Title: Non-fiction episodes.
Author: Mohamed Yousif
Date: 11-10-2014, 09:37 AM
My friend who was always interesting in the behaviour of human and the causes of a particular behaviour, wanted to indulge even at the risk of running into unpleasant situations. This time he was adamant to find out how certain individuals behave and why in this particular peculiar incident. The incident involved interesting characters of all walks of life. Lawyers, police, drivers, mechanics, a judge, and other individuals not connected with the incident but suffered similar cases. He was well aware; one would never know everything about human nature though in this case the economic motive was the driving force. People’s character was self-contradictory and haphazard bundle of inconsistent qualities. I shall attempt to narrate the story he told, in my own words.
His friend had a car accident with no injury involved, which would have been a normal car accident to be resolved by the insurance companies without the police involvement. Sadly the other car had no insurance and the driver insisted it was not his fault and would like to settle things and suggested a certain amount of money to be paid for him to repair his car without involving the police. The police who happened to be there at the time of accident concurred with him and advised that the mattered should be resolved by payment. But our friend refused to do that and therefore was compelled to face the traffic court or so he had chosen.
The proceeding of the traffic court was set for the next day. Next day he proceeded to the building where the traffic court was housed. In the court room; the judge who presided over the case, known as Mawalana, was a large man with a face as black as ebony. He was glued to his chair in a way you would think he would not part from it. He had a fleshy face with large black eyes. He had a large bold skull. He wore a full grey suit, white shirt and unmatched blue tie. His dress was ill-suited to the hot weather and you would observe that he was drenched with sweat, which he wiped constantly with a handkerchief. He spoke with a high pitched voice. He frowned and looked very severe. He presided over his court whenever his time would allow. Most of the time; he never showed up despite the lawyers, witnesses who waited for hours for him to appear. At the very end of the day a message would be delivered by a police man telling the waiting crowd that Mawalana might show up tomorrow inshaa Allah, if God will.
The lawyers, representing the owner of the car, Oman2 and Oman1, both are small fellows, dwarf with the colour of cold asphalt. Both were uncivil. It is hard to believe or comprehend that they would be to any school to qualify for the profession they claim to work for. Oman2 was like a bushman, dusty with a sallow face and a narrow weak chin, snub nose and shaggy eyebrows. His partner Oman1 had an unhealthy pale look dreadful fellow. He had small and undistinguished features and his expression was artless. Both were extremely greedy, with hungry look and strived to earn money by all means through cheating or whatever means and dirty manipulation of circumstances in their favour. When they saw the money completely inhibited their ability and power of conversation. Most probably they did not qualify for a law degree, but somehow they manipulated their way to be lawyers by illegal methods. In this respect my friend mentioned that a guy who impersonated a medical doctor; worked in a hospital for a couple of years before he was unveiled. For a lawyer such a deceit would be less harmful, but a medical doctor it was a catastrophic. The lawyer representing the insurance company was a small fat fellow with his necktie hanging from his neck sideways. He was of the same category as the two lawyers. He rarely showed up before the court. The traffic police was slim and with hungry look. His legs were like broomsticks. His cheeks were hollow. He was deeply sunburned. His face looked tired but his expression was very gentle. When he walked, you got the idea of a dead leaf dancing before the wind. Like many policemen he was most probably under paid. A witness was a mechanic. He was a large plump man and one of those who learned the names of car parts by heart but lacked the knowledge of their functions. The Car owner was a fat hobbling fellow, broad and stout. His testimony was a load of lies. Swearing, on the holy book, to tell the truth, played no role and won’t persuade him to tell the truth. An engineer by profession was behaving like any peddler on the street.
