Addiction [Archives:2002/50/Last Page]

December 9 2002

Written by Abdulrahman Mutahhar
Translated by Janet Watson
Ma – Mus’id, since you’re the one who got your sons hooked on gat, it’s up to you to feed their habit and get them their gat! It’s such a battle to give up a habit!
M – I no longer know who I’m battling with and who’s on my side!
Ma – If your pocket’s full, it’s on your side; and if your pocket’s empty you can’t even bank on your children taking your side!
M – What a philosopher you’ve become! By gum, there are no flies on you! And all this time I’d thought you were an innocent!
Ma – I know nothing about philosophy, but I tell you one thing! The only innocent around here is you! You get your sons hooked on gat, and now that they’re hooked you go and attack them because they still chew!
M – It’s not up to me to supply them with gat so they can chew. I’m only supposed to supply them with food!
Ma – Why didn’t you just leave it at that, then? What on earth made you get them addicted to gat?
M – It’s your fault. You’re the one who got them addicted, Mus’ida!
Ma – Stop trying to shift the blame onto me and run away from the fact of the matter. If you don’t, you lay down your gun and I’ll lay down mine and we’ll sort this out in a proper tribal manner.
M – What good would that do? I’ve already sold my gun to pay for your sons’ gat; and you haven’t got a gun,and wouldn’t even know how to fire one if you had!
Ma – So now what should we do? You’d better have a look around for things to sell or pawn. You’re sons are totally hooked. They don’t seem to have any purpose in life other than their relationship with gat. ‘They dropped me in the sea of passion and left me, though my robe measured no more than a yard.’1 And Mus’id, with no skill whatsoever, manages to get his sons addicted to gat when each of their robes were no more than half a yard long!
M – Mus’ida!
Ma – Now what?
M – I went over to see my uncle and complained about my sons to him. I told him that they weren’t studying properly and they wouldn’t stay at home. I’d started to worry about them wandering about the streets and in the souk. He told me that the only thing which would keep them at home and help them to study was gat. He said, ‘Give them a little gat to stop them wandering around the souk!’ I had absolutely no idea, Mus’ida, that they’d become so addicted they’d start looking around for things to sell and pawn!
Ma – Fine! Now you’d better sort this mess out yourself. I want nothing to do with it. I’m telling you, your sons are interested in nothing but gat even if it means them sleeping on the streets!
M – So what should I do? I’ve tried all possible ways to convince them of the harmful effects of gat, on the money side, the health side, the effect on the family’s income, and the pure waste of time.
Ma – What did they say when you told them all that?
M – Oh stop will you! You won’t understand!
Ma – Why won’t I understand?
M – They said, ‘We’ll give up chewing the moment you give up, Dad! It’s not right for you to continue chewing gat when we can’t!’
Ma – Did they really say that to you, or are you making it up?
M – Why on earth should I make it up? They also told me that the taste and effect of gat was fantastic, and that once you’ve got a taste for it you’ll go back for more!
Ma – Some of the fantastic effects of gat show when you look at the toes of your feet sticking out of your shoes. You can’t buy another pair because of the gat! Then there’s the safe door which is broken, and the windows in my room which are smashed, and the telephone which has been cut off. We only ever buy chicken when we know that someone’s coming for lunch so that they don’t go around saying we don’t eat anything as a result of gat!
M – Mus’ida!
Ma – What is it now?
M – Don’t shout and don’t go around clucking like a mother hen. At first I was the only gat addict. Then I allowed my sons to try it and now there are five of us. Whatever money we have we use for the bus and take it straight to the gat souk. Do you see, Mus’ida? All the valleys and fields and farmland has been set aside for gat. The amount of gat brought from the countryside to the towns increases at the same rate as the increase in the amount of land put to gat. The main economic and social activity takes place in the gat souk. You’ll find everyone at the gat souk – from grandfathers and fathers down to grandsons once they’ve reached the age of fifteen. And I’ll tell you this, Mus’ida, the gat problem won’t go away until God brings in a generation which is absolutely convinced of the harmful effects of gat, and then uproots the gat bushes which themselves uprooted the coffee trees and all kinds of fruit bushes.
1 i.e. when I am still a child.