The following narrative is a piece of historical fiction. Any semblance to real-life individuals is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
One-Man Stand on a Battlefield
The onset of summer vacation heralded a season of reunions, marked by meticulous preparations commencing well before the school's final day. Those hailing from Addis and Harer would gather their belongings and relocate entirely to their hometown, Jijiga. As the buses arrived, a spirited bunch eagerly anticipating their fellow students' return would swoop in to greet them at the bus station, swiftly whisking them away to the bustling Khat market. Leading this welcoming committee was invariably Indha Yare. As the summer break drew near, his customary rendezvous spot was the bus station, encompassed by a cluster of tearooms and cafes as is often the case in many rural towns. Indha Yare, a figure of enigmatic demeanour, was a puzzle to decipher. He seemed to be simultaneously present and elusive, a quality that made him intriguing. With a compact build, broad shoulders, and eyes that often squinted, earning him the moniker “Indha Yare" he was fiercely protective of his interests and held the reputation of being the town's mover and shaker. While he didn't possess towering stature, a striking resemblance to Clint Eastwood might be drawn in his direction.
Indha Yare's age remained an enigma, a perpetual stall at 25. The shroud over his schooling was equally impenetrable, leaving unanswered questions about whether he ever attended or when he ceased if he had. Reading his emotions was like deciphering smoke signals; his worries and contemplations were a mystery to all. With numerous friends, he paradoxically led a profoundly solitary existence, defying the notion that being a friend to all meant being a friend to none, a saying that seemed to crumble when applied to Indha Yare. His childhood seemed to rock to the rhythm of rebellion, his mischievous ways prompting his elementary school suspension. The suspension had been the outcome of his nearly successful student demonstration against a local bakery owner. Some speculated that it was born from a longstanding grudge, while others believed it to be the manifestation of his innate rebellious spirit. It was later unveiled that neither vengeful blood nor personal vendetta was the root cause, but rather a headline of global proportions that ignited his ire.
Despite his disdain for the bakery owner, Indha Yare once toiled under his employ. However, an unexpected affection burgeoned within him due to his passion for movies. He devoured every film that graced the town's screens, becoming a walking repository of dialogue, each recounted without a single omission. Indha Yare's unique ability to imbue text with context lent his narrations an extraordinary dimension. His descriptions could transform an adrenaline-pumping movie into a vivid tableau before the eyes of his captivated audience. He could coax his listeners into imagining the thundering hooves of galloping horses, the crackling gunfire, and the ultimate downfall of villains. When I crossed paths with him (he was a few years my senior), he was a fixture on the streets. The identity of his biological parents eluded me, for he was regarded as every family's son in Jijiga, a brother to many of us. His place of residence remained a mystery; I only knew he spent the night where the day had carried him. Despite accompanying him throughout the week, his companionship wasn't gratis, irrespective of appearances. He often repaid his tag-along with jests and wisecracks that surpassed his stipend. He would infuse his presence with a lightness akin to Khat Garaba, an aphorism he took to heart. In addition, he'd update his comrades on events that passed in their absence. A repository of the town's secrets, he remained in the know about every aspect of city life. Should anyone wrong him, he was primed to unveil his concealed truths to the world. Nevertheless, when his friends' wallets ran dry, he was the first to bridge the gap. He'd materialize out of nowhere, bearing a bundle of Khat to brighten their day.
Indha Yare, with a heart of gold, was a companion to all yet a friend to none. He had mastered the art of positioning himself firmly within the circle of his friends with unwavering certainty. His persona defied conventional boundaries, simultaneously soaring above the prescribed spectrum and stumbling in an expected manner. This calculated misstep was a strategic move to guard his territory against competing freeloaders. He had ingeniously branded himself as a product within a buyers' market, equipped with a wide array of segments. His rivals were more opportunistic than loyal, identifying their niche within traditional generational segments. When adversity loomed, they rallied together, pooling their resources for collective survival. Both factions required a stable status quo, and disrupting it was far from their interest.
In an intriguing twist, Indha Yare was closely connected to Ali Fetera's family. When tough times came knocking, he found refuge in their embrace, receiving daily sustenance and extending his stay for days or weeks. Despite his street-savvy demeanour, Indha Yare wasn't particularly inclined towards smoking or drinking. He derived pleasure from chewing Khat, though it seemed more of a leisure activity than a compulsive habit. His regular presence, a constant fixture in every Bercha session, injected vibrant energy into the gathering, a spark that lasted until the session's conclusion. Remarkably, the impact of Khat on him remained minimal. Never had I witnessed him succumb to the effects of Khat to the point of being lost within himself. As for romantic entanglements, I held strong doubts if he ever engaged in any, save for a vague rumour I caught wind of years before departing the town. Moreover, I had never encountered a woman who accused him of making unwanted advances, except for Timo Cadde's wife.
