The Protagonists

Days Of Yore

19th September marked the 50th anniversary of Mummy and AJ’s wedding.

The year was 1964. A young good-looking man, on his way to work, would pass by a certain balcony on Marriott Road. Unbeknownst to him, a pair of shapely eyes would wait to catch glimpses.

No words nor glances were ever exchanged.

So imagine her surprise when his people approached her people to ask for her hand for him. She saw no reason to refuse.

They were engaged in July, ’64…..

pic59-wedding…….married in September.

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Lesser known mystics of South Asia – III

A repost from way back when (Oct. 2013)…

Gathering just-a-bit-o moss

Abu Tukh Al Malanga

Abu Tukh claimed royal lineage from the Pharoah Hatshepsut. His most famous quote was to ‘do unto yourself as you wish yourself to want to do to unto the other.’ He was a perplexed soul, and his perplexity touched souls far and wide. There were not many in the tiny town of Raiwind in mid-thirteenth century who would (or could) lay claim to the Hatshepsut’s lineage, and that was unfortunate since a bit of extra lineaging wouldn’t have done Hatshepsut an itty bit of harm.

It is reputed that Al Malanga wanted to leave behind some sort of a miracle as legacy. Nothing moon shattering, just something to keep the conversation warm when camps of weary travelers settled down in the evening and exchanged tales of ribaldry and zest. He would have liked that. But this offshoot of Hatshepsut’s progeny was to be denied this legacy, and…

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The day we ran into Anthony Bourdain….(albeit with some reservations)

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….was the day Israel began to bomb the hell out of Lebanon in earnest, in July 2006.

Huz was on a ‘mission’, and Amu and I tagged along as I was very eager to see what all the fuss was about as far as Beirut was concerned, ‘Paris of the East’ and all that jazz. Not to mention the taouk sandwiches that Huz raved about from the last couple of times he’d been there.

Needless to say, I fell in love with the place, and most of all, the people. The Lebanese are just gorgeous if you ask me. Beautifully skinned, beautifully dressed (skimpy for women for a country in the Middle East, I thought) and I loved the way they spoke Arabic…and French. Hearing my own name being pronounced by an Arabic speaker was pure pleasure, and considering I wear my heart on my sleeve, I merrily proceeded to…

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Things that happen

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A simple thing like waking up unusually early one day can change your life forever, or at least for the life span of a cat. Here’s what happened one beautifully crisp morning in December.

Decided to take Amu driving at 7am as the stretch of road where I teach her is relatively car-free and less intimidating then.

In the parking area of our apartment building rang out the forlornly incessant mewing of a decidedly small cat. The mysterious mewing kitty was hiding in the space between the top of the wheel and the chassis of our car, rendering us incapable of driving away without getting it out first.

Seeing us standing around helpless, the chowkidar fetched a stick to get the invisible noisemaker to jump off and run out. What emerged was a tiny grease-covered creature of indeterminate colour and scared blue eyes. I picked her up to stop her…

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Back to basics

When the pain of the Other is put at par with
The countless permutations of other indulgences,

The uppity stakes in wholesome and not so
Wholesome tidbits, that must mean life, mustn’t it?

The injustice is obvious and you must get back to
The basics of how to count and what to value.

When the tiniest of tiny voices is easy to
Smudge over with the many many notes of

High fidelity, varying in scale and tenor of
Stupendous volume, that must mean life, mustn’t it?

The injustice is obvious and you must get back to
The 123’s of how to count and the abc’s of what to value.

Lesser known mystics of South Asia – III

Abu Tukh Al Malanga

Abu Tukh claimed royal lineage from the Pharoah Hatshepsut. His most famous quote was to ‘do unto yourself as you wish yourself to want to do to unto the other.’ He was a perplexed soul, and his perplexity touched souls far and wide. There were not many in the tiny town of Raiwind in mid-thirteenth century who would (or could) lay claim to the Hatshepsut’s lineage, and that was unfortunate since a bit of extra lineaging wouldn’t have done Hatshepsut an itty bit of harm.

It is reputed that Al Malanga wanted to leave behind some sort of a miracle as legacy. Nothing moon shattering, just something to keep the conversation warm when camps of weary travelers settled down in the evening and exchanged tales of ribaldry and zest. He would have liked that. But this offshoot of Hatshepsut’s progeny was to be denied this legacy, and so his name lives on only when perplexed souls far and wide attempt to do unto themselves as they wish to want to do unto others. Hatshepsut would have been content with just that. Abu Tukh wasn’t.

Abu Luchcha Al Lafanga

There are many anecdotes related to Abu Luchcha, and if one tries to reconcile one anecdote with another, one quickly realizes the futility of the endeavor. It is this multifaceted truth that Al Lafanga dared to embody in his being. Two anecdotes will illustrate. The first one narrates Abu Lucchha as a lad of seven picking dates which had fallen on the ground. A passerby chided Al Lafanga asking, “Do you not mind your tender hands getting sullied with such pickings when there is a cleaner harvest not too far above?” Abu Luchcha paid no heed to the man not knowing what the words ‘sullied’ and ‘harvest’ meant.

