The toughest things become easy to do if they are done for the sake of Allah ~
Today late in the evening when stepping out for dinner, I entered a lift which was already occupied by an elderly man in his early 60s, wearing the traditional Indian kurta pyjama, a cap on his head, sporting a white beard that matched the colour of his hair. Reflexly I greeted ‘Assalaam Alaikum’ . I expected him to reply back ‘Walaikum Assalaam’. He didn’t . I felt offended this time, wondering what is wrong with the Muslims here ? As this was not the first time I have had this kind of response from strangers here. Yeah of course, I forgot to mention, I didn’t know this man. He was a stranger to me. All that I recognised from his get up, was that he was a Muslim.
I have had similar kind of responses from all strangers that I have greeted so far : men/women, young/old. Strangers I don’t know, strangers I don’t recognise, but strangers whom I relate to in terms of identity. A few days after I landed in Mumbai, I had hailed a cab to go to South Mumbai and while sitting in the cab,I had noticed the driver was a Muslim. An old man, and I reflexly greeted ‘Assalaam Alaikum’. I supposed he didn’t reply , probably because he hadn’t heard me. A couple of days later, I met two Muslim ladies, waiting for the lift and I greeted them too. As usual, no response. They didn’t even acknowledge, neither by a nod nor by any gesture ! It was if they hadn’t heard me ! And this has happened quite often, enough to now bother me.
I find this very odd. I have spent many long years in Saudi Arabia and on this occasion I have come here after five years. Of course a lot of things have changed here. Even the way people dress and the way they talk, their behaviour and their attitudes, everything. And I am not talking here about my friends or relatives. Mumbai has changed and it’s people have changed too.
I unintentionaly start drawing comparisons between Saudi Arabia and Mumbai, though I love Mumbai very much and this city is my birth place. I grew up here. Studied here. Got married here. I feel there is no place on Earth like Mumbai. Mumbai has a life of it’s own. A different life. It is not just the commercial hub of India, it is the place where Bollywood makes dreams and sells them to the rest of India and even exports those dreams abroad. India beats to the heart beats of Mumbai.
It’s about culture I suppose. Some cultural practices arise out of religious practices. In Saudi Arabia, where Islam is the prominent religion and it’s laws are based on Sharia, Islam is a way of life there. Islamic practices are, what are followed by the majority, hence most of it’s cultural practices are derived out of the religious practices. The habit of greeting each other by Salaam has become a reflex action. Whether the person is known to one or not, he/she is greeted by the Islamic greeting ‘Assalaam Alaikum’. It is recommended by the Hadith for two Muslims to greet each other by Salaam, even if they have been separated by a minute and met each other again after a few steps. This greeting is a part of the identity of Muslims, irrespective of where they stay. But now I believe this practice is observed only in some parts of the world.
When I mentioned this to the girl ,who was with me in the lift at that time, she said that this is the norm here. Here they don’t greet strangers. And even if they do, the usual response is of distrust.They look at you as if you need something from them. And she added further, that she herself would perhaps greet a Muslim woman, a young man out of question, but would never greet an aged man either, because she wouldn’t trust him.He would probably start getting some ideas, she said.
And I realised, how much lack of trust and inability to trust has pervaded the society. A greeting may perhaps be a way to initiate a conversation. Which could perhaps later on lead to other things, either a relation or a transaction or perhaps even nothing. But can’t we greet each other without expecting anything else other than simply a simple reply to the greeting ? Should any interaction necessarily have a motive behind it ? Why all this distrust ? After all, ‘Assalaam Alaikum’ only means ‘Peace unto you’
I have had a habit of blindly trusting people only to be let down miserably and now I know all cannot be trusted. Yet I haven’t given up on humanity. I haven’t given up on trust.I still do believe not all are same. Not all can be trusted and similarly not all should be distrusted. Life has taught me to be now cautious, but not afraid of people. Why don’t we treat each one as a different person than the other ? Why don’t we take them on face value ? I am not advocating throwing all caution to the wind. But really, why don’t we give them a chance to show what they really are ? Every one deserves a time , a moment to prove what stuff he is made of. If they fail you, it is their loss. Feel sorry for them, but don’t give up on humanity as a whole.
