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|a "tornadoed" true story retold|
|01/21/04 at 09:25:25|
| [slm] If some of you remember, I wrote a true story here long ago (about seven months, in the last monsoons) and a tornado destroyed it. |
It was true, and elsewhere I have been challenged to tell what have I ever done for humanity? Now that isn't much and I have declined to speak on this topic, but it occurs to me that Muslims should not be allowed to be seen in a negative light forever, so I have written the story again.
I seek your advice on whether I should post it on another forum where there is much hostility to Muslims, and of course there are Muslims as well.
Second, if you please look at the technical side, and suggest improvements, I will appreciate it.
it was a monsoon Friday!
You know what monsoons are? These are torrential rains that come in July. In the Indo-Pak subcontinent, life depends very much on the timely arrival of these rains. In the mountains and the valleys and the vast plains of this sub-continent where more than a billion people make a living, two seasons bring a great shortage of water. In winter, the rivers have very little flow, the mountains keep the snow, and the springs dry up. Occasional rainfall and then the Spring rains keep life from being extinguished altogether. Immediately after Spring, comes the dry season. The land, the wells, the springs, the rivers, the dams, and the lakes do not only lose water, they are so parched you would think they have not seen water for centuries. All over the land, people look to the skies, and pray for the rains to arrive in time. The monsoons come from the Arabian Sea, crossing South India, then over the Bay of Bengal into Bangladesh and Assam. Traveling along the North touching the Himalayas, they saturate the thirsty land of the Ganges and the Jumna, and then they arrive in Pakistan, fifteen days after they have hit Eastern India. Every day until the rains come, the farmers, and the thirsty people and animals wait anxiously. If there is delay, many will die of thirst, there will invariably be a famine, and many more will then die of hunger.
So, monsoons are welcome. When they come, the land is full of water, the rivers become mighty seas, floods are common, and there is such an excess of water you would not think there was ever a shortage. Dams have been built to keep the excess water, but these dams silt up, and new dams take a lot of money, and you have to take into account dislocation of populations.
There is a downside as well. Across the land, the poor build mud houses near the streams or depressions, so as to be closer to water sources.
when there are floods
..... when the Dam water is released to protect the dam and surrounding humanity
..... sometimes whole villages downstream that have not had warning, get swept away
..... and there is no one to mourn their loss
but this is not what the story is about, although this is true, too.
It was a monsoon Friday!
It had been raining the last four days and nights; the sky having cleared only in the early morning was again covered with threatening dark grey clouds. My friend and I walked to the mosque for our Friday prayers and felt a few drops fall on our faces, so we increased our pace - I no longer like getting wet in rain. As we entered the mosque, I saw some women outside the mosque, near the place shoes are taken off. These were of varying ages, in the weather-beaten rags that only the poor know how to wrap around them so as to pass for clothes. My friend stopped and called to them: “sisters, come inside, it is about to rain, and if you want, you can say your prayers, too.”
If you knew this part of the world, you would have noticed two challenges to the status quo here. One, in the Muslim community of the Indo-Pak sub-continent generally you do not find women inside the mosque. Some groups do allow women to have a separate portion for prayers, but not most of the Afghan-Indo-Pak society. The second is that beggars are also frowned upon inside the mosque, and these women were obviously there for begging. The other people in the mosque looked annoyed but said nothing because we were considered rather respectable members of this posh locality we lived in.
The women were hesitant, but when thicker drops started falling, they saw wisdom in coming inside, and then shyly, one went for performing ablution (wudu – cleaning with water), and one by one they all did, and lined up behind the men for the Jum3a prayers. The khutba (sermon) and the prayers over, we started to come out of the mosque, when one of the older women said: “please sirs, listen and help us”. At this my friend stopped again, and asked in a soft voice: “yes sister, what is your problem”? One gentleman, very well known, very rich through selling government land, very active in the community here, spoke up to my friend in his authoritative voice: “You are wasting you time with them sir, they are professional beggars. Just leave them alone”.
