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In praise of the crowd

I walked towards where Maryam sat in my parlour and gently placed the big glass of tiger-nut juice next to her. ‘Here you are, now you can have your favorite juice, while we go through the guest list to see who and who must be taken off to reduce the number.’ I offered.

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‘But I no longer think it’s a good idea to reduce the number. Let’s stick to the guest list of 300. I think we can manage it.’ She replied, taking the glass of juice in her hand.

‘What do you mean Maryam?’ I asked with surprise, ‘you were just telling me we need not invite so many people, there will be overcrowding and we don’t have enough money to make the catering up to standard, so we must reduce the number. And just when I agreed with you and decided to go along, you suddenly changed your mind? What happened between the time I went to get you a drink and now?’ I queried.

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‘This’ Maryam answered showing me an email on her mobile phone. ‘I just received this mail from my former teacher, which said the British Prime Minister has created a ministry for loneliness. It says that Britons of all ages and sizes are suffering from such a bad case of lonelinesses, that it has become a national cause for concern. This necessitated the creation of a whole ministry by the government to deal with it. Can you believe this Bint?’ She asked.

‘Yes I can, it’s all a result of their individualistic lifestyles. Everyone wants to be on their own, to take care of only themselves, to stay distant from family and to supposedly be in complete control of their destinies. But the result is that so many people return to empty homes, with no one to keep the home fires burning. Though they might have successful careers or businesses, the empty homes they return to, without human touch or presence, are enough to cause them psychological disorders. And the worst part of this individualism, to me, is that some of these people have living parents, who need them in their old age. But rather than bring them close and serve them, they simply take them to some old people’s home and dump them. They do not wish to be bothered by the demands of the aged, even though these same parents gave them their all, while they were children, and sacrificed a lot to make them the successful adults they’ve became.’ I concluded.

‘That’s very true Bint and sometimes the parents are even widowed, which makes their loneliness double because of the loss of their spouses, yet still their children would rather have them remain at their own homes, catering for themselves with difficulty, or take them to public facilities where they will pay and have them catered for. What could be solved by taking one decent step ends up bringing two new problems to life.’  Maryam declared, enigmatically.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘I mean the travails of an elderly, frail parent can be solved by he or she living with members of his family. And a lonely young adult living in a house or an apartment by himself can feel loved and less lonely when he has a parent to return to and look after. It is a win-win situation if only they’ll try it. But because they refuse to, the result is that national epidemic of loneliness. Sometimes the young ones may be in relationships but once something goes wrong and instead of marriege they experience a breakup, they just revert to their empty shells and embrace their loneliness. Some of them resort to drugs, promiscuous lifestyles and alcoholism all in order to fill the emptiness in their lives. Others get depressed and start their march to mental breakdown, and it’s thanks to nothing but their selfish individualism.’ She opined.

‘You are right Maryam but what has this got to do with your decision to retain the 300 rather than reduce our guest list to 200?’ I asked.

‘Everything Bint everything! After I read this news, I suddenly felt that people are a blessing. Here we live around others all the time that we don’t realise their presence is a great plus to our lives. I mean having to create a ministry of loneliness just to make sure people stop getting depressed and committing suicide suggests a national calamity. But alhamdulillah we don’t have that here. And that’s why I’ve decided that we should hail our crowded lives. So in celebrating the crowd, we are going to stick to our original figure of 300, the more the merrier.’ She announced. 

‘But you were worried that food might not be enough, or are we going to raise more funds now that you are in love with crowds?’ I joked. 

‘No Bint we are going to manage the food we have. In sha Allah food for 200 will suffice for 300. Didn’t Rasulillah SAW say “Food for two is enough for three”? In line with this philosophy, we will invite 300 and feed them with food for 200 and in sha Allah, the event will be happy and blessed and no one will be lonely or sad.’ She enthused.

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