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Today at The Mustaphas’

Do you ever look at people and wonder (or in my case conclude) what their lives might be like? It’s a habit I have. And enjoy. At the post office today I stared at Mustapha while I was in the line. Mustapha is in his fifties and he is always at the counter. I think he is the Post Office manager because the others direct all their queries to him. His face is rugged, like he has lived and seen a lot in life. His complexion is light brown, Asian no doubt. Mustapha never has an expression, he seems neither sad nor happy,  just…there. The longest conversation I have ever had with him was ‘hi’,  ‘grunt’.

Two spots away sits a middle-aged woman her name tag reads Maureen. I think she’s Asian although she kinda looks Mediterranean too. Her hair is in place and face very well made up. She seems to be enjoying her lunch- I spot some brown sauce, rice and salad. Her lipstick remains eerily in place despite the dripping sauce. I of course start to wonder what her life is like. Does she enjoy her life or despise her boss?  Then she says something about there being some salad left and passes her polystyrene take-away bowl to Mustapha. Aha! They are married.

Now I start to imagine what their home might be like. I conclude that their home is very comfortable and very well decorated. Rugs and wall hangings from Cyprus, dark chunky wood furniture with black metal hinges from India. Rich burgundy soft furnishings with gold threads running through. The scent of  spices hangs in the air. There is a large family portrait above the fireplace showing Mustapha, his wife and their three grown kids. Two boys and a girl. The first son is a doctor, practising in Canada. The second is the girl, she works as an accountant in central London and the last son, the one who refused to be  a doctor, accountant or lawyer works for a nightclub and has started his own gig as a DJ on the side.  Mustapha does not approve as he thinks he should have gone for a more serious profession. He is the one who point-blank refused to speak their native dialect when growing up and as a teenager brought a caucasian girlfriend home for dinner. He frowns each time he remembers the way she spluttered and coughed after her first mouthful of kesari bath, his beloved mother’s secret recipe passed down to Maureen. No one outside of the family knows this so it isn’t really talked about much. The family rarely shout, speaking in measured tones as though they don’t want to awaken the faux tiger fur rug that greets you in the hallway.

The knick knacks on the bookshelf tell the story about Mustapha’s immigration to the United Kingdom years ago. The photograph of him on his bike, with his mother in the bacground laughing heartily- something she rarely did after losing her husband years earlier to a bad illness. The black and white photograph of his young bride taken at their traditional wedding ceremony is framed in a beaded work of art, he promised to send for her once he settled in London and he did. That was 36 years ago.

Finally it’s my turn. The outsider attends to me, asking Mustapha a question about how to change the label on the parcel from Royal Mail to Parcel Force as the customer just realised Royal Mail strikes might delay the delivery of  her parcel.  Mustapha answers her without glancing up. Yep, he is unhappy with his third son’s choice of a profession and it’s all his wife’s fault for pampering him so. Life.

4 responses »

  1. Mustapha has retained my legal services against you for taking such liberties with his life story. We’ll see you in court. Tee hee, nice one ma’am.

  2. You are getting better writing,having said that i say this is the problem with parents, yes professional job is good but i have come to believe that a mans destiny does not lie in what he studied in school rather in his passion. Yes education is paramount but that is school education. There is prison education, street education, hospital education,all this makes a man complete and all have different lessons that can only be gotten through experience. I have been to all this schools and i must confess, even though the other three outside school is not what any man should pray for, it is what has finally shaped and prepare me for what i have become.My father dreamt of me being an accountant of PHD level, he was disappointed i studied business management. When i graduated all i wanted to do was play football and we clashed,i followed my path but did not succeed playing for Nigeria which was my aim. despite that football thought me hard work, pain, intelligence and the will to be a winner despite set backs i would not have learnt else where. The work ethic of a footballer can not be comprehended if you have never played football, you train twice a day and wake up early. You learn to eat right and focus. You get injured and go through the pains of recovery with hope. Prison thought me to be close to God and patient, it made me also see the weakness and wickedness of men because i was accused wrongly suffering for what i was innocent of, it made me decide to fight for justice which turned me eventually to an advocate. I was in hospital for 8 months to treat a life threatening tuberculosis. I learnt a lot there, that one need to be thankful to God for all things, many died before my face, now i join causes that finds treatment for the cure of chronic diseases. I bet you i would have missed my calling if i had gone my fathers way. Many are doing what they were not called to do and work can be painful if that is the case. I love what i am doing because it comes form passion, love and justice. My parents and siblings including other family members now use me as reference point to buttress self belief and determination, but all this were learnt from experience and my encounter with God twice. I do things knowing i am doing what God ordained me to do and this is just the beginning. Take care.

    • Very wise words Michael and well spoken too. I try to find a balance in educating my children, there is academic education and there is the education of life, which is of very great value. Thank you for reading and your kind and encouraging comments!


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