Wama lakum la tuqatiloona fee sabeeli Allahi waalmustadAAafeena mina alrrijali waalnnisa–i waalwildani allatheena yaqooloona rabbana akhrijna min hathihi alqaryati alththalimi ahluha waijAAal lana min ladunka waliyyan waijAAal lanamin ladunka naseeran
And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allâh, and for those weak, ill treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help.
Son of Neneh Futa (Isatou Binani) and Modi Adoulaye Tella, My Husband, The Father of my children! Sending you warm and most affectionate greetings from the Cold Country, Sweden! Sending you Love and Special Du’ahs for your continued well being both somatic and psychologically. May ALLAH SWT accept the prayers from all of us and keep showering you his Protection and Rahma! ALLAHuma Aaameeen!
I want to let you know that I have written to both the NIA Director Yankuba Badjie and the
Justice Minister Fatoumatta Singhateh, requesting your release. This followed the appeal
made by Amnesty International to their more than 7 million members “who take injustice
personally”, to write to the authorities in Banjul asking them to either charge or release you
so you can be united with your family and loved ones. That mail was sent on Thursday Dec. 1st, at 12:41 p.m. So far no reply is forthcoming from their end.
I want you to know that we are not relenting, all of us who love and care for you. I want you know that many people have engaged in your case and as your family, we are amazingly overwhelmed by the generosity of fellow Gambians, Senegalese, West Africans, Africans in general and the World at large. Both acquaintances and total strangers who offer their prayers for you, show their generosity, who wish us well and let us know they share our pain and we should not feel alone.
The children have had much support, comfort and love showered on them, helping them understand your ordeal and managing their fear and anger. Words of wisdom from those close to us have helped immensely in suppressing the urge to resort to violence and taking things into their own hands. At the end of the day, our children’s Love and Admiration for you is so strong and solid, it defeats all vengeance and hate they feel for your abductors. My advise to them: Pray for Pops and summon those responsible for his ordeal to ALLAH Subhanahu Wa Ta’aala! HE Tabaaraka Wa Ta’aala Shall deal with each and everyone of them accordingly! That more than anything should be very reassuring! They listen!
There is a very Wonderfully Kind World out here even in the midst of so much pain, horror, betrayals, treachery and evil deeds!
My Comrade, My Love! I was going to write you a letter every week but recent historically unprecedented developments in The Gambia have positively overwhelmed us as a Nation and a People. Thus Country comes first even as we battle our personal and individual causes. I know you will understand.
Today, My Friend, I want to share a movie with you.
When my generation was growing up, one of our hobby lists would read: Reading, Music and Movies. Wrestling was also very popular then as now. Who would forget the new yam festival and Okonkwo’s triumph over the Cat in “Things Fall Apart” not to mention real life events at Arena BaaBun Fatty and contests in towns like Lamin and other smaller villages in the Gambia?!
A good number of us loved going to the cinema. We would save our school lunch monies to catch a weekend movie or go watch a Bollywood matinee. We had our favourite actors and actresses but Indian films and movie stars were of immense interest making us buy Stardust newspaper and tuning in to Radio Syd on Friday evenings to listen to some of our favourite Indian songs. Even though one would argue that there was some cultural brain-washing, we grew up to learn and appreciate that Indian culture was basically not very alien from ours: Respect for elders, adoring our parents, embrace good, shun evil, oppression is sin, fight for justice, stand up for the weak and voiceless, the sanctity of marriage, cigarettes are bad, booze is haraam, kissing is forbidden before marriage, love is pure and worth fighting for and above all ALLAH (Baghavan) Is Omnipotent and should be worshipped!
On August 15th 1975 Bollywood Director, Ramesh Sippy and his Father, Producer G.P.Sippy with screen-writer pair Salim-Javed released one of the most defining movies ever to come from India. The film is Sholay, meaning Embers in Hindi; starring Dharmendra Deol(Veeru), Amitabh Bachchan(Jai), Sanjeev Kumar(Thakur Baldev Singh), Hema Malini (Basanti), Jaya Bhaduri(Radha-the widow), Jagdeep (Soorma Bhopali), Asrani (Jailor), MacMohan (Sambha) and Amjad Khan (as Gabbar Singh) among many others.
I went to see Sholay, in 1979 four years later for the first time at Banjul Cinema. It was during those times when you have to pay someone very strong to elbow his way pushing and being pushed back to get you a ticket as a 16 year-old with your girl-friends when movies like Sholay were shown. On that list of epic films you have Deewaar, Khabhi Khabhi , Trishul, Naseeb, Muqadarr Ka Sikander, Charas, Suhagg, Dharam Veer, Fakira, Nagin, Mother India, Qurbani…the list goes on. These were films that ran with full movie houses despite a thousand re-runs. That was how addicted some of my generation were to Bollywood films and trust me, we were not alone! These were films that displayed for us Life’s many dimensions: Love, Sacrifice, Great Friendships, Right, Wrong, Pain, Sorrow, Trust, Patience, Adversity, Perseverance, Betrayal, Good, Evil, Patriotism, Religion, Humour, Knowledge,
Heartbreak, Tragedy, Joy, Happiness, Failure, Success, Loss, Melancholy, Youth, Old Age, Life, Death, Power, Powerlessness, Bravery, Heroism, Victory…. In the process many of of us not only improved our English language skills by reading the subtitles (which were flawless) but some of us went a step further learning some hindi/urdu words: Mohabbat & Pyar (love), Dosti (friendship), Zindagi(life), Dil(heart), Dushman (enemy), Maut (death), Dupatta(shawl/scarf), Veeru (heroism) and Jai (victory).
