Thursday, September 11, 2008

A week of (mostly) blessings

Some encounters I’ve had this week:

I meet a woman on the bus who tells me she was inspired to study special education from an Indian film she watched. She tells me the story—about a blind girl who was able to achieve great things from learning to read, and then she tells me about a blind professor she has at BUK, who asked how many of the students in the class would marry someone who is blind. Only 13 stood up, and he said only 3 of those were probably telling the truth. But his wife married him. “Some people don’t pick education as their first choice,” she tells me, “but I did.” Her passion is obvious in the way her face shines when she talks about how “everyone has a disability. It’s just that some are more obvious than others.” She continues on about Helen Keller--how much she contributed to the world.

I sit with the sister of one of my friends whose husband divorced her two weeks ago and would not let her take any of the children, two boys and a girl, 6, 1, and 5. Come back with me, and say you are a lawyer from abroad, she half jokes, half pleads, as she shows me their pictures—healthy beautiful children, laughing into the camera lens. Her co-wife refuses to take care of them, so they were given to the grandmother to take care of. “But she’s blind. She can’t even see to wipe their noses…. I asked him, even just give me the baby to take care of until he is three, and I’ll give him back. But he refused.” She sits in a corner, hugging herself. She wants to take her husband to court to gain custody of the children. Her sister advises her against it. “He has money, and you don’t. You know the courts will side with the one who pays them…” Whenever I visit my friend, she is there, smiling sadly. I ask her about the children, “To, suna can.”

Last night I sha ruwa (lit. "drink water"; break fast) with a friend, while watching Antz from a DVD. She tells me how much she likes cartoons, and how they teach you to live in peace with nature. Now the children whenever they see ants make sure they don’t step on them because they remember the film. “Even now, I don’t like to eat eggs because I think what if I were the hen and my child were taken away…” She tells me she has thought of becoming a vegetarian…

On Tuesday, I sha ruwa with a studio full of musicians, actors, directors, and film editors. They bring bags and bags of food, oranges, kosai, roasted chicken, koko, pure water, and put it in the middle of the office. We descend upon the food. I am delicately finishing off my first orange slice, when I realize that if I don’t hurry up, I will miss out on the food altogether. In about 5 minutes, there is nothing left but bags of peels and bones. I finish off the night with the Bollywood film Chalte Chalte on a borrowed laptop. A singer watches over my shoulder, tells me he did a version of one of the songs in Hausa. He sings along with Shah Rukh Khan in Hindi.

Last week, I sha ruwa with a friend in the old city. We go to greet his elderly grandmother. He thinks she’s around 118. She cannot see or hear, but recognizes him when she touches his face, and holds on to his hand, shaking it with every blessing she gives him. When she takes my hand, she can tell I am a visitor. She blesses me too.