The woman who had asked for help suddenly got angry and said: “Haji Sahib, how dare you call me a beggar? I have come from the mountains, and we work to provide food for ourselves, but this is the rainy season and there is no work, and my son has been ill with fever for the last three days, and we haven’t eaten for that time, and my house is leaking. You come with me, and I will show you”. She was shaking with rage, but her voice was still composed, and you could see that she had been hurt deeply. My friend said: “Yes, Haji Sahib, let us go and see if she is telling the truth”. The Haji sensed a waste of time, and sought a retreat. “I am sorry, here take this hundred rupee note”, but the woman would not take the money. She insisted that the Haji accompany her to see for himself that she was not a professional beggar, and that her condition was indeed as she had described. She had been grossly insulted, and she wanted her pride restored. My friend encouraged her. He loved such confrontations. All his life he had been working to restore to the downtrodden their right to live with dignity. The Haji was upset, as the rain drops had become bigger, and they would eventually bring in a rainstorm, for monsoons are nothing but water pouring from the skies. To tell you the truth, I also wanted to get back to my cozy home. I have been through quite a few uncomfortable times, and I do not want to expose myself to the elements any more; but here was my friend, and I could not possibly leave his side now. So, we all squeezed together in his old diesel Mercedes, and drove to the locality of the women.
When we arrived, it was a bigger mess than we thought. In the centre ran a hilly stream, which becomes violently uncross able if it rains heavily upstream. We would have to cross quite a few hundred yards of muddy and slippery terrain on foot with rain now falling over us. The Haji took a look, offered his deep apologies, and increased his offer to two hundred, and then five hundred rupees, but the woman still refused. She no longer wanted help; she just wanted to show the Haji that he was wrong. You can rest assured that this was a substantial amount, as my salary at that time as a middle class professional was around three thousand rupees, and so the five hundred rupees would have been sufficient for that woman and her son for one to two months.
We grudgingly trudged on, with our shoes heavy with mud, fearing slips and falls, and I most of all fearing my wife who would demand to know why I had, at my age, gone to play in the mud. As we reached the “house”, we saw how true the woman’s words were.
Her "house" consisted of one room, made of mud, with a thatched roof also covered with mud, which had dissolved now with rain, and the water was pouring in. Inside on a bed made of jute ropes (we call it charpoy), lay a young man about 18-22, and he did had fever. We had not stopped at our houses to take a thermometer, but he felt hot to touch.
We gave some money to the women who had accompanied us, and came back, and convened a meeting there and then to decide what we could do. We formed an organization called “society for the rights of mankind”, and put some money from our salary in. The next day at office we asked our colleagues to chip in with a regular contribution, and so we managed to collect three thousand rupees per month from our salaries this way. Thus we, physical engineers, started our experiments in social engineering.
We went to that locality to look at its problems and to discuss and analyze with the residents. The money came a little later. With that and a grant from Zakat (from a Pakistani living in Saudi Arabia), we built a school-cum-training center-cum community hall for them, and a mosque, and improved their well's safety. Gave some employment, hope, education for their children and the adults, devised a new technique for fast learning, made them think for themselves, opened a vocational training center for the girls, helped the residents build their own local dispute-settling mechanism, and dislodged the state repressive police from that locality.
Our activities were not without notice in this tiny elite town. The police live by making people fight with each other, and collecting bribes from both sides. When the residents formed their own local dispute-solving system, the police and its stooges were deprived of a steady and substantial income. We estimated that the police were raking in rupees two thousand every day from that locality. When that money stopped leaking out, it was spent by the residents on their households and the environment, and the living standard or rather the quality of life improved.
Naturally this caused resentment, and not just at low levels. The police chief called us, and tried to convince us that we should concentrate on teaching the clientele good manners and how to pray. We politely declined to toe his line. Then came the summons from the Deputy Commissioner. We knew what it meant. He is the guy with the entire Federal administration for the district in his hands. He tried to reason with us: “Look, what are you doing?” We gave blank looks. So he explained: “You are from our class. If you educate this lowly class, where will we get our servants from? You are betraying your own class.” We just smiled. This would have meant a lot of trouble, but somehow our education, our background, and our prestigious jobs, gave the Federal Administration an idea that we must have some influential backing, so nothing happened to us. Then the local authority stepped in, because the shanty town was built on municipal land. Here the law was not on our side, but the ground realities were. These people were needed as low-paid workers. If they were thrown out, where will the laborers and the low-paid staff come from? So that gave us some breathing space. We had anticipated this and built with baked bricks joined with very weak concrete to assure the local authorities that this was a temporary construction, and would be dismantled on their instruction.
