Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Weird Encounters

If you’re an avid reader of my other blog, you’ll know that I am no stranger to weird encounters. The very first time was that day I was accosted by the beggar with his message. It was a terrible time for me and life looked so bleak, I was at a point where I just about lost all hope and was about to lose my faith in The Almighty too. So when he said those words, it shocked me so much that it shook my reality.

I’ve had two other similar experiences since then and interestingly enough, both came at a time when I was questioning The Almighty and feeling utterly hopeless about my life.

The second time it occurred sometime after I returned to SA from my lengthy stay London. I was with a friend and we were driving on a lesser known empty road in the middle of no where. I happened to be unemployed at the time and it felt like Murphy was getting paid for all the overtime he put in because everything in my life that could go wrong, did. At that time, a potential budding relationship came to an abrupt end, I was absolutely broke, utterly depressed about being back in SA, felt like my life was going no where, wasn’t seeing eye-to-eye with the ‘rents… I was just in a complete state of turmoil and the friend I was with wasn’t any better off, having just suffered a robbery the previous day, worrying about a sick parent in hospital and suffering from chronic family issues.

And so we drove in silence on that long, winding, seemingly abandoned road… each of us brooding over our own pathetic lives. And every now and then, the silence would be punctuated with a deep sigh. She sat in the passenger seat and stared blankly out of the window and with a heavy heart, I looked out onto the long road ahead, unconsciously conversing with God… wanting to know what I’d done to be in the position I was in. When I think back to that day, I can still feel the devastation that hung in the air, the anguish that clung to the leather seats as we desperately tried to cut through the thick darkness of desperation.

We drove through the lone street, the landscape shrouded with huge trees… mostly Yellow-wood or Pine trees and what looked like grand leafy Birches… dotted here and there with clusters of Weeping Willows. The trees seemed to echo our sentiments and we went through moments where they looked at us menacingly, accusingly… unforgiving. The Willows were as sad as we felt, weeping tears that we hadn’t yet shed. The sun, it seemed, peeped out playfully through the clouds and branches, laughing and mocking at us as we whizzed along, taunting us with memories of better days gone by. I remember the utter dejection… lost in a desert of hopelessness and my heart whispered a little prayer, desperately grasping for something to take me out of that situation.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere I saw a flash of pink. It was more fuchsia. Anyways, the bright colour caught my attention immediately and jolted me out of my pity-coma, and then I saw it again. It appeared to be a female arm flailing over-zealously in the wind, frantically wanting us to come to a halt.

I panicked briefly knowing that it wasn’t the safest of all roads to pull over but eventually and quite hesitantly, stopped the car in the middle of the road. It was indeed a woman, Caucasian and in her mid to late fifties standing on the side of the road waving frantically. I calmed down considerably seeing that she was female but still had my guard up because TIA (This Is Africa) after all and I wasn’t in the market to be fooled, and was certainly not in the right mood or frame of mind not to be suspicious.

So the pink lady called out to us, apologizing in a tizz, mumbling and saying that she needed help getting into her car while pointing to an ancient VW Fox parked inside a desolate church courtyard. For a minute, my conscious mind wrestled with my morals… feeling somewhat alarmed yet obligated, cautious but compelled to help her. My mind raced with all kinds of thoughts and possibilities and for a brief moment I envisioned her and her hidden accomplice pulling out their guns and demanding all our valuables, then finding out that all we had were cheap cell phones and some change, then deciding to shoot us both in our heads and leave us for dead. I mean, T.I.A and anything is possible. I could even see the headlines in the local newspaper “Two females shot dead in hijacking”.

Then the pink lady said “Please. Please. I’m not a criminal, I swear”, and I still wasn’t convinced because it’s not like a criminal is going to come up to you and say “Hi I’m a criminal, nice to meet you”. But there was something in the tone of her voice that caught me and my morals won out as I thought to myself, what’s the worst that could happen? Besides, my friend and I were both at a point where we would have welcomed death with both arms and a cup of tea. So I drove into the empty courtyard and switched off the engine about 2 meters away from her car, carefully leaving the key in the ignition just in case we had to jump back in and make a runner.

My friend immediately went to inspect the vehicle and we found that while the pink lady had a key, there must have been a fault somewhere because the door refused to unlock. She then decided to see if she could get into the car through the boot (trunk) while the pink lady rambled on about how she got to where she was. And I stood there the whole time, listening intently, waiting for her and her hidden accomplice to take out their guns and shoot us in our heads.

Then all of a sudden, I don’t quite know what happened but it was like Pandora’s Box had been pried open and out gushed a sea of emotion from the pink lady. She said that they (she & her husband) had bought the car two days earlier and paid R18 000 in cash for it… money that they didn’t have since their business went under the previous year after they were robbed at gunpoint (at this moment I was still waiting for her and her hidden accomplice to pull out their guns and shoot me in the head). They were forced to live off, and subsequently lost all their savings, since being white and in your late fifties / early sixties means that it’s impossible to get a job here.

At this point she began to tremble and weep uncontrollably. I was quite surprised but I’ll never forget what she told me. She said: “I never thought I’d be here at this age, loaning money from the bank so that we can make a living, so that we can eat. I ask God why. Why is he doing this to us? I’m a good person. I try to help anyone I can. I go to church everyday. I pray everyday. But the Devil is everywhere, toying with me. Where is God?.”

