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City of Banjul
Sunday, September 20, 2020

Baalal Ma Arha

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This story is not Islamic or Biblical but resonates quite frequently in my mind especially in this land we all call home. The story (I forgot how it all begins) ends with the old man asking The Most High of the act of forgiveness and the impact it has on one’s life. It is a story surrounding Buddhist philosophy and one which explains or rather exemplifies the truth in forgiveness and its unburdening of man’s many yokes. 

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It is said that the man was made to understand that we live to forgive; that every breath of life in us is to allow us to be able to withstand hate, anger and all their separate concoctions enough to forgive. This is not an attempt to preach. That, my dear friends would be an exercise in futility. The man was tasked to complete one act of forgiveness daily such that The Most High would forgive ten acts of sin committed against Him. But forgiveness is not an easy thing. Even one act of forgiveness a day is a tough task to finish, is it not?

I had planned to run riot on the ills of our society on this edition of RBN but this year’s Ramadan wouldn’t allow it. It’s been such a year of madness that one month of sanity would go a long way in calming the storm so this is my way of spreading the peace, until such time when this year’s Ramadan comes to an end and life as we know it, goes back to normal (or abnormal more like it).

In 1947, two years after the end of the Second World War a woman named Corrie Boom stood face-a-face with one of the guards of the concentration camp she and her sister had been held during the war. After a moment’s hesitation, she motioned forward and shook the guard’s hand. That has been recorded as one of the greatest acts of forgiveness in the history of mankind. 

Buddhist philosophy is clear on so many things but clearest in its philosophy on forgiveness. 

“When you forgive me for harming you, you decide not to retaliate, to seek no revenge. You don’t have to like me. You simply unburden yourself of the weight of resentment and cut the cycle of retribution that would otherwise keep us ensnarled in an ugly samsaric wrestling match. This is a gift you can give us both, totally on your own, without my having to know or understand what you’ve done”

There can be no true religion without genuine “forgiveness philosophy” engraved in the hearts of believers; forgiveness is a virtue. So as our nation goes through another year of “baalal ma aaha”, has it become simply a customary ritual or do we truly understand the unburdening that comes with forgiveness. After another few months of the RBN series, have I offended anyone enough for them to see a need to be better? 

 

Nderry Mbai’s Apology

When I dedicated a Friday of RBN to The Nderry, it was done out of love and not out of anger. I did it to make him a better person; that in looking at himself and the beast he had become he would see it fit to live like a normal human being; that he would understand the damage he had done to the lives of many by simply abusing the right to freedom of expression; that he would be human. I did it not in anticipation of the Ramadan but as it coincides, I would have expected a man of Muslim faith (yes the religion card), born to Muslim parents to genuinely apologise to the many he has lied about and fabricated stories on in search of their forgiveness. There is another Buddhist philosophy which immediately comes to mind as I type these words.

“To heal a full split in the Sangha, the two sides are instructed first to inquire into the root intentions on both sides that led to the split, for if those intentions were irredeemably malicious or dishonest, reconciliation is impossible. If the group tries to patch things up without getting to the root of the split, nothing has really been healed. Only when the root intentions have been shown to be reconcilable and the differences resolved can the Sangha perform the brief ceremony that re-establishes harmony.”

Now, words need not be affiliated to one’s religion of choice or birth to make sense…right? So, let’s say that The Nderry seriously wishes to apologise for years of lies and fabrications and reaches out personally to the hundreds he has tried to destroy, Buddhist philosophy says it is an irreparable split unless the root cause of the issue is revealed. What therefore could be the root cause of such evil masked with the pretext of freedom? Is it envy? Is it hatred? Oh wait! Yes! It could be hatred! But hatred for who, or what? You see, hatred has been known to be one of the most toxic contaminants; a catalyst on its own for all things terrible. That a man’s hatred for one person could turn into his hatred for all things is not something that hasn’t happened before, but that is for another day. But wait! It could be love! Love has seen men lose their minds and do the most unimaginable things. But what is it he loves? Is it Fame? Money? Westernisation? His love cannot be that felt for another human being! It has to be the love for something material… “..that a man would gain the whole world, yet lose his soul”. 

