Morning was smoky. Train was travelling across Karnataka and Andra Pradesh in Zig-Zag fashion all the morning. Mobile phones kept on prompting messages in regular intervals as the states changed simultaneously. I was keen, observing suburbs of Bangalore. Rather than entering cities like Bangalore, Pune this train kept its head straight on their suburbs to avoid delay.
Last night when I shut my eye lids, the compartment was lit. The lights went on as a family entered the compartment at Erode Junction. I’m sure that I wasn’t able to sleep in such bizarre environment they created. Yet, I pretended to be asleep to avoid unwanted notice and conversation with them.
The luggage rolled underneath berths with ferocious chains affixing them in position. The family went on chatting in high pitch which sounded like a mutiny. I was able to recognize their accent. It told boldly that the family was from Madurai, my city. There may be some discrepancy in this claim. But it’s valid. Calm after Storm. The family went to sleep switching to their night garments very soon. Compartment had no other noises than those of wheels.
Myself and Rahul got earlier up. He was very much interested in saying me his story. His family. His journey. His school. His favorites. Much more. The talk went on English and Hindi.
Ten in the morning, the family came to phase. They settled after their morning chores. They were gazing us. Me and Rahul some where between debate on Gujarat. And when our eyes met with the family, They smiled. I do gave one back. Rahul was not much impressed about them. He turned his face aside. He was constantly expressing his disgust against their behavior in face.
They offered us broken lentil sambar filled plate of Idli when they were ready for breakfast speaking broken Hindi. I declined their offer in Tamil. They were jolted. I introduced myself. Their shock grew. The complained me that I’m not speaking Tamil as Madurai Guy. It might have sounded odd to them. Your accent seems little like Hindi they muttered. What shall I do? Even my native doesn’t sound like native.
Krishnarajapuram junction came. A Couple entered our compartment. Leaving her, he departed. The berth which I used yesterday was hers by now. I need to share my berth with my RAC partner this night. I saw him. He signaled me with a giggle, that the same thought process is going inside.
Her. The her of the couple settled. She was around 28. Rahul was rapt attentive on her. He introduced himself instantly. She greeted. Then they had some formal discussion in Gujarati. The time was around nine in the morning. Rahul went for a nap as he got quite earlier.
The family were already asleep after completing their heavy breakfast. RAC partner was on his own. He was carried away by sight outside the window. He observed silence in obese.
She started the talk offering some sandwich. I declined as I never eat anything heavy on my train journeys. Few pack of biscuits and six liters of water will suffice my appetite. She insisted to at-least taste a bit. I was obliged to. I took a part. It was tongue smacking. Unable to resist myself, I took it whole with a smirk. The conversation took my style. I thanked her with appreciation, inquiring further about the recipe. Women like appreciation and sharing further details for their works. I love cooking. Not on regular basis but on occasions, so its my custom to note down whatever new recipe which I have chance to taste on the way. To value my esteem she took some other dishes like Pulao, Bhajji out of the bag, along with her story.
Shaheeda. 31. Lives here in Bangalore with her IT husband. Just married, a year ago. Now, travelling to attend her brother’s marriage in Surat, her hometown.
Till afternoon, she was speaking about her childhood, teen life, beauty of surat. While talking she offered some sour candies made of tamarind and raw mango. The sourness touched its peak with each chew giving re-freshness.
And in the afternoon, the family joined us. They were questioning us on Islam. They asked why shaheeda was not on her hijab. And she replied with a standpoint quoting some verses from Quran and Hadeeth. She concluded that it was not mandatory. Dressing in Moderate way is what Islam expects from its followers not veiling completely. Even during prophets time total hijab was only observed by his household. Hijab was clothing style used by royals those days. Its good to observe Hijab and there is no problem until the clothing goes moderate, she added.
Yeah. Her debate had value. Her cotton clothing were already like hijab covering her well without exposing and she had a dhupatta, the Indian multi purpose scarf. Her hair was the only part not under cover according to hijab rules. In long journeys, this sort of outfit is surely better than wrapping a black cloak all around. Ultimately, hijab and niqab are choice of an individual.
The family told that they were on their pilgrimage to twelve jyothir lingh darshan. Topic moved spiritual. Religions and Faiths were brought inside. As I had been through most of revered religions and faiths most of my life, I love this topic. I love people speaking philosophies. I love people seeking a truth with their conscience. I love people questioning their existence. The family were such people. They had very depth knowledge on Yoga and Meditation. They added, that they do visit some dargahs often. And while speaking they mentioned dargahs by the name of masjids. I told them the difference.
Masjid or Mosque is a place of worship. There will be no Idol or Grave inside a masjid. It’s just a four walled space. Any place can be considered masjid. But Dargah is different. Dargah is shrine probably built above Grave of repute Islamic Personalities like dervishes or rulers. Dargahs are usually frequented with people irrespective of religion.
As they started the topic on Dargahs, Shaheeda got curious. She was form surat, which has at-least a dargah each turn the corner. Visiting graves has no problem with Islam but praying graves throws the difference. Islam teaches not to make prayers to anything except God. God alone deserves the quality to be worshiped, not stones and graves. For all the discussions, I served as translator from Hindi to Tamil.
Shaheeda spoke Hindi and Gujarati. And I came to know that Gujarati Muslims were not at all aware of Urdu scripts nor Urdu. Some had tendency to read Arabic yet were unable understand like elsewhere in Indian Subcontinent. Gujarati Muslims are thus like Tamil and Malayali Muslims. This was to my surprise. Even in Rajastan, the neighboring state to Gujarat, Muslims speak and write Urdu. And above all Muslims in Gujarat even consume very less amount of Non-Vegetarian foods. And Shaheeda was pure vegetarian. Gujarat society as the whole had a vegetarian environment than elsewhere. It’s only state to prohibit alcohol all along India’s west.
(To be Continued)