Insane Rasheed to Yemen Times: “I hope the government will unlock our chains” [Archives:2001/21/Last Page]

May 21 2001

The number of insane people these days is on rise. You can see them everywhere. In the street, at the restaurants, at the traditional markets, and virtually everywhere else. You probably have noticed one in your own neighborhood, wandering aimlessly, perhaps seeking something he has lost, or seeking after the truth in a mystery that agonizes his soul, or even looking for ways to fill his stomach with whatever is left in garbage cans or thrown by passers by. Or he could also be looking for the reason why he is insane. Many thoughts come to mind when trying to understand what on earth could have caused them to be insane. I personally did hear of people who became insane after being tortured in jails for years, others because of financial or social disasters. Others actually may not be insane, even though to us, they seem to be insane. 
As I was coming out from a conference on the Freedom of Press at the Yemeni Journalist Syndicate, I met with Rasheed Taher Al-Tairi, who claims to be a plane pilot, who miraculously saved the plane from a sure crash. I had a small chat with Rasheed, who was chained at one of the corners of the street. Here are the excerpts.

Q: Why are you in chains my friend? 
A: They say that they have chained me because I have gone beyond all limits of sanity. They don’t want me to fly away from this country as they love me and want me to stay.

Q: You must hate those chains? How can you live with them? 
A: Indeed, I do hate chains because they limit my freedom and prevent me from moving around to look for bread.

Q: Have you heard of the new government? Perhaps it will provide you with the bread that you need without moving at all? 
A: What government? Ba Jammal’s government? Aaah, the name ” Ba Jammal” comes from the world “Jimal” (camels). I do believe that he is as patient as camels in such tough conditions. However, I do hope that he improves the standards of insane people, unlocks all our chains and lets us free.

Q: Do you have the ambition of becoming a true airplane pilot? 
A: Are you stupid or what? Can’t you see? I am already a pilot, and have been so for a long time and will continue to be a pilot.

Q: Why are you increasing in number these days? 
A: Because we have lost our unity and disagreed with each other, so each of us is left to his own way. If we unite once again, and go back to the old days, then we will indeed be more powerful and live a better life.

Q: What about the situation of normal people. It is not that I want to say that you are not normal, but I mean free people?
A: Well, I frankly say that most are doing fine, and the lucky ones become insane like me. 

Q: Do you admire insane people like yourself? 
A: I became insane 10 years ago because I completed the secondary class and was among the top ten in the Republic, except for the Arabic language in which I got 82% because the teacher took several marks from me and gave them to another. Otherwise I would have been the first in the republic. Only then I lost my mind and became insane. 

Q: By the way, tell me about your life in the insane world, what is it like? 
A: Welcome in, why don’t you join us. I believe you make a good candidate so that you could live with us. Our life is simple, we walk around, have lunch and sometimes sleep hungry, have some qat for the evening break. We are so comfortable. But it is when we don’t have blankets for the winter, it does get tough. 

Q: Are you sure you are insane? You seem more intelligent than many that I know. Do you suffer from a psychological problem. 
A: Naah, I am truly doing fine and in excellent health. I fly this aircraft I am in with ease and comfort. Can’t you see? However, my family didn’t believe that I was quite a good pilot, and my friends used to laugh at me, and insisted that I must be treated for the jinns to leave my body for good. So conjurers used to beat me up with the illusion that they are hitting a normal man, not a reputable pilot! I curse them every day and night when I remember what they did to me. If there is any reason for anyone to believe that I am insane, then my family is to blame. 

Q: Where do you spend your time, with whom, and how? 
A: I wander in the streets and look for cigarettes and qat. Food is not a big deal, I find it everywhere. Don’t worry I would not starve. In the past when I was not chained, finding food was even easier as I used to jump on marketers and cart sellers and get my food by force. But now I could only depend on the little that people give willingly as I am currently chained. 

Q: Haven’t you thought of living in one of the governmental insane sanatorium instead of living in the street? 
A: You must be the insane person to ask me this question. This sanatorium that you are talking about is only for insane people. As for me, you will find me celebrate the unification day by flying my plane on all of you people. 
At the end of the interesting chat we had, I waved to him goodbye thinking to myself: We are indeed in a tough time when insane people could be luckier than others, especially the ones who have the burdens of caring for large families stuck with all sorts of responsibilities. At least Rasheed can fly in his imagination with his fancy plane. Others truly miss this opportunity. Don’t you think so? 
Hassan Al-Zaidi