Whispers circulated that Indha Yare harboured affections for the bakery owner's daughter. While I couldn't confirm if he ever asked her out, his habit of lingering around Hussen's bakery during the ungodly hours of the day was often cited as evidence of his attraction. The crux of the matter, however, was that the affair had been the town's whispered topic, albeit faintly. Rumours hinted at the influence of Indian romantic movies, with a recurring narrative where an affluent brat falls for a young man from a lower stratum. Unfortunately, Indha Yare identified with this narrative, an alignment that chipped away at the threads of his personality. His romantic escapade held elements of comedy, action, and suspense. The action sequences were the most gripping, depicting his need to extricate himself from the bakery after provoking Umma Amal, Hussen's first wife. While he possessed a dash of irrationality, he was essentially an average guy, and the bakery owner's daughter wasn't his equal. Most of those who supported him were aware that the romantic charade had a limited lifespan and was destined to meet its end. It was a foregone conclusion from the start, and that's exactly what happened. Indha Yare hadn't allowed the tarnishing of his persona to remain unchecked, and an incident from a distant place eventually fulfilled his vendetta.
The inception of it all traced back to the hijacking of an Ethiopian plane by insurgents, forcing an unanticipated landing in Syria – a nation then steeped in anti-Ethiopian sentiments. Like the flutter of a butterfly's wings igniting a tempest, this event's reverberations reached downtown Jijiga, (Qyas as it is commonly called). People's expressions turned sour in the presence of any Arab and boycotts were declared against Arab-owned shops throughout the town. At the heart of this attitudinal morphology was none other than Indha Yare, ceaselessly churning the rumour mill. He orchestrated a hostage situation, ensnaring Arabs residing in the city within an issue of remote relevance to them. Even though the majority of the Arabs were Yemeni and no Syrian Arab resided in Jijiga, the fury of the mob spared none. Skillfully, he manipulated historical enmities to stoke the flames of the mob's anger, thus tampering with the students' sense of nationalism.
As mentioned earlier, Indha Yare possessed a diminutive stature accompanied by a long countenance, square jaw, and a complexion that approached fairness. His large head seemed incongruous on his slight frame. Despite his size, he stooped at an angle of around ten degrees from his shoulders, a posture he adopted upon whimsically entering his second decade, and mostly likely the result of an extensive posturing while chewing Khat. I only gauged the precise angle of his lean when I overheard Wershe (cross-eyed), the town's physics aficionado, comparing it to the tilt of the Tower of Pisa. With time, I realized that Wershe's fascination with numerical values had profoundly impacted his sanity. Regrettably, his foray into the realm of physics led to his eventual loss of reason. In contrast, his rival Lugay (one-leg) found himself as an impeccable artilleryman, consistently hitting his targets throughout his career. While Jijiga boasted an array of eccentrics, Indha Yare outshone them all in a remarkably distinctive manner.
The fluttering vibrations from Damascus stoked the flames of anger within Indha Yare's heart. Yet, his motivation was twofold, fuelled not only by the recent fallout with Hussien but also by his abrupt dismissal from the bakery job. Coincidentally, the timing of his job loss coincided with news of the hijacked Ethiopian passenger plane, a personal affront to his pride. Indha Yare felt as if the diminutive Arab figure had trampled on his rights, an affront his ego couldn't bear to overlook. He refused to let such a stain besmirch his beloved country, regardless of the Arabs' rationales. To him, the Arab perpetrators were nothing short of detestable, and their actions were unconscionable regardless of the flag they acted under. He considered all Arabs equal, whether Yemeni or Syrian, and believed harm inflicted upon one was akin to harming them all. Unaware of the full extent of the news, Indha Yare caught snippets of the story from the community radio as he made his way to the Khat market. These tidbits were sufficient to fuel his patriotism to a frenzied pitch. The "I do not like the colours of your eyes" syndrome had its origins in the East and later spread to the North. Indha Yare, overcome by a sudden surge of nationalism, wanted nothing less than the expulsion of all Arabs from Jijiga.
Recognizing that a single fluttering fly couldn't trigger a hurricane unless allied with the principles of chaos, Indha Yare opted to incite the students of "Mado" school. The moniker "Mado" seemed an odd fit, given that the school was a mere stone's throw away from the town. A seasonal creek delineated the school's boundaries from the city, leading to speculation about the origin of the Amharic word "Mado" which might signify the vicinity near the river rather than a measure of distance. Jijiga had a distinctive tradition of bestowing nicknames on schools, with formal names rarely uttered except for official records. This practice extended beyond schools to encompass people, animals, and places. While the Ras Mekonnen Elementary School's official name was known, the common name in use was its nickname, "Mado." Similarly, the Ras Mekonnen Quter 2, referred to as “Yelaygnaw” meaning "Of the Above," designated its westward location. These two schools essentially flanked the town: one at the eastern extremity ("Beyond") and the other at the western extremity ("of the above"), with the town's central area known as Centre Ville of Jijiga, named after the municipality. Curiously, Mazegaja Elementary School appeared to be an exception, where the formal name corresponded with its nickname. The contents of the grade report for Mazegaja however, remained a mystery.
