I visited M. one summer day in her town of Jebiniana, to the South of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. Sitting in her wheelchair, she and her cat welcomed us with a big cheerful smile on their faces. The sunflower at the gate was blooming so brightly that I almost forgot it was already late afternoon. On entering the house, I could feel its warm embrace. The decorated carpets, flowers, and pictures of beloved family members combined with smoke from the kitchen evoked a homely feeling.
As the youngest member of a family of seven and the only child with a disability, M. chooses to live a simple and independent life by supporting herself as a vendor at the market. Until her mother died two years ago, she was her main carer. Everyday, she wakes up at 2.30 in the morning and prepares the brik, a traditional Tunisian dish, which she takes with her. Before leaving, the cat jumps on her lap for a goodbye cuddle in her arms until she returns in the afternoon. By 4 or 5 pm, she takes care of her plants in the garden, which by the time we visited, was full of color and redolent with the fragrance of roses, tomatoes, onions, basil, and pomegranates.
We spent a few days with M. and travelled together to some nearby places. Wherever she went, she would always carry a smile on her face and have such a cheerful demeanor that you could feel that she experiences the joy of every moment. Listening to her singing while we were in the car made me realise that you should never judge someone by their circumstances. Appearances can be deceptive, and they might be leading a life that is far happier than yours or mine.
Jebeniana, Tunisia, 2 June 2018