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by Boris Zubry


Zahir was running through the dirtiest streets of Islamabad, the hot, humid, smelly and not so beautiful capital of Pakistan, with the speed of a deer - a deer that was quite small and with very short and painfully bowed legs. That's the way he was born and that's the way he existed ever since. Short, somewhat twisted, body of about 4'6" with an unproportionally powerful torso awarded with squat muscular arms and grotesquely bowed legs - that was all Allah, All Merciful, could spare at the time of Zahir's birth. Even Allah, The Magnificent, in difficult times, could run out of parts for creation of handsome, envied by all and desirable people. After all, Paradise was not perfect or, may we say, perfect but not for all, and Allah was only God. If we were created in his image and we were not perfect? What was God? Miracles, in their entire glory, were becoming a rare exception at this time of deception throughout the Muslim world. Due to the gross incompetence of the religious and the civilian leaders alike, the Muslim miracles were in such high demand but in a very short supply. Miracles, why do you never come when we need you?

Zahir's father, Bilal, was known throughout the city slums as a devoted Muslim who prayed five times a day and never drank alcohol. But hashish - the essence of the dream world -- was his true passion. In his opinion hashish was something to live for. Bilal spent hours and often days in the wonderful dreamy state of the complete happiness induced by the powerful drug. That's when he was truly content and fully engaged with existence -- the existence of dreams and the fairy tales. Was not it the existence we all wanted to be in but were afraid to try? Bilal thought he crossed the Rubicon and never wanted to come back. What was there to come back to? Why would he want to leave the happiness? Where was his mind at these times? Where was he himself when in this state? Bilal did not know and could not answer these questions even to himself but it was the best place he ever knew and that he knew for certain. All we can say is that Bilal never went hungry while hashish wildly twirled in his veins and that helped him to keep his weight down -- he had the body of a young boy at the age of forty. He strongly believed that hashish played an important role in the healthy diet being, at the same time, the best friend of the hungry and the man down on his luck. That was a belief with very deep ancient roots in the Middle East and slowly spreading out, with advances of the Muslim culture, to the West. Bilal often thought that hashish had to be given to everyone on earth and for free so to preserve peace, prosperity and healthy living. That is how he saw paradise with Allah and His Prophet Mohamed distributing drug to everyone and happiness for all. Many believed that hashish was the essence of Eastern religions and all took it as a reward for piousness.

Kalian, hookah, hubble-hubble, narghile, calean, water pipe -- a pipe with a long flexible tube connected to a container where smoke is cooled by passing through water and often filled with hashish, marihuana, opium or other powerful psychoactive drugs was the best friend of many Muslims for thousands of years. Turks and Arabs introduced it to the conquered and abused Europe as a savior from the pain of slavery and that is how it took off and spread out to the whole world, but mainly residing in the Middle East and Asia. That's where the fertile home for the drugs was. Many of the religious rituals, including the Dervish Dances and the hysterics of the self-punishments, exist only due to these drugs. Drugs make you follow the drug givers. So, the ancient rulers included drugs in the culture and that helped them to rule the world. Cannabis and poppies were well known centuries before tobacco was introduced to our world and tobacco inherited drug pipes from the ancients of Asia. Different variations of this were conceived, born and widely promoted in Asia and in the Middle East. This drug-inducing instrument was one of the very few and quite limited examples of the Muslim culture assimilated in the West. How much more of this cultural exchange can we name? Smoke your kalian, enter the Paradise, join Mohamed and Allah and forget the great nothingness of the world you live in on a daily basis and the smallness of the people populating it. Drugs could make you feel a giant living a wonderful life. Drug could make you do anything -- including the martyrdom of the suicide bombing.

Every time Bilal's mind came back to this dirty, full of the vile smelling of quickly rotting hopes, street in Islamabad, it wanted to go back to the dreamland right away. Patience could be dumbstruck by the shock of reality as well as anything else. And everything else was dumb struck already. This wondering mind had a mind of its own and it was childishly impatient. Hashish was readily available on every corner if you had money or some other currency to trade. So, once in a while, Bilal had to get up and do something to earn the means of obtaining drugs. He always had to raise money for drugs and his own way of happiness. Food, children and the rent were not his concern. Why should he worry if he already lived in Paradise? That was his wife's domain and responsibility and she was a responsible person he could rely on. She was the wife one could trust and always lean on. She was bright, street smart and as strong as the pillar of Islam and as reliable as the elephant holding earth on his back since the beginning of times.

Fizza, Bilal's wife, was a street prostitute and working very hard she managed to provide Bilal and their three children with enough of food and the roof over their heads. They almost never went hungry and, if they did, it was not too harsh. She always managed something for them, well, often forgetting herself. In Bilal's book she was a good mother and a perfect wife. If he had to do it another time, Fizza would be the one time and time again.

It would be wrong to say, even to assume, that Bilal never did anything. He did what he could and when he could do it. Bilal had a rare talent. He was an exceptionally good packet thief and a strong-arm man and he exercised these trades with rare precision every time the opportunity was there and he was not too drugged out to do it right and in the utmost professional manner. He never got personal about his trade or the victims of it. As the Fizza's vocation, that was strictly business and nothing else. That is why Bilal was arrested only for a few times in his entire professional career and never convicted. He had not spent much time in jail, hardly at all. Bilal was too smart for that nuisance. After all, he was a pro and that covered it all. What separates pros from the amateurs in this one of the oldest professions in the world -- the bars of the jail. The day you know how to avoid it, you become a pro. Is not it the case in any profession?

Zahir was the last child out of three and he was born deformed. His spine was twisted a little, not much but it was enough to prevent his body from growing with the normal rate and proportions. That, on the top of malnutrition, sicknesses, filth, bad living conditions, inherited genetic deficiencies, drugs, alcohol and everything else had not contributed much to the beauty of the child. So, Zahir grew small, with overgrown muscles and very short grotesquely to the extreme bowed legs. Bilal blamed his wife because she was still providing sexual services to men even when she was pregnant. Actually, she made more money being pregnant than at any other time. Many Pakistani men wanted her more in this peculiar state and agreed to pay more. Strange men but who can say. Who has the right to judge? Inshallah! Fizza understood clearly that Zahir was a child of drugs but she knew better and kept quiet. Many children of Islam were handicapped either physically or mentally but they blamed the West, America, for that as well. The American Imperialism and the International Zionism did it to them and one day, Inshallah, Allah will punish all infidels for that. Bilal was a strong man and, if she argued much, he could hurt her badly and she needed her health to work. Children needed food and Bilal spent more and more time smoking hashish and not working. It was not a good time to make him angry so she kept quiet. She needed him to protect her from the others and from the slums of Islamabad. She needed him for more than one reason. He was the only protection she had. The children had her and him but she had only Bilal and her fragile and quickly aging body. Pakistan was the country of broken dreams that rarely were good even as dreams but that was the place of their birth and escape was not in the cards.

