The Day I Met Aisha

I was a delivery man in a previous life. One thing I realised as a delivery man is that there are a lot of old people homes in our cities, and we don’t even realise.

We don’t notice them as they by and large are inconspicuous and blend in to their surroundings (whether this is done intentionally or not, I do not know). But I would say that the majority of walks that I did had an old people’s home.

On one of my rounds, there was an old people’s home that I had to deliver to on the end of an affluent road. (For some reason, whenever there’s an affluent area/road, they’ll be a council estate or not so affluent block of flats nearby.) I used to hate delivering there; it was one of my least favourite walks.

On one occasion, I walked into the home and an elderly Asian lady opened the door for me. She was very friendly, though her mental faculties seemed to have deteriorated. She said she liked my pen and asked for it, and I obliged. She asked me that if I ever had a branded pen from my company, if I could come and give it to her. I reassured her I would, and I meant it, but I was never able to acquire one.

Her name, she told me, was Jaya. A few weeks, or perhaps months, later, I was delivering to that building again. I hated delivering there because the receptionist was a particularly vile woman and would never open the door for me. She insisted my  parcels were for the old people living in the building, so I should ring their individual flats so that they could let me into the building. I rang a couple of buzzers to no avail. Finally, I got an answer. I got into the building and set about delivering the parcels. I got to the door of the flat that buzzed me in, and lo and behold, it was the same old lady that I had met previously. I don’t think she recognised me. I say this now guiltily, but I felt annoyed at seeing her, as she would undoubtedly talk to me and “waste” my time, and I was in a hurry and had a job to do. She asked me for her parcel and I gave it to her. I can’t recall why, but she asked me to come inside her flat. I think she wanted to show me a picture. I was, as all delivery men are, in a rush and anxious to finish my walk, but I obliged. It was a very small flat, essentially the size of large room compartmentalised into a bedroom/living room, kitchen, and bathroom. She had plastered the walls with various stickers, and pictures of her family. She showed me a picture of her son and his children, and mentioned how they don’t really visit her. She sees them maybe once a year. She then, casually, mentioned to me that she was also a Muslim. SubḥānAllāh.

I was so shocked. Here, in the middle of an old people’s home, alone, was an elderly Muslim lady. She told me she converted to Islām many years ago, and took on the name Bibi Aisha after our mother [ranha] (her words, not mine). She told me she used to be a Hindu, and that her husband had been a Hindu, and that her children still are Hindu, but she didn’t like being a Hindu. And then she found Islam, and she loved it so much, and it gave her so much peace and tranquillity. I was speechless. She then changed the subject, mentioned a few other anecdotes, and bade me farewell. I wanted to stay and talk to her, now she had sparked my interest, but I didn’t want to impose and had a work to finish. I never met her again. I didn’t used to do that walk often. The nature of the job meant that we were always in a rush and didn’t have much time for conversations, let alone visiting people. I forgot which flat she lived in. Or maybe I’m just making excuses… I hope to visit her again. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, what the visitor rules for the building are, whether she will recognise me, whether she is even still there…

Whenever I remember her, I feel very sad. I feel sad at how broken our society has become. I feel sad that she, and so many others, are alone. I feel sad that I could never give her that pen. I feel sad that I haven’t seen her since. I feel sad that her children don’t visit her. But ultimately, I feel sad that we have abandoned our elderly, and that this elderly Muslim lady is living alone, being looked after the state, rather than us. And she wasn’t the only Muslim I ever met in an old people’s home…

Disclaimer: This took place a few years ago, so my memory of what happened may be somewhat distorted.

By: Brother Beard

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