From a rare outing with a 35mm SLR and Kodak BW400CN.
Abdul Hussain Lamuwalla, the proprietor of Lamu Guest House, where I had the pleasure of staying for a few nights.
Some things he told me:
- He is one of only two Indians left in Lamu
- The two are not friends
- The other one put a curse on him, and Mr. Lamuwalla became very ill for a long time
- His faith / the Syedna’s blessings saved him
Lamu Guest House was originally the Lamuwalla family home. A rather large house for a rather large family, built many generations ago, where Mr. Lamuwalla had lived his whole life.
Over time, everyone had either left or died, and the house had been chopped up. Part of it was sold, and what was left became the guest house.
And yes, he was the only Lamuwalla left in Lamu.
His wife used to make things out of shells, like little boxes, statuettes, and frames for pictures and mirrors.
She had passed away a few years earlier.
He was calm when he told me this.
Then I saw his face crumple.
And now crying, he told me how much he missed her, how long they’d been married, and how each day felt empty without her.
It’s the kind of awful thing that some people find beautiful and romantic.
It’s funny how, in a fish-out-of-water situation, two people can form a bond over nothing much at all.
A contact from Mombasa had put us in touch, and we recognised each other easily on the jetty as the only two non-African, non-European people there. He showed me around a little, without ever insisting I stay at his guest house, but I decided to anyways.
We’d chat every now and then, and though I struggled to mend my broken Gujarati on the fly, we managed quite well, with him filling in the gaps with Hindi.
He told me about his life and his past, cried about his wife and his loneliness, and spoke with sadness and resignation about how their little island was changing, and how he was becoming an outsider with the increasing Wahhabism around him.
And I wondered then if we’d have even spoken if we were just two random people that had ended up next to one another on a bus or train in Bombay.
This was a eulogy of sorts:
Though Mr. Lamuwalla is alive and well, he now lives in Mombasa.
All good things must come to an end.