Over the weekend, Indha Yare was blissfully stoned, lost in a haze of intoxication. The element of surprise was his currency, and certainty was a rare commodity when it came to Indha Yare. When Monday dawned, Indha Yare's arrival at school was tardy, yet all lessons proceeded without a hitch until the morning break. The tranquil air was abruptly shattered by a resounding shout originating from the main gate. "Arab Yewta Ke Agerachin" echoed, rallying the masses. Indha Yare's distinct voice reverberated, clear and commanding. A cascade of students poured out from grades three to six, flooding the playing field like a monsoon surge. Most were swept up by the fervour of the moment, while the younger students in grades one and two watched, bewildered by the commotion. Indha Yare was revered for deftly crafting the rallying cry, marking a historic impromptu mobilization in Jijiga's school history. Cunningly, he detached the call from his personal vendetta, stripping it of any hint of provincialism. The injunction extended beyond Jijiga's borders, advocating for the expulsion of Arabs not just from the town but from the entire country. His voice carried an undertone of grievance, a protest against his wrongfully terminated employment.
Indha Yare was joined by his closest companions, Faroole (lost a finger while playing with an abandoned Second World war Italian bomb) and Faruley (cleft-lip), whose physical statures bore a resemblance. Arriving at school, Faroole would be sandwiched between the other two, playfully mirroring the Amharic character "Hameru Ha," earning them the moniker of the trio. Their adolescent voices possessed a husky quality, a reflection of their burgeoning growth. The first educators to embrace the burgeoning movement were the Marxist teacher Gebru and the enigmatic Getachew. Getachew's academic inclinations towards science and innovation transformed the staff room into a miniature laboratory of sorts. After a rambunctious circuit around the school building, the riotous students abruptly came to a halt. The organizers of the picket line now faced the task of determining their next course of action. They sought refuge beneath the canopy of a colossal fig tree that stood before the school, the very spot where the bell once hung, engaging in a heated deliberation.
"We must present our petition to the provisional administration," declared the Marxist, infusing his words with a touch of intellectualism. In those times, the role of a chairperson to lead meetings was nonexistent, a concept that arrived in Jijiga only later with the advent of Chairman Mao's little red book. Consequently, reaching a consensus amidst the tumultuous crowd proved an arduous task. The meeting was presided over by the director, wielding authority vested in him by the Ministry of Education. The director had a fiery temper that matched those of his counterparts, a characteristic he didn't hold back when taking up the baton. Ongoing clashes with the regional education office had placed him in a precarious position, making him bide his time for a strategic move – a moment that now seemed ripe. His marriage to a local police officer daughter, who had been made miserable by her father, left him teetering on an emotional precipice. The accumulated anger within him found release in the form of a leather lash, a tool he wielded frequently.
A common sight was a student bound to the flagpole, their face pressed against it while gazing at the assembled students. Positioned behind the unfortunate student, the director held a leather whip named Jeedal. With his left hand raised, he brought down the strap with a force only a man of his stature could muster onto the hapless student. With every lash, the student would mutter "Aylemdegm" through clenched teeth, and the lash would continue until the student confessed their transgressions. Interestingly, the Somali students were immune to the director's methods. They resisted with kickboxing and headbutts, fighting their way out. On numerous occasions, students returned home bearing broken chins or ribs. The director was not only a proficient lasher but also skilled in headbutting, perhaps only surpassed by the bookish Getachew.
When the clamour from outside reached his ears, the director couldn't resist the urge to align himself with the burgeoning movement, a display of wokeness. Yet, he was shrewd enough not to expose himself prematurely, mindful that the riot could well be nothing more than a fleeting fancy. The prospect of the uprising falling short of its demands held the potential to drag him down into the abyss of unemployment. The trio, however, had a different outlook. Faroole, Faruley, and Indha Yare found themselves in uncharted territory, sitting shoulder to shoulder with the school director for the first time in their lives. They presented themselves as the architects of the uprising, assuming the roles of esteemed leaders. Their minds were already at work, plotting another uprising. This single experience had granted them insight into the complexities of an uprising and the system's inherent shortcomings. Yet, they were also captivated by the allure of rebellion, drawn in by its romantic aura.