The other anecdote has the tables turned so that it is an older Al Lafanga passing by a young boy collecting faalsa droppings. Abu Luchcha sat down and affectionately tried to explain to the boy the meanings of the words ‘sullied’ and ‘harvest’.

Lesser known mystics of South Asia – II

Abu Majal Al Uski
Born in Cairo, Al Uski came to Jamshoro when he was relatively young, say twelve years old. The intonations of the local dialect quickly fired his imagination, and he was known to recite couplets at  will.

One afternoon, when the grasshoppers were busy counting how many wishes had seen dust, Abu Majal (around say fifteen-ish) decided to take a different route. Each day for the past three years, he would studiously follow the road from his house to the madrassa. The occasional passer-by would be greeted with a casual greeting, the odd change in landscape dismissed. This humdrum routine did not bother him the least bit, his youth untouched by the stirrings of curiosity that every now and then tried to bite him from the inside. No, the steady road, the casual greeting and the consistency of path soothed him to the point of lull-ness.

But curiosity has a mind of its own.

At first, it seemed innocuous. Just a bit of meandering off the beaten path. A careless whim taken seriously for a minute or more. But there was always more to it, and he knew it. The meanderings were prelude to an awful awesomeness that the road feigned innocence of.

The road, he thought, should know. It should lead, guide, instruct even. But in the end, it was his whim which held sway.

Fifteen years of prelude. Now had come the time for him to shed the well-trodden path in favour of the unknown. And he knew it well that one of these days, he will cross paths with a destiny he had playfully wrought in verse some years ago. What he saw on the first day was like a vision of a temptress leading him on. On each subsequent day, as he went further off his path, her apparition seemed to flesh out more. Within a month, it is as if he was in pursuit of someone as real as the conversation he has in the evenings with the talkative storekeeper near his home about the petty machinations of the jagirdars.

But nothing was spoken, and that made him think that it may possibly be unreal. And at the end of the ten to fifteen minute diversion, it all went poof and left him feeling as if he had woken from a dream. He eventually found his way back, a bit groggy and shaken, trying to make sense of it for the rest of the day, anticipating the next visit feverishly.

He had been transformed, that was for sure, but to what end he did not know. The days and nights had enough regularity to keep the ground under his feet otherwise. And then, she spoke. With a crisp clarity, her voice rang out, “You have followed me with the curious intensity of a seeker. But to seek is one thing, to choose what is sought is another.” Then she held out a chalice saying, “Drink from this cup if you so choose. I am the guarantor, I Shakuntala.”

The gates of heaven peeped out a squeal of delight.

Lesser known mystics of South Asia – I

Abu Dilbar Al Janiabi
It is narrated that once a boy approached Abu Dilbar while the sage was buying cloth from an expensive cloth merchant in Multan. The boy was curious as to why a sage, generally known for unworldly ways, would frequent such an exorbitant merchant. Maybe there was more to it than met his eye, which was generally the case with these sages. But before he could enunciate his query, Al Janiabi interjected, “This time there really is nothing more than meets your eye, little boy.”

The boy was gobsmackled by this show of sorcerous prophetization. He left quickly. Abu Dilbar continued buying. The merchant counted his money. A woman swooned. “Could this be ishq,” she wondered, “or is this just a second-hand emotion?” Al-Janiabi was least bothered, but he did say these words before parting, “The merchant can sell his wares without bothering the date palm across the road, but the date palm is a wily old coot, mind you.”

Abu Kabab Al Sharabi
This Kashmiri met Lalleshwari on one of her ecstatic wanderings. Although Lalla’s method to madness was her rapturous song and dance, Abu Kabab could only think of one thing. Later, when he came back to his flock and narrated this incident, there were some who wanted to convert, some questioned why they too were not taken along, but there was one among Al Sharabi’s devotees who was silent. Abu Kabab, versed well in ways of silence, read his devotee’s mind with the agility of the eagle that snatches the hapless sparrow, and he smiled.

Abu Kum Al Dastyabi
Taimur Lung once came up to Al-Dastyabi in search of something vague. Neither Lung nor Al-Dastyabi was sure what exactly that something was. But a happy compromise was reached when Al-Dastyabi brought the conversation to a halt in an unintelligible Zen-like fashion. Lung, thinking himself satisfied, gave Abu Kum a bag of silver as kings are wont to do. Al-Dastyabi uttered thus-like, “And to think that this your otherwise kingly act might not have in a tiny way insulted – you know – someone?”

Taimur was gobsmackled by this show of onerous dis-proportionization. He left. Al-Dastyabi felt a slight pang of guilt. “Nothing two dashes of ghee-drenched-parathas can’t quell,” he mused and headed for the hearth. The rain outside did not mind. Neither did the courtesan who lived upstairs, but she did wonder as free spirits are wont to do.

Swahili primer (notes from Zanzibar)

– How many hakunas does it take so that it does not matata any more?
– How many salamalaikums does it take to contain a single habari (how’s it going)?
– How many deft pharmacists and cab drivers does it take to outwit the mzungu (white man)?
– How many moja bareedees (cold ones) till black and white are one and all is good?
– How many mambos and jambos till you lose count and the sun commences an East African morning, and it is time to start counting again?