Voids need to be filled

A void is nothing more than an empty space. It can be found in almost any place. Strangely, it does not remain empty for long, except perhaps in the human brain. Those who are gifted by nature or their genes with voids in their brains can wander through life muttering ‘I do not understand’ whenever unexpectedly new information surprises the neural patterns already established in their brains. According to the latest findings in neuroscience, the human brain then has to be trained to over-ride previous conditioning. Since nature does not seem to tolerate voids for long, all is well.

Thus it was in a little village hall filled to near-emptiness by a mixed cohort of expatriates from the exotic land of Hongo-bongo that certain voids manifested themselves. There was a void in their personal lives in a foreign clime which they sought to fill in concert with others of like mind. Collectively, they also saw a void in democratic processes in the governance of their former homes. For instance, the head of an international oil company was the unelected Deputy President of the nation, ‘advising’ (in the manner of traditional colonialism) the President on all matters relating to the creation, and deflection into private pockets, of national wealth.

After hours of bitter argument over many months, the void of inaction, reflecting inflexible contradictory viewpoints, prevailed. While the void in their personal lives was being partly filled with repeatedly recycled arguments, the void in governance back home remained undiminished. But, … … were there forces or influences at work there which are yet unsighted, in the manner of invisible dark matter (or energy), now believed to be filling the void being left behind by the increasingly rapid withdrawal of galaxies observed through the Hubble Telescope?

The hitherto inconclusive debate in the hall was surprisingly chaired quite effectively by a lightly coloured minister of one of the many Christian churches operating in Hongo-bongo. These were vying, not for power, but for control of human souls, irrespective of pigmentation or politics. He was known as the Reverend, but cheerfully addressed as Rev. He stood for peaceful protest.

This stance was, however, rejected by the others as totally unrealistic; he was not dealing with money lenders, but money takers, they said. In spite of his personal popularity, he was rejected as an effective campaigner by the black people in the group. That was because he was also not one of them; that is, he was not pure black. His father had taken a foreign wife, a white one to boot, contrary to cultural injunctions. Yet, the group needed a powerful leader. Indeed, he was built like the Anakites of Biblical history.

The accepted leader of the ‘proper’ blacks was Cyril Mpopo. As his property had been expropriated by the oil company and his farm buildings burnt down to reach the black gold below, he had sought and obtained refugee status in Europe. His supporters were also expatriates, and for similar reasons. All that they now wanted was a return of their property and citizenship rights.

Their aim resonated with the third sub-group, few in number, but all white in colour. Their leader was Leinrich. For security reasons, he would not identify his family name; not as yet. He and his compatriots also wanted the return of their properties, although these had been confiscated by a democratically elected black government, and returned to their rightful black owners. There was thus no sympathy at all from the black expatriates for the plight of this sub-group; but they had ample available funds.

Leinrich’s role as a former member of the Hongo-bongo Camel Corps was not forgotten by the black members. His job had been to keep any free blacks away from white farms. The Corps was similar to the mounted forces maintained by other authorities in colonial Africa to keep the blacks in their place. While Leinrich and his pals were aggressively racist, blaming all coloured people for losing their perch, they hoped to ride back into their former comfort zone as allies of the dispossessed blacks.

As far as the Hongo-bongonese were concerned, however, Leinrich and his ilk could continue to whistle for the cheese in the moon to fall onto their laps. But their money was needed.

There was thus a significant void in the confabulations of this disparate group, who were yet joined in a search for justice. They just could not agree how this would be achieved. Since voids do not remain unfilled for long, this mismatched group was at risk of some form of dark energy (akin to the dark energy in the universe) entering their space. Indeed, this is exactly what happened.

One evening, into the meeting walked an unknown elderly white man. His skin had clearly been severely tanned and wrinkled by a hot African sun for decades. When he reached the now silent group in the near-empty hall, he was seen to press a button on his jacket. The explosion filled the political and personal void with human debris.

Did this incident indicate that nature prefers to have voids filled reasonably soon? Does it also say something about the plans of mice and men?

(The above is pure fiction. All the names, both of place and human, have been imagined, and do not relate to anything or anyone identifiable.)

An inner-city life (fiction)

Pervasive heat, with an all-embracing humidity. Speedy sex for silent sale, juxtaposed with clogged open drains, odorous in their opulence. Shouted market calls unabated, amidst the clatter of cooking, both private and public. The scents of spices pervade the noisy chatter of a multi-ethnic populace. The clutter of the street blends with the ebb and flow of a multitude of poor people.

The perennial search for sustenance by beggars seeking merely to survive is circumscribed by sly shopkeepers soliciting a sale. Haggling about prices is a necessity; else opportunistic sellers might be offended. Night is turned into day by vendors of victuals, with spivs and security agents lurking in the shadows. This is the inner city into which I have been thrust – as jetsam in a harbour of flotsam.

The pathos of poverty, the plight of the ever-present poor, pervades the spectrum of the sounds of sexual congress. These shade into the wails of women being beaten by men angry with themselves. The cries of hungry children provide a heart-wrenching background. Under the engulfing atmospheric envelope of unrelenting uncertainty, the people go about their business busily.

There is limited scope for mentally sighting a stable future. In their state of existence on a knife-edge, all is observed, yet nothing might be seen. Prayer, for sustenance, for good health, for any kind of a rewarding future, prevails powerfully; yet the gods do not seem to respond. I am now an intrinsic but unthankful part of this scenario.

The rains come in a rumbustious roar. Wondrous cracks of lightning enable us to look into the heart of the huge raindrops. Rumbling explosions of thunder weave in and out of the walls of rain. The heavens remind one and all most ferociously that human existence is precarious – as if we do not know that. We have lived with this burden all our lives.

I need a job urgently, for I am destitute. An Indian acquaintance finds me one. A month later, he brings me my pay. It is pitifully small. I need to be even more frugal. At my request, my boss agrees to pay me directly in the future. The first month’s pay was, however, reduced by the cut taken by the go-between. This is the Asian way.

I share a house with a chatty white British air force sergeant born and bred in Jamaica and his ill-educated, snooty wife with the accent of a catarrh-ridden fishing village somewhere in the south of England. She is paid as much as a newly graduated Asian doctor. He is paid twice that amount! This is the British way, in a colonial outpost. The woman and I share a dislike – for each other. She is typical of the ‘upstarts’ sent to teach us how to govern ourselves, although we have been known to be civilised and cultured for thousands of years. In spite of the barriers of skin colour and caste, the sergeant and I converse nightly about matters of serious import.

Another room in our home is occupied by a Sri Lankan with his Anglo-Australian wife. Each night, they come home in a taxi. Each night, I see him remove his hand from under his wife’s bra before they disembark. The foreplay has already begun. “ … … and twice on Sunday” is his theme song. Quietude sought by us is sprung by his creaky springs. I am forced to take my little friend in hand from time to time; but we cause no creaks. The English couple is silent; perhaps they are just being British!