Through this episode, they discovered that nothing could captivate the hearts and minds of both teachers and students quite like a riot. Indeed, no force could match the potency of a rally, capable of grinding school activities to a halt. To their astonishment, they realized that it thrust them into the spotlight, garnering recognition within the collective ego of the mob.
"No, let's address this with the school administration office," retorted the director, his words carrying the whims of landing a blow at his superiors in the regional office. The local school administration office was situated within the Yelaygnaw elementary school compound. This arrangement meant there was some distance to cover, and there was uncertainty about how to maintain the crowd until they reached the regional education office. Nonetheless, it was deemed worth a try. Strong resistance arose from the Somali students due to the limited time remaining for the Bercha ritual, and grade two and three students voiced concerns over the distance.
Others proposed involving the Army and the regional police. "What would be the result of our uprising if we neglect to incorporate the imperial Army and the Police into our cause?" questioned a teacher whose voice was barely audible, often said to be as reticent as a desert hyena. His words resonated with Marxist Gebru. Gebru held a strong aversion to the Army and frequently referred to them as leeches, a term he later transliterated into Amharic using the more colloquial term for the Qera boys. Amidst the deliberation, Indha Yare and his companions sat beneath the tree's shade in their esteemed stone seats, their eyes observant, refraining from offering any commentary. They watched the discourse unfold and were taken aback when individuals emerged as figureheads, poised to take over leadership.
Indha Yare's patriotic fervour grew impossible to contain upon witnessing genuine bookish types potentially dismantling his brainchild of a riot. While erring on the side of caution was Indha Yare's customary approach, he recognized the need to inspire his followers. Clearing his throat, he launched into a passionate address. "Today is our day, fellow students; today is the day of reckoning," he proclaimed, his eyes piercing like stray bullets. "Some of you here," he continued, gesturing toward the teachers, "are newcomers to the town of Jijiga, and you'll depart just as swiftly when your contracts conclude. But many of us were born here and will die here. We've witnessed how the Arabs initially arrived in our town, as frail as desert goats. They then thrived on our ignorance. Their lack of market access was our misfortune, but their failure to include us in their prosperity was unfair. Take, for instance, that Arab bakery. When Hussen came to Jijiga, he had nothing but a loosely draped sarong. After a few months here, Mohammed Ali and his two Arab wives arrived, as if there weren't enough Somali women for them. His appearance changed, and he fattened himself up.”
"Now he can't even give you the correct change with a wad of sticky green leaves squirrelled away in his cheek like a chipmunk," Indha Yare lamented, his voice brimming with disdain. "I won't even touch on that bug-eyed Omer, who roams around like a deranged goat in broad daylight with a Khat-filled plastic bag. And don't get me started on that clown Hasan Ahmed, who seems to view us as nothing more than dirty soil underfoot. Among the immigrants, Yusuf Ahmed is somewhat better; his kid plays football in our school team. But all of them, in the end, prove to be ungrateful recipients of the generosity we've shown them. Their secret dealings with Arab countries are what led to the hijacking of our airplane. If they hadn't passed information along to the Arab countries, how could the Syrians have pulled off the plane hijack?" He paused momentarily, casting his gaze upon the student body as if expecting an answer from them. When none emerged from the sea of faces, he pressed on. "Fellow students, they've held sway over us. They've exerted their power over us. They've forbidden their own children from enjoying the company of ours. Tell me, have you ever seen one of their daughters dating one of us? Or are we to be treated as untouchables within our own town?"
His fervour ablaze, Indha Yare's emotions escalated beyond what his emotional pressure valve could contain. He took a brief pause to collect his breath, his bloodshot eyes sweeping over the assembled students. After replenishing his oxygen reserves for the upcoming barrage of words, he continued,
"My fellow countrymen, today marks the forging of history. We stand on the precipice of rewriting history itself—the history of Dejazmach Afework, who valiantly contested the Italians and was interred on the grounds of the present-day hospital," Indha Yare proclaimed with fervour. (Here, he made an inadvertent mistake, for Dejazmach Afework had met his end and found his final resting place in a location known as Wolwel.)
Yet, Indha Yare, ever the orator, ventured to reinforce his assertions upon hearing a soft chuckle emanating from the timid teacher positioned behind him. "And how many among us are aware that the mortal remains of the Italian soldiers, vanquished by our very own Dejazmach (may Kidus Michael grant him peace) now rest in solemn repose in the courtyard of Aba Yakob?" he pressed, his voice carrying the weight of his convictions.
