By Youssef El Kaidi
By Youssef El Kaidi
Morocco World News
Fez, December 19, 2012
Once upon a time, in a small secluded village near Ifran, there was an old man riding his unsaddled donkey and dogged by his shabby old wife. While passing by the wreckage of a demolished house, the donkey arched its eyebrows, erected its ears, and stopped at the cry of a baby in the remains of the house. The old man clumsily hastened to find out about the cry and, to their astonishment, there was a new-born baby disposed of in the cold and wrapped in a piece of cloth. Just beside it they found a letter placed under a piece of stone. “Take good care of Masoud. Thank you.” This was the content of the letter.
Having no children, the couple thought the baby was a gift from God. In spite of their extreme poverty, they always tried their best to bring him up properly and afford whatever he needed as a child. “Who knows? He may be our savior in the future,” they thought.
Time passed by, and Masoud was five years old. The old man and his wife got seriously ill and became unable to care either for themselves or for their starving child, let alone the donkey. They were simply waiting for a miracle to save them from the situation. The donkey, tragically, shriveled up and died due to its incessant hunger and thirst.
One day, Masoud got up bright and early, searching for whatever he could fill his bowels with. Unfortunately, he found nothing. The cottage contained only some rugs, a dilapidated saddle, and some hay. Suddenly, he came across a box of matches. He made a little fire and started warming his frozen hands. A spark of fire flew unnoticed to the pile of hay in the corner while Masoud was fitfully dozing. He started hysterically crying and shouting for succor but in vain; no neighbors were living nearby, and the old man and his wife couldn’t even crawl out and save their skin. The consequences of the event, thus, were really disastrous. The old man and his wife were burnt to ashes while Masoud fled away and strayed in the snow, hungry and in pain. Here started the adversity of this little orphan.
Masoud lived as a homeless beggar till he was moved to an orphanage in Meknes. There he met dozens of his likes, innocent children left in the lurch. The orphanage guaranteed food and lodging, but nothing can substitute for parents and their care.
During his residence in this philanthropic house, Masoud underwent every sort of abuse from his mates. The trails of violence, rudeness, and cruelty were conspicuous in his face. He frequented a school so that he might learn how to integrate in society, or, so those in charge of the orphanage thought. But, he was witless to exploit the opportunity. He didn’t learn even how to write his name correctly!
Masoud got increasingly introverted, depressed, and unwilling to stay in that hellish place anymore. He was determined to flee regardless of whatever he may suffer outside. At the rooster crow announcing the start of a new day, he got up and tiptoed through the vestibule to jump over the short wall and found himself out.
Few people were rushing to their work in different directions on that early, cold morning. Masoud kept rambling, purposelessly, in the streets of the city till he huddled in a sheltered corner. The wind swirled dust, trash, and plastic bags around him but he was completely immersed in sleep. He awoke, suddenly, terrified to find a bearded man bowing over him with his pants down to his feet. Masoud tried to escape but his frail childish body couldn’t escape the clasp of a strong violent man who tartly and unscrupulously violated and raped the child.
Had Masoud found care, love, and passion, he would not have ever been lost as such in a monstrous world where only materialism and selfishness rule. The pitiless abuser is but a hollow man who embodies the ill of people and society. Masoud, after the heart-breaking incident, found no shoulder to cry on. Instead, he found only endless pale streets which were filled with homeless, miserable children. Just like street cats, he daily fed upon food remains in the garbage cans. Sometimes he begged and beseeched the indifferent pedestrians for a dirham or two. Sometimes he stole or snatched things from people’s hands to afford glue, drugs and cigarettes after he became fully addicted to glue sniffing and smoking.
Every day evasively disposed of him to another, and every night killed his childhood on the beds of waste and drastic austerity. Masoud led a life of loss and despair in the streets till he reached puberty and became sixteen. He started for the first time in his life to think rationally about things. Before, he was guided by his whims, but now there was a great deal of reason. The future became a real and constant obsession for him. “How could I, whose identity is unknown, assert myself and find a narrow place for me in this wide world?” he always asked.
Quite naturally, with the gradual physiological changes which only proved that he was no longer a child, he started feeling the need of the other sex. Thus, he got more conscious about his appearance which he always mistrusted. His nose was slightly bigger, his cheeks were pale, and his hair was almost always disheveled. When he passed by the glass of shops and doors he gazed at himself and moved away, deaf to the torrent of abusive, teasing words from some insulting people whose job is gossiping and following the and comers and goers.
