Such Is The Civilization

Ezra Azra


© Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo by see plus on Unsplash
Photo by see plus on Unsplash

I am eighty-six years old. Happily retired in my adopted country.

My Granny was approximately eighty-six when she died.

The death certificate stated that Granny died ‘of natural causes.’ The certificate did not, nor was legally required to, state that those natural causes which eventually killed Granny were caused by war injuries she suffered as a fleeing civilian citizen, more than once, in the country of her birth, far away from the country in which she died, peacefully, from ‘natural causes.’

Granny’s name was Aisha Bibi Afzal Hasrat Khan.

When I was thirty years old, I legally changed my name to Granny’s. By then, Granny had been dead ten years.

The Nation into which I and Granny had the misfortune to be born, had, throughout its history, endured many civil wars between god-religions of its citizens.

The most recent war between almighty gods in the country of my birth is happening, as I write this.

As usual, neither warring almighty god cares enough to prevent babies from being collateral dead casualties, on both sides.

To this day I know there are many religions in the country of my birth, although I have not bothered to ascertain just how many. For all the years I lived there I lived in neighborhoods in which more than one religion was practiced.

In one of those wars, only Granny and I survived in our family. I do not know how old I was at that time. Granny did not know. Granny thinks she was in her fifties. Granny could barely read at that time because in those days, two National customs were that girls be not taught to read or write; and that girls be married off as soon as possible after first menstruation.

Granny had twelve children. She lived long enough in the country of her birth to know that most of her children died as adults in her Nation’s many civil wars of religion.

In that final war in our lives, I and Granny were together in the group of people running away from the fighting, when some Foreign Rescue Organization persons bundled some of us into row-boats and took us to huge boats waiting at sea.

It was in those huge boats at sea that we were given documents to facilitate transporting us.

Granny said there was a little bit of fun when those FRO persons engaged in working with her to try to come up with dates of birth for her and me.

We lived in more than two places with groups of other refugees. We were comfortable; sometimes even somewhat happy.

Many, many years later it occurred to me, in retrospect, that in those refugee times of us being moved about from one temporary home to the next, overseas, among all the peoples of the many different languages, we did not encounter any worshippers of any almighty god.

Best of all, all of us who wanted to learn to read and write in a language, any language, were taught, free of charge.

Granny applied herself to learning to write her five names: Aisha Bibi Afzal Hasrat Khan. After those few days it took her, Granny was so proud of her achievement, she wrote her five names at least once just about every day for the rest of her life.

In her last years, Granny spoke quietly about two matters, over and over again, to me only.

The first was of the guilt she felt at Grampa’s being killed in one of their Nation’s many civil wars of religion.

I do not know the year when Grampa was killed.

Granny felt guilty that she was not entirely sad when Grampa was killed in war because he had been a violent husband to her. She said not a week passed without him having hit her. She guessed he was about twenty years older than she was.

Their religion allowed men to marry more than one wife. Granny was Grampa’s only wife. Granny said it was possible Grampa took out his frustration on her that he could not afford to marry a second wife, in addition to her.

Grampa’s body was never found. In the days and weeks immediately after Grampa’s disappearance, Granny did not miss him. Persons being not missed when they did not return from a battle, was not unusual in any family. There was too much turmoil in the family and in the community at the time.

As the years passed during peace times between the wars of religion, a feeling of guilt grew in Granny as she noticed there was no sadness in her when the matter of Grampa’s death came up in her, and in family conversations.

It was especially awkward for her at times when she was required to accompany persons who would go out on clues searching for Grampa’s body. She was fearful she would be accused of not being remorseful enough when the corpse was found.

It troubled her particularly in later times when she became aware of a feeling of relief at the thought of Grampa never returning home.

Only when she became a refugee in foreign countries did the anxiety of Grampa’s sudden return into her life diminish significantly in Granny. To her last days, I would see a flicker of concern cross Granny’s face if a man stranger unexpectedly spoke to her.

On her deathbed, Granny must have felt eternal relief that she had forever been spared having to pretend grief alongside Grampa’s corpse, had it been found and she been obliged to attend its funeral.

The other matter Granny spoke on, quietly and repeatedly in her last years, to me, only, was how normal their Community regarded a husband hitting his wife.

Granny never tired of observing to me how easy it appeared in Cultures away from the one she had been born into, for women to succeed without having to get married.

Women having to be in a marriage for them to be respected was so inveterately a part of Granny’s being, that she could never bring herself to counsel me to achieve success outside marriage and motherhood.

I wish I had had the practical wisdom, at least once, to have let Granny know, when she quietly and repeatedly and painfully spoke to me those many times, that I intended to follow her counsel.

I did, so very successfully and happily.

Such is the civilization of this adopted Nation of mine, that, because of its vast geographic area, and distribution of populations, I have been ever able to find places to live happily among people where organized worship of an almighty god is virtually non-existent, and where I have been able to feel at peace, completely and wholly; single. Granny was so right. We are going to be so happy when we meet again, soon, my Granny: Aisha Bibi Afzal Hasrat Khan.

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