It was Pakistan or so called West Pakistan with its overpopulated capital of Islamabad and provinces of Punjab, Baluchistan, North West Frontier and Sind. It was about 307,000 sq miles and population of almost one hundred and sixty three million people (still growing strong) and united by the common religion of Islam, a few customs and the deepest gap between the poor and the rich. This was the country where rich and well-to-do were just a few with the poor and very poor way too many. The British rule slowly brought this area to the ninetieth century but the breakup with India and the power of Islam quickly took it many centuries back. Islam was the foundation this country was created and built on and it never meant progress. The fundamental Islam mentality was still in the sixth century, pulling the whole world down with its primitive and utterly outdated philosophy. It was the blessing and the curse of one hundred and sixty three million Muslims living in Pakistan and more living around the world. Islam ruled the country through militant dictators and very aggressive Muslim clerics happily providing all of its followers with peace of mind but rarely with a piece of bread. Peace of mind? Sometimes these peaceful minds took people to murder and the suicide bombing of very innocent people, believers and infidels alike. How peaceful was that Muslim mind? Well, as they say, Allah Akbar! Only Allah could tell, if Allah was willing. One should always choose the peace in Paradise, Allah, Mohammed and the virgins over the problems of your daily life. Be a believer, forget it all and get rewarded after you die. Paradise was ready, able and waiting for you.

In the 7th century AD, Islam, founded by Muhammad in the Arab peninsula, started to spread out quite rapidly due to the death and torture associated with the name of a new god Allah. And, in the 8th century AD, Islam came to the West Coast of India brought by the Arab invaders and the raiding Turkish warlords. Forceful conversion, rivers of blood, sometimes money but always the strong desire to survive made the Indian population vulnerable to the most aggressive and the bloodiest religion in history -- Islam. The human life for Islam meant nothing and Allah meant it all. In the 12th century Islam took strong and permanent hold of many people of this wonderful and mysterious country. Was there really a choice? Since the 1930's, the name 'Pakistan' was thought up for the proposed possible Muslim-Hindu division of British India. It is made up of the basics pak "pure" and stan "land" referring to the Muslim parts of the Indian Subcontinent -- Punjab, Afghan North West Frontier, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. That's how much land Islam claimed from India, shedding blood of innocent people in forceful conversions and not well supported disputes. Islam was more in the wrong than in the right but loud screams and the terror helped it to win many claims. Many of these claims were won only because people preferred to give in rather than to be terrorized by the fanatic Muslim mob.

The increasing tensions between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority amplified the demand for separate states. One people separated only by religious beliefs were on the verge of the bloodiest civil war and quickly heading to the disaster that was almost impossible to avoid. In 1947, after independence was granted, British India was divided into the two dominions of India and Pakistan comprising the two geographically separate areas of West Pakistan and East Pakistan. East Pakistan later on became an independent country of Bangladesh. Since the late fifties, West Pakistan or just Pakistan was a Republic, but the Muslim domination and the breath cutting off religious control by the fundamentalists constantly pulled the country back, not allowing the basic freedoms and the modern ideas to grow, to develop and to take hold. Crime in all possible forms flourished instead. Ignorance and superstition were above knowledge and progress. Many central and remote areas of the country alike went back to the medieval times and never climbed out. Economics followed the politics making Pakistan one of the leaders of the poor half of the world. Somehow the deep beliefs in centuries-old Islam and modern economic development never could co-exist, making all Muslim countries (regardless of their resources and desires) poor, illiterate and progressively more militant. And it did not look like the source of all that was in people; it looked like the source was in Islam.

Zahir wanted to know all of these. He wanted to know all about everything but knew very little. His reading skills were poor and his writing skills almost did not exist. He was one of very few on their street, if not the district, capable of doing even that much. People on his street did not indulge in reading, writing and philosophical conversations, but in prostitution, robbery and the other crimes popular and flourishing in this city, region, and country. Everyone followed the steps of his father, if he knew him, or the man he assumed to be his father because he was there while the boy grew up. Girls became prostitutes and boys became thieves. Zahir tried to follow Bilal and was an accomplished thief already but drugs have not attracted him yet. It could come later but so far all Zahir wanted is to learn enough to move out of there. He believed that there was another life somewhere. A good pay and a little adventure and he would go anywhere and do anything, but the military rejected him for his not perfect or even exciting body and his mind was not in their interests at all. The Pakistani military was not for thinking. So, Zahir had a plan -- to read, learn and to become someone needed overseas, so he could go there. Where? What difference did it make? Anywhere was better than here, the poorest section of the richest city in Pakistan. He heard that servants and janitors were in high demand in Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. They wanted only Muslims there and he was a Muslim. They wanted fast and obedient servant and he, Zahir, was fast and could be obedient. Also he could read and write. And, how many Muslims of his social level could do that? And, if they could do that, would they be servants? Zahir knew that if he worked hard on this, one day, maybe even soon, he would get a job overseas. He had to try. That's all. That was the only future he could understand and accept. What else was there for him and his wife Shazia? He, as strong as he was, and a great wife, as Shazia was -- the future did not look that bad, come to think of it.

Considering the circumstances, Bilal was not a bad father. No one would dare to blame him of that. Bilal was that not too rare type of a father with a selective approach to the family issues and that made him acceptable and even loved. He never got involved with anything family-related but, if he had stolen food, he would share it with everyone equally. Money? Yes, he would share whatever was left from his important needs. Drugs, alcohol, friends and the women would come first and family had to wait for its turn. And, the family's turn usually came, but somewhat later. Deep, extremely deep, in his heart, he was a very good and loyal family man but life made him what he was. Many said that when he was young, he was very religious and wanted to be a cleric. He tried and he tried hard but clerics introduced him to sexual perversions and drugs, starting his downfall. As many religious people, he was weak inside, his spirit required constant support and reassurance, and that is why he needed God. God was the invisible wall protecting Bilal from the dangers of the human world and that helped him survive. Drugs had fortified that protective wall, cushioning the fragile inner world of Bilal from the harsh reality, and little by little drugs substituted for God. God was not always there but a drug was there when needed. Truly, Bilal was not a lost soul. His soul was just never found.