The so called traffic court was situated within a huge building in the mid of the busiest traffic area of the city. It was a busy junction of four main streets. The junction was a roundabout junction. At the entrance of the building a traffic police in his white dress sat on a chair chatting with someone who gave him a snuff which he placed between his lower lip and teeth, followed by a spit on the ground before him. A woman was brewing tea for some customers who were sitting on the ground around her. She half filled a tea cup with sugar before adding the hot tea over and handed it to the customer who noisily drank his tea. She had a bucket, half full of water sprinkled with detergent soap, beside her, which was handy to wash used cups, these were inserted in the bucket to rinse for a split-second, pulled out a number of cups held by her fingers, and dried them by a piece of cloth. She repeated the process of washing for as long as it took her before finishing her job for the day, without bothering to change the water. Beside her a boy was selling cigarettes. Cigarettes were sold as single cigarette or a box of ten cigarettes each. Peddlers passing by were carrying all kinds of merchandise one can imagine; toys, tool kits, pencils, spare parts of all kinds, radios, batteries, and many more low quality articles from China, Korea. A police man was chasing the peddlers to clear the area and they scampered, only to return again when the police went to exercise his job on the other side of the street or to relax when exhausted from the chase. A blind man led by a small boy whined and wailed endlessly for demand for alms.
The traffic court was in a shabby section of the building. The judges or Mawalana, as they were known occupied four rooms in a row, with their names written on top of each door. Outside each door they were two dusty wooden benches, good for five people only, while hundreds of people were waiting outside and had to roam the small place beyond the benches waiting for Mawalanas. The dust lay heavy on the rim of closed windows at the back of the benches. It seemed that the windows never been opened for ages and collecting dust over time. Nobody knew when the Mawalanas would arrive and take their benches. At half pass nine the police and others working for the court would disappeared for a long break to enjoy their breakfast followed by several cigarettes or a snuff and a cup of tea. Till then everything would stand still. The small canteen serving breakfast for the staff of the court, visitors and others from neighbouring offices could hardly cope with the crowd. After breakfast, reluctantly and slowly they return to their jobs, after a lapse of a minimum of two hours.
It was indeed a bizarre affair watching what was happening just like a comedy play on which a ridiculous act was performed. Most of the cases, not involving injuries, could have been settled out of the court between insurance companies! Like in most if not all of the countries of the world. It seemed that the system was designed to invite corruption of the lawyers, witnesses and the under paid police. The court proceedings went on very slow listening to all kind of witnesses, though the defendant admitted his fault and just was waiting to pay the penalty, which was a nominal value since his insurance would cover the rest. Never the less it went on and on for the lawyers Oman1 and Oman2 wanted to press the defendant to pay them. They even went to the extent of asking the defendant to pay a certain sum and they would pullout from the case. The defendant utterly refused, but the case went on and on for a couple of weeks and at the end he gave up, after being exhausted and had no more time to waste, and paid the greedy lawyers a sum of money as a compensation to the car owner provided that they would withdraw their claim from the court. The defendant made the mistake of not getting any signed paper from the lawyers that he paid them on the understanding that they would withdraw from the case. The next day they asked the judge to announce his judgment on the case which was that the defendant would pay the nominal penalty. In that case obviously the defendant, assuming the promise of the lawyers, would get his money back from the them, they promised to do that, but to this day they refused to pay. His friend was really very furious, though he managed to get a written paper from Oman1 that he would get his money back. But, alas, he did not receive a single penny to this day.
