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In one fell swoop

‘I left home as soon as I read your message.’ I said to my cousin Halima, the moment she opened the door for me. ‘So…

‘I left home as soon as I read your message.’ I said to my cousin Halima, the moment she opened the door for me. ‘So what’s happening? Why are you leaving town and why so suddenly?’ I asked.

‘Because there’s no sense in staying Anti Bint.’ She replied, walking down the hallway beside me. ‘Why don’t we go into my room and sit first? I will explain everything to you while I round up my packing.’ Halima added.

‘But do you have the time? Your text message said you were about to leave in an hour but you’ll drop by and bid me farewell. It scared the living daylights out of me. Why are you rushing to leave?’ I demanded.

‘Well, like I said earlier it’s because there is no sense in staying here. Abu has lost his job and we can’t afford to live in this city anymore.’ She answered.

‘Abu has lost his job? Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un. When did this happen?’ I asked in shock.

‘Just yesterday. He went to work in the morning, with no premonition of what was to come. By noon their head of department called them to his office and gave them a long speech about how Covid 19 had dealt with the fortunes of the company and why downsizing was necessary. After the meeting, Abu returned to his office, not knowing what the information meant to him personally. Apparently, he didn’t have long to wait. Two hours later he was given a letter signed by the CEO, telling him that his appointment was terminated. Abu told me that he was in so much shock that for minutes after reading the letter all he could do was hold his head in his hands and wish it was a bad dream. About 15 of them received such letters yesterday.

You see, nothing ever prepared him for that because he had such an unblemished record. He was hardworking and loyal and was quite looking forward to his 20 years long-service-award. But instead he got the sack.’ She ended, unhappily.

‘This is really sad and unfortunate. Why such a drastic step? I know the pandemic had wreaked great havoc on the economy but surely there are more humane ways to deal with employees in such a situation. I mean they can be offered half pay for instance. But an immediate sack? Any way, at least they will collect their terminal benefits and venture into something new.’ I said with a bit of optimism.

‘But that won’t be the case here Anti Bint. No one is getting any terminal benefits. Like Abu said, when telling me the bad news, they lost everything in one fell swoop. In his case almost 20 years of dedicated service with no benefits at all.’ She explained.

‘If he’s leaving with nothing, then why are you people rushing to leave town? Why won’t he stay and try to find something else to do?’ I enquired.

‘But that’s precisely the reason we are leaving town. There are no jobs anywhere else. Almost every company worth the name is laying off workers. In our own case we have to pay the rent by next month. Abu was about to apply for his rent advance with which pay the rent and the school fees, which is also due for the new session. Now none of this will be possible without the job and we have no savings.

We’ve always lived on his salary ever since he advised me to quit my job and take care of the kids.

I’m not into any business and so he took care of me, the children, our two mothers and even extended family members. We never had enough to save. But alhamdulilLah we’ve always been comfortable and content.

In the 15 years I’ve been with him, I’d never had cause to regret being his wife. Today I’m as heartbroken as he is over his job loss. This work was his life. But look at how things ended for him. However I’m glad he was an honest and loyal employee, even the termination letter said so. It’s my hope that Almighty Allah will give him something better to do with his life.’ She concluded.

‘Amin ya Rabbil aalamin. But where are you heading for now?’ I asked.

‘For his home town Anti, because that’s where we have a home of our own. I remember that when he bought the plot and started building, I was very much opposed to it. I said to him building a country home wasn’t a priority because we only visit once a year during Eid-il-kabir. But he insisted on it by saying that we needed to wean ourselves off his parent’s home, where we always shared a room with the kids whenever we visited. Abu felt we needed to have our own place so that it would feel like a real holiday whenever we visited. Today that house is our salvation. Luckily we’ve furnished it so that it’s always ready for use whenever we went.

By tomorrow it will be our home. We even have a couple of empty rooms where we will put whatever we take along from here.

He intends to start farming because luckily they have a big family farm which is never fully utilised. The town isn’t a city but it has good schools and some modern amenities. So we intend to enroll the kids in school immediately, in sha Allah, while we think of something to do along the lines of self employment. We have sold a few things, like our extra car and a few air conditioners this morning. In sha Allah, we’ll get by.’ Halima declared, optimistically.

‘Im truly sorry to hear this Halima. I really don’t know what to say. But I’m glad you have already planned the next phase of your lives and are looking forward to starting anew. I wish you the very best and pray that Almighty Allah will bless these efforts. Let me have your account details so I can send my little contribution to your self-employment project.

I sincerely hope that all those who lost their jobs along with Abu have something like your country home to fall back on.’ I prayed.

‘I hope so too. And thanks very much Anti Bint. I’m truly grateful, jazakilLah khairan for your concern and help.’ She answered.

‘Amin ya Allah. Now please take me to Abu so I can commiserate and also offer my farewells. In sha Allah, we’ll come to visit you soon in your new home.’ I promised.

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