One day, Masoud, suddenly and unexpectedly, met a housemaid whom he immediately felt attracted to. It was love at first sight. She was moving quickly with short steps as if she was in a hurry. When he stopped her and asked to know her she blushed, and then smiled and said: “I’ve come out just to fetch something from the greengrocer, meet you tomorrow at five in the park.” Masoud felt an ecstatic joy for the great job he had done. He felt pride and self-confidence. Somehow, life appeared to him worth living, a fact in which he never, ever believed.
The following day, Masoud got dressed in his finest attire to meet an exceptional person on an exceptional day. He selected and rehearsed all the sweet words to say in her presence. Pushed by his over-enthusiasm, he arrived an hour early to the park. A few minutes before the fixed time, she appeared, gracefully walking towards the park. As he saw her, his heart started palpitating and his throat dried up. He stood up and waited for her to cross the road. Fixing her eyes on him, she didn’t notice the speeding bus which couldn’t brake in time. She was crushed to death!
It was a bitter pill to swallow. Whatever door Masoud tried to knock on he found firmly latched. Even his first love was killed in its cradle. Didn’t he have the right to love as any other ordinary man? Is it his destiny? Is there a certain power that plays against his will, against his hopes? Masoud couldn’t find an answer to his perplexing questions. He just threw everything behind and continued, in spite of his nose and his role as a desperate, unfortunate orphan.
One day, Masoud was found, unconscious, just centimeters from the railway where only a little movement ahead could have turned him into mince. He was, fortunately, taken to a nearby mosque where they gave him emergency first aid. Masoud regained his consciousness to find himself surrounded by bearded men dressed, all, in white. As he saw the beards, his thought went back to that unforgettable cold morning, and the incident painfully flashed in his mind; but, soon, Masoud was assured that he was in safe hands.
The bearded benefactors taught Masoud how to start a new life; the life of belief and self devotion to God, only God. They taught him ablution, prayers, and some rules of Islam, which he easily assimilated. With the lapse of time, Masoud learned everything they taught him and proved to be a good learner. Later on, he became, himself, a diligent teacher who tried to mobilize and sensitize as many wicked and blasphemous people as he could.
Masoud lived as a devoted, pious man for three years in Morocco till his turn came to support the Mujahidin in Afghanistan. He welcomed the idea and enthusiastically expressed his readiness to sacrifice his life for the ‘Word of God.’ Together with some volunteers from different parts of the country, he took the plane to Pakistan to cross the border to the battlefield. Again, chance was against him. This time, he was arrested crossing the border with some wanted Taliban leaders. The dream of slaying the ‘opponents of Islam’ or dying a martyr was but a lost cause. Instead, he was imprisoned under inhumane conditions for two years, only to be transported back to his home land where he embraced homelessness, poverty, and meaninglessness again.
Masoud kept straying across the country travelling from one city to another looking, in vain, for his lost chance. His hope gradually declined till he came to the brink of madness. He asked with a loud, bitter, husky voice: “Where are my parents? What’s my name? Who I am? Why am I here? What sin have I committed to bear this suffering?” People heard him speak like that they thought that he was a mad man. They just thanked goodness for their sanity and went, indifferent to his cries, maybe thinking that he deserved the curse. For God is just and only evil people are doomed to suffer like that!
In the summer of 2007 Masoud heard of Tangiers, a city where there are plenty of job opportunities. Masoud was dexterous in no craft, but he decided to travel even so. Tangier is one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco, especially with its long, exciting beaches. But, as you go deeper into it, your eyes collide against scenes of misery and privation. The glow of Spanish coastal cities, which are just a few kilometers from Tangier, stirred the idea of immigration in Masoud’s mind. Thus, he became, day after day, more determined to find a way out of the infernal life he led in Morocco. Nothing could occupy his mind anymore but the “escape to Eden.”
Even if he was intellectually ignorant and illiterate, during his forlorn quest for self-assertion, Masoud always asked simple questions which always scratched his mind, questions about life, destiny, culture, justice, equality, democracy, freedom, dignity, and citizenship. Unfortunately, he could never quench his ‘intellectual’ thirst and a big question mark was left before his eyes, and in his conception of the world which rejected him.
Early before the sunrise in the fishing harbor, a swarm of fishermen looked gathering aghast around a corpse. It was Masoud; he looked calmer, more satisfied and more content with his sublime tranquility, now, after years of fretfulness, apprehension, and waste. When they looked in his pocket to find anything that referred to his identity, they found nothing, but little crumbs of bread!
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