Friday, September 8, 2017

Yes, I’m A Grouch / Bosnia The Beautiful – Again / My New Novel

Yes, I’m A Grouch
I wake up this morning in a sullied mood, because of multiple overnight global alerts that make any decent sleep impossible. The Rohingya’s are going through renewed genocide by hardline Buddhists aided by the Burmese army, a ten-year-old destitute, orphaned girl is going to die in Herat, Afghanistan because CAI is going through a severe cash flow, so I got to scramble and dig out my begging bowl, and the knuckleheads in a remote African country where CAI has helped can’t seem to understand my urgent need for compliance reports. Aghhh…

Then, after fajr salaat, I open the BBC news channel, one source that I routinely scan every morning to get the latest global developments overnight. This channel was, at some point in history, impeccable with its impartial and fair reporting. Alas, they too, have been corrupted by the new world order we live in. Nevertheless, the BBC does a fair bit of dependable reporting, and it is still an excellent source for accurate timekeeping, so my watch always has the precise BBC time. To my utter disbelief, Yalda Hakim’s comely and smiling face tells me that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their 3rd baby. And so? I ask her with my eyes. And so, nothing. She ignores me and turns to other news in the UK. Bloody hell, the world is upside down with crises everywhere I look and all the BBC is interested in telling me is that Kate and William had a tumble in bed and were now procreating? Blaspheming the BBC, I flip over to Al Jazeera to watch the misery of the Burmese Rohingyas.

I warned you I was in a mean mood. There is no place, I find, to breathe easy anymore. I feel claustrophobic with all that is going on in our world. My happiness is constrained, short-lived. Is carefree laughter history? Disasters in Yemen, Burma, Parachinar, Sierra Leone…hunger deaths in Kenya and the Sudan…flooding misery in Houston, India, Bangladesh…Ya Allah, when is this all going to end? This is now becoming a trend. And now, an obese lunatic in North Korea is keen on playing Russian roulette with another unpredictable fella to see who’ll pull the trigger first? Enough reasons to want to play the game myself, I tell ya. No wonder my daughter calls me a grouch. Do you blame me?

Bosnia The Beautiful - Again
I was in this exceedingly beautiful country in 2011, wanting to witness the brutal effects of ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims by the Serbs and Croatians first hand. I was awed by the country’s splendor then as I am now. Since I am already in Europe, and Chase credit card points add up right for air miles, I tie up with daughter Maaha Zainab flying in from Orlando and cousin Dr. Afzal Yusufali and his wife Rosy from Dubai for a four-day private trip to Bosnia.

I am convinced most immigration officers at London airports are first class dingbats. This one, portly, with abundant overflowing nasal hair asks me what my business is in the UK. I want to jest that I am here to meet Theresa May but stick to the facts; I tell him I’ll be gone tomorrow, to Bosnia. He hmms and heees, sighs, peers at my passport as if the contents will help him pass an exam sometime somewhere, fingers his nasal overflow and reluctantly stamps my passport and notes that I have leave of stay in his country for forty-eight hours only. Nincompoop, I swear at him inaudibly. But a sumptuous dinner hosted by Shabnam and Naseen Valji and his adorable mother at their home at Stanmore makes me quickly forget the earlier eccentric officer from the airport.

There are no direct flights to Sarajevo from London, so it is a four-hour layover at Vienna airport to bear the next day. Vienna airport is nice and all, except the cost of a poor man’s lunch leaves all of us with throbbing toothaches. My friend Abdullah Shabar from the Kuca Bosanska community center (meaning Bosnian Home) is at the airport to pick us up. Bosnian Home, in Ljesevo, sits in a quaint and picturesque setting for a mosque and community center, about ten miles from Sarajevo city center. The community has also built two excellent holiday apartments they rent out for about sixty euros a day, including everything for a sumptuous breakfast that can feed an army.

A local tour company, Superb Adventures, headed by Faruk Osmanovic, is our guide and company for the next three days. Faruk is a genial person, speaks very good English, is full of energy and easily interacts and becomes part of our group, breaking bread with us and sharing his experiences of adventure as a tour guide and from surviving the terrible Balkan war.

Do we have a ball or do we have a ball the next three days! Bosnia is paradise on earth; a delight to the eye and senses. It has it all; green rolling mountains, rugged forests, rivers, and streams so clear, we can see trout swimming in them. The country is safe, has good roads, decent internet coverage, halal restaurants abound and are relatively inexpensive. The food is kinda bland so we resort to chili sauce to spice up everything, from breakfast to snacks to dinner.

The liberal use of alcohol at restaurants, a reminiscent habit from the time the country was part of the Yugoslavian union, is prevalent and a put-off at times but bearable. We drive to Sarajevo and prettier Mostar, trek mountains, river-raft, eat and generally have a jolly good time. Bosnia can get fiery hot during summer and temperatures get to 100F during the day in Mostar. But the river water is still a chilly 50F, so the combination of rafting and briefly dipping in the frigid waters is a great contrast. We are so spent with day activities that the nights are a compelling and welcome repose.

The three days in Bosnia are a blur and I find myself back in London at my home with Nazir Merali and family, with absolutely no issues with immigration this time. Why, the very uppity lipped gentleman informs me I can be Her Majesty’s guest for six months! Whoa! After attending fellow Trustee Abbas Jaffer’s son Kumail’s wedding in Milton Keynes, I see Maaha Zainab off to Orlando and get ready to travel to Nakuru, Kenya, for more CAI work.

For people wanting a relatively inexpensive holiday full of fun and activity in a beautiful backdrop, Bosnia is it. Unfortunately, it may not remain virgin and or innocent much longer. Tourists, especially from the Gulf, are discovering the bargain and flocking to the country in droves. Since money is generally a secondary concern for these visitors, I can see wanton exploitation and deterioration of beautiful Bosnia not too distant away.

My New Novel
Remember, my third novel is ready and a limited print version will be available immediately after Moharram / Saffer, 1439. All proceeds, 100%, will benefit 460 CAI worldwide orphans in their quest for excellent education. Please preorder a copy at US$100 each here. Delivered worldwide. Allah bless.

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