I am graduate from the INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC AND BUSINESS ADMINISTRATON from the year 1960. I might be the second oldest Alumni of the IBA, aged 84. Currently, I am a full-time Professor at the Cheyney University, USA, teaching there for 38 years.
Chacha's visit was always a joyous occasion. He would take us to exciting places, shower us with sought after toys, bring for us what we loved to eat most, and at times expose us to amazing corners of knowledge. I still remember the day he did mention, with great enthusiasm, about the time when Muslims excelled in many areas including science. We all inquired whether anything of that is still visible. Chacha was a little bit surprised at our cynicism. Nevertheless, with his characteristic sweetness, he assured us that a slice of that legacy is still alive. That may be, but we don't see them, we all said in one voice. Of course, you will. Just scan the language. You will come across plenty of words in English that were, in fact, introduced by the Muslims. They are the carriers of a part of their contributions to civilization, commented Chacha.
Lest our understanding remained somewhat foggy, Chacha took the time to clear up. Muslim words were in use in countries governed by the Muslims long before they appeared in Europe. The journey to English had not always been smooth and straight. The words wandered through other European languages like French, Spanish, and then found their way into English. Muslim words were not all from Arabic, he cautioned us. Some came from Persian and some from Turkish, he mentioned to our great surprise. We could see his deep sense of pride in Islamic heritage radiate. Nonetheless, he did not forget to bring to our attention that some Muslim words had their parentage in languages alien to the Arabs like Greek. It could not be otherwise. After all, Muslims absorbed whatever knowledge was available at that time. They scoured from Greece, India, and as far as from China to start with, and then enriched with contributions of their own. As they did learn, some of the words not known to them before became a part of their tongue.
These were exciting revelations to us. Naturally, we were curious to know some of the Muslim words. Well Chacha did not rattle off an instant list, but expose us to selected ones in a novel way. His style was unique. All I can do is to serve a flavor of that. Watch out for words that are in capital letters. Those are the Muslim words.
Chacha inquired what we would like to eat most. We all said in a chorus: CANDY. How come? "Tastes sweet" was our spontaneous response. But what gives sweetness, he feigned ignorance. We all exclaimed SUGAR! He brought for us so much candy that even after a belly-full, a big pile was left on the table. He wondered what to do with them. We assured him not to worry. They will be saved in a decorative JAR.
Chacha was always inquisitive about our studies. I announced proudly that I have moved to a higher grade since his last visit. Gone are the days when it was a struggle to calculate just a simple AVERAGE. Now I can solve complicated equations in ALGEBRA, play with SINE in trigonometry, experiment with ALKALI in CHEMISTRY laboratory, sense the danger in water contaminated with ARSENIC, and figure out what ALCOHOL and SODA can do to our health. I lost no time to mention that I can come out with weather predictions even better than in the Farmer's ALMANAC, and can easily convert Muslim reckoning of dates in Hijri to dates in English CALENDAR. My youngest sister could not wait any longer. She said with glee that she knows how many ZEROs to add to move a million to a zillion. Chacha was impressed and gave a big hug to all of us.
Now it was Chacha's turn to make us feel great. Well, he was always eager at that. He packed all of us in Mom's VAN. I turned the car radio on. You know what? "Hey Mr. TAMBOURINE" was being played. We could hardly miss the exhilarating sounds of DRUM, FLUTE, and GUITAR in the background. Chacha zipped through the TRAFFIC. He did not hit a single red light. Either it was a green light, or an AMBER. At one place, we encountered a pothole as wide as a feet. He could not believe that such a HAZARD can lurk in the road.
To our pleasant surprise, he stopped by the zoo. We had great fun, notwithstanding some innocent quizzes. Did you notice some tall animals? Of course, we did. But which one is the tallest? Before I could utter a word, my youngest sister jumped over Chacha for a hug and exclaimed: GIRAFFE. Which one is the most ferocious? Again my little sister screamed, as if in great fear, TIGER. Well folks, imagine for a moment that you can ride on an animal. Which one would be your choice as the fastest? That has to be a member of the LEOPARD family, I said with conviction. Then I narrowed down to a cheetah. That was an excellent hit, commented Chacha. Well can you think of an exciting bird that we did not see today? Last night's stories from Arabian Nights, as told by Chacha, instantly flashed into my mind. That has to be an ALABATROSS. As usual, Chacha capped the conversations with a great treat; cotton-candy from a KIOSK.
