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Gayyash Al 'Aatifa

Friday, April 27, 2007

For the Sake of Posting

I read Amnesiac's post yesterday and was sent reeling by the last passage, where she recounts one of those Cairo moments that are both mundane and profoundly cool. I felt an overwhelming, if somewhat retarded, urge to fly back and jog through the city clapping, snorting it all in and living all superstimulated again. I've travelled a fair bit over the past three years and I feel like other places just aren't inspiring me that much. Or at least not as much as I get back home. I'm fortunate that I'm not bothered in Egypt or sick of it, unlike the many good people who decide or hope to seek gentler, more reliable lives elsewhere. I feel that because I've nurtured so intently my comfort and fluency with the ways of my city (not just as a flaneur but by constantly imposing a desire for meaningfulness on my interactions with the city's public elements), other places just don't end up hitting the spot (in a general human experience sort of way) the way I know they can. The only way they have done so for me is through an indulgence that I've come to find unsustainable. You can only have your mind blown so many times before you realize 'wi ba3dein' (now what).

Yesterday was one of my most enjoyable days yet in India. In the morning, Sunny called me out to the courtyard at Shikshantar and asked me to put my ear to a bloated cloth pouch hanging from a clothes line. He'd soaked some moong beans the day before and then hung them outside bundled in a wet cloth so they could sprout (good for salad, healthier in general). I put my ear on the cloth and heard a faint crackling sound. Without thinking I asked him what the sound was. "Beans sprouting." It didn't exactly make me euphoric but to actually hear something grow is I think enough to check a very big, if unglamorous, box on the list of things-to-do-as-a-human. Later in the day we took a whole bunch of things (coconut shell jewellery workshop, cotton thread spinning, paper bag making, herbal medicines, tasty oil-free sugar-free snacks, etc,) down to Sunny's neighborhood as part of our TV Turn-Off Week program. We set up our stalls on the corners and along walls and chatted with the neighborhood crowd. I've been trying to put together a percussion group with some of the people here, with old buckets, tin cans and steel pipes. I'm not a particularly good drummer but I can keep a beat and I can tinker with one, enough to make people want to dance, which is enough in general, I think. So I took up a spot started some beats with Jasmine and when the kids flock to see I hand them some junk and invite them to bang along. Some kids, usually boys aged eight to twelve, are real assholes banging as hard and fast as they can, not caring to actually participate. But you can't just be an asshole back, or tell them get lost. You just can't, and I've learned over the past while that there are indeed ways of making them not want to be a nuisance. (Of course sometimes I do give up and walk away, waiting for them to get bored and hop back on their bikes). Then there are some kids that are just so talented and keen as to make you look actually think positively about the future. I feel there's little that needs to be said. My Hindi's not that good but all I ever need to say with these kids is together and gently. Gestures suffice for everything else. Jamming with kids... some as young as six getting a beat right from the first try, or taking a second to think up their own and leading the rest of the group. We've been doing this all over the city. I wonder if it'll work in Cairo. I hear it already... "aywa ya kabtin... taba3 meen... beta2tak." Someday I'll have the guts to actually say "ma3lesh ya 3ammo".


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