If children misbehaved and really were getting out of control, his punishment would be swift and to the point. After all, he was the greatest enforcer. Often, if the children were too rowdy avoiding going to bed, Bilal would shout in the druggy voice: "Don't force children to bed. They will wake up a day older and soon become like me. Let them live the good life a little longer." That was a good father talking in him but their mother reined in this territory. She was the queen and she was the goddess and he just wanted to be left alone. Hashish made him the king in his own kingdom -- the kingdom of a million shapes. That was the kingdom where centuries never met and one could stay in any or all of them for as long as the drug allowed. Parting with your dream was so painful that one would do almost anything to stay there indefinitely. But all one really needed was drug, more and more of it. And even in his hashish-provoked and sustained dreams Bilal longed for the drug, imagining taking it and being in this wonderful drug-induced state. That was the power of hashish and that was the weakness of Asia. Bilal, his family and the whole country were caught in the grinding wheels of a useless existence that left them only with three choices: drugs, crime and Islam, which was at the pinnacle of it all. Many selected all three and all selected at least two. If this life were not fair, the next one, in Paradise, would bring the desired rewards.

When Zahir was only five or six, Bilal gave him a book written by the Britisher, Rudyard Kipling, and called The Jungle Book. It was the only book they knew written about India and the Indian people. Well, they did not know too many books written about anything but this was the one they knew well. There was a movie with an Indian, Sabu, playing the leading role, everyone in India and Pakistan saw. Bilal stole this book somewhere and he thought it would be great for the children. Every evening before the children went to sleep he read them a few pages from the book and that made their day. Of course, it was before hashish took a stronger hold of him and he started to live this book instead of just reading it. It was a book about the Indian boy Mowgli, who was raised in the jungle by the pack of wolves, and his family was comprised of wild animals -- a wolfs, a bear and a panther and a huge python. Come to think about it, the jungle life was not much different from city life. In Islamabad one wanted to have wolves, snakes, bears and panthers as friends and one always had to look out for the hungry traitorous tigers. That was a good story and Zahir often felt as it was about him and his family and his jungle. Zahir felt, as Mowgli's life was so fascinating, that he wanted to copy Mowgli to the very last detail and often he did. Zahir was Mowgli from the jungle of Islamabad and he had done a great job of surviving.

Bilal could read, not very well, but well enough to recognize important information. The whole street used to come to him with letters and the government papers for reading and the explanations. Bilal helped them all and never charged money for reading or writing a letter for someone he often did not even know. He believed it was his civic obligation and a responsibility of the leader in the community. After all, Bilal was a strong man -- the leader of the weak and the poor. That's how he saw himself in the dreamland full of action for the righteous man. He was the hero he wanted to be. People respected Bilal for being strong, righteous and able to read. Everyone was trying to express, within the limits of their ability, his or her respect with every opportunity. A little share in the stolen goods, some food, a glass of tea or free sexual favors were always available for Bilal, if he wanted it. Unfortunately, hashish was not for free but it was deeply discounted whenever it was possible. As an "educated" man, Bilal strongly believed that his children had to get some education so he took time from the busy schedule of an enforcer to teach reading and The Jungle Book became the main teaching aid. Bilal showed them letters and letters became the words. Then he would read a sentence and children had to recognized words and the letters in them. That was a laborious process but in a few years they all could read that book without even one mistake. Koran was next and maybe not that important. Zahir stole it from a Mullah dozing off in the teahouse three blocks over from their street. Bilal punished him for stealing from the Mullah and then for not stealing the money, as well, considering the opportunity. Then Bilal smiled, giving the boy a piece of Nan - a thick, elastic bread common throughout India and Pakistan. That was a good and well appreciated reward considering the state of hunger they perpetually lived in.

That was the first lesson Zahir received in the Koran and Islam. Punishment and reward -- what else was there? In a little while the Koran became his favorite book. It was full of mystery and adventure. The Jungle Book  paled compared with the Koran. The Koran was bursting with love and hate and there was always the deep meaning. It had the fullness of God and it was complete with the position and the obligations of men. It was a perfect book for the perfect believer. Zahir knew it. He felt it in his heart. A year later he found the same Mullah dozing off in the same teahouse. Zahir gave him the book back and offered his apologies but the Mullah smiled and gave the book back to Zahir. The Mullah asked Zahir if he could read and if he read the Koran. And Zahir said that he did but he had questions. The Mullah smiled again, ordered tea for both of them and started answering questions. There was no punishment for the theft and his reward was in the knowledge. Maybe knowledge was the punishment in this case but who could tell but Allah the Great? In any case, Zahir was becoming an educated man -- the pride of the family and the whole street.

At the age of twenty Zahir got married. It was not a prearranged marriage, as was often customary in this part of the world. Neither he nor his new wife was considered a good catch and desirable parties, so they had to tend to these matters by themselves. Who can blame them for being human and trying to be happy? His wife, Shazia, did not really have any family to speak off. She was an illegitimate daughter of a prostitute working in a brothel. It was a good, clean brothel but still a brothel and not something important and glamorous as a flower shop or an expensive hotel in the downtown. Her father was unknown but some say that he was a wealthy Arab living in suburbs. Shazia's mother was a shy servant girl -- one of many in his huge house. She was there since she was a child of six or seven, doing any kind of work that had to be done and one day she was pregnant and out of a job. She did what she was told and pregnancy got her fired, leaving her and the little child without any means for survival. This was somewhat a common story in the Muslim world, told so many times that no one would hear it again. What difference did it make in the great scheme of things Allah had to worry about? So, one more slipped through the cracks. Should we stop the whole world to fix a little problem? In America they may do something wasteful as this but here, in the world of Paradise, people were busy praying. One could not stop a prayer to help the pregnant girl on a street. Allah should provide for the unfortunate and, if he did not, that's the provision by itself.

What job could she find? With a child and no recommendation? Where could she go? Who did she know? Suicide was considered and not once but the little heart beating strongly against her own heart kept her going. Luckily, beauty still counted for something even in the strict Muslim society, where even life often did not count for anything. She was accepted in the brothel. Brothel? Well, it beats walking the streets and dying of hunger. You still working in the same chosen profession but you have good living conditions, decent food and your child is protected. You know where your child is almost all the time and you know what would become of your child all the time. Well, you win something and you lose something. That was the life she was forced to select and she would not be able to change it until she died. One does not change this profession as one does not change these streets. That was the destiny of the poor and that what was written in the books of Allah. Inshallah!

