It isn’t Eid yet here in India until tomorrow (Oct 14th), but nevertheless I would also like to wish all my other Muslim friends here in India right from school throughout college, including all my friends from Hyderabad a wonderful Eid Mubarak. Enjoy this weekend!
I love exposure. I love mixing with different communities and understanding them. Because it is only when we don’t understand others, that we start stereotyping and assuming what they are not.
I’ve had my fair share of Muslim friends here in India. But it was only after I moved to Hyderabad and had Arab neighbors, that I realized what I knew about Islam then, was only that they don’t eat pork, slaughter goats during “bhakrid”, wear a “kufi” white cap on some occasions, and say their prayers too loudly in the morning over the loudspeakers of a nearby Mosque, waking us all up. That was it. Because my Muslim friends and I never used to discuss about religion. Never. Maybe it was India’s secularism at work, or the sensitivity of the nature when it comes to religion here in India, who knows. But it was always like, “Hey I’m a Christian, you’re a Muslim, so do you listen to Iron Maiden? Cool, even I don’t like Manchester United.”
No discussions on religion, ever. But Hyderabad changed all that.
I still remember one of my first discussions with my Arab neighbors in Hyderabad. We were discussing about Christianity at the YMCA Basketball court @ Secunderabad (where we used to play everyday), and when I mentioned “Jesus Christ”, Hyder immediately muttered “salallahu alayhi wasalaam”. I was familiar with that particular sentence by then, which means “Peace Be Upon Him” (PBUH for short), a term they use every time they mention Prophet Mohamed’s name.
It was then that I found out other differences and similarities between Christianity and Islam. Soon we all moved in together to a gigantic 3 bedroom apartment in Masab Tank next to Mehdipatnam. I learnt a lot from them. Differences between the sunnis and shias, traditions, namaz, haraam, the position of Jesus and Mary according to Islam, hajj, halaal, shariat, jihad etc I love learning about other cultures and religions, and no, all that never shook my belief and foundation in Christianity.
When we speak of Islam, most of us immediately think of extremism. I loath fundamentalism of any kind, be it Islam, Hinduism or Christianity. And I will certainly stay away from such people. My Arab friends were definitely not the extremist kind.
When I first told my mom that I was moving in with my new Arab friends, she got quite a shock. After all, she had never had a Muslim friend in her entire life, and the only news she had seen on the TV in Mizoram about Muslims are suicide bombers. See, that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make. Lack of interaction gives rise to delusional stereotypes. It was only when I convinced her about how much more I will be able to concentrate on my studies in my new apartment that she finally gave me the green signal.
Living with Arab roomies was a great fun. We laughed a lot. And oh, we had a really tough time searching for an apartment initially. India boasts of secularism, but in Hyderabad, a Hindu looking for a flat to rent in a Muslim dominated area or a Muslim looking for a flat in a Hindu area will see a very low success rate. That’s reality, folks. And I had a first-hand experience on that. In a way, I think we Christians are the luckiest group here in India when it comes to apartment leasing. Nobody hates us or is felt threatened by us
My roomies were Hyder (Iraq), Alaa (Syria) and Mohammad (Yemen). Amazing bunch of guys. I still remember one really funny incident back then. Our apartment, as mentioned before, was in a strictly Muslim-dominated area. Everybody knew I wasn’t a Muslim but since I was with those guys, nobody really cares. So one day my roomie Alaa left his mobile phone at home as he left for work. We were on the fourth floor, so I rushed to the balcony and I could see him just about to leave at the apartment gate. I shouted as loud as I could without thinking what his name actually sounds like, “Alaaa… mobile phone… Alaaaa…” And then I suddenly realized what I was shouting and saw all the stares from the people on the street and I was like “OH SHITTT”. Fortunately, nothing happened, but my best friend Kini, another Muslim, still takes my trip about that incident even today.
Why am I reminiscing so much about those Hyderabad days? Because it is Eid and I had a really really really good time during Eid back then. Everyday during Ramadan (Ramzan), all the other Arab friends of my roomies would come over to our apartment and they would cook this really scrumptious meal to break their fast. And I would be the official taster, to see if the food they are cooking is too salty or not, too spicy, too sweet etc. And after they say their prayers and eat the dates, we would all sit in this huge circle and eat all the dishes we cooked. I of course would eat the most, shameless me, even though I was the only one not fasting. Hehehe. I really miss those days.
The other Muslims in our apartment, the Indian Muslims, actually didn’t get along very well with my Arab roomies though. Because that was during 2003, the Cricket World Cup. All the Arabs of course cheered for Pakistan, so in order to muster support I would call over Pawan, Kini, Akram, Adonica, and all my other Indian friends to cheer for India, and we would all have these harmless fights and taunts every time India or Pakistan plays. One day, I was in the lift alone with Syed, one of my nice neighbors in that apartment. He asked me directly, “Do you like them?” and I was like… “Yeah… why do you ask?”, and then he told me about the way they would cheer so loudly for Pakistan and that it was because of Muslims like them that people in India think all Muslims cheer for Pakistan.
That is deep!!!
Makes you think a lot huh? Especially after that recent comment by the Pakistan Captain Shoaib Malik urging all the Muslims in the World to cheer for Pakistan, which was of course taken in extreme bad taste by the Muslims of our great Country. It’s funny how some people declare themselves to be a spokesperson for a particular community without even considering the welfare and opinions of the others in that community.
Anyway, I will leave my racial topic posts for another day. Right now, this is a joyous post dedicated to all my Muslim brothers and sisters wishing you all a wonderful Eid. I hope you eat lots of Haleem I don’t know if there is Haleem in Malaysia & Singapore, as I read it is a Persian dish brought to India a long time back [source: wiki] Me and my friends were crazy about Haleem back in Hyderabad (Paradise, Abids) and Bangalore (Fanoos) during the month of Ramzan. You can find the recipe for Haleem here. It is really tasty, but fills you up pretty quickly. Shawarmas too go really well with Haleem. Sivayyan is another Eid dish I really love which you must try if you can get your hands on it.
Have a great weekend once again everyone, and Insha’Allah.
This Post is also specially dedicated to Mr. Mohamed Elias of Trichy, Tamilnadu, former Indian National Basketball player, and my personal Coach & friend for over 10 years, transforming me from the scrawny, bespectacled, “always looking down while dribbling” basketball player wannabe, to the dunking, energetic, ever-sharp, “one of the most feared point-guards & 3-pointers” in South Indian basketball (during our era). Sir, you have made the greatest change in me and here is wishing you a fantabulous Eid Mubarak.