We look for peace in the most obvious places – despite also its obvious absence. Our sense of subtlety takes a royal hike, a half drenching walk half a kilometre into the sea on a barely safeguarded pathway notwithstanding; even if the sight of beggars all along numbs you - random limbs absent, too apparent for accident. Also sandwiched is the walk with a trail of makeshift-vendors on the other side – wares ranging knick knacks to religious books, chaddars and sweets. And you almost flip when you spot a goat on the roof of a makeshift shack among many – constantly swept by the sea – a plethora of dirt and rubbish ironically left behind.
My trip to Haji Ali was satisfying, though not spiritually. I found all that I had expected – to comfortably walk right up to the tomb; little interference from the police; lovely elaichi chai and piping hot vada pau inside the dargah periphery; and of course, Nidhi’s suggestion to see the back side that allowed for an audience of qawwali. But ibaadat is not for public consumption. Praise must come from the heart.
That was my last day at L&T – two days before I’d leave Bombay for at least a while, if not good. But god comes in myriad forms. Shafquat Qualandar’s Damadam Mast Kalandar flowed in the languid force of the scorching Swaraj Express’ already late huddle to Bombay. The singers, a trio of young men, barely old enough to squeak “As Salaam Valai Kum” sang in the voices god: loud, clear, never-out’a-tune and ever reverential. The dholi’s throat was ivory – washed in perspiration, veins throbbing as he sang, “हर दम पीरा तेरी खैर होवे. ” Another older percussionist, with a hoarser pitch, no less forceful, chorused the first’s young passion. The third voice on the harmonium remained just a voice. All I remember of him was that he conformed in garb – chequered blue lungis and mulmul kurtas with black knitted caps on each of their heads.
These boys sang with authority – a quiet dignity – a love for the creator. It is predictable, God will come to them; to them he will yield; to them he will deign; them, he will reward.
Why are we so afraid of praising god? Why do we hesitate to believe in our own faith? What holds us back from loving? Is it the fear of losing our own positions? Is it the fear of losing our object of affection? Has the fear of god’s tests and wraths ever held us from committing our daily quota of minuscule crimes and sins? How do you explain sleeping dreamlessly despite them? Is it fear at all?
To be afraid of praise (whether for oneself or directed towards another) is to be afraid of criticism (often being diplomatic or vain to the point of irritation). To be afraid of loving then, would amount to fear of pain itself – all inevitable? It is to merely breathe like vegetable, afraid of converting the potential of each living moment into a kinetic event.
Sometimes it feels criminal to equate peace with silence or inaction. Sometimes peace comes in the satisfaction of exhaustion. Sometimes it seems to percolate to the very core of chaos.