Breakfast Grease

by Maniza Naqvi

There are of course the details. Details before the day's important work begins, the creating of facts on the ground and endless meetings. Details which the mind notes, discards but even so, they persist to pinch later on. The large flouncy bunches of bright red flowers, like the skirts of flamenco dancers, crinkly petals furled at the edges, glistening in the bright sunlight, a variety of poinsettias, specific to here, swaying outside the window. The cool breeze gently lifting the edges of the table linen and the newspaper. Then, closer in, the jar of marmite near at hand attached to the wrist dressed in white cuffs clinched by links—blue stone set in gold—still further up it– pink striped sleeves. At this early hour of the morning inch by inch one increases the territory of one's observance with each sip of caffeine as it hits the bloodstream. Yes, excellent brew! This. Very good indeed: from the tea estates further south. The TV is on —-algorithming images— girls, girls, girls—shot, raped kidnapped, women, young women, students, slaves— and always, always, crazies carrying guns–shouting jihad. Then, coverage of Twelve Years A Slave–lovely star wearing a forest green outfit with feathers attached to it at the Met Gala—- Then more stuff about Malala and then there is the White House initiative for preventing rape on campuses. And then there's Mrs. Clinton…talking about Girls Empowerment. Such a perfect alignment of sentiments and stars.

One's gaze, in this crowded breakfast room—this very full and hopping breakfast room in a hotel in a sleepy town, a long, long way away, kind of town, here, so far away, at the heart of it, yes, one's gaze travels in search of something, the eyes need a place to rest. There are the two AFCOM military men-bleary eyed—small wonder—seen last night leaving the lobby with two young ladies of the night— and just behind them, this morning, breakfasting, over there at one o'clock, are the two from a trading community with their gleaming dyed black unruly beards and wearing robes underneath which they wear loose pants pulled up above their ankles, as if they anticipate a flood or some sort of a dirty puddle—and there's the priest and an accompanying nun—To the side sit the brothers Karamazov or some such name—profiting from the proffering of private jet planes, small and not so small arms and grains. There's the Development set—the NGO workers in their “Njoeeyness” all so organic food, and fit and toned bodies, wearing their tone revealing clothing—as if they are all about to break out into pilates and sun asanas any moment. Yeegads. Yes all here—all present and good. But wait where are the Chinese? No doubt steadily putting down roads and conference halls, shopping malls and hotel complexes since the break of dawn. Steel and chrome. Staying somewhere else. In their own hotels?

And then from the table one over, a giant of a fellow, waves a hello—half salute, half fuck you. We all seem to have an inkling of who we all are in this cozy crowded room. He's the rich American billionaire, from some small town in the Midwest named for a vanquished tribe–made his money in commodities—invented some special model for investing which worked wonders for him—he is a close personal friend of the new President whom he refers to by her initials, she is a good friend of the women on Capitol Hill—”She's their iconic hero for the Third World. The women's and Minorities' vote is what will get you the elections—or get you anything”. That was his proclamation last night. He is self-proclaimed as having done good works in Afghanistan and now plans to do the same here—a friend of the General of the hour in this hemisphere. No less. All this, even before the handshake that nearly dislodged one's shoulder, yesterday poolside. Large man, ruddy complexion–white head of hair and a clipped moustache. Dead ringer for a lesser Hemingway.

At breakfast, must this be endured? Well yes— endure one must and soldier on: one's eyes resolutely remain downward—blocking out those in the cast of this theater—for now fixed on the copy of the English daily which provides a back story for the buzz in the breakfast room this morning. Just beneath the masthead there is the headline: after the assassination of the last one two weeks ago-the new President's oath taking ceremony will be held today– And in the right hand column–an unknown, separatist group, till now that is, somewhere in the bush doing nasty things—the usual nasty things—that nasty people do. The Government is helpless. It is being offered the usual support from good people—the kind of support that large and good military powers have to offer. And there is news that NGOs with names like “Women Entrepreneurs” and “Girl Powered”, locally and internationally are incensed at the inaction. Good people are aligning. And to the left, there is another column which reads that the announcement made four week ago has now been confirmed: oil has been found.

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More writings Maniza Naqvi here.