming down.  Frantically knocking on the glass door, he draws the attention of the salesman inside who points to his watch and makes a gesture of prayers.  With his voice rising, he tries to explain through the glass door that his five-year-old son is feverish and is in urgent need of medication.

The call to prayers has not yet sounded, but no amount of pleading is going to make the pharmacy attendant change his mind. He simply turns his back and walks away to the interior of the store. It is approaching Isha prayer and as the man walks away dejectedly, his shoulders slumped, he wonders why?

A 20-year-old student is on her way to the King Abdul Aziz University.  She sits in the back seat, while her driver lurches and weaves the car somewhat recklessly through traffic.  She has recently returned from a prep school in England, where she went to master the English language.  Whilst in London, she took the opportunity to attend a driving school and is now in possession of a valid UK driving license.  She then rented a car and set about exploring the English countryside.

Back home now, she is unnerved with the manner of driving.  Her stomach is acting squeamish and irritable.  This on top of the fact that she will be late for class today.  Her driver did not show up early this morning mumbling some excuse when questioned.  Last night he had disappeared for over two hours while she waited impatiently to be picked up at her friend’s house.  Seated defenseless and dependent in the back seat of this confined car, she knows nothing of this stranger from a foreign land who plays such an essential role in her daily life.  As the car finally pulls over at the university gates, she gets out, harried and unsteady, and wondering…why?

An elderly and frail man sits in his family room after Maghreb prayers.  He is looking forward to a soccer match that is about to be telecast.  His tea and dates are ready on a tray besides him.  As he settles comfortably into the couch, he hears the rumble of a truck outside his window.

Shortly, a repulsive smell filters through the room. It is a stench of the gutters.  The old man peers outside his window and sees the familiar yellow septic tank truck working away at a neighbor’s house.  This has become a common sight every evening now. The stench in the room is now stifling as it wafts through and settles in. Just beyond the truck and up the street, the old man can see the roadwork site of the city’s master plans to implement the sewage system network. This project has been going on for something like thirty-five years with no end in sight!  In less than a decade, the Americans went to the moon, he recalls.

As he feebly totters back to his seat, his fragile body supported by a wooden cane, he smothers his face with his Guthra to suppress the foul odors and slumps back defeated in his armchair compelled to take in the putrid aroma and shaking his head in bewilderment, and wondering…why?- (SAUDI GAZETTE)

— The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena


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