We rattled down the mountain later in the evening in the back of a vegetable delivery truck. The sides of the truck were very high, and I could only see the sky and the mountains above us. The black silhouette of the receding mountain against the navy blue sky soon started to sparkle with lights from lone houses and shacks. The air was cool and pleasant.
The boys had struck up a conversation with two sisters, Nizha and Latifa, who were also in the truck with us. Upon their request I sang the lines from DDLJ for them. I sang a few lines from some other Indian songs as well. The girls asked me to sing an Arabic or Moroccan song, but I didn’t know any.
As we neared Marrakesh, Redouane suddenly started saying to me: “You’re a very lucky man!” I didn’t get it. What’s going on? I asked the guys. They just snickered. Soon Anas picked up the chant, too. How do you say it in Arabic? I asked finally. Anta mahdood, they told me. Tired of them not including me in what now appeared to be an inside joke, I retorted: Ana mahdood! “I’m lucky!” They found my response funny.
Finally I began to understand what they meant. The girls appeared to have expressed interest in me, and according to the guys, this was due to the fact that I’m from America. Maybe this superficial reason for liking me should have been a blow to my ego, but it didn’t affect me. The girls seemed nice and were even fairly attractive, but they barely spoke English. How was I supposed to talk to them? Besides, the girls seemed conservative (they both wore headscarves), and I couldn’t be sure that they were really interested in me. Maybe the boys were just toying with me. Nonetheless, ana mahdood and anta mahdood become recurring chants, directed against each other as we saw fit.
I ignored the girls for the most part. However, by the time we reached our destination, they had become friendly with me. The older sister, Nizha, even asked me which of the two of them I liked. I began to see why the boys had deemed me a lucky man.
As I joked around with my Moroccan friends, it struck me that I really am very lucky. I have always wanted to travel, and here I am, a free spirit making new friends and memories. Not everyone has this luxury. I am grateful for it. Truly, ana mahdood.