It took everything in me not to weep with her and I found myself forgetting about her hidden accomplice and their guns while I wrapped my arms around her, trying to console and comfort her. I told her that sometimes God tests us in many ways… that it’s all just a test and that we shouldn’t give up hope… that we should have faith in Him even on our darkest days. I said that I would pray for her, that God makes it easy for them and that they succeed in whatever else they decide to pursue.

I saw my friend in the back seat, opening the door from inside when I realised that I had just gotten my answer. The pink lady was in a predicament a hundred times worse then mine. Her woes weighed heavily on her and her ailing husband, and her solutions were an even steeper uphill battle. I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I wasn’t worse off… that my problems were inconsequential compared to hers.

At the end, she was very grateful for our help and I waited until she drove off on her way, disappearing into the horizon while my heart said a little prayer for her too. And then it hit me. Everything the pink lady was telling me was what I had felt as I was driving down that long desolate road, and strangely enough in comforting her, I was consoling myself too. I found it even more amazing that the very words I needed to hear were coming from my own mouth.

The mountain I’d been carrying on my shoulders that entire day suddenly evaporated into the wind and the cool breeze rustled the leaves of the surrounding trees. They didn’t look so patronizing anymore and it seemed like the clouds had lifted and sun was smiling down on us as we continued our journey with renewed vigor and hope.

For more on my Weird Encounters, go here. If you're new and require access, pop me a mail.


  1. My favourite post yet.
    Your writing reminds me of Pistachio ice-cream... once I get started, I cant stop until I get to the end :)

    Ps: I'm glad the accomplice never materialised, and didnt shoot anyone in their heads.

  2. this reminds me to stop wishing for 'something' to happen to shake up life.
    that was very very brave of you to stop and help.

  3. Kaloo - Thanks for the comps :) I'm glad there weren't any accomplices too lol.

    fathima - I guess if I was alone I would have never stopped. But yeah sometimes, we should stop *wishing* and take the bull by the horns ;)

  4. lovely post azra.
    we've all been in that place you describe so well!
    please send me an invite to your other blog- if you're ok with a vastly curious creature poring over things ad nauseum;P

    (im going to remember that abbreviation. tia's going to overtake all my smarmy f.y.i's and t.m.i's.)

  5. Pserean - Thanx ;) I'm such a doofus. It should read *access* instead of *password*. To get access, please send me an email to my email addy: because I need to send you and invitation to your email address :)

  6. It's a good general rule to live by: looking at those with less than you (or in more difficult circumstances). It helps you to be grateful for what you have - no matter how bad you think things are.

    Each of our realities is really only our personal perspective on how things are. And when our reality seems bleak - the truth is it's probably not as bad as we think. We only need a change of perspective - to see things as they really are. (Actually, I think that was an important dua of the Prophet s.a.w. - asking Allah to make him 'see things as they really are').

    I think it's also important to help and give advice - even if you feel crap at the time and feel that your words may not be sincere. Because Allah works through us - and, like you saw in this situation - sometimes the advice is as much for your own self than it is for the other person.

    Thanks for sharing. These stories are very cool :)

  7. subhanAllah! it nearly brought tears to my eyes this post...

    i know it's kind of childish to think- but i can't help thinking it- that encounters like those are angels from Allah, for the sole purpose of making you see the truth.

    and you did see, you could see that your fitrah was still very much intact, and that your belief was so strong that it came pouring out with words that you didn't even hesitate about.

    oh yeah, and it reminds me of a hadith, about mingling with those less fortunate than you so that you do not want more than what you have- true as bob i tell ya!

  8. Azra,I think this post was to me what the pink lady was to you.

    As Al says, childish as it may be, I regard these pick me ups/ encounters(in my case, a teary read of this post) as Divine reminders...

    Thanks :)

  9. it's a very touching post - I have to remember that for every problem I am in, someone somewhere is having far greater problems than me and would love to have my problems in place - and be grateful for that.

  10. dreamlife - I think that as people, we tend to get so caught up in our own emotional trauma's that we think and believe that we're the only ones that have problems. It's difficult to keep perspective, but essential :)

    al - I don't think its childish :) I honestly believe that The Almighty sends me my answers because this was not the first instance, I've been in similar situations (3 or 4) before and each time something completely astounding and astonishing would happen to me to shock me back to reality.

    Humayda - I feel blessed and I'm grateful for that Alhamdulilah ;)

    mezba - Thanks :D Unfortunately the contemporary world has made many people ego centric and most of us have to remind ourselves constantly... we have to be conscious that we're not the only ones going through some or other crap and that there are people out there that are *really* suffering.

  11. Azra, I love this post. You're right, God sometimes tests us in the strangest of ways. But he also gives us signs and trickles of hope, and if we keep our eyes, hearts, and minds open, we may just find ourselves guided to where we need to be.

  12. Michi - Yep, God will never place a burden on you that you can't handle :)

  13. Hi there, stranger. As a sceptic who is way beyond saving, I can't help but wonder why she was so certain it was the devil toying with her? Might have been God.