It seems to have been ages since I have actually put a pen to paper with the purpose of writing something else other than a shopping or a ‘to-do’ list. And now that I’m doing it, this activity appears alien to me but it is something that I’m getting gradually used to, with a bit of nostalgia and a sense of familiarity.
The reason why I would need to carry out this ancient practice, given this age of computers and internet, both of whom I have been married to since the past 10 years or so, is because I’m required to take a test of my writing abilities and skills.And for this test I would be required to really use my hand with a real pen on a real paper ! I came to terms with this realisation with a bit of unsettling feelings, something that one feels on coming across ‘strange’, hitherto unknown activities. Strangely,this reaction has been despite the fact that I have had a formal education for about 17 years during which conventional paper ‘textbooks’ and ‘notebooks’ were used and pens and pencils were the regular medium of input.
I recall now how then , different kinds and brands of this writing medium were prized possessions of students who competed with each other not only in the possession of these objects of thrill but also in the use of these objects. A student was known not only by his or her grades but also by his handwriting where a beautiful and a clear handwriting were considered an art; an asset, a coveted skill that students laboured hard to acquire. Parents and teachers used to get concerned if the handwriting of their wards appeared like crawling insects on paper.
Clearly things have changed since I graduated from graduate school. My kids are in elementary school and have been introduced to computers right from Grade 1. My son is being taught programmes that I had laboured hard to teach myself many years after graduation. Mercifully though, pencil and paper are still being used as media of input or learning, at least in this part of the world that I live in.
And like my parents, I too am concerned about my children’s handwriting and its appearance and speed; since parents unknowingly and unintentionally and sometimes knowingly and intentionally expect children to perform better or at least at the same level as they had, in their learning days. This of course implies that I had a lucid and beautiful handwriting in my school as well as college days.
A few days ago however, when I attempted to write on blank sheets of paper that I have been using so far only to take computer printouts, I watched in horror and dismay as my hand scribbled a few illegible lines on paper with extreme effort and labour. Not only was the handwriting utterly ugly by my standards, but also shockingly slow. I went into a state of denial. This could not be me and this could not be my handwriting ! Then came shock and anger and finally acceptance. All stages of grief covered,I resolved to improve upon this art,which I meticulously practiced. However,when I focused on the appearance, speed went down and when I tried to speed up, beauty was sacrificed. Going through a myriad of emotions including shock, anger and denial, not excluding a sense of loss, helplessness and inability to cope with, misty eyed I tried to strike a balance between both beauty and speed, resolving and attempting to improve upon both.
And now several pages later, I must say I can already see a difference. A noticeable difference; both in the appearance and speed of my handwriting. I always keep saying, ‘Fruits of labour never tasted better’. At the same time however I realized that over the years it was not just my handwriting that got battered but also my writing skills have taken the battering. Now I need to improve upon my writing skills too.
In this whole process of self-realisation however, a wonderful thing happened…
I have fallen in love again with real paper and real pen and seem to derive some kind of gratification out of holding a pen in my hand and rolling it over paper in smooth beautiful strokes, finding the classic motion of ball over paper as smooth as satin and an undescribable experience.
This is going to be one wild, intense affair which holds promises of lasting a life time !
“Sorry ‘Word’, I will have to part ways with you; which I will do gradually so that both of us can get used to it in a less shocking manner. But I will on amicable terms with you. And yes we can still be friends and remain so “
Am intrigued by your intrigue.
Who are you ?
It’s difficult to remain ungrateful when day in and day out you witness patients lying on ventilators depending on machines even for a single breath.
They wouldn’t be thinking then of the love that was around, but not available , or how the days sucked . How everything went completely against their wishes.
If they were capable of thinking…
they would be asking for just one breath
On their own.
One extra moment
to live that life again…
and undo all the wrong undone.
Forgive me Allah , for I have been ungrateful !
“Aren’t you closing up to yourself Ciphur ?”
“Yes, I guess I am.
It’s strange.The more that I try to expand , the more my world seems to narrow down.
I guess it all comes down to one equation:
You being the ‘ciphur’ and He being the Infinity…
It all boils down to just one relationship.
That between you and Him.”
Life is strange…
You live a million moments through a thousand days…
and yet it teaches you nothing…
as much as a death teaches you in an instance.
If only one would ponder …