After her mother passed away, Shazia kept working in the brothel as a maid working herself up to a senior position. She was not beautiful enough to attract any clients but she could cook and clean and keep all kinds of things in good order. Everyone liked her and that led to a good and steady job. She became an integrated part of this brothel. Shazia rented a small two-room furnished apartment not too far from the brothel and settled down there she thought for life, and that life made her happy in many ways. Zahir came to that wonderfully settled existence, suddenly, unraveling the steady pace of things with one blow of a strong hand. He nightly protected her from a drunk and out-of-control patron of the brothel. The client wanted Shazia and none of the regular prostitutes. He refused to hear what everyone was telling him -- she was not a prostitute but a servant girl. This patron was ready to pay whatever and would have none of this nonsense of being a servant and not a prostitute. He stated that all women were prostitutes and, if they refused, the offered price was not high enough and had to be raised until she succumbs. So, ignoring the arguments and explanations, all he wanted to know was the price. Zahir, passing by attending one of his father's businesses, stopped to listen and then he dealt the client in question a powerful blow to the jaw. The disappointed client let Shazia go and quickly passed out. That was the end of the argument that took a while to develop and was over in no time at all. Everyone laughed full heartedly because it looked somewhat funny. The argument, the tension, the climax, the passed-out patron of the brothel, Shazia, Zahir, prostitutes, the passerbys -- all suddenly looked funny. It was an enjoyable evening after all. And, then, together they dragged the offensive man to the gutter searching the pockets and taking all his valuables and money. Prostitutes, Shazia and Zahir happily shared in the small unexpectedly acquired fortune. They all ordered dark sweet delicious Indian tea from the street vendor on the corner and that was the beginning of love for Shazia and Zahir.

Two months later Zahir, full of love, married Shazia and moved in to her apartment. He kept the little room over the food store a few blocks away for whatever emergency situation arose. In his line of business one never knew. He could store some stolen goods there or hide or meet someone important and it did not cost him anything. He collected rent in this building so the landlord gave him this room for free. The move from one place to the other was an easy one. All Zahir's possessions could fit in to two medium size cardboard boxes and boxes were not that difficult to find. Zahir borrowed a handcart from a friendly street vendor packing and moving everything in about ten minutes. He wished that everything, his whole life, were that easy but life was life with your future was written already. Who could change it? How could you change it if you did not even know what was written about your future? Allah had the power to know and Allah had the power to change. And every time your life was getting better, every time happiness entered your life, Allah would change it for the worst, demanding your sacrifices and prayers for forgiveness.

In a good month Zahir and Shazia could make a hundred and even a hundred and fifty American dollars. They were much better off than many of the people on the street. They had food, decent clothes, an agreeable shelter and a few dollars put aside. They were not careless with the money they were lucky to get. They knew that a rainy day may come and probably will come one day and rather soon. They worked hard while they were young and they had a dream. They wanted to save enough to buy a house in the near suburbs and open a brothel there. That was a business they knew all but too well. The brothel could be on the first floor and they would live on the second. They had an idea to make the girls working there partners of some sort, so they could share in the profits. No one had done that before but it sounded like a great idea. Partners always work better and were more honest than just employees. They wanted to serve food and alcohol there aiming for a better cliental. That's where the girls could make a little fortune offering food and other services. Both Shazia and Zahir strongly believed that in a good brothel the quality of service and the variety of services could bring in much more money than just a sheer number of girls. In their opinion a brothel was not like a grocery store where one could sell a great volume of goods with a low margin and make a lot of money doing that. No, a brothel was like a store with luxury items so the margin should be higher. They planned for a Jacuzzi and the oriental massage, food and drinks and, of course, good innovative sex. They knew that it was different and, therefore, it should work. Zahir and Shazia even knew a few girls that would be happy to go with them. Girls were ready now. They planned everything in great details and they knew that about ten thousand American dollars was needed to start and to survive at the beginning. Ten thousand? That was an impossible amount even with the good pace at which they were going. They made good money and they saved more than an average person in their neighborhood did, but still, they were far from reaching the goal. So, these plans were passionately discussed almost every evening and then put to sleep until the next day or to the next saved dollar.

Zahir tried to read fresh newspapers every time he had a chance and there were so many chances around. Newspapers were lying around on the street and in the garbage cans wherever you go. All he had to do was to go to the business section of the city and pick one up. The trip was never wasted and the papers were cleaner and often folded as new. The business section of the city was where the work was and Zahir had to go there anyway. Carrying things, stealing whatever was not hidden well and arranging for something -- this work was always available and often in high demand there. So, almost everyday he could make some money, eat the leftover food and read a newspaper in the business section of the city. It worked out all right and quickly became his daily routine and the fresh newspaper was his reward. Zahir read newspapers from the very beginning, the first page, and to the very end. He did not want to miss anything in the country and in the world. Things were happening and the newspaper was his world, his desire and his hashish. He was addicted to the news and wanted to be wherever the news were. He wanted to be the news. The world, far away countries, strange but very attractive people from the west. Americans. He would give his right arm to go to America, to see it, to touch it. Do they need people like him there? Even if they did not need him, maybe they could use him for something there, in America. Who knows? Inshallah,  as they say. And he searched every newspaper for mention of that. If he found it, that would be the mother of all news. Zahir strongly believed that someone somewhere outside Pakistan needed his help, his strong hands and his wonderful mind. Zahir would do anything for that person; just take him there. Just give him a chance. Just let him show that he was a very capable man not afraid of anything, of any job and of any work. Shazia would be so proud of him and would love him for that even more. He could feel that. He knew that. And, then he would come back with money, hundreds and thousands of dollars, and they would open the brothel of their dreams and live happily ever after. Everyone on the street would benefit from that and would be happy because he, Zahir, would help everyone in need.