The assembly soon became a cacophony of confusion as a faction of students engaged in heated debate over his declarations. "His error in logical syllogism resides not within the second premise, but rather in the first," pointed out Getachew, the prodigious intellect. There was indeed a burial ground containing deceased Italian soldiers situated at the Aba Yakob Cemetery. It was equally factual that the venerable Dejazmach met his demise in Welwel, a distant location far from Jijiga. In an audacious move, Indha Yare had fused these two disparate elements through an unorthodox process of deduction, constructing a minor term that formed the predicate of his conclusion—a logical infraction that defied convention. The trio comprising Indha Yare's team, along with the remainder of the audience, were swept up in a feverish uproar. Seizing the moment, the bashful Amharic language teacher astutely discerned Indha Yare's faltering and interjected his discourse.
"You have spoken a truth that is equally false," resonated the voice of Timo Cadde, whose diminutive stature and reserved nature had earned him the moniker “white hair," courtesy of Wershe.
The entwined history of Indha Yare and Timo Cadde had its origins at Semu Negus Tej Bet. The proprietor of this establishment was a middle-aged, corpulent man who had been deprived of his sight. The circumstances of his visual impairment remained elusive, but by the time he was known to those around him, he was already blind. A designated guide, Wogebe, was entrusted with escorting him to and from his grain store in the bustling marketplace. Wogebe and his colleagues were frequent patrons of the Tej Bet, with Wogebe reaping the benefit of complimentary drinks as a gesture of gratitude for his services. The Tej Bet happened to be situated in close proximity to Seed Ali's General Merchandise store. To the chagrin of Seed Ali, the patrons' inebriated repose frequently encroached upon the store's veranda. Seed Ali had repeatedly voiced his grievances to both the local law enforcement and the proprietor of the Tej Bet, to no avail. The head of the local police was not an unfamiliar face at the Tej Bet, having also partaken in the complimentary libations, thus rendering the pursuit of justice a futile endeavour. In resignation, Seed Ali set his grievance aside, hoping for a more just authority to take office at the helm of the police force.
Indha Yare had a tendency to become tipsy after just a glass or two of alcohol. It was on a March day that an incident transpired, solidifying his enduring friendship with Timo Cadde. Timo Cadde was a steadfast member of the Tej Drinkers Club, a consortium that counted among its ranks elementary school teachers and government clerks. Timo Cadde was often the initial arrival, ensuring that he would promptly consume a fair share before the rest of the members convened. Once the other members congregated, he would tactfully arrange for the tardy arrivals to cover the cost of the subsequent round. The club's domain was one of prestige, rendering it an enclave Indha Yare hesitated to breach. The confines of the members' chamber remained secluded, complete with a dedicated waiter who catered to their libations until the last participant departed the establishment. Indha Yare typically contented himself with sipping his potion while seated alongside others on a bench beneath the veranda's shade, then discreetly absconded to his residence before catching the eye of his teachers. However, an exceptional day in March witnessed an unusual departure from the norm. Indha Yare entered Semu Negus Tej Bet as he customarily did. He ordered his initial glass and, unlike other occasions, promptly emptied it before calling for a second. Intent on hastening the drinking ritual so he could return home early, Indha Yare's intentions shifted that day. Wogebe and Geney arrived at the tavern around the same juncture. Both requested their respective glasses of Tej, yet Indha Yare's attention was diverted when he observed Wogebe extracting a diminutive bottle, partially filled with local Araki. Wogebe, seasoned in the art of consumption, recognized that the potency of Tej alone would not offer the robust inebriation his body sought. Hence, he endeavoured to concoct a proper equilibrium. Witnessing Wogebe's augmentation of his beverage, Geney made a similar request, seeking to strike a similar equilibrium. Indha Yare, a social drinker at heart, eschewed being left out and entreated Wogebe to enhance his glass with a few drops as well. Thus, a casual endeavour in social drinking unwittingly transpired, culminating in their collective inebriation by the fifth round.
Initially, Indha Yare's sensations began with a warm rush that permeated his entire body, and his countenance seemed to radiate in the dimly lit room. He experienced a sensation akin to defying the forces of gravity, leaving him feeling light-headed and profoundly at ease. A wave of mirth surged through him, causing him to chuckle at Wogebe's every nonsensical utterance. His grasp on the meagre Birr he had set aside for the next day's Bercha festivities began to slacken as inhibitions waned. Indha Yare found himself progressively less constrained and increasingly immersed in a euphoric state. Not even the effects of1313 chewing Khat had elicited such a potent mood shift in him before.
