We are truly, truly scared of the word "Inshallah".We’ve heard our share of Inshallahs from electricians, plumbers, shopkeepers, domestic helps, well almost everyone we have had to contact in times of crises and we’ve learnt the hard way that Inshallah almost always never means the obvious -- “God willing”.
When our generator crashed, a major crisis as sometimes we have to brave power cuts of up to eight hours, the technician responded to our SOS call with Inshallah; when we faced acute water shortage for over six months last summer and had to call in tankers, the guy at the helpline politely quenched our inquiries with Inshallah; we’ve often splurged and sealed bad deals falling for the shop-help’s Inshallah; when we decided to leave our cats at the vet’s for a few days and asked if they would be comfortable, he cheerily assured us with an Inshallah as he shoved them into a cage near a German Shepherd’s. (It's another matter that one of the cats had a huge scar on his face when we picked them up.)
We’ve finally figured that Inshallah doesn’t always mean that things will get done asap. More often than not, the term is thrown to buy time, defer or indefinitely postpone things that can be taken care of in the here and now. Alternatively, the term can be employed beautifully to shirk responsibility or make an empty promise.
Like everything else we’ve learnt to take the Inshallahs, a term which is used liberally throughout the Muslim world, in our stride. We often narrate our encounters with the word to our friends. So when a Pakistani designer friend texted to say “we must meet Inshallah”, he remembered to add “not your plumber-wallah Inshallah”. Some other friends have caught on to our “Inshallah-tala (lock)” usage.
Today we were at the receiving end of yet another Inshallah. Our newly hired help (she’s been with us a fortnight) is in the family way and her Mamu broke the news to us smilingly: “You will have to adjust with her and Inshallah there won’t be a problem,” he told me. Having mastered conversations peppered with Inshallahs, this is what I have decoded: (a) the girl is unapologetic that she hid her status when she was being hired; (b) “adjusting” by extended logic means she can call it a day anytime she pleases and that I would have to fill in for her; (c) we’d feel guilty if we asked her to vacate her quarter; (d) my life is *****.