Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: perspective

Tea with the landlord

Kunri, Sindh.  2006

Our landlord lives in the flat below us. He invites me over for tea in the evening, after the nap. His place is nicer than ours. I like ours better, though. We have the roof. It’s one of the biggest buildings in Kunri—three storeys. And the high walls on the roof make it look taller, though they do spoil our view.

I sit with my landlord on the charpai. His English is good, and I’m grateful. I’ve only been in Pakistan a year and Urdu still makes me nervous. We talk about all sorts of things. He asks me about my family. He asks me about Canada. Strange, I don’t seem to ask him much.

He brings up religion. They always do here. I’m eager on this subject. I take control. I make my argument. Tight and powerful. I show the weak spot in his (what shall I call it?) cosmology. Proved. Done. QED.

But he doesn’t get it. He has no answer, but he is unconvinced. Seeing that the stakes are raised, he throws his own attack at me. It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. Nothing I haven’t thought of before. It doesn’t faze me. I have no answer to give him, though. And the look on his face tells me he thinks he’s won something.

The conversation moves on, I suppose. I hardly notice. If only I’d had more time, I could have told him something clearer. Something that would have helped him see what I see. It’s just so obvious from my side, and I can’t understand why he can’t see it. He’s not an idiot, after all. I wonder, as we shake hands and I turn to go home, if he is thinking something similar about me.

I don’t sleep much that night. It’s hot. My bed is on the roof, nuzzled by winds that have been gentled by the high walls. I stare at the stars and ask my silent God to sow a seed in my landlord’s heart. To crack the hard shell of his delusion.

At least as much as he’s cracked mine.

Teaching in Kunri

Allah Wala Chowk

My classroom is small.  A second-storey room with an open window looking out to the fields in the nearby Christian district of Josephabad.  I have eight students in my split grade seven / eight class.  I look at them weakly this morning, because I’m in the middle of a malaria resurgence.  Today we’re trying to talk about history.  The history from their textbook is not the history I learned in school.  We aren’t learning about the First Nations people or the French Revolution.  Our histories are full of strange names like Jinnah, Nauru and Emperor Ackbar of the glorious Mughal Empire.  I ask if they know anything about European history.  One student tells me how much he loves Hitler.  It is hard to fight him and the malaria at the same time

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