Good news always comes unannounced. Bad news, on the other hand, warns you in advance, time and time again but we never listen. They rattle first, as a rattlesnake, and then they strike, like a rattlesnake of giant proportions. Some bad news is so huge and painful that they swallow you at once and whole. Anacondas with a rattle -- that's what the bad news is. You don't believe me? When you get sick, it does not happen overnight. You don't feel well for a while and then you really don't feel well. You got sick. Not feeling well is a rattling part of the bad news. Or, when you lose in a card game. You don't just lose in one game. You had been losing for a while, maybe the whole night, and then you are out of money and you cannot win anything back because you have nothing to gamble with. You could go home and get more. More of what? Problems? Embarrassment? Guilt? Everything you owned you had with you at the game. You should have read the signs. Losing ten times in a row. Was not that a sign? It was rattling for certain and very loud at that. And, when you happen to win at cards, it just happens. You win and you win and you win until no one has any money left to gamble or wants to play with you any more. That's exactly how it works. Do we need more examples? So, as you can see, the bad news warns you in advance and the good ones just knock on your door, ready or not. And, Zahir read it in an almost day old newspaper.

The ad in the employment section stated that there was an agency right here, in Islamabad, hiring people of all professions and without one to work in Saudi Arabia. Qualifications required: be a Muslim and have a strong desire to work and be ready to do any work asked. The pay was seven hundred and fifty American dollars per month. The agency would buy you a ticket and a room with one meal a day was for free. Zahir was shocked. Working there, he would make his ten thousand dollars for the brothel in no time. Two years of the luxury life in Saudi Arabia and he is rich! The agency was downtown and it was kind of late already to go there today but tomorrow he would put on his best rust color kurta and go very early in the morning. Tonight he has to discuss it with his wife and parents. They have to agree and they may give him a good advise. A long prayer in the local mosque would not hurt either. This one called for it and, regardless of all that, Zahir had good feeling toward religion to begin with. He was a good Muslim as far as Islam goes.

"Sobh beh'khayr (Good Morning), young man", Zahir was greeted cheerfully by an older pudgy man expensively dressed and wearing a large diamond ring on the small finger of the left hand. He was semi lying in a huge leather wing chair placed near a beautiful antique desk in the middle of the room. This room was much larger than the whole apartment where Zahir and Shazia lived and probably larger than the whole building where the apartment was.

"Did you say your name was Zahir? What can I do for you, Zahir? Are you looking for a job?" Zahir came over around five o'clock in the morning. He did not really know when offices like this opened and people of importance come to work. So, he thought, it was safe to come over as early as possible and wait. The office opened at nine and this man came to work at ten. Zahir was shown in at ten thirty.

This morning Zahir was up so early that the mighty sun was still seen only as a fraction of its glorious self. Zahir did not want the sun to wrinkle his clothes. Zahir wanted to look fresh and ideal for the people with the job in Saudi Arabia. What a gorgeous day it was going to be. He laid down the best kurta he had and went downstairs to wash himself at the basin on the street. He had not done anything like that for a while but this was an extraordinary case and he had to look his best. He even used a little perfume from the bottle Shazia kept for special occasions. Bilal had taught him that looks; smell and good manners could take a man to the heights. Zahir remembered the lesson but rarely had a chance to apply it in his line of work and today was the day. Zahir was ready for anything and everything and he was going to employ all the charm he possessed and all the smarts he acquired.

"Yes, Sir. I saw this ad in a newspaper about jobs in Saudi Arabia. Are you still looking for people? I can do anything. I am strong, reliable and I can read." Zahir was very nervous but this so important man offered him tea. And this tea was served in a beautiful white porcelain cup so thin that Zahir could almost see all the way through. Imagine things like this and offered to him, a poor servant. Does it mean that this man liked him, Zahir?

"Well, you do not have a real profession but that is fine. Mainly they want servants of all types. If you don't mind to do all kinds of odd jobs, we can place you in a nice house in Saudi Arabia. The job will pay seven hundred and fifty American dollars a month and about one hundred and fifty dollars worth of tips. Our people always get tips. And, if you are good and working hard, you get good tips. I knew some people that made three hundred dollar worth of tips almost every month. But, they worked very hard. Is it agreeable with you, young man? If you are honest and hard working, you can stay there for as long as you like. They always have work for good people. Are you good people? Are you a team player?"

"Yes, Sir. I will do whatever I am asked to and I am very honest. I am a hard-working man and I never steal. You can check it with the police. They will tell you. I am clean. When do you want me to start, Sir? Give me a day or two and I'll be ready. But do I need a passport and a visa? What about the ticket to Saudi Arabia?" Zahir was feeling warm, no, hot. Was it the good tea or just an excitement of the moment?

"Yes, all these things. All this is for free for you. You pay my commission of only three thousand five hundred American dollars and I will pay all your expenses of getting there. There, they will give you a room to live and one meal a day for free. All our people there live on tips and send all money home. We can help with that too. We can help with everything when it comes to helping a brother Muslim." The man was smiling the most genuine and the warmest smile Zahir ever saw in business. This man did not look like a shark waiting for a chance to bite chunks out of you. He was more as an uncle offering a helping hand.

"So much money, Sir. I have to think about it. I have to find it somewhere." Zahir was sweating profusely and it never happened to him before.

"I can understand it, my friend. This is a big decision and a very serious commitment. After I have the money, it would take not more then one month and you are on the way to making a thousand dollars a month in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the most righteous country with a lot of money on the top of it. Take your time. Talk to your people and tell them that people like you can make in Saudi Arabia a thousand dollars a month. If any of your friends decide to go, send them to me. Tell them to use your name. I'll remember you and I'll reward you for that. I'll discount from your payment ten dollars for every person you send that takes a job. Is it a deal? Take a day or so, and let me know. I cannot wait forever, you know. Saudi Arabia is a small country and they need only so many servants and many Pakistani need a good job." Zahir shook the offered hand (what an honor). The family meeting tonight would be a hard one. Thirty five hundred American dollars... Where does one get so much money in such a short period of time? The whole family and the friends would have to be asked for help.

