At a time where Kurdistan is in its presidency crises, where electricity is unpredictable, no water in some neighbourhoods while the sun is sizzling and temperatures reach 50 degrees…. at a time where nearly all Iraqis are demonstrating “We have had enough!” When there are two million IDPs, a good 8 million in need of immediate assistance and close to a million refugees in our country I observe my husband for a few days in a row… he is not his best.
I catch him in thoughts; I know his mind has flown away as he watches a football match, and it is definitely not about who is playing better. My dearest, when a husband is not with the game he is watching on TV you know something isn’t right.
“Just a headache,” he replies to my query. Knowing too well the wife will probably have a sleepless night if he talks. But a few days later and it all comes clear, “We are firing people!” he tells me.
We both know what this means. It means people in the company he works for, during a time they most need their jobs, will be asked to leave. Like many other companies in the Region which either closed their doors or cut down on their staff, after one year of challenges the management team of his company decide it’s time; time to decrease number of staff.
“14 are drivers.” He admits. It hits me harder. I know most of their drivers are the only salary owners in their families. Most have to pay rent, have elderly parents or siblings to take care of, and while money decreases in households everything else is still as expensive as it ever has been.
My heart is broken into a million pieces.
The next day he doesn’t talk about work, “How did they take the news,” I mumble in the car.
“How do you think?”
It is only the next day during dinner that I am told at work today the staff had Maam Azad’s* brinj w fasooliya for lunch (rice and stew). One of the drivers who was fired the day before decides to cook lunch at home and bring it to work the next day to sell to the staff. Knowing what’s going through my head he immediately adds “se hazar” (3, 000 IQDs).
I pause trying to make calculations, hating the fact that since high school my maths has not improved, “About 300 a month”. God, this man can read my mind.
Taking into consideration the number of staff, the expenses of the rice, chicken sometimes, and other needs to make the lunch in addition to transport, plastic plates and spoons we realize Maam Azad doesn’t necessarily make much profit.
For a moment I dislike everything in this world. Iraq, as people say, floats on oil, a country rich in resources, and here are the people of this country pushing their limits to make a living. It hurts. I think to myself how Maam Azad went that day to tell his wife he has lost his job, how he needs her help to meet this month’s living expenses, how he went to buy the brnj and fasooliya, I think of what time he woke up in the morning to be there at 12 pm sharp… how they counted the money that afternoon when he got home….
What if he is unwell one day? Does that mean no money is made for his family?
For how long must he compete with local restaurants so the staff buy lunch from him instead of going out to the local restaurants?
A million questions run through my mind. Then I think again, at least Maam Azad will make something this month, how about the 13 other drivers?
My dear reader, life is becoming so difficult. We go to our jobs every day; we eat out every now and then, save for a holiday a year and meet friends when we can. Life goes on for us. But for so many others in our society every day is a challenge. Some are sick and don’t go to doctors because it’s expensive, some no longer buy their medicine, and others take out their children from private schools they can no longer afford….. did I mention we are supposed to be one of the wealthiest countries?!
Maam Azad, salute! As they say your income is halal.
As for my broken heart, everyday, it asks my husband “and what did Maam Azad cook today?”
*Maam is the Kurdish word for Uncle, name changed to preserve anonymity