I’m on my way to Kabul, Afghanistan. Again. My 38th time to this traumatized country in the past 12 years or so CAI has been active here. The diverse challenges the Trustees of CAI face in managing the various humanitarian projects in this badbakht country is unrelenting and never cease. Most disconcerting is the safety of the 150 orphans under active CAI care. The wellbeing of so many hapless innocent humans would be an enormous undertaking anywhere on earth, and it is, since CAI cares for 400 additional orphans in assorted countries worldwide. But in Afghanistan, with her particular penchant of attracting violence, I cannot be overzealous in my emotions towards these orphans. I’ve known some of these children since they were mere toddlers, almost, so the bond we have developed is special.
As the Emirates Airbus A380 pierces the air at about 550 MPH at the height of 41,000 feet above earth towards a stopover in Dubai, and the movie on the screen in front of me is a yawner, I drift off into a fitful slumber. And my nightmare begins.
I dream I am detached from the aircraft cabin and am aloft outside, floating among the gigantic white fluffy clouds of heaven. It’s a scary feeling for the first few seconds until I realize the clouds hold on my body is solid and unyielding. I enjoy the sensation of the treat, of complete freedom and weightlessness; I giggle in delight. Then, I look down from my birds-eye position of the earth below and what I see puzzles me at first, and then frightens the boohoos out of me.
I see that in the land that I have known as Palestine, there is serenity. Palestinian children carefreely walk to school through olive orchids, hand in hand with their Jewish nationals. Gone are the young indoctrinated armed-to-the-teeth Zionist soldiers who gleefully abused, traumatized and usurped their Palestinian neighbors’ rights and bulldozed their homes.
I see that the skies over Yemen are free of metals spitting fire and terror, killing and maiming at will. The infants and children look well nourished. The mothers’ foreheads are clear of worry-lines and grief from the slaughter of their suckling babies. The men too, with one-half of their mouths budging with ghastly khatt concoction and a hand cradling the customary Janbeeya knife, seem happy, busy with trade and commerce or shoving their mouths with mandis full of succulent fragranced rice and spiced lamb.
I see the women in Afghanistan walk about their cities or villages, unmolested because of their attire. The bazaars of Kabul and Mazar and Herat and Kandahar are crowded with Hazara and Pashtun men, their shops laden with pistachios and badam and saffron, ready for export. There is no thought given to suicide bombers that have claimed so many lives. Gone are the ugly concrete walls that lined every government or prominent building to ward off bombs and death.
I see that Dal Lake in Srinagar is clear of trash and is teeming with tourists from both Pakistan and India, savoring mouthwatering Kashmiri wazwan. That the flower gardens of Srinagar are booked 2 years in advance for Lollywood and Bollywood song shots.
I notice that the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar I visited so often that left me depressed and heartbroken every time is now deserted and the thick depleted forest cleared to accommodate the camp is now lush. And green. The elephants that used to meander about these lands are back in force. Surprised, I cast an eye to the south and I see them back in their homeland of Myanmar. I recognize some of the orphans that CAI donors had given succor; they look well and contented. Happily, I call out to them, but my voice does not carry, no matter how hard I shout. I give up.
I look over west, to India and Pakistan. The borders are demilitarized! The crumbling infrastructure of both countries look so much healthier. Spending their people’s money in a proper manner? I wonder if both the countries have finally rid themselves of inept leaders and installed heads who have had a university education, at least? Gone are shaven head monks or military clad generals traumatizing their populations. Phew. Finally!
I command the cloud I am lounging on to take me west and I find myself above the continent of my birth – Africa; it is no longer dark and corrupt. The hunger, disease and lack of water in many countries I’d visited and on worked in are now histories. Replaced with prosperity and wellbeing, especially the beautiful children.
In Tanga and Arusha, the places I spent most of my childhood remains the same – happy and carefree, as I had known it. However, at the Khoja centers, there are Black worshippers comingling with the Khojas without acrimony. There are none of the senseless rituals that I was indoctrinated in, especially in Muharram. The mourning for Imam Hussein (a) and his family’s brutal murder is commemorated in a manner that is respectful and befitting the Imam’s (a) supreme mission; by following his deeds. The mandatory pulau, daal gost and haleem still feeds the believers.
My Khojas of planet earth, favored by Allah’s grace in prosperity, intellect and a generous heart in the past, but lost in blindly following grandfathered rites, have finally gotten their act straight. Gone are ‘world’ institutes that are Khoja eccentric and are now embracing the Umma concept that the Prophet (s) advocated.
I get to visit a lot more places in our world in my newfound vehicle, where peace, prosperity, and justice now prevails. I am thrilled, ecstatic, on top of the world, literally. But just as quickly, terror pierces my heart. Isn’t this the time when my Imam (a) would be ruling the world? Isn’t this the prophecy that his reappearance and setting up a world with justice and peace herald the end of the world? Has the Imam (a) appeared and I’ve missed the boat? Have I been in slumber while other lucky ones got to help and abet his mission? I begin crying copious tears of disappointment and frustration. Of shame and guilt. I am so engulfed with grief, I begin struggling for breath.
Sir? Sir? Sir! I hear a female voice yelling at me and firm hands shaking me awake. A pretty Indian stewardess is peering at me, concern clearly showing on her pert face. Sir, you were having a bad dream. It’s okay! Here, have a glass of water…