Wednesday, 27 September 2017

When I stood up panic-stricken




Sittings are many… they differ according to the seating you sit on and the kind of people who sit with you.

I have tried sitting over dust, which in turn has many levels… as there is the sitting over a pile of land rubbles – or Radm in Arabic – usually piled on top of the field – meaning at the beginning and entrance to the field – where land is being leveled by al-Qassabiya or land leveler… it is a known tool used in agriculture that has a box opened from the front, two long arms caught by the peasant, and two iron rings on the sides to attach “as-Salb” or the robes tying the cattle pulling al-Qassabiya… the peasant has to be clever and have an eye sensitive to noticing the different land levels as he scrapes centimeters from the high-level land to fill the low-level one in order to level the surface evenly.

Sometimes, the peasant needs part of this land rubbles or Radm to place it under the feet of his cattle, mix it with the dung, and turn it into a very fertile home-made manure… or to turn it into bricks after blending it with the mélange of dung and beans’ hey and pouring it in moulds, then drying and turning it on the other side… then aligning it in the ovens where it is being burnt using coal that produces a roaring fire to the extent that the bricks sometimes melt.

The sitting over land rubbles usually takes place in the time before sunset with fire on the side crackling in the direction of the air flow… so that we can sit over the wind breeze; meaning the breeze passes by us first while we are not bothered by the smoke of the fire… over this fire, tea is cooked or corncobs are grilled… then talking starts and later takes a higher tone so that those sitting can hear each other.

There is also that sitting over the dirty dust… it is the dark dust of the road that sometimes is damp with humidity of unknown-source… as this humidity could be due to the remains of morning dew… or to sprinkling clean water to calm the haze of dust… or perhaps due to dirty water sloshed from a bucket removing water from a basin of sewage… and maybe it is due to recurring urination of animals passing by… such sitting takes place either in front of the door of an agricultural cooperative, clinical unit, the house of the village mayor, or near the graveyard waiting for employees, doctors, a guard, or for burying the deceased.

From this sitting over the dust that I tried its two kinds to the other comfortable one over comfy armchairs of palaces… whether presidential or royal ones… also armchairs of hotels… where one slumps in the armchair to the extent that his hand cannot reach out to the table to pick the tea, coffee, desserts, or fruits… and one has to seat himself in a way that enables his buttocks to rest over the edge of the armchair.

I tried this kind of sitting too and made some mistakes… most important of them is not paying attention to the cigar or cigarette ash falling over the trousers and which could be mixed with fire while my highness is sitting legs crossed… and even if I decided to ignore the fire that penetrated the outer and inner layers of the cloth, it burns the skin and perhaps in sensitive parts of the body for the man to snap suddenly as if stung by a scorpion.

In such funny painful regard, I remember that bitterly cold morning when I came from Tanta on train, bus, and then on foot… I did not notice that my shoes were smeared with some soft mud… I had an appointment with Mr. Mohammed Hassanien Heikal, may he rest in peace, and almost arrived in time at his house

I sat over the third kind; that is the classy chair that looks like the strong dining ones… Mr. Heikal used to prefer sitting behind his desk with the guest sitting in front of him on the other side of the desk… I noticed that he perceived what lay over my shoes but did not give a comment until the moment came… I lit up a cigarette – as I have not learnt how to smoke a cigar yet and could not afford it – and he noticed that I did not drop the ashes in the crystal ashtray put over the desk… he decisively asked: “are you dropping something on the carpet?”... I immediately answered: “no… nothing”… and continued “and even if something dropped, it is ash”… He went on in his decisive way and said: “do you know what kind of carpet this one is?”… I answered in my own way – that sometimes is silly – “it looks like the old Kilim my mother used to put under the chicken in winter”… at this point, Mr. Heikal could not put up with me any longer or you can say he did not have patience like what happened between Moses and al-Khidr… he went describing the carpet; its type, age, and value… then he added: “isn’t it enough that you have mud over your shoes”.

Then our sitting experienced a funnier situation when he invited me to go out the room to the balcony connected to it as we started talking about a specific political subject… he guided me to enter the balcony… I threw myself into the first armchair when I stood up terrified while he was laughing and saying in a commanding way: relax, Baraka… I did not notice that there was a bitch of a breed unknown to me sleeping over the armchair… she was wearing a jacket perhaps made of chamois wrapping around her back to protect her from cold… and when I sat over her, she panicked, howled, and resisted… Mr. Heikal said: “do not panic… this is Baraka”… due to my humble upbringing, I said: “how lucky she is… she wears what I will never wear”.

There is also that sitting over “al-Bursh”; that is the prison drugget weaved from rough leaves of red fiber with the tea being cooked over the “taw-taw”… there is also the sitting over Hasira that could be small for praying… or big to cover the floor of the room… and if it was bigger, its name changes to Qeyaas with its tips colored with patterns made out of the imagination of al-Hosari or the man who made this Hasira… those patterns used to take the form of neighboring triangles or paintings of camels or plants… and if this Hasira is rectangular with a width not exceeding a meter and length of about two and a half meters, then it is called Shuqqa… such kind of Hasira is placed over the entrance of countryside houses, over Dekka, or over our Baladi settee.

I am sure that those who tried these types of sittings know that each one of them has its own nature and parties… of peasants and workers… craftsmen, semi-educated… educated… sick people… Beks, Pashas, ministers, and rulers as well… not to mention that every sitting has its protocol if one may say… as first you have to be good at sitting cross-legged and residing over them bearing some difficulty so that you do not look as if you are haughty… this is regarding sitting over dust, Hasira, and al-Bursh.

As to sittings in comfortable armchairs, you have to learn to wait until you are guided to the place suitable for you to sit as there are some high profile people who have a specific place for them either because of security issues or because it is nearer to the phones or door to facilitate the task of the one who enters to whisper in their ears… and in many times, sitting is arranged according to how important the person is… as there is the one sitting to the right or to the left of the main character of the sitting… and that is why it is much better when a card holding the name of the one that should occupy this chair is put in front of it.

Now we come to the question asking: Why have we been talking about sitting, its types, and levels?... actually, I wanted to make it to the account telling the story of a man sitting, stretching his legs and leaning back to a pillar and when the ruler entered, this man did not sit straight and went on teaching his lecture… the ruler went mad and wanted to avenge this man… and so he sent someone with a pouch full of money to this man… the man said: “go back to you master and tell him that the one who stretches his legs does not stretch his hand to beg… now I say, you Egyptian, sit and stretch your legs as long as your law in life to sustain yourself and maintain your dignity is to work… my dear apologies to my friend Dr. Mohammed Abo el-Ghar.

Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar



This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on September 27, 2017.

To see the original article, go to:


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