A few days went by quietly. Everyone was in deep thoughts. Friends wanted to help but they had no money to give. And again, how long will it take for Zahir to earn enough in Saudi Arabia to pay the debts and to save for the brothel? But the day came when friends proved to be friends. A hundred dollars here and a hundred dollars there... Bilal was off hashish for almost three days stealing, wheeling and dealing. Two men from the other street wanted to join Zahir and asked him to be introduced to the important man in downtown. Two men -- that would earn Zahir twenty dollars. Zahir had the money now with twenty dollars to spare and Islamabad suffered a wave of a stealing spree amounting to ten thousand five hundred American dollars. After all, three people now had to raise the necessary amount to pay the broker's fees. And, Zahir had twenty dollars to spare and that was meant for traveling expenses and to have a comfortable time before the first pay. The dream was coming through and not just for Zahir. The new brothel meant good jobs for many people and they all -- prostitutes, bouncers, food cooks, barmen and servers, maids, laundresses, cops and just crooks -- wanted it. They saw it big, nice and very profitable. Fifty people or so could make living out of working there or supplying the establishment. The tea vendor together with the sweets vendor and the roasted peanut and the dry fruit merchant decided to open a small shop right next to the brothel. A couple of retired prostitutes from the brothel where Shazia worked wanted to open a laundry right next to the tea/sweets/peanuts shop to service the brothel. Sheets had to be washed maybe more then once a week and some of the clients would require the cleaning and ironing of their clothes. The shop and the laundry would hire a few people to help them. There was a talk of a bar serving hard liquor, soft drinks and maybe sandwiches. Being not too far they could cater for the brothel as well. All that would increase business and maybe bring more businesses over. Bilal in his dreams could see the new part of the city developing around the brothel. He envisioned plants and factories growing around this new and very attractive enterprise. He predicted a new industrial area developing there, adding an extra importance to the whole project. It was rapidly becoming a very popular idea, raising the hopes of many but still dependent on Zahir's success in Saudi Arabia. He was the hero of the day.

The plane took off early in the morning promising to arrive in the holy land before the next prayer. There was about a hundred passengers there, mainly going to work, but a few were pilgrims to Mecca and a dozen or so called themselves holy fighters and were going to a training camp. They wanted to become the future messengers of God and the messages they wanted to deliver were in a form of bombs and bullets -- the only message infidels could understand. The fighters stayed together for the entire trip, sitting at the end of the plane, smoking hashish and praying to the God of the Righteous. The plane was small and the flight was somewhat bumpy. None of the passengers ever flew before so besides feeling scared they felt sick to the bone. This time when they prayed, it was not just chanting familiar verses. It was a real appeal for safety, for life and for landing soon. God could make time go slow or faster but at the time, planes were out of his jurisdiction. He did not make planes better but just used whatever was available. Even people could not really fix old and broken planes. All they could is just to patch them up to fly one more time. Or they could fly two or three more times, and even until they crashed, but then it was too late. Planes, like people, got tired and died when the right time came. People relied on gods and gods relied on people and planes somehow made it to their destinations without gods or people. These were miracles in so many cases that we dare not to count them but still these miracles were miracles of people and not necessarily of gods. Gods were preoccupied with some other important things like maybe listening to the prayers of billions of people billions of times a day.

Saudi Arabia, thought Zahir, was as different from Pakistan as day from night. Pakistan was a mountain country and Saudi Arabia was a flat desert. True, it was hot in both countries but in Pakistan one could find a cool and even cold place and in Saudi Arabia you could find only a place that was even hotter than the place you were already in. Pakistan was green, blue and white in many places. Trees, rivers, lakes and the snow roofed peaks of mountains covered large territories in Pakistan and were not so uncommon. Some considered Pakistan beautiful. Sand covered Saudi Arabia almost everywhere and water was only deep underground. But some considered Saudi Arabia beautiful as well. A rare desert oasis was as shocking there as the lack of it. Green color and water were really out of place there unless you were a citizen of the coastal regions. There, on the coast, sand was less noticeable but was still in residence together with salt water and humidity. Well, at least Saudi Arabia was an adventure and, some would say, a mysterious one.

The apartment was small but comfortable and only eight of them occupied the two bedrooms, tiny living room and the closet size balcony. This odd dwelling was situated in a three-story mud-brick and plaster falling apart building that was full of Bedouin tent elegance and had the grace of a spitting camel. This structure had a rusty white color and nothing but dust and sand grew in front or the back. One toilet with a shower stall in the corner was not enough for eight but they managed it somehow. Back home none of them had a shower or running water, and toilets were constructed outside so that smells and the dirt would not affect your room, but it always did. That was one of the reasons why the powerfully smelling incense was often burnt in rooms of these houses throughout the Middle East. The smell of underdeveloped countries, -- poorly-educated people and rotting hopes -- was always strong and often overpowering. This apartment was a serious improvement in the living conditions of these not very spoiled workers. Many people in one small room... Well, that was not new at all. How else could the poor people live? One person in the whole apartment? Never. That was for the rich. That was for the people they worked for.

Every week they chipped in for food and the household expenses. One Saudi Riyal (SAR) a day per person was the limit they could afford to spend on themselves and the house they lived in. Money had to go home (wherever it was) to feed the families and to pay off the obligations created by taking this employment. One Riyal a day for food and other expenses and one Riyal a week had to be put aside for emergencies. A few Riyals a month were spent on luxuries such as cigarettes, a little coffee and maybe a piece of fruit. They needed at least that. A strong Turkish cigarette and a cup of a very potent tea or coffee could make a world of difference in their monotonous and godforsaken existence. After all, even so poor, they were still people full of thoughts, dreams and desires. They did not leave them behind in the holes of misery they tried to escape from. Maybe none of their dreams and desires would ever come through but, still, they dreamed and hoped.

If one buys tea, rice, beans and some veggies for eight people for a week, it would leave you with enough money to buy the flour for the bread that you could bake by yourself, fresh dates and some fish, chicken or meat, maybe once or twice a month. That was not too bad considering the situation and that was the deal they made with a friendly vendor on the town market. He, the vendor, happily agreed to supply everything they needed at a deeply discounted price, if they purchased at least the same amount of goods every week. That helped him to get a better deal on the wholesale market. This vendor was a Pakistani, as well, and a very good man as far as they could tell. He was a true friend and a devoted Muslim. Every week when Zahir and his roommates came to pick up supplies, Mahmud, the vendor, would greet them as brothers or very old friends, shaking hands and hugging everyone, and, later at home, they would always find some dried dates or other fruits added to one of the bags. That was a gift from one human been to the others and they all understood the value of it. Money? What value did money have when you had none of it? Honesty, friendship and trust had the biggest value of all for many poor people forced by fate to live far away from home and their loved ones. God was not there for them. Law was not there for them. At the end of the day, they could rely only on themselves.

