Dollars do not grow on trees: Deaths, murders and suicides

Nov 25, 2013| Courtesy by : dawn.com

“The moon is fragrant. And this fragrance links us to the moon. Don’t you see these little boats, floating in the moonlight? Board them and they will take you to the moon.” 52908ecac6347

This was Asad, a 30-plus young man called lunatic by most of his friends because of his obsession with the moon. He had a vivid imagination, which became even more vivid in a moonlit night.

“You guys just see the outer surface. If you borrow my vision you can also see the dimensions I do. Touch this counter and you can still feel that warmth of the customer who just left. See, the idea is to feel. Touch. Embrace.”

Today, Asad is in a hospital, struggling for life. A bullet pierced his skull and came out from the other side. The doctors are still trying to determine the damage the bullet might have done to his brain.

He was doing the night shift in a relatively safe area of Northern Virginia when some people broke into the shop, shot him in the head and ran away with the cash.

Before he moved to that 24-hour shop, Asad used to work at another shop in our neighbourhood and often came to the tavern for “gup-shup (a little chat).”

As we gathered tonight to pray for his full and early recovery, we remembered another man known among his Pakistani and American friends as Khan Sahib or Mr Khan.

He was hacked to death outside his pizza shop in a rough Washington neighbourhood two years ago.

Then there was a cabdriver we did not know but attended his funeral prayer when we went to our neighbourhood mosque for the weekly prayers one Friday. He was also shot in the head and died on the spot.

And it was in December 2010, when I received a call from the late film and television actor Jamil Fakhari, asking me to help find his son, Ali Fakhari.

His son went missing in New York in early 2009 and the Pakistan Embassy in Washington had told him that his son was murdered, apparently by carjackers.

Jamil Fakhari refused to believe the embassy. “My son had no feud with any one. Why would someone kill him?” he said to me.

I wanted to explain to him that most immigrant workers are killed because they work in dangerous place and at odd hours. But I could not say this to him. I did not want to break his heart.

Someone else did and Jamil Fakhari died of a stroke soon after he accepted his son’s death.

Immigrants are forced to do such jobs because sometimes these are the only jobs available to them.

“People think that in America, dollars grow on trees,” Asad once told us at the tavern. “And when you tell them how difficult America is for immigrants, they get offended.”

He said he shared his troubles with a cousin in Pakistan, he said: “Yes, you enjoy all the luxuries of the first world in America and try to discourage us. Why? Did I ask you to get me a visa?”

He was right. Those in the home countries do not understand. But did we? Did we ever bother to think it’s not easy to uproot and then to grow new roots in new lands?

“It is not just the money, re-rooting is a very difficult and sad process. You may make some money but how will you fill the void that it creates in you?” Asad once asked.

Those who do not make it here, also refuse to return. They fear that if they went back, they will be laughed at and ridiculed for “failing to hit the jackpot in a country where the streets are paved with gold,” Asad said.

Worse are those who climb the dollar-ladder a little and slip. Unlike other Americans who have been living here for generations, they do not realise that hundreds of thousands of small businesses fail in America every year.

Financial troubles lead to family disputes which often lead to kids running away from home and parents ending up in mental asylums. In extreme cases, some people also kill themselves.

But what we heard at the tavern on Friday night, while still praying for Asad, shook all of us. We had never heard a more gruesome story. Some of us had tears in our eyes as we heard the story on a local television channel.

New York State Police reported on Friday that a man killed his wife and two sons before killing himself in an area called Pleasant Valley.

The Lodhi family lived in rural Goshen in Orange County for about a year and a half before they moved out in August to Pleasant Valley.

People in their old neighbourhood still remember them fondly. And on Friday tonight, they mourned their death.

“Right now, we’re just trying to digest this,” John Blaine, a former neighbour told the US media.

Other neighbours too had nothing but good things to say about Abbas Lodhi and his wife Sarwat, whom friends called Mona, and their two kids, ages 13 and 9.

They played basketball and excelled at school, but police said they were murdered by their own father.

“I don’t know what to tell you. Sometimes it’s just not fair I guess,” Blaine said.

Police said Abbas dumped his wife’s body in a deserted area in Wappingers Falls. She was found in some brush just off Route 376. The police had been looking for Mona for a day and had been hoping to find her alive.

“I think its heartbreaking what’s happened to this family and I think that we’re all touched by it. We all have our own families,” Captain John Ryan of New York State Police told the media.

On Thursday morning, an eyewitness found the bodies of Abbas and his 9-year-old son Zain in a car at a supermarket parking lot in Pleasant Valley.

Police later found the boy’s older brother Mujtaba at the family’s townhouse nearby.

Police said the father murdered his entire family before killing himself.

Journalists who visited Lodhis’ Pharmacy in Hyde Park, which he closed just a few weeks ago, learned that Abbas sometimes spoke to his regular customers about money trouble and family turmoil.

“He said he was getting tired of it. That he was having money problems. And that was one of the reasons he wanted to get out of here,” a customer told a New York newspaper.

“The only thing that I knew for a fact was that his dad passed away like three months ago, and a couple weeks after that he told me that he just didn’t care about the business,” another customer said.

The police, however, have not yet attributed a motive to this murder suicide.