The initial warmth and radiant complexion gave way to a dizziness that infused his senses. His speech became disjointed, and the logical threads that had once woven his thoughts were now overshadowed by a surge of emotions and gratification. Fleetingly, Hussen's daughter crossed his mind, and this transient thought was enough to evoke tears that streamed down his cheeks. Though Wogebe and Geney endeavoured to assuage his heightened emotions, their burden grew substantially as Indha Yare embarked on recounting his romantic pursuits involving the bakery owner's daughter. Their suggestions for enticing her took on increasingly imaginative forms, with Wogebe even proposing a daring act of bride-napping. The weight of camaraderie pressed heavily upon Faruley as well, inadvertently causing him to acquiesce to the idea of eloping with the young woman.
Amidst the ongoing discussions and efforts to dissuade him from impulsive decisions, Indha Yare found himself grappling to comprehend the conversations swirling around him. A sense of immense heaviness settled in his legs, impairing his ability to walk with stability. Soon, his vision began to duplicate itself, and the objects in his vicinity initiated a dizzying spiral reminiscent of a runaway clock's second hand. The sensation grew overwhelming, and a wave of nausea surged within him, culminating in an expulsion of vomit onto the floor. Wogebe and Faruley, grappling with their own inebriation, hesitated to offer assistance, fearing that any movement might result in the untimely release of their own overindulgence.
Meanwhile, within the confines of the clubroom, Timo Cadde was intently occupied with his own libations. However, the commotion emanating from the adjacent hall piqued his curiosity. Upon investigating, he was astounded to find his own student, Indha Yare, reclined amidst a pool of vomit. Summoning a measure of Tej-depleted courage, Timo Cadde inquired of the two inebriated companions whether they knew Indha Yare's address. He then requested that they undertake the task of cleaning him up, receiving a muted "No" as their response.
Lurching about and spilling a good portion of the water onto the floor rather than onto Indha Yare, their efforts eventually subdued the acrid odour of vomit. In an unsteady manner, Wogebe fetched his wheelbarrow. With the combined assistance of the two companions, Timo Cadde carefully positioned Indha Yare onto the wheelbarrow and remunerated the attendant to transport him home. When morning arrived, Indha Yare was greeted by the sensation of a tongue that seemed as lifeless as roadkill. Timo Cadde, an experienced drinker, brought a bowl of Injera Fitfit – a mixture of powdered chickpeas and water combined with crumbled Injera – encouraging Indha Yare to ingest a mouthful. At times, Timo Cadde even fed him spoonfuls. Gradually, over the course of a couple of hours and several cups of coffee, Indha Yare managed to reclaim some semblance of his former self. Later in the day, the remaining vestiges of his vitality were restored after partaking in a Khat session. It was at that moment that Indha Yare resolved to bid farewell to alcohol, yet his enduring camaraderie with Timo Cadde and the other two endured for an extended period.
Returning to the discourse unfolding beneath the fig tree on that pivotal day, Timo Cadde's words transcended the grasp of the third and fourth-grade students. The sixth-grade students grappled earnestly to grasp the intricacies of his logical process. A sly smile graced the lips of the "Short and the Shy" as he continued with his address.
"A Dejazmach did indeed pass away; it is an undeniable fact that no Dejazmach met his end in Jijiga; therefore, it stands to reason that a Dejazmach perished somewhere beyond Jijiga's borders."
This convoluted reasoning added yet another layer of complexity to the discussion. could have easily expressed his point by stating, "The Dejazmach was killed and buried in Welwel," a straightforward and easily understandable sentence in Amharic. However, his line of reasoning remained elusive even to those gathered. Pressing on with an acrimonious tone, he noted the substantial confusion he had sown among the group.
"Some among you claim to be students, while others also claim to be students," he boldly pronounced, directing a pointed gaze at Indha Yare and his companions. "Now, I challenge you, the leaders of this protest, to elucidate the following twisted proposition: “some of you are students, and among you, some are indeed students. Can we therefore conclude that all of you are students?"
For an instant, I pondered the question, realizing that he was alluding to Indha Yare's reputation for truancy. I could observe the diligent Genay (He has a missing front teeth) meticulously jotting down the course of his argument.
"Some individuals are students, certain teachers are men, thus a few teachers are students," he declared. As he comprehended the flaw in his statement, his laughter reverberated and bounced back from the crevices of the nearby ravine. Undeterred by the amused chuckles, Timo Cadde continued his discourse.
"I had reprimanded Indha Yare recently for faltering in an Amharic language test just a few days ago. To my astonishment, he had the audacity to respond, 'Teacher Timo Cadde...'" The teacher took a brief pause, as if paying homage to the countless educators of Ras Mekonnen School who had endured similar challenges. "The more you study, the more you know; the more you know, the less you study; the less you study, the less you know; hence, the more you study, the less you know. Conversely, the less you study, the less you know; the less you know, the more you study. The more you study, the more you know; therefore, the less you study, the more you know."
