The month of Ramzan has always been special to me. Growing up in Patna, my dad’s friend would always invite us for kebabs during Eid. Being out of my hometown for several years now, I miss those moments and colorful panorama of the decorated markets, from Patna Junction’s New Market to Sabzibagh area where the festive look and the spirit reaches a crescendo on Eid. Last night, I went to Old Delhi (had gone there the Sunday before that as well) to soak in the spirit of Ramzan and relish the scrumptious food and sweets which taste extra delicious during this time. While returning it was quite late, about midnight and it was raining. Having a fascination for autos from childhood I didn’t hire a cab but hailed an auto. My driver, Mansoor Alam, talked a lot about Ramzan, Eid, and during the conversation I got to know he hailed from Kishanganj in Bihar. He said he won’t be able to go home for Eid this time because of financial crunch but what he told me next and did for me only proves that people like him are infinitely richer and wiser than most of us.
Here’s the conversation we had before rain aborted the vehicle midway from Old Delhi.
Me: Bhai chaloge? Lajpat Nagar chalna hai?
Mansoor: Ji. Rs 120 lagega, baarish bhi hay na.
Me: (Was thinking of going by meter but knew Rs 120 was a fair deal, so agreed) Chalo.
Me: Do you work night shifts only?
Mansoor: Yes, I start in the evening and go till 7 AM.
Me: When do you sleep? Next day.
Mansoor: No, I take a break for 2-3 hours inside my auto and resume at 4-5 AM again.
Me: Kya naam hai tumhara?
Mansoor: (This point I learned his name) Mansoor, Mansoor Alam.
Me: Kehan ghar hua?
Mansoor: Shahdara, Jamna par.
Me: Gaon kehan hai.
Mansoor: Bihar mey sir, Kishanganj ek district hai.
Me: I know Kishanganj. Raat mey chalate ho to sehri karte ho?
Mansoor: Bilkul sar, kahin dukan ki ot meyn lagake kar lete hayn.
Me: Eid mey ghar ja rahe ho?
Mansoor: Ji nahin, is baar kuch pareshani hai?
Me: Tumhare parivar kehan rehte hayn?
Mansoor: Bachelor hun abhi aur maa-baap Kishanganj mey hay.
Me: Humko Ramzan bahut accha lagta hay, har saal Purani Dill aata hun. Jama Masjid ghumne aur khane peene. Eid bahut accha lagta hay.
Mansoor: (Returns a smile)
Me: Mayn Eid ko khali muslim tyohar nahin manta. Koi bhi nahin manta. Aur pura desh Eid ka besabri se intezaar karta hai. Mere liye Eid, Diwali, Dussera, Christmas sab barabar hai. Humko sabka intezaar rahta hai.
Mansoor: Bilkul sahi bole sir, ek tho Angrejan aayi thi auto meyn, saath mey do Angrezi ladke bhi the. Wo humse pooch rahi thee Eid kab aane wala hai? Sahi, me ek bideshi mahila poochi Eid ke barey mey to hamare desh mey to Eid ki alag hi baat hai.
Me: Sara dharam, mazhab insaniyat sikhata hay, Ramzan kewal ek musalman ko doosre musalman ke liye sochne ki baat nahin karta hai ya ek musalman ko dusre gareeb ke saath roti baantne ki baat nahin karta…sabke
Mansoor: (completes my sentence midway) saath rooti baantne ki baat karta hai.
Me: Tum batao kya koi majhab marne ki baat karta hai kya? Tum janta ho abhi Bangladesh mey kya hua?
Mansoor: Kya hua sir, nahin maloom hai humko.
Amazed by his honesty and simplicity to admit his ignorance. He does night shift, and may not have read papers or seen TV. Plus, people like him are too busy earning daily bread, daily news comes after that.
Me: arey Dhaka mey IS ne 20 logon ka qatl kar diya.
Mansoor: Kin logon ko mara sir? Kyon mara?
Me: Videhi, American, Indian, Japanese, European ko Quran Sharif ki aayat nahin maloom hay to maar diya.
Mansoor: Ye to bahut galat hua. Majhab ke naam par agar aap marte ho to, kiski pak kitab ko padhne ka aapka koi matlab nahin hai.
Me: Ghar meyn murti tangne se aur gaadi mey Quran ki aayte tange se kya hua agar insaan ki jaan le li aapne.
Mansoor: Agar insaniyat nahin sikha to kya mazhab sikha. Insaniyat se bada koi dharm nahin hai.
(For a while I was stunned. This was no scholar or Islamic cleric, but a simple man, with simple idea of life, of brotherhood and fraternity and love and sharing. And, his human qualities would be revealed further when he braved harsh monsoon and flooded streets to take me home, despite much obstacles and at no point did he attempt to desert me or asked me to dislodge.)
After reaching home, I asked him to go wait below Metro Station till situation gets better. I handed him his Rs 120 and was about to say goodbye. I though he would plead or demand extra money but not a single penny did he ask extra. I fished out my walled and gave him some extra money out of my own volition. To call it it a reward would be underrate his human qualities.
Mansoor: (turning his auto around) Ok sir, bye.
Me: Allah hafiz, Mansoor bhai, sehri kar lijiyega.
And, as I fished out my key out of right pocket, a thought ran through my head : “And, why are we still killing people, in the name of religion no less.” “People like Mans0or know Islam better than millionaires of the middle east or religious fundamentalists”.
People like Mansoor teach us the true meaning of Islam or any other religion for that matter. People like Mansoor cannot be shoehorned into a category of ‘good Muslim’ or ‘these kind of Muslims’, because they are ‘good humans’ and therefore they defy such narrow-minded tags the society seeks to impose on them. I am pained to see, after every terror attacks in any part of the world, Muslims being questioned and asked to prove their patriotism in one form or the other. I think people like Mansoor break those myths and stereotypes we tend to have reinforced over the decades. And, it’s time we quit looking at a community with a colored prism and embrace the goodness that diversity of this country offers to us. Imagining India without Islam, without the Moghul legacy, without the achievement of men and women from this community, is to imagine an incomplete India.