The room was jam-packed like an ocean of bobbing and staring heads, and there must have been around two hundred people present in that cramped and sweaty place. The spotlights were glaring down on me, and the television camera was recording every moment, every movement of my body, every facial expression I made, the sounds and facts of life. This was not my favorite activity, but since I had been invited nicely for the interview, I could not decline. He told me it would be a tremendous opportunity, opening all kinds of doors, a glimpse into the future.
I came anyway.
Every few months, the Chamber of Commerce in Rotterdam organizes an information workshop for all those kind folks out there who have been wondering and thinking about starting their own businesses. Should I do it or not? What are the risks? How much will it cost? Is it worth it? These evenings of discussion are meant to be informative gatherings during which the basic ins-and-outs of entrepreneurship are revealed right in front of your eyes and explained in outlined format. The truth of the matter is slowly exposed, and you the innocent bystander are shown what such a career change actually entails.
The good and the bad and all the stuff inbetween. Are you still sure?
So anyway, along with the three other young and dynamic future-famous starters, those fine young men and myself, I was invited to attend the part where they interviewed recent starters -- just like myself. So that the public could see and hear first-hand what it all really involves. Look at those guys sitting up there. Maybe some day if I work really hard I can be just like them.
Not that I am what you would call the perfect example of a successful starter. Indeed not, for honestly with such a stagnation of potential customers lately and worrying dearly each and every day about having to quit my life-long endeavor two months from now, there I was sitting at the table up on the podium with a microphone in my hand. Strange how I thought I would be so very nervous. I wasn't and I was not not shaking in my boots at all. Perfectly still and perfectly calm, words of wisdom flowing freely from my mouth. Flowing into the air above the bobbing heads and away into outer space.
I wanted to be honest, not sound overly positive but also not come across as a negative worried person. Afterall, a "true" business person is undaunted by the frustrations of life and knows for sure that one day or other he will overcome each and every obstacle in his never-ending pursuit of success and happiness (and lots of money).
The interview lasted more than thirty-minutes. While I was kind of nervous in the beginning, towards the last couple of questions he posed to me, I was lubricated and extremely talkative. On the edge of tangents, I stretched my long and winding sentences. I felt like I was not really there. It was an almost out of the body experience where my mind and mouth were disjointed in time, sliced at all angle just like in some Cubist painting. I even tried to pull off a couple of witty jokes -- now who was I kidding?
All in all, I felt relieved when it was over with. I had done my duty, explained who I was and what it was like to start an own business. It was now time to take the tour of the mosque in the deep bowels of which this meeting had taken place. That spiritual wandering tour which I had used as an attractive reward for myself if I had made it through the grueling interview unscathed. And I had survived.
I walked past the droves of people pushing and shoving for information brochures and headed out the back door. At the end of the long hall was the place I had to take off my shoes.
Allah was waiting for me.