Monday, April 25, 2005


Family Matters

We are surrounded by Death and violence to an unbelievable extent. People who follow the news of the various atrocities and violent incidents are sometimes shocked, sometimes bewildered and sometimes repulsed. Being on the inside, close to these happenings is much worse. It also feels differently.

After a while you somehow get used to many new feelings. Being at risk of being killed or blasted or finding yourself in the middle of violence that you were not part of becomes such a reality that you find yourself accepting it as a ‘natural’ part of life. That can happen anytime, any place. Finally you do not care anymore.

That by no means means being careless. I still carry a gun in my car when I go to the farm, risking a $1000 fine and six months in jail!

This is certainly the case with me. I have reached a stage some time now that I do not worry much about dying. When you’re dead, it’s over. There is no rational need to worry about it much.

The problem is that you cannot extend this apathy. You never stop worrying about those you love and care for. It consumes you and makes your life literally intolerable. This is because I am not talking about a single incident that you can come to terms with; it is a constant feeling of worrying; day and night, day after day for hundreds of days. You can’t sleep at night for fear that something happens while you are asleep that you were not prepared for. You can’t settle down during the day while the children are out at school, college or with friends. I hope no one fully understands this feeling and that no one has to. It is the constant anticipation of catastrophe that kills you a 100 times a day.


My aging mother lives next door. She has her own daily rituals that she has no desire to change. She wakes up around 4am in good time for her dawn prayers, has her breakfast around 5, her lunch around 10 and her dinner at 4pm! She goes to bed between 8 and 9.

Her rhythm is different from most people I know, but she is happy with it. It doesn’t affect anybody else.

Some time ago, she heard some noises around 3:30 am, looked out from the window to see the head of a tall man at her front gate. He apparently saw her for he disappeared. She then heard the sound of a car moving away.

Since then, she has been coming over to spend the night at our place. She spends the day at her home as usual and, with sunset, she comes over, spends a few hours sitting in our living room chatting a little (and she does extremely little talking as a nature) with us and with her grandchildren, watching television and going to bed before we even have our dinner.

She feels much safer knowing that one or two of us are awake while she is sound asleep. She does not worry much anymore about little sounds she may hear in the night. As a result, she has been sleeping more soundly. She seems to be happy with this arrangement.
That is a reason for my own happiness.


My youngest son is a teenager, fifteen and a half as he would say, at what you call 10th grade. His school is some distance away from where we live. A minibus collects him from a point about a mile from our home. I take him there in the morning and wait for the minibus to call before leaving. In the afternoon, he takes a taxi back.

It was his last day of what they call quarterly exams. He was a bit late. His mother called him on his mobile and he said he will be back soon. More than half an hour later, he had not shown up. We were waiting for him to have lunch. She called him again.

She came into my study, visibly trembling, face yellow… and handed me the ‘phone. All I could hear was the muffled sound of violence. He must have had his ‘phone in his pocket. I though I could distinguish the sound of his voice. He must have been kidnapped. There was little doubt about it.

I motioned to my daughter. She brought my shoes and put them on for me while I was concentrating on those sounds. Following another prompt, she fetched my jacket and revolver. I was ready. Ready for what? I did not know what to do next or where to go!

My wife and daughter started frantically calling all his friends.

Finally, one of them turned out to be with him.

They were at a billiards parlor celebrating the end of those exams for an hour before going back home.

I cannot even begin to describe the feelings I had over those ten or fifteen minutes. Half an hour later, my wife had one of the strongest migraine attacks she has had for a long time. I had to give her an injection of valium followed by Stematil for nausea. Her pain was terrible well into the next morning

And all because our son was careless about coming home immediately after school and switched his mobile on instead of switching it off because he didn’t want to be distracted from his game.

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