Let me share you an inside joke, which I know Hanee would not mind me sharing, so that next time when you see us giggling every time any of us is tempted to say this line ‘We have all the time in the world (to do this)’, you won’t be left out.
It was a simple event, not much momentous by any measure, but silently I was given a lesson: Be careful of what you say and wish for, lest it come true.
It was my last summer in the UK, and if there is a competition between all summers I have gone through, I am sure that this particular year would have grabbed the ‘Most Boring Summer’ of all. I had little money left, and even if I did have more, I had no desire for another country to be experienced, another culture to be fascinated at, another language to be learned, or another airport to be waiting at.
Then I opted for a course to be attended.
It was a rebellious act actually. I have always loved studying tafseer, or exegesis, of the Holy Quran in particular, but at the same weekend the organisation I was a part of had this course for those graduates who were soon to fly back to the homeland. It was meant to equip the graduates and reaffirm to their minds that well, when you get back home, this is what you should do. I was, at that moment if you’d forgive me, tired of what I called non-sense – others might need it, but I thought I was resourceful enough to find my way back home without anyone dictating again and again on what I should do.
So I signed up for the Tafseer course. It was Sabeel Institute if I was not mistaken, and as usual, I needed no company for such things.
But Hanee and Sumayyah later changed their minds – they were joining me, and I was happily invited to spend the nights at Hanee’s aunt’s luxurious holiday apartment in Kensington. It was a two-day course at University of East London – which meant that we were to hop in and off a few stations and interchanges, which we did not mind at all.
Except for the fact that that summer, that particular day when we were to travel in tubes, was dubbed as the hottest day of the year. The temperature was soaring up to 32 degree celsius, and in London tubes, things were even worse.
We laughed at the peculiarity nevertheless. Announcements were made by officials advising for people traveling underground to stop at any stations if they need help, bring bottled water with them – I was made understood that it was part of the government’s heat wave plan. They were weird posters replacing commercial ads reminding the public to drink as much as possible.
But the ‘Circle of Hell’, the Underground was alright with us. And so was the course, except for the fact that I donned a bright green shirt while other women were safely clad in black abayas – and I was in dispute, despite silently, with the traditional sheikh who led the course.
But it was alright. It was alright.
Until we were to get back to Manchester. Money-saving traveler we were, we bought this GBP 4 Megabus ticket home. And Megabus, though never a posh coach, seldom gives us problem – punctuality or otherwise. So long as it gets me to my destination, I can forsake some comfy I’d say to myself.
But our four o’clock coach was far from comfortable. I boarded the coach, sitting next to a black lady – and that was when we realised we were indeed in our ‘coach of hell’, having escaped the ‘Circle of Hell’ of London Underground. The heat was alarmingly unbearable outside, and inside the coach it was horrifying.
The air-conditioning system was not working.
Oh yes, it was almost 40 degree celsius inside, and while the bus driver was waiting for clearance, I knew Hanee and Sumayyah were thinking of the same thing – go and buy tickets for other coach. There was no way for us to bear the five-hour trip with no air-cond nor proper ventilation.
So we agreed when finally we had the gut to suggest it, and it was me, it was me who said the magic lines ‘Never mind, I have all the time in the world’ when Hanee found out that we needed to wait for another two hours for the next coach. The truth was, it was true. It was true that I had all the time in the world that I would not mind waiting because I really had nothing to lose – we were idling, waiting for the graduation day to come before flying off home.
And you see, there was a lesson in that.
Our coach was perfectly fine until we were just outside London.
And sitting behind the driver, I could hear the conversation between him and the engineer who was in the city, advising him, or maybe commanding him to stop and wait for the rescue team to come. And because I had been eavesdropping, I knew that it was not any major damage – and the driver was really tempted to continue the journey.
But he stopped on the roadside, and we were there, stranded, almost two hours.
And two hours were really nothing when you have all the time in the world, of course, but waiting is really painful. At least it was for me at that time.
And that delay caused us to arrive almost four hours late in Manchester.
I told you, it was not a momentous event that I would have ended this story with a surprising punch line. I don’t have any. But this definitely impressed a major lesson on us, if not me alone, that every time we are tempted to say ‘Never mind, we have all the time in the world’ we would stop in the middle of the line, giggle, and warn the other ‘ Be careful of what you wish for!’
For really, God is listening.