My friend went on narrating the following episode relating to an acquaintance by the name of Zool:
Zool stretched his aching legs on a chair which he pulled close to the bench where he was sitting. With his shaky hands he pulled a letter from his pocket which he read over hundred times ... he received only the day before ... could not believe or comprehend the meaning of the words in his brain ... it went on saying “for the reason of public interest or commonweal your services are no longer needed”. It was very hot and the drops of sweat from his forehead were increasing. Neither illness nor lassitude prevented him from going on with his work. For more than twenty years he toiled unremittingly. To be treated so contumeliously and taking revenge on him was like depriving the country of the vast accumulation of knowledge he acquired, which was lost forever and deprived him and his family of their income to face an unknown future and jeopardizing their existence. So he was sacked from his job for the ‘commonweal’; for the sake of his country. ‘#######s’ he thought. All the years he toiled and now he was pulled clean like a hair out of the Dough. Such letter was rather common among many of his acquaintances and associates who were unlawfully kicked out of their jobs for political reasons or for not siding with the regime or had history of being against any totalitarian regimes, thus thousands lost their jobs and those who showed slightest resistance were thrown in jails and endured the inhumane torture within ‘Buat-alashbah’, ghost houses, a special prison for torturing political prisoners. The designation ‘ghost houses’ was because interrogators were veiled when they were torturing prisoners in the homes of police secret service, and used false names to call each other. They were sadist and barbarians.
Our friend Zool reflected on this and thought his situation compared with the others, was the least unfortunate. His immediate boss, then director, was sacked a couple of month before him. Being his deputy Zool was expected to follow his boss any time after the new director was in place. He foresaw and had been certain that his dismissal from employment was imminent. He would not tolerate the new director any way for he was incompetent and unfit for the job as he lacked the suitable qualification. He was a political appointee.
Zool thought awhile scratched his head lit a cigarette and started to consider seriously his family future and the options available. Firstly he had to struggle for his pension and then thought of possibilities of earning some income to elevate the hardship awaiting him. His priority was set for his three kids in school their fees plus the daily expenses. Tough times waiting ahead. In his time education was free, medical care was free and life was not that expensive.
The mirage shone before his eyes and the fantasy held them for sometimes through bleaks of happiness! He thought of buying a second hand rickshaw to roam the streets to earn some money …. He heard many stories how useful a rickshaw could be. These bloody rickshaws were imported from India by some of those bloodsucking new millionaires. We never had any such a thing before he thought.
The capital limits marked the effective borders of the country, outside these borders the official life was nonexistent, for the capital was where all the money flows and the place where there was any hope of finding a job. The capital was attracting more job seekers to the extent that it became impossible to find any job. Nevertheless they desperately survive by peddling, stealing and begging. Some of those employed by the government were obliged to accept bribes, in order to perform their duties, as the pay was not sufficient. Zool, unlike many, was an honest and trustworthy fellow and lived within his income. Zool succeeded in acquiring a rickshaw and tried for a couple of weeks to drive it through the streets himself but soon he gave up … too old to manage such alien job so he was advised to hire a boy. At the end of the day the boy would bring to him a certain agreed sum of money. Few years later he looked older and miserable from the burden of life. Never the less he strived on and on and life was a bit at his finger ends when he died. The body that he, had treated so contumeliously took its revenge on him. That vast accumulation of knowledge from his job was lost forever. To the world he was unknown in death as he was in life. And yet he was a success. He did what he wanted honestly, tried to adjust to his new situation and he died when his goal was in sight and never knew the bitterness of an end achieved.
At a junction leading to Boulaq district in Cairo, thousands of people gathered. The space in the middle was taken up by vendors displaying their merchandise on carts and tables right across a train rails. The place was crowded by buyers and peddlers. The train rails disappeared in the mob. I was standing there in amazement watching the crowd moving to and fro like ants and wandering what would happen if a train would show up … but then I thought that the rails might be deserted rails … but while I was speculating I heard a train whistle. I looked right and left and I saw at a distance not far from the mob a train was approaching … nearer and nearer but no one was in the least disturbed by the approaching train … I thought … oh my God a catastrophe would no doubt on the version of happening . Just when the train was a couple of meters away, the crowd of people like waves of sea, on both sides of the rail, opened up for the train to pass ….like when the waters of the red sea opened for Moses and his followers to cross, fleeing from Pharaoh soldiers. When the last wagon was passing away the waves of humans closed on the rail and business went as usual.
Ref: Enduring the pain (Novel) 2st Edition, by Mohamed Yousif