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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

Najati Al-Bukhari

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

Abdu and the maid-servant who prepare lunch for their master are happy because of the new development in the program of daily life of their master. Both of them are really glad because their master has stopped going to the free lunch banquets. He would from now on take his lunch as before at home.

Both of them, the servant and the maid-cook, have been watching with much worry and anxiety the daily growth of the belly of their master. They have been always disturbed and concerned in seeing the daily growth in the size of his belly.

Of course, they could not tell each other that they are afraid he would all of a sudden die because of over-feeding himself and of indigestion. Both of them are happy and relieved to resume their daily duty of preparing the lunch of their master.

For this day, the lunch is already prepared by the maid cook for the master of the house, Amr. On the other hand, the servant, Abdu, has today enough time to speak frequently to his master and to have a real dialogue with the master. The maid-cook and the servant have now the main objective of reducing the weight of their master and to help him to reduce, diminish the size of his belly as soon as possible.

Amr has now more time to take his lunch at ease and in a slow manner and then to take some rest after the lunch either in a sofa or in an arm-chair. Even, he could have a short siesta or to go through the daily newspaper in order to be able to arrange and make use of his time better than before.

He wants now, after stopping going to the free lunch banquets, to arrange his condolence visits in the morning with women and in the evening with men, in a better way. Really, during the last month he was all the time feeling extremely tired.

Even now, Amr has more time than before to make contacts with his cousin Sari or with his friend Monkar. Obviously, both of these two persons have been wondering with astonishment what has happened to Amr during the last long month. Both of them do not know at all that Amr, the retired consul and their close friend, has been taking his free lunch in some of the rich bereaved families' houses.

So far Amr undertakes some visits to his cousin Sari in order to talk and have a chat with him. However, his cousin, Sari, is nowadays extremely busy and does not have enough free time to spend with his cousin, the retired consul Amr. Sari is nowadays over-occupied in constructing quite a number of mausoleums in the private gardens of many rich families' houses who are living in the Quarter of the Rich. All of these tombs projects have to be finished in a short time.

This is why Sari is, these days, extremely busy in the construction of mausoleums and all of those rich families are in a hurry. Amr notices, while going through the daily newspaper that more and more people are dying and therefore his cousin is highly occupied with his architectural and construction projects. The business of Sari is to build the graves for these dead rich people.

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The increase in the number of the dead in the Quarter of the Rich is the main reason for the increase in the construction industry activities especially in the field of the building of graves for the dead and in the increase of the condolence offering activities.

It is extremely strange to notice a new trend in the method, in the way, in which old people die. The majority of those old people who died recently have been reported to have died because of suicide in very confused and ambiguous circumstances or because of unknown or unidentified diseases.

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On the other hand, the ancient ambassador, Monkar, who could be of the age of seventy years in some few years to come, has begun to have the feeling that he would die at the end of the coming few months. Therefore, this ancient and rich ambassador asks Sari, the famous constructor of tombs in the community, to build for him a big and a magnificent mausoleum and in a period of two or three months.

As a result of this very depressive, morose and gloomy feeling of the approaching death of Monkar, he reduces his visits to the bereaved families' condolences either in the morning disguised as a woman or in the evening with men.

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Monkar feels every day that he is tired and even exhausted at the end of the day. He thinks that he has been struck by an incurable fatal disease.

"It should be recalled constantly while reading this document that it tells the story of a retired intellectual living in his magnificent villa in the Quarter of the Rich. This supposed to be intellectual, who never reads books of value, is called Amr. It should be recalled also that the main aim and objective in the life of the retired intellectual in his life of retirement is to become an active member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals."

So far, this famous and well known old man in retirement has passed through various and different tests and experiments since the commencement of his retirement. The life of this old man, after his retirement, has been becoming more and more enriched because of the various social activities which he has undertaken during the last decade, the preceding ten years of his life.