Genay was able to grasp the convoluted argument Indha Yare had presented, as succinctly summarized by Timo Cadde. Indha Yare puffed out his chest like a cat preparing for battle, swivelled his head left and right, twisted his square chin from side to side, and ultimately produced a faint crack from his turtleneck collar.
Timo Cadde continued with a mischievous glint, aiming to deflate Indha Yare's inflated spirit. "This is an extraordinary argument coming from one of the laziest students in my class," he added. Meanwhile, while I struggled to swallow this peculiar line of reasoning, Indha Yare's friend, Faroole, who had scored a mere five out of fifty on his exam, presented me with another peculiar piece of their collective ethos. Faroole, embracing his own brand of absurdity, offered the following rationale for his exam failure: "If passing your exam is predetermined, I will pass whether I study or not; if failing is destined, I will fail whether I study or not. But whether I am to pass or fail is preordained; therefore, why study?"
Timo Cadde's barrage of criticism showed no signs of abating. The last challenge that remained was Faroole's. Timo Cadde shifted his gaze toward him, eye wide open and brows furrowed.
"A few days ago, the very same Faroole (occupying an 'honourable' seat, as if that means anything!) strolled into the classroom, his usual tardiness on full display. As soon as he settled into his desk, he shot his hand up and stated the following: 'The difference between many and few is one.'" I found myself baffled by his ramblings. He then looked at me with a sheepish grin and continued, 'Twenty grains of maize are many grains; so are nineteen, eighteen, and seventeen.' He proceeded to challenge me to keep removing grains; if seven remained categorized as 'many,' and six were now considered 'few,' then the difference between many and few is one." He went on, "One grain does not form a heap; however, two grains, or even three, ultimately result in a heap." At that point, the audience seemed to lose track of his train of thought. The sole individual among the teachers nodding in agreement was the studious Getachew. The barmaids of Jijiga knew the mentally unstable teacher well for his fearsome headbutt.
Then, Timo Cadde redirected his attention to Indha Yare, using Faroole's reasoning to inquire, "How many more souls do you need to transform this protest into a revolution? How many students are required to turn a classroom full of students into a group of demonstrators? Conversely, how many fewer students are necessary to transform a crowd into a cluster of flag-waving individuals?"
Aware that the mob's size and shape seemed to fluctuate with the ebb and flow of the argument, Indha Yare decided to salvage his mission. Whether the Dejazmach died in Jijiga or Welwel was inconsequential to him; he had merely invoked it as a rallying cry. He couldn't believe his eyes when the witless teacher undermined his efforts. With a resounding voice, Indha Yare addressed the assembly.
"I am not concerned with the deceased; I care for the living. I've heard some of you whispering about whether a country possesses life. Let me tell you, today, it is teeming with vitality. No true son of Jijiga would stand idly by while Hussen, Yusuf Ahmed, Omer, or Hasan Ahmed insult our beloved town. Likewise, no true daughter of Jijiga would endure witnessing her homeland being smeared by Sudan and Somalia (both nations weren't even part of the hijacking scenario). So, fellow students, we won't visit the police station or the Army headquarters today. Instead, we shall march to these traitors' establishments and demonstrate our nationalism."
Indha Yare's impassioned rhetoric did not resonate with the Somali students. Firstly, they struggled to comprehend the concept of a hijacked plane. Secondly, they required assistance to understand their role in this narrative. Above all, they needed clarity regarding why Indha Yare and his cohorts were so fervent about this issue. A supplementary energy boost and an extensive discussion were required to make sense of the protest, which is precisely what they did. They departed from school, returning home for an early Bercha gathering. Indha Yare watched forlornly from a distance as the Somali students crossed the road and scattered into small groups. He then turned to Timo Cadde and inquired about the time. As Timo Cadde mumbled the time, his expression contorted in realization that the first Khat shipment from ChelenQo was soon to arrive. It was 11:00 AM. For a brief moment, his heart wandered to Kedija, the beautiful girl selling Tachero at the Khat marketplace.
As the commotion subsided and the remaining students completed one more lap around the flagpole before proceeding to Hussen Bakery, Indha Yare and his friends found solace in their proximity to the Khat market. On their way to the bakery, they passed by "Mazegaja School," seeking to rouse the elementary students. Puzzled, the young pupils were at a loss to comprehend the source of such fervour. When the mob reached Mezegaja School, my friend Tesfaye asked me what was unfolding. Drawing from a term I had heard from my Marxist teacher, I explained that, "Politics in the making." I encouraged him to return home before the situation grew more chaotic.