So, to forgive him, he would have to explain where his hatred comes from. It is not hatred absent envy and greed. It is all evil encompassing and it is my wish that prayers be made on his behalf this Ramadan. The Nderry is a human being and a Gambian like all of us and deserves all the love we can give. Give him the love and may your prayers be answered.

 

NAWEC Bl**dy H*ll

Oh do excuse my French, but this year’s Ramadan should be devoted to helping the elephant in the room. In our anger we have cursed the utilities GIANT over the years such that they just keep going from bad to worse! It is not NAWEC’s fault! The fault is ours! How many times have you said under (or even over) your breath NAWEC dunj musa demm…Njii dunj musa baakh….Waa NAWEC dunj musa am dara or even worse? As a nation, I believe it is time we seek NAWEC’s forgiveness. To truly observe the month of Ramadan, prayers must be offered for NAWEC at all Masjids and prayer centres. Our Churches must also be willing and ready to offer special prayers for NAWEC and a delegation representative of all our different municipalities must be sent to NAWEC headquarters with cola-nuts to “make the peace”.

This has been one of the most awful “black-out” sessions in 6 years for me and it has only be getting worse. If it gets any worse I believe we would have to go back to the days of kerosene lamps and bonfires. NAWEC sohorunj! I am sure if it was up to NAWEC alone we would have power 24/7/365 with no interruptions. These are our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. They have not done this just to offend us and leave us in darkness. Whatever problem they are encountering, I am sure they are burning the midnight candle trying to fix it. Oh! I am sure you’re wondering why they haven’t announced anything since their stipulated “maintenance period” ended. Well simply put, NAWEC denj sorna. It is like a man who gets caught cheating by his wife a few times and has a new excuse each time. It gets to a point when he is actually too embarrassed to give an excuse. That’s exactly where NAWEC has found itself. In fact, they know now that the populace do not really care about their excuses. We expect them to fail so they fail anyway. Again to serve as a comparison, NAWEC is the child that is always suspected of stealing so he steals anyway.

So now that we’ve complained endlessly about the power, they’ve decided that during a month like Ramadan we have to line up at wells for water. Kurang Zero! Ndokh Zero! Bilai NAWEC dunj demm wai! I know that as you’re reading this you’re getting even more infuriated at my words. I have not been paid by NAWEC, neither have I been promised a share of the ever increasing tarrifs, I just think that for once, we have to try a different route. We have screamed at them. Some neighbourhoods in the past have been known to physically attack NAWEC staff. We have cursed them endlessly such that now they do not even need Black Cats for us to go through this hell of Light Njow Na! 

I believe it is time we seek forgiveness from NAWEC and go through a period of reconciliation otherwise I do not see things getting any better. They’ve taken the power from us, taken the water, I shiver at the thought of what could be next.

 

Who wilt thou forgive?

So if you had the option to only forgive one person or institution this Ramadan, who would you forgive? Would you forgive the traffic-officer who has forgotten his training at the academy and the fact that he took an oath to serve his country and to serve it well? Would you forgive The Nderry for being the fat fabricator that he has become on njiroying the flesh of innocent people? Would you forgive NAWEC for taking the power just when everyone is seated in the living room to watch a game of football or for taking the water when you’re standing naked in the shower having previously applied soap? Would you forgive the businesses that hike their prices simply because it’s Ramadan and the demand for commodities is high? Would you forgive the tailor who I can assure you will do your Koriteh outfit late simply because he’d rather procrastinate than start early? Who would you forgive?

This month as it always does will bring some form of calmness in the streets of jollof for the first two weeks. Businesses will run slow, traffic will be free and faces will be dull. The last two weeks however, will be one filled with rushing business, impatient drivers, jam-packed traffic and angry faces. It’s a cycle we’ve all grown accustomed to so if you only have one forgiveness to give out a day, pray it can be “carried over” so that those truly worthy of your forgiveness will receive it when the time comes.

“So the solution lies not in abandoning right and wrong, but in learning how to use them wisely”

 

TGBA

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