Throughout the last ten years Amr has been thinking that he is continuously watched, or more correctly monitored, observed, supervised and overseen by a monitoring eye belonging to and representing 'the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals'. He believes that he has been perpetually monitored night and day, inside his house and in society at large by the monitoring eye of 'The Circle Of The Retired Intellectuals.' All his daily activities, which he has undertaken during the past ten years, have been registered and evaluated continuously by the Circle with the main objective of judging him whether he deserves to be an active member of the famous Circle or not.

Every test which he has gone through was watched and evaluated by the invisible, imperceptible and inconspicuous monitoring eye. Amr thinks and in an absolute sense that he did well in all his tests and examinations. He thinks, and in an absolute sense, that he did well in all his tests and examinations and that it is time for him to be a member of the famous Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

In summary, Amr every evening and before closing his eyes to sleep tells himself that tomorrow he would certainly be a member of the most famous Circle. Nothing would stop his being accepted as a member of the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

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He thinks that he does not lack anything which would qualify him for the membership of the Circle. In recent days, he dreams night and day that he has already completed all the conditions for being accepted as a member of the Circle. Amr dreams that Ashrams, the new president of the Circle, would welcome him as a member of The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

His cousin has come to visit him at midday for few minutes. Sari looks to be in a hurry and does not have time to stay for a long time with his cousin Amr. During this long visit, the two cousins have discussed precisely the subject of The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals.

Sari, the cousin of Amr, believes by now that his cousin is quite qualified to be a member of the Circle. Sari also believes that his cousin has waited for a long time, about a decade, to be a member of the Circle and that Amr is now ready to be an active member of the 'Circle'. Sari believes that Amr does not lack any qualification required for being a new member.

"I have decided, at last, to try my luck to join the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. I am already seventy years of age and for ten years, since my retirement, I have been preparing myself to realize this dream, this main objective of my life. It is not my intention to wait for more years. You know I might die at any moment without having the chance of being an active member of the Circle. I feel that before my death I have to be a member of this association, the Circle. It is time that I have to know and to have a firsthand experience of the activities undertaken by the members inside the Circle of the Retired Intellectuals. As you know, my dear cousin, this has been constantly, all the time, my main objective in life and I have to realize it before my passing away and forever." explained Amr to his cousin Sari who was listening to him attentively.

"My dear cousin Amr, this is not the aim of coming here to your house. Unfortunately, and in fact, I have a bad news to announce to you. I am sorry that I have to tell you this sad news. I have come to know from our good neighbor, Abu Michele, that Monkar, the ancient ambassador, is extremely sick. Our neighbor says that already two or three doctors have already visited Monkar in his house." said Sari in a tone full of sadness and sorrow.

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"My dear cousin Sari, excuse me to tell you that I do not believe in what you have been telling me about the health and destiny of my friend Monkar. I have seen him yesterday in a bereaved house offering his condolences. I think I saw him to be in a very good health. It is something unbelievable and impossible that he could be a sick man now. It is something impossible. Till yesterday Monkar, the ex-ambassador, did not show any sign of being a sick man, or that he would die. He looked to be in a good health." said Amr in bitterness and in a tone of surprise.

"You are right, my dear cousin; my friend Monkar is a systematic daily visitor of bereaved family houses and does not miss any of the important death events. We have been meeting each other and frequently in those bereaved houses and mainly in the evenings. However, as far as I know he has been somewhat sick since some time. It is only I who is informed about his bad health condition. He does not tell anybody else. Since about ten months he asked me to build for him a mausoleum in the garden of his magnificent palace."

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"His sumptuous tomb in which his body is to be buried would be ready in some few weeks time. As you know, thousands of workers are now employed in the construction of the grave. I am happy that Monkar has the chance, the opportunity, to see the tomb in which he will is buried. Throughout the period of construction of the mausoleum he has proposed to me to undertake certain basic changes in the design of the tomb." said Sari to his cousin who was listening to him with astonishment.