However, for the first time, Tesfaye was resolute in his decision to join the protest, although we eventually opted to observe the demonstration from a safe distance. The instigators managed to recruit a handful of students while most others seized the opportunity for an unscheduled break. Among those who participated in the protest were a few boys from Toga Sefer, including Agole, Langade, DeberJebia, and others. They carried their slinging shots discreetly at their waists. As the "Shorty Arab" reacted to the clamour, he mistakenly believed that the milk vendors were making their way to the marketplace. Curiosity soon piqued his interest, and the short, elderly Arab, clad in a sarong kilt, emerged from the bakery, the fragrance of fresh bread lingering in the air. Shorty sported a checkered turban atop his head, which almost obscured his face, impeding his vision. Tilting his chin upward, he attempted to gain a clear view. When Indha Yare noticed Shorty stepping out of the bakery, he raised his voice to ensure his message reached him, loud and distinct. Due to Shorty's turban and the thick mane of hair that obscured his ears, he struggled to decipher the crowd's chants.
"Arab Yeweta Ke-Ageraching, Dialqalw newe Ye-Rebeshen" –– Diqala, nobody knew to whom Indha Yare was referring, as Hussen was a true Arab and not of mixed heritage. Nevertheless, the crowd rallied to his call, echoing "Ye-Rebeshen." The response resounded through the partially vacant classrooms across from Mezegaja Elementary School. Hussien, dough still clinging to his hands, exited the bakery, attempting to wipe his hands clean while balancing his turban and kilt. He came face-to-face with the Abu Aana thief. His brother-in-law, Abu Qedid from Hadramaut, followed closely behind. Confusion washed over Hussen as he observed the presence of Indah Yare, Faurley and Faroole. He struggled to fathom how this unlikely group had assembled. Turning his attention toward Indha Yare, he blurted out, "Ibn Al Kalb" – an insult that carried more of a colloquial weight than a deeply personal attack.
In response, Hussen turned to his son-in-law and uttered, "Min Ratl Hakya Tafham Wiqya" – "A pound of talk is better than an ounce of understanding," subtly admonishing the dim-witted Indha Yare. Abruptly, he employed a Yemeni gesture to acknowledge the fervent shouts of the crowd, but then halted himself. Shorty held no fear of Indha Yare; he knew him well from his previous employment at the bakery. On numerous occasions, Shorty had caught him surreptitiously snacking on the beloved Abu Ana without paying. However, he would never have imagined that Indha Yare would take matters this far. The demonstration shattered Shorty's pride. How could an unruly student who rarely attended classes infringe upon his right to speak freely? It was unfathomable. Shorty warned Indha Yare that he would summon the police commissioner, the tall and stern police colonel, yet the colonel's son was among the first ranks of the strikers. Shorty felt a sense of injustice; he couldn't fathom why anyone would intimidate him, organizing a mob against him. He was a law-abiding citizen serving the community. In response, his son-in-law, Hassan Qedid, reminded Shorty, "Ya Gharib Kun Adib" – "Behave properly, foreigner." This sentiment, "foreigner," was directed at Shorty, although it was cloaked in a somewhat cryptic Arabic phrase. Some of the remaining Somalis in the crowd murmured, half afraid that it might be an utterance from one of the Prophet's sayings. Timo Cadde, however, dared to quote the precise verse from the Sura.
After stirring up dust and noise, the crowd proceeded to Hasan Ahmed's store, making a similar scene at Al-Oumer. A few meters away, the mob showed no mercy toward Ali's convenience store; the clamour disturbed the pots and pans, while a dusting of soil tarnished the edible oils. Nonetheless, some of the more innocent students sought refuge at Ali Fetira, indulging in their daily dose of Malia. Finally, the throng congregated at Hasan Ahmad's establishment. The dapper merchant stepped out of his store, radiating Arab pride as he faced the crowd. Just as Indha Yare began to speak, Hasan intercepted him. "Listen, I could debunk your accusations with a few examples, but my people have a saying, 'Lau kan Al-k-Kalaam Min Fidha Fa Al-Samt Min Dhahab' – 'If speech were silver, then silence would be gold.' Allow me to enlighten you, Ya Ibn Sharmut. A half-asleep Arab is half-awake. Doubling the drowsiness makes him doubly awake. Yet, a half-asleep Habash is fast asleep; doubly half-awake Habesh is fully awake. Mark my words, Ya Ibn Sharmut, in the lingua of Habsha (called Habeshgna), being half-asleep signifies wakefulness."
With the exception of Indha Yare, few could decipher what the Arab was conveying or its implications. Exhausted by the day's events, the crowd eventually dispersed, most of the protest leaders forming small clusters before making their way to Suq Yere and eventually to the Khat market. Indha Yare's solo rebellion would be remembered in history as an individual's defiance against a collective of Arab forces.
Indha Yare remained subdued until his untimely passing, leaving a significant void in the community of Jijiga. Rumours suggest that during Bercha sessions, a seat is always left vacant in his memory.