Sholay: The very name in itself is enthralling!
The story line goes: In order to avenge the cold blooded massacre of his family by the notoriously ruthless dacoit, Gabbar Singh, ex-police inspector Thakur Baldev Singh recruits two convicts Jai and Veeru to capture Gabbar Singh and hand him over alive. Both jailbirds were small time crooks but with an admirable sense of honour. A part of their mission was to guard the Thakur’s village of Ramgarh. When Gabbar Singh got wind of the plan he begins murdering the villagers one by one, forcing Thakur and his two recruits to either quit their mission or continue putting the villagers in harm’s way on a daily basis. One very violent confrontation with Gabbar results in more deaths of innocent villagers and the dramatic revelation that Thakur Baldev Singh is armless; himself a victim of Gabbar Singh in an earlier encounter! Thus, Thakur’s security team realizes that they are facing a ruthless foe sans conscience, empathy, sympathy or even a streak of humanity in Gabbar Singh.
The final show-down happens when Gabbar takes Veeru and Basanti hostage. Basanti defiantly dances on broken glass and thwarts off the lewd advances of Gabbar Singh and his men to save the love of her life. Jai comes to their rescue and all three were able to flee but with dacoits on their heels chasing them. In exchanging fire with the bandits the two friends ran out of ammunition. Veeru unaware that his best friend was severely wounded in the gunfight, is forced to leave for more ammunition after losing to Jai a coin toss (double-headed), their only way of resolution through the years (Talk about true friendship!).
Left with one single bullet, Jai decided to sacrifice himself by igniting dynamite sticks on a bridge from close range to prevent Gabbar’s men’s advance. When Veeru returns, his best friend Jai dies in his arms. In a rage, boiling with vengeance Veeru attacks Gabbar’s den and ended up nearly beating the latter to death when Thakur Baldev Singh arrives in the nick of time and reminds Veeru of the promise to hand over Gabbar alive. With pike soled shoes the Thakur severely injures Gabbar destroying his hands. The police arrives and arrests Gabbarjust before the last blow from Thakur that would have sent him (Gabbar) to a place where the sun does not shine!
One film critic described Sholay as “essentially a film about failure and loss. The failure of law and order leads to the attendant human losses: the loss of heirs, the loss of arms, the loss of comrades and the loss of dreams”. Others are harder in their critique. For me Sholay depicts The Greatest of Friendships, True Love’s Trials and the Victory of Good over Evil in our human existence. That many a time our enemies in desperate and cowardly attempts use our Loved Ones to hurt us when they cannot reach us. They, our Loved Ones become ourAchilles’ heels, making us vulnerable!
But here is what also happened: Whilst the majority of us celebrated the True Love, Sacrifice, Honour, Friendship, Bravery, Heroism in Sholay and the lead characters depicting those attributes, sadly and most unfortunately, there were some in my generation who embraced and idolized Gabbar and his gang of thugs. Gabbar Singh was pure evil, sinister and the most iconic villain in the history of Indian cinema. The British Film Institute wrote that fear of Gabbar Singh “is still invoked by mothers to put their children to sleep”. When I looked up the phrase it reads: So Ja Beta; Varna Gabbar Aajayega meaning “go to sleep son, otherwise Gabbar is coming!” In 2011, Amitabh Bachchan told a contestant in a TV show he was hosting (Who wants to be a millionaire) that when Amjad Khan once visited their home as they were close friends, Amitabh’s son Abhishek ran to him and said ” Papa, Gabbar Singh aaya hai” meaning, Dad, Gabbar Singh is here! Amitabh had to convince his son that Gabbar was just a character played by Amjad Khan.
It would have been one story if that adulation for Gabbar Singh and the glorification of evil stopped and was arrested in those teenage years and Gabbar Singh was perceived and apprehended as a bad character in a movie. But Gabbar Singh became personified in The Gambian Reality Tragedy. A Bandit Dacoit with his gang of mercenary outlaws holding a whole Nation Hostage with sadistic cruelty! Abducting, murdering, disappearing, raping, insulting, molesting, denigrating with ruthless violence and no show of remorse nor regret. The leader who dreamt/fantasized being Gabbar Singh in real life and ended pulling it off by literally morphing into a psychotic infamous paagal kutta! But like the fate of Gabbar, theirs will be for the scribes. All Thanks and Praises to ALLAH, SWT’s Rahma, combined with the brave efforts of the valiant sons and daughters of Gambia both at home and abroad, our Gambian Gabbar Singh Epic Tragedy will soon come to pass.
My Husband, My Comrade! As the whole world stands with our Beloved Country praying for Freedom, Peace and Stability, I add my voice to the many who long to see a rebirth of a Country salvaged by Her Citizenry and placed in the echelons of Progressive History. When the rejoicing starts and the songs of Victory are sung, I pray to be holding hands with you in the embrace of our family and loved ones! I Love You!