"Listen to me my dear cousin Sari; permit me to tell you for the second time that this is a complete surprise to me. I do not know at all till you came that Monkar is sick. Really, I am completely upset, saddened and disturbed to hear the bad news about my friend Monkar, the ancient well known ambassador. This is really a strange bit of news to believe that Monkar is very sick. This is completely unbelievable. I am shocked and stupefied." reacted Amr in drawing some signs of grimaces with his eyebrows to show his sadness and his suffering to his cousin, the famous constructor of the various kinds of tombs in the houses of the rich families in the Quarter of the Rich.

Yesterday, after his return from his daily visits of condolences to several bereaved families, he had all of a sudden a severe heart attack. Of course, nobody expected this to happen to Monkar. All his servants and maids were surprised to see their master falling down on the floor the moment he entered his house. All measures have been taken to carry the sick man to the hospital of the quarter which is well known all over the region for its excellent medical services. The hospital is well known for its team of excellent surgeons who are trained and qualified.

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Fortunately enough, this hospital is not far from the house of Monkar. The heart specialists of the hospital are all young doctors who have been trained abroad for long years especially in England and America. The young cardiologist of the hospital is well known in the country and in the region as a whole. However, after much examination and consultation all the young doctors were absolutely unanimous in saying that Monkar has only few days to live, maybe only one week. They are unanimous also in saying that they could not do anything for him. He is sentences to death.

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Because of this desperate health condition of Monkar, all the doctors advised that the dying man should be taken to his house in order to let him die there. It is better for Monkar to give his last breath at his house. My dear cousin Amr, it is only to inform you this sad news that I have come to your house. It is better for you to go at once to the house of Monkar to see what is going on there. As you know you are practically the most intimate friend of the sick man. You have been working together with him for several years in the diplomatic corps in several countries in the developing as well as in the developed countries and for several years.

"Listen to me; I never thought that this sickness would develop into this hopeless and desperate condition. Nobody knows or can foresee when death comes to everybody or where this death would come." said Sari with bitterness and in a melancholic tone.

"For me, this is tragic, awful and shocking news because I will be losing a sincere and a very faithful friend. Let us hope that this would come to be a passing crises and that Monkar would continue to be living with us for more years. He cannot be yet considered an old man. I think he is still below seventy years of age." said Amr to his cousin Sari.

Sari is no more in the house of Amr, his cousin. He leaves the house of his cousin rapidly as if he is actually very busy and has an urgent business to do. Of course, Sari goes towards his house where his wife has been waiting for him with a lot of patience.

On the other hand, Monkar miraculously has not died and he is still alive and can move in his house freely and without the aid of anybody of the servants or the maids. Also, he has been permitted to take some light meals.

Nevertheless, he is totally forbidden to go out of his house. More particularly, he is not permitted, allowed, to make the several condolences visits to several families in bereavement. If he wants to resume these visits then he should visit only one family in sorrow and for a very short time.

Fortunately, and during a period of three weeks or complete rest in his house he has never had a heart crisis at all during this period of rest. His well observed progress during the three weeks of rest is something unbelievable. The specialist's doctors and the cardiologist have insisted that Monkar should not undertake any activity inside or outside of his house. One doctor allowed him to have a dip of an hour in the inner swimming pool in one of the salons. More important is the advice that Monkar should keep himself in bed for most of the time of rest. As a result of these measures Monkar stopped for a while his visits to the bereaved family houses.

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Almost all his time, while he is lying in his bed he goes through the daily newspaper for several times. He concentrates most of his time in reading the pages on obituary news. He is still interested to know the new of those who died during the past few days. Monkar likes to update his information concerning those who died recently.

He likes to know about the death of some people of the Quarter of the Rich as early as possible and is also interested to know the latest news regarding the life and the death of well known people in the other quarters of the city in general.

From time to time Monkar makes use of the telephone in order to be updated concerning his information about the names of persons who died during the last few days. Of course, he only talks by telephone to persons who are sincere and faithful friends who come usually to his house for a visit of short duration at the beginning of the evening.

