Why in Allah’s name is there a need to demean others? Why rile and enrage their leaders and imams, no matter how much we believe they were wrong in the past? Do we not have enough problems of our own? Mullah Happy pauses and lets out a massive burp, smiles ruefully, excuses himself, looks around the now almost empty room and leans forward. Are we united? Tell me, tell me, he almost whispers and I have to strain real hard to listen, let me know of 2 mullah or ayaat’Allahs that agree with each other and I’ll kiss your behind!
Eh? Is this the same genial and carefree Mullah Happy that I knew until today? He looks more and more like a man possessed, accusing his own and betting to kiss unholy human anatomy. He eyes me with look of defiance, a sneer on his face. He has touched on a subject that is very, very dicey, best kept to oneself, not open for discussion.
But Aagha, I start politically; surely the differences between various religious men are trivial, expressed as a sign of healthy democracy within our religion? Surely there is no harm if the differences do not fringe upon Usool e Deen?
Bah! Goes Mullah Happy, bah! You are naïve Sir, democracy and all. This is no Amreeka! This is India, Hindustan! Here one Mullah will sell another for much less than the cost of one carton of export quality Alphons mangoes. Have you not seen us put each other down at every opportunity? If one says the sun is very hot, another will object, trying to prove it is not very hot, only hot. We are almost all full of misplaced egos and run after what makes this world turn – money! You know how much we mullahs abuse the masses? He waits not for an answer. You, he says sternly and wags a finger at me, I cringe, you Khojas are so gullible. You think anyone wearing a black or white turban is made of eggs and needs to be treated as such. Or, or, you think we are so good and proper we do not shit!
Mamamia! I am lost for words and need time to digest this strange episode so I signal a lingering waiter for more tea. Mullah Happy takes a breather as well, and goes to the bathroom; not all very prim and proper, I guess.
The tea and Mullah Happy arrive simultaneously; we pour the tea and I sip contently. Brewed tea in a Mumbai restaurant has its own qualities; sweet and instantly refreshing. I eye Mullah Happy as he adds more sugar to his tea ruefully. I wish I had the same metabolism as his; the man eats twice as much as I can or do, unlimited amounts of his favorite Indian burfee and does not exercise a bit yet maintains a perfect figure and disposition. Now that is what I judge unfair; I have to watch every calorie I take in and only just maintain a reasonable waistline due to massive amount of running. I look at my watch and it is almost 4PM; my drive back home to Andheri, a mere 14 miles away will take at least 90 minutes. Interesting and intriguing as this meeting has been, I must start for home shortly.
Aagha, I say soothingly, this has been really interesting chat of ours. Why, I never knew you harbored such feeling and thoughts. But please do not let the opinions of one person upset you so much. Mullah Pain is irrelevant; ignore him. Mullah Happy looks at me despairingly. But you don’t understand, Sarkaar, you don’t! Mullah Pain may be irrelevant to you but he shapes and influences hundreds others! He misleads them; he uses the mimber for his own selfish ends. I want to say something but Mullah Happy holds up a hand. He pokes a finger out.
One. He uses rotten language against Muslim majority and degrades their holy men.
Two. He riles his followers with exaggerated claims about events in Kerbala that have no relevance either in history or logic.
Three. He puts down and condemns anybody that dares to challenge him; he was instrumental in having a pious and highly intellectual lady arrested and deported from India.
Four. He tolerates and encourages bizarre rituals about events in Kerbala. Have you been to Dogri during 10 days of Murarram? I shake my head, no. You should come and witness the circus here; it will blow your mind! 90% of rituals have nothing to do with Islam or the message of Imam Hussein (A). We decorate horses and pigeons and Allah knows what not. Then we touch them and kiss them and circulate little babies around them and even pray to them. No wonder some call us idol worshippers, I don’t blame them.
Five. He and his lot are responsible for leading our people astray, I hold them responsible.
Mullah Happy takes in a huge gulp of air and stops. He says he could continue for hours but my time is up, I have to leave. I pay for lunch, thank him for his time and company and we part ways outside the restaurant. I am too exhausted mentally to think about anything on the ride home. After few unsuccessful attempts at conversation by Sarfaraaz, the driver, I am left alone and I take a much needed nap.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Humble and modest person that he is, Mullah Happy looks acutely uncomfortable with my praise for he suddenly demands Did you hear Mullah Pain's lecture yesterday? I have never known Mullah Happy demanding or raising his voice ever before, so it takes me a while to shake off the shock I feel. Mullah Pain is a popular aalim in Mumbai (and elsewhere in India), always seen around during Muharram. Loud, vocal and reckless, he lambastes fellow Muslims who do not share his views at all his lectures, obviously relishing the " waah, waah, waah” reaction from (mostly uninformed and poor) masses. He is controversial old man, been in a soup a number of times, but remains very popular nevertheless.
Well, Mullah Happy, I say, you know I do not listen to him, you know what I think of him. Now what did he say that has you in a knot? Mullah Happy looks at me perplexed and purses his lips. What he said, what he said... he splutters, showering me with drizzle of spit that flies out of his trembling mouth, he used foul language against the gang of three. Again! I smile; Mullah Pain always has something bad to say about the gang of three, this is nothing new. My smile is seen as an affront, for Mullah Happy then does something else he has never done. He slams a bunched fist on the table, making me, the china and condiments all jump; a pickled onion gets a mind of its own and slowly but surely topples over and rolls along the table and comes resting near me, as if for safety. Do not take this lightly Sir,admonishes Mullah Happy, for his type of people are going to destroy us and destroy the chances of Muslims having any self respect in this country!
I am truly amazed at the transformation of this, well, until a little while ago, a pretty docile man. Well, I ask, what do you think needs to be done to control him? Our talk is interrupted by our waiter as he places a whole tandoori chicken, daal fry, mutton botis and butter naans in front of us. Now let me tell you this: Mumbai has a lot of good restaurants, but Delhi Durbaar in Pala Ghalli is unbeatable in taste and price. So for the next fifteen minutes, Mullah Pain is put on a back burner as we attack the spread in front of us in relative silence and enjoy, grunting in pleasure as the taste buds spring to life and sniff, sniff as hot spicy masalaas kick in delicious torment. It is only after the meal and hot chai that I appraise my agitated friend and wait for him to complete his tirade. He lets out a small, surpressed burp and goes on the offensive.
How low can we sink? You know that Muslims in India are a minority and we are a minority of this minority. After all that India has been through last year and more so after November 26, all of us, especially us mullahs need to be extra careful about what we say. And act. We need to be more accommodating and open to the government here, more helpful. After all, thirty plus percent of people slaughtered on November 26 were Muslims. But no! We remain combative and daring, not against ones who we consider non-believers but against our own Muslims.
Mullah Happy is definitely not a happy man today; he is seething with anger and in no mood to take my side remarks or jokes that he (at most times) finds entertaining. I refrain from commenting today and sit back to listen to another majlis.
To be continued…