This newspaper and magazine shop, operating virtually out of a hole in the wall in Bahrain’s Muharraq area, is a favourite with Asian, particularly Indian, expatriates, who are able to buy, and browse, publications in many languages. Malayalam, Tamil, Gujarati and even Punjabi, are the most sought after and sellers make a neat packet selling these on hefty premiums. But, again, no price is too much for those who love to read!
To most people, this might look bizarre. A cat among pigeons! And everyone seems to be perfectly at home. I have never known cats and birds to co-exist and remember once seeing a feline ruthlessly ‘execute’ the neighbour’s pet parrot. Which led him to bring another one and that, too, was summarily taken apart.
In the not too distant past, I have sometimes seen cats and chicken together, looking for food in the same rubbish heap but they’ve always been at a safe distance.
On this Muharraq street, however, it’s all peace in the name of food. A tad bit untidy and littered but a sight all the same as the rather large cat sits patiently for its turn while the pigeons feed!
Nature has some strange sights up its sleeve!
One of Muharraq’s icons Rajab Bu Muftah is no more. He passed on a month ago.
I realised his legendary status on visiting the Old Suq two evenings ago.
On finding empty shelves and a locked door at Bu Muftah’s antique shop, I asked an accompanying friend why it was so and he told me what had happened.
“He was old, very old,” I was told. “He passed away a month ago. The entire Muharraq town gathered at his burial.”
I further learnt he had come to Bahrain from Yemen more than 60 years ago and set up a small trading business in the historic part of the island.
Business boomed and over the years, he did well, raised a family, educated his children and made sure they settled well in life.
In the last few years, too old to run around, he ran this small shop selling all kind of antiques. When they did not do good enough business, he also started selling fruits and dates.
I first saw him a year ago and he happily posed for pictures. He offered ‘discounts’ on antiques if I wished to buy some.
At first he appeared to be a stern man, not very impressed with all the attention but a brief conversation made me feel all at ease.
I did run into him a couple of times after that and we waved to each other. He seemed to be happy and content and sat at his storefront like a lord and master.
Now his shop is locked. The shelves are empty. The signboard is falling apart. All the antiques are probably locked away somewhere.
No one has any time to run his business anymore. But passersby speak about his, stop at his shop, look at the empty shelves and move on.
Clearly, a part of Muharraq, and Bahrain, has gone forever. It’s sad, but that’s life. It goes on. The wheels keep moving.
And we pass on!