It should be remembered that Monkar asked Sari, the famous constructor of famous edifices, to build for him a first class mausoleum in the garden of his little palace. Sari tries his best to offer to his friend Monkar the best of his work in terms of art and in terms of construction. Also Sari, and in accordance with the request of Monkar has tried his best to finish the construction of the edifice in the shortest possible time.

In fact, the mausoleum is about to be finished and Sari is now at the stage of putting the final finishing touches on the edifice in which Monkar would be buried. At this final stage, Monkar allows himself to visit the garden to have a look on the mausoleum in which he would be finally buried, God only knows when and where.

Just few days ago Monkar thought, or was under the impression that he would die in few days time. This is why he asked Sari to hurry up in this final stage of his architectural work and to try to finish the Mausoleum as soon as possible. But now, and when Monkar realizes that he would not die soon, but he would be living for a number of years to come he begins to ask Sari to introduce changes in the basic structure of the edifice. Later on, Monkar starts to ask for some drastic changes to be introduced in the decoration of the mausoleum.

In most cases Sari does not appreciate the demands of Monkar at all. Sari thinks that his work, as far as tombs are concerned, is perfect and cannot be subject to criticism and changes and even modifications. In so many cases, Sari refuses in a very frank way to make any changes in his architectural work.

Monkar, with this new type of life, has more time to spend in his small swimming pool of his villa. Also, more time, if needed, is spent under the shower or in the water tub in the bathroom. But on the other hand, and unfortunately, he is obliged to live in some kind of isolation, of solitude.

It should be added that Amr, the best friend of Monkar in the Quarter of the Rich, does not visit his friend Monkar as often as before. It is only in rare occasions that the ex-consul visits his friend Monkar.

Nevertheless, and in few months time, Monkar has regained his previous good health and becomes again a normal human being and an ordinary citizen of his city who plans to leave the house as often as he used to do in the past before his sickness. He is planning to visit the houses of bereavement both in the morning with women and disguised as a woman in dressing himself the total black veil dress as well as in the evening with men. But in the evening condolences visits he is planning to reduce the visits every day from five or six visits to one or two.

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Coming back to the ex-consul, Amr, it should be noticed that gradually and little by little, Amr begins to think that he would die before Monkar, in spite of the fact that he is now, that is Amr, in a very good health and that he does not suffer from any disease at all. The ex-consul has begun recently to contemplate asking his cousin, Sari, to design and construct for him a mausoleum in the garden of his villa.

"I do not think that it is necessary for you to construct now a mausoleum in your garden. I think, and as far as I can see and observe, you have still many years to live, several years to live, probably more than twenty or twenty five years before thinking in the construction of a tomb in your garden. Yet, you should remember all the time that it is only God, the Almighty, who knows the exact moment when any human being would have his last breath." suggested Sari to his cousin the ex-consul.

"Listen to me my dear cousin Sari; I would like to have a tomb for myself in the garden of my house. I cannot understand why I should not have a mausoleum of my own in my garden like the others in the Quarter of the Rich. In our quarter every one, that is every chief, head of the family, has the right to build a tomb for himself in the garden of his house. Isn't it so? Each head of a family imitates and follows his neighbor. You cannot stop this movement in our society. And so in my case, I have to lead my life exactly like others." answered Amr in very emphatic and serious way.

"Listen to me my dear cousin, Amr. I am sure you will not oppose or reject what I say to you. The situation as it exists now is not exactly as you are trying to describe. Very few mausoleums are seen in the wonderful and beautiful gardens of the residential buildings and edifices. Listen to me my dear cousin Amr. As a matter of fact, and up till now, most of the rich people of this famous and rich quarter build till now their mausoleum in the public cemetery designated for the rich. As you already know, there, I have established my own main office as well as my architectural workshop, that is, nearby the public cemetery. Let me if you please choose for you the time and the place where your mausoleum would be placed and finally constructed." said Sari who looked at the face of his cousin Amr with stupefaction and amazement.

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The Circle of the Retired Intellectuals

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