Monday, February 28, 2011

Mr. Mamosta

Sazan M. Mandalawi

The Kurdish Globe
By Sazan M. Mandalawi

A Kurdish Mamosta can teach the simple things,

Mamosta is a term Kurds use before the name of a man when "Kak" appears to be a little unofficial.

The literal meaning to Mamosta is teacher, but often even those who aren't teachers are referred to as Mamosta. The encounter I had a few minutes earlier changed my perspective of the term entirely.

I had always imagined how it would be to share an office with a coworker, so when this temporary opportunity came I thought I would take it despite all doubts. Today, "Memoirs" is written on day one of my days in this office.

When I was told that Mr. Mamosta--whose name shall remain anonymous--was behind the desk to my right, I was excited before I met him. From the information I had received about him, only one conclusion could be made: Boy did this man have a remarkable reputation!

As I greeted him for the first time (in his black suit, tie and a vest), the stylish black sports shoes stood out well when compared to his formal dress code. A tall, healthy-looking man, the Kurdish nose, probably with grey hair--though it's all shaved off--and his facial features reveal a lot of his youthful years. He appears as the type of young man who was likely to be very active, handsome and outgoing. I didn't ask about his age, which will remain a mystery. He is one of those rare individuals whom you just can't estimate the year of birth. He is as wise as someone who has lived hundreds of years, but has the energy of an 18-year-old athlete.

So we meet, he smiles, we speak English together, and I like him already!

We have Internet problems, and as the specialists--certainly not me--work to solve the connection, Mamosta speaks of my best friend, Google. He tells me back in his day, when he wanted to research something beginning with the letter "G," for example, he looked in the encyclopedia, which was "a huge book that needed to be carried by two people. Now just ask Google and it answers your questions immediately." Mamosta appreciates Google, something I use and take for granted every day of my life.

Being a few floors up, it is only natural that I ask Mamosta the whereabouts of the elevator. "I don't know," he tells me. You see, he uses the stairs; he stands up from his chair doing a skipping kind of movement. "This is how you should use the stairs, that way you don't get tired and it is good for you." I am embarrassed of my question, but I realized the most embarrassing circumstances are yet to come.

Do you remember the shoes I was describing earlier? Mamosta and his little umbrella walk (actually, the more precise term here is "jog") to and from work every day. He speaks of the importance of a having a healthy diet, but remains tolerant of the two blocks of milk chocolate I have brought with me.

I learn a Kurdish Mamosta can teach the simple things in the simplest ways that make the greatest difference to ours lives. Mamosta teaches me that every morning you wake up you can make a choice--you can choose to have a good day, or you can choose to have a bad day. The stages he has experienced throughout his life and the conditions he has lived through teaches me that the issues that we happen to make a big fuss of and that we face in our daily lives are minor compared to what the generations before us endured.

Mamosta is a typical example of many Kurdish men his age. Mamosta has not attended the most prestigious university, nor has he traveled across the globe, but his familiarity in life as a Kurdish individual makes him an entire encyclopedia on its own. To my pitiful luck, the same afternoon I meet Mamosta his retirement papers are signed, meaning I have to make the best use of his presence before the end of the month.

The prefix "Mamosta," before any given name, is not just a sign of respect, but it is an indication that this individual might not just be a teacher, but a professor of life.

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