The Museum was nearby. We could not resist a visit. We peered through a glass enclosed MUMMY. It was fascinating indeed. My younger brother spotted a canvass on which a GHOUL was creeping out of a grave. That was too much of a horror for him to stomach.
On our way back, we stopped at a renowned Department Store. Days getting hotter, Chacha advised us to go for all-COTTON materials. My younger brother loved to play with tanks and planes. So he had a bonus; a KHAKI outfit. Then we all joined in choosing a dazzling ten CARAT diamond necklace for our about- to- get- married sister, and also a knitted SATIN dress of AZURE color. Know what; in an obscure corner some left-over SHAWL were almost hidden. Which color to choose? We all felt and Chacha too that Mom will look graceful in CRIMSON. How about something for dear Dad? That did not slip Chacha's mind. He was painfully aware of Dad's recent back pain. He ordered for him the best orthopedic MATTRESS the store had. He then rummaged through the shelves for an excellent BALSAM shampoo and TALCum powder. We all insisted that there has to be something for our dear Chachi, his beloved wife. My youngest sister picked up from a decorated RACK a beautiful ALPACA sweater of SCARLET color.
We arrived home with a voracious appetite. Mom was always very particular about what Chacha would savor. She took pains not to leave out any. There was his favorite SPINACH dish made more tastier with egg-plant and shrimp; steamed ASPARAGUS as well. Not missing was tilapia grilled with LEMON juice. A heap of irresistible TUNA fish KABAB making friends with SAFFRON flavored biriyani.. She did not forget his favorite pickle laced with TAMARIND. My eldest sister chipped in too. This time she cooked fish right. No more generous doses of CUMIN powder. Our sweet little youngest sister scoured everywhere and surprised Chacha with luscious mangos, stone-free PEACHES, honey TANGERINEs, and some APRICOTS as well. He enjoyed the caring more than the taste.
We all moved to the living room. We huddled on the SOFA draped with VELVET. There was just a breathing space for Chacha. Soon he got fixated on an old issue of the National Geographic MAGAZINE. It did not take much time for Chacha to slumber over the sturdy DIVAN. One of his feet was on the OTTOMAN.
We pestered Chacha to play the indoor game of ludu, but to no avail. Well seeing our sour faces he did bend but only to play a game where skills alone guarantee success. What that could be? We scratched our head for a while. Then it dawned that the same has to be nothing else but good old CHESS. He cautioned us not to let ROOK wander too far from the king, lest the poor king get hamstrung in a CHECK.
We coaxed Chacha to share with us a few glimpses of his colorful life. There was a time when he was with the Navy. He confided to us that messages even meant for them were GARBLED so that the enemy could not fathom out. He narrated how his team did succeed in bombarding the enemy ARSENAL from the shore. That was an enormous act in precision and bravery. It did not go unnoticed. The ADMIRAL decorated each member of the team, including Chacha in a ceremony.
A leisurely stroll in the garden was Chacha's favorite. He would pepper us with questions whenever there was a moment's break. What heralds the arrival of spring in gorgeous color? We proudly showed him our scattered TULIP beds. What about pleasing fragrance? We walked through SHRUBbery to pull him towards LILAC.
It was full-moon in the evening. We were gazing at the stars. Chacha helped us to locate the ZENITH.
The dreadful day finally did knock. Chacha had to leave. Breakfast time was all that was left. This time we the kids took over. We served him fresh ORANGE juice squeezed with all the affection we had. There was pancake moistened with maple SYRUP and our tears as well. We served him a cup of COFFEE heated with the warmth of our heart. He pretended to relish but hardly could hide his ingrained sadness at parting from us.
That was Chacha's last visit. Soon he left this world. But his sweet memories have not left us. May his soul rest in PARADISE!
Cheyney University, USA.