His name

They were walking in a narrow lane. The road was broken and uneven. In a few minutes, they would be in the beautiful green expanse of the village. The hills would be visible all around. It was an evening walk.

They had met an hour ago. She was in her 40s, he in his 20s. She was having dinner alone in the dining hall, while he sat with his American friend at the other end of the same table. He had invited her to join them. She looked sad and lonely, and he wanted to express his affection to her. They had seen each other on campus before and had been in a discussion together, but they didn’t know each other. He knew her name is Divya, but she perhaps did not know his name.

For an hour, they talked about life, about medicine, about health. She talked about her depression and how the Tibetan doctor had dealt with it, to some success. He talked of the book on Tibetan medicine he had been reading that afternoon, with great fascination. Conventional medicine seemed increasingly superficial, intellectually bankrupt and spiritually ignorant. The American friend left after a while, leaving the two of them. When they had eaten, he asked, “I am going for my evening walk. Would you like to come along?” She agreed.

They were walking out from the campus towards the beautiful nature tracks in the village. The sky was turning from blue to red, the birds were flying back to their homes.

“I have been doing a lot of meditation these days”, he said.
“Hmmm. I don’t practice a technique but I like to be mindful as often as I can,” she replied.
“How did you find the Creative Dialogue programme?”
“I found it a bit too theoretical. They were all getting into intellectual discussions. But I liked some parts of it… By the way, what is your name?”
He told her his name
“You’re a Muslim…”, she remarked. He almost sensed her move away a few inches. She was unsettled.
“Yes”, he said with a smile.
“But you are not that kind of Muslim”.
He laughed. “What kind?”
“The fundamentalist kind”.
“Well, I don’t know”, he continued smiling, both bewildered and amused. “Do you know any other Muslims? Or is this the first time you have met a Muslim, since you are so surprised?”
“No, no. All the Muslims I have met a very very nice. But we see things on TV, in the media..”
He smiled. He did not know what to say. He wondered if he had the right to take offence.

They walked on, the topic changed back to her struggle with depression, to psychology, and when, in a few moments, they were in the fields, to dusk. They appreciated the lush green fields. The purple and red sky slowly signalled that it was time for the day to end. The soft light that fell on the fields subdued the whole atmosphere into a mellow, nurturing, loving ambiance. He forgot about the conversation in the lane.

In the days to come, he wondered at the absurdity of it all. Some people, in some corner of the world, had acted with violence. They had been doing it for some time. They were taking revenge for someone else having acted violently somewhere else. And today, he had been looked at skeptically because in the other’s mind, he shared a link with these people. He had never met them, he had always lived a peaceful, ordinary life in his own little nook in the woods. Yet, he was now suspect, because those others happened to share a religion he was born into.

Perhaps she did not know that he had hardly practised this religion. Perhaps he should have told her that he read the Upanishads, studied Sanskrit, ate sattvic food. Even if he had, should it have mattered? Should his name have caused a break, even if momentary, in the spontaneous friendship and empathy that had emerged from them in the last hour?

Over the last few years, he had noticed the world looking at him differently because they labeled him. “You can marry anyone you want but don’t marry a Muslim,” his friend’s mother had told her when the friend was going abroad for a long stay and the question of marriage had arisen. “Everything is fine but my mother doesn’t like Muslims,” his girlfriend had said, when she told him that she wished they would get married. There were several other subtle ways in which he had been made aware that he was born into the wrong religion, that wherever he went some people would be anxious, unsettled, or frankly hateful to him because he had a name that revealed a different identity. He was Muslim.

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~ by tdcatss on July 13, 2014.

6 Responses to “His name”

  1. Kaif, I love Islam. I love you for being a Muslim; a true Muslim. :-) Meeting you has made me love Islam and Muslims more and widened my understanding of Islam and being Muslim better. Good writing, once again. Keep the torch burning. We need more of your tribe. :-)

  2. :)

  3. Fahmida riaz writes
    only with a vicious dogma
    That calls the land my enemy,
    The river my foe….
    Far beyond the farthest sky
    Lives God, an alien, not of this earth.
    How can I love and hate
    At his command?
    How can I, born of the soil,
    Renounce it?

  4. it seems as if a flower was crushed in that moment, he saw it and felt the pain..

  5. shruti – that’s a strange poem :-/

    karan – perhaps!

  6. I hope you have met Tibetean doctor and it has helped you. :)

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