Mahmud was from Pakistan but all Pakistani easily noticed that he looked somewhat different from most of them. His skin was lighter and the facial features were somewhat Mongolian. So questions were asked and questions were answered. It was not easy to understand but it was somewhat common in the multinational and borderless empire of Islam. Mahmud's great grandfather moved to Pakistan (India then) back in the late 1920's. He was a trader from Buchara, Uzbekistan, then a part of the young Soviet Republic. That was a period of time when the Uzbeks wanted to break loose from the new Soviet Republic but the Red Army had a strict order from Stalin not to allow that regardless how many human losses. And losses were mounting up daily if not hourly. Muslim fighters, nationalists and the tsarist loyalists (called the Basmach), grouped in small armies, went to Afghanistan harassing the Red Army and the local communists over the border. The civil population of Uzbekistan was squeezed between two powerful forces bleeding during the day from the Red Army and at night from the Basmach. Both sides had their own agendas and the peasants died in mass. Thousands of fighters on both sides perished but, nevertheless, the Red Army prevailed at the end. After all, the Red Army was bigger, better equipped and the locals were selling the holy fighters by bunches and just for a few silver coins of Soviet mint. Being brother Muslims did not mean much when it came to pay off time. Muslims were selling Muslims and brothers were selling brothers, and the Special Forces of the Soviets executed them all regardless to their beliefs, political views or associations. The powerful words of the Communist Party, a gigantic image of Stalin and the bayonets of the Soviet Army, kept Uzbekistan, as well as the rest of the former Russian Empire, together.

In the early 30's the bloody war of the shadow warriors was over and Uzbekistan undoubtedly became one of the Soviet Republics. There was no way out and no means to go back. Uzbek refugees from all sorts of lives streamed to Afghanistan and beyond, legally or not. Many of them believed that they would come back one day and live as they used to but almost none of them ever did. And those, who did, shortly vanished in the vast domains of the Siberian wilderness. So, the Uzbek refugees settled mostly in Afghanistan and Pakistan finding these regions and people more receptive to them than the Russian and the Ukrainian patriotic workers and the Siberian wilderness. Many Uzbeks lived there already from the ancient times of the Silk Road, Mongols and the beginning of Islam in that area. Some of them did well in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and became wealthy and important. Some could hardly make it from one payday to the other and were forgotten by almost everyone, but, still, they never went back. They tried hard to make a living anywhere where fate had landed them and that was better than the alternative of the Soviet regime.

Some, including Mahmud himself, believed that his family was a family of converted Buchara Jews but who could know that for certain? That was ages and probably centuries ago. Buchara and Samarkand were heavily populated by the Khazars (ancient Jews of Asia) for centuries after the Khazar kingdom ceased to exist and later when Mongols reshuffled a half of the world. When the Muslim rulers (Turks, Arabs and the Persians) descended on that region, many Khazars were forcefully converted to Islam. The majority, if not all, of the most famous Muslim doctors, scientists, writers, p why? These are the names the Muslim world is so proud of. Muslims do not have too many names of people that really contributed to the welfare of us all. History shows that Muslims in general did not create much but murdered many. Whatever they wanted, they just took -- raping, pillaging and slaughtering in the process. A few that tried to think, heal, study and explore, were of the Jewish and maybe Chinese ancestry. Is this why Muslims hate Jews so much? Is it because Jews spoiled the perfect record of Muslins? Is it because Jews, even wearing the skin of the Muslims, still tried to produce something humane while the whole nation of Islam was bleeding the world dry, slaying and enslaving people, sucking the living juices out of conquered cultures, nations and the societies? Well, as centuries later, like the Maranos -- the Jews under the Inquisition -- these Jews converted in mass in order to save their children and themselves. Often it worked. Life was more important than religion, customs and beliefs full of traditions that were kept in secret until better times. These times came and many "Maranos" from Asian and Europe dug out from the dark corners the ancient traditions and beliefs and joined the people they came from. That's what many did and that is how Jews survived in the Central Asia and Europe. As we can see, history repeated itself time after time and country after country.

So, now, so many years later, Mahmud represented his father's produce business in Saudi Arabia in a large stall in the market place in Buraydah, with the occasional wholesale deals here and there. Zahir and his companions were considered as one of the successful wholesale operations. Mahmud thought that if he treated these people with a personal attention, they might bring more and more similar deals. After all, they all worked together in the same field, serving and cleaning, and there were many more people like that working for the same Saudi servic- providing agencies. Saudis did not do much work by themselves, bringing people in from all over the world. Mahmud believed in the good fortune and he liked to help people in the process. Many of these servants, after working for the same family for a while, would gain the trust of doing food shopping for the employer. That's when the servant really started to get tips and from the both sides -- the buyer and the seller. Every shopping would bring him a couple of Saudi Riyals. So, Mahmud would get an extra customer, the servant would get a few more Riyals and the employer would get goods of good quality and almost for the best price. What else would one want in the holy paradise? Paradise was always the Paradise and it was meant to be good for all.

"Well, here is your pay, Zahir. One hundred and fifty American Dollars." The Saudi, called Said, across the table from Zahir smiled counting the well-worn money. "You did well. Our customers like you. Here, take the money. You earned with your hard work and good manners."

"One hundred and fifty American Dollars? But I was promised seven hundred and fifty plus the tips. That was the deal." Zahir was shocked.

"Were you? I don't know anything about that, my friend. Seven hundred and fifty American dollars? Are you an engineer by any chance? Are you from America? Yes, you get tips and you keep your tips. This is a free country, Zahir. This is the most righteous Islamic country in the world. We Muslims never force anyone to do anything they don't want to. Times of injustice are long gone. We are not Americans and we never lie. You know that for yourself. Do you ever lie? Of course, not. What a question? But, if you don't like the arrangement, it's your business, my good friend. You can go back home and do whatever you did before you have asked us to take you here and find you a job. All you have to do is to repay our expenses and go home. You owe us $1000.00. If you work for at least a year, you do not have to repay it but, if you want to leave now, you have to repay it. Sorry about that but that's the rule. Then we give you your passport and you can buy your ticket home. What do you want to do, Zahir? You have to decide now. I do not have much time. I have hundreds of people working for me now and many more want to come over. I am nor a rich man and time is very expensive."

Said did not look angry but somewhat frustrated. He had a business to run and the business was to please the customers and to make money on the other end. Said was making about a thousand dollars a month on Zahir and he was not about to let it go. People like Zahir were a gold mine for people like Said. Of cause, he, Said, had tremendous expenses. He had to share with everyone official. Ministries, offices, police, customs and the others took a huge chunk of his earnings and left him with about twenty percent of what he was able to skim but multiply it by hundreds and it becomes a healthy piece of change. Said made a few million dollars a year and was already planning to expand soon, God Willing.

Every Saudi had the right to exploit the situation in the country and to become rich. The situation called for it and people responded. "Smart" active Saudis made almost as much money selling cheap labor as others did on oil and the export/import of things other people wanted. Saudi traders did not hesitate to make money on anything legal and illegal including alcohol, drugs and the sexual slaves from Eastern Europe and Africa. All that was forbidden and punishable by death through decapitation but any Saudi official was always open to a bribe, so crimes committed by Saudis were overlooked in almost all cases. Whatever Saudis did they did not do any wrong. People like Zahir could always be blamed, if need be. That was the way of making a living in Saudi Arabia. If one takes all that away from the officials, why would they want to work at all? Bedouins never worked before, for thousands of years, and survived. Work was only a well-rewarding but somewhat demanding option and nothing more. Was not it?

One hundred and fifty American dollars a month plus some tips, thought Said, was enough for someone like Zahir. Said collected $150 per month from each customer Zahir served and Zahir served ten customers a month, twice a week. Also each customer gave $10 to $15 a months as tips. True, Zahir was a Muslim, but still a "nobody" to Said or any Saudi. There were billions of people like Zahir. These people were destined to be nobodies and work for somebody and to be taken advantage of for the rest of their lives. Some people would call it slavery but who are these label-attaching intellectuals? Jews, Americans, liberals of all sorts. What do they know? They are not as important as the Koran and the Koran does not call it slavery and, even if it does, it's not forbidden. Many households in Saudi Arabia have slaves now, today. Slavery and piracy -- the major Muslims trades of choice since the beginning of Islam.

Zahir wasn't answering. He was in shock. Said pretended to be occupied with his own business. "We did it then. We did it later," thought Said. "We sold the black slaves from Africa to Americans and the Europeans during the colonial times and we do it now. Blacks in America think that the white Christian slave traders kidnapped them from their villages in Africa. No, we Muslims did it. We purchased many from corrupted tribe leaders and we kidnapped even more and we killed even more than that. Then we took them to the coastal areas and sold them to the slave trader with ships. Many of them, if not the majority, were Muslims. They took them to America and sold them to the Christians. The black slaves are still the black slaves and nothing changed for them at all. Africans of all religion affiliation get purchased and kidnapped by Muslims in the business, as before, and taken to Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and the other places and then sold to mainly Muslim buyers in Africa, the Middle East and Asia." Said slowly smoked enjoying an expensive English cigarette. "We create the sex slaves, the work slaves and sometimes the gladiators in the form of the suicide bombers, as well. We sons of Islam do quite well between oil, slavery and terrorism. Maybe not too many respect us but many need us and all are afraid of us. What else do we need in addition to money we have already? More money."

"So, what is it going to be, Zahir?" Zahir nodded. He accepted it.

"I've been here for five years already," Zahir was slowly sipping his tea. So Mahmud. I never went home. I work very hard seven days a week but I never made enough of money to buy a ticket home. With this rate, in another two three years, my family would pay off the money we owed. That is money we borrowed from others and some more for the inconvenience of not paying it back as promised. It's only right. We borrowed it and we did not return it when promised. People depended on us." Mahmud and Zahir had some hot tea in the Mahmud's house on this comfortable cool evening of rare freedom. Mahmud and Zahir had become very close friends in the last five years. After all they were strangers in this stranger's country but they were strangers from the same country and that counted for much. "You see, I send home my hundred and fifty every month. Sometimes it's ten-fifteen dollars more if I can save it from the tips. My tips are better now that I have a new daughter. Everyone gives me an extra dollar or so. Also, as you know, I do shopping for three of my oldest customers." Zahir had some more tea and smoked a cigarette. Mahmud sipped some tea, as well, keeping quiet.

"You know about my daughter, Mahmud. Don't you? You never asked." Zahir had a question in his eyes, the question he may have no real answer to. Yes, there was a little girl there, in Pakistan, and he, Zahir, was here in Saudi Arabia.

"I did not want to bother you with details, friend. I saw the picture of your wife with a little girl on her laps but you had not been home for five years. I thought you tell me when you were ready. Family is the most important subject and one has to approach it with the outmost respect." Mahmud did not really want to hear the answer if it was embarrassing but yet there could be a perfectly good explanation for all of that. He was ready to help the friend, if needed, no matter what the circumstances were. Friendship was the next thing of importance after family.

"You know our traditions. When the head of the family leaves on business and it takes longer then anticipated, the brother or the father should take care of this family's affairs. I have no brother so my father, Bilal, watched over my wife. My wife needs a man as any other woman and that is a need someone has to take care of. So, because I was here and could not come back for a while, my father was responsible for fulfilling all obligations. This is his daughter but this is my daughter. That's what my people believe in and that's what I believe in. Do you understand me, friend?" He looked worried and very calm at the same time. There was only slight disturbance in the shallow waters of his existence.

Zahir had to work in Saudi Arabia for another five years before he could come home. By that time his wife, Shazia, had another girl and a boy and Zahir felt like he was the luckiest father in the world. He had a son but Shazia needed more and more money to support the growing family. Children were often sick. After all, Bilal was not young any longer and he was a drug addict. All that could and probably did affect children. Expenses were mounting up and that is why Zahir had to stay in Saudi Arabia for ten years before he could come home to his large family. A man had to do what a man had to do. That was true in Pakistan as well as in any other country in the world. That was the way of life and the code of honor.

Zahir was happy only as a truly happy man could be. They did not open the brothel but so what. There were so many brothels in the world already so one more or less made no difference whatsoever. The whole countries and nations often acted as one selling people, loyalties, beliefs and ideas to the first available buyer for an acceptable price. Zahir had a beautiful family that did not starve and he was very proud of that fact. A man, if he wanted, could earn enough without being dishonest and religion had very little to do with it. One was faithful only for as long as he was faithful in the heart. Does it matter how you pay or what you eat and when? What does it matter how you are dressed and what shape of eyes you have? How does the color of your skin or the name of your God affect your heart? Zahir knew the answers to these questions now and that became his true religion. While in Saudi Arabia, he improved his English considerably becoming almost bilingual, and he learned Arabic enough for a good conversation or a well-paying job. He had a future and the hard lesson of Saudi Arabia did not go astray. Zahir learned it well.

Boris Zubry is a mechanical engineer. He was born in the Soviet Union and now lives in the United State. Mr. Zubry is also author of "Chess Master," a political thriller; "Miles of Experience," a collection of short stories and "Arrogance of Truth," a collection of satiric short stories and poetry. Several of his short stories have appeared in Think-Israel. Contact him by email at or at his website,


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