Our methods gave our clients such confidence that our girls were in demand for official functions as well. When our girls went back "home" to their villages, occasionally we would get enthusiastic letters from our “graduates” that they were applying what they had learnt from us to educate their sisters in their villages.
So we went to the office in the morning, came back in the evenings and occupied ourselves with community work, which lasted late into the night, as we had to fight on several fronts. Eventually, I fell ill, and had to be in and out of hospital for severe asthma, so I gave up my active work gradually. Then my friend suffered a series of heart attacks.
We looked for younger people to take over, but couldn’t find them. The municipal authorities finally struck, bulldozed that shanty town, and threw the residents farther away. We continued to provide help, but the community had been destroyed, and we were no longer up to the task.
The United Nations representatives came to us, wanting to learn from us the secret of our success. We told them of our methods, of our determination from the beginning that any help must be in the locality, and that the residents should not have to come to a bureaucratic setup in posh offices. This is what we believe intimidates them. But that is all we could do. Our health did not permit active participation in any schemes the UN would evolve.
The stream flows quietly down the same route, roaring during the monsoons again. All that is left as a reminder of our efforts is the mosque, the multi-purpose building, and the improved well - all by the side of the hilly stream. The residents, unfortunately, are no longer there. And scattered throughout Pakistan, in the tiny villages are young and adult women we educated, and trained, and some of them are carrying the torch.
My friend too, is no more. He died three years ago. His heart had suffered far too much damage.
May Allah (SubHana Wa Ta`ala) open a window from Jannah into his grave, and grant him shade under HIS throne on the Day of Judgment, and give him the highest rewards in the Hereafter.
|01/22/04 at 18:27:07|
|Re: a true story revisited|
|01/21/04 at 10:43:02|
wow that was amazing bro.. beautiful writing.... i think if u keep writing u could become a great writer someday :)
there was one part i thought you could improve: "One, the Indo-Pak sub-continent is predominantly Hanafi, and in this Ind-Pak version, generally you do not find women inside the mosque. Other factions allow women to have a separate portion for prayers, but not the Hanafis of the Afghan-Indo-Pak society."
Is it because they're Hanafi the women aren't in the mosques? I think it's mostly a cultural thing about indo pak because even in Shafii predominated places like in the south on the sub-continent you'll find women not going to the mosques. Also i think the word "factions" probably isn't a good one to describe the schools of thoughts.
but great story anyhow i wanna read what happens next!
|Re: a true story revisited|
|01/21/04 at 12:30:46|
I found it interseting how you were encouraged to focus on manners and prayer. If everyone was educated and had enough to eat and medical treatment when they needed it, people might indeed have to change the profile of the group they draw from to keep the dust off the shelves.
What if we lived in a world where the only poor people were those who had been educated and fed well and treated right medically but somehow managed to give nothing in return for this?
Geeze ya know, if they took the silt out of the damed lakes there would be so much water even the poor could have some all the time. Imagine armies set to that.
But if we were all healthy and well educated somone would have to chose among us, I mean it wouldnt be "obvious" who should be set to serve.
Wouldnt that be a headache!
hey, a lot of people encourage others to focus the instrucion of American reverts or whatever on manners and prayer. Hmm. Do you think they see americans as over fed hut dwellers? there are indications of this.
Something to consider i guess.
the cranky old ajnabia :-)
|Re: a "tornadoed" true story retold|
|02/23/04 at 21:50:03|
jannah, I have taken note of and corrected my mistakes. I am particularly thankful about what you told me is the Shafi`ee practice in South India. I did not know that.
The continuation of this story is specially for you, because you thought the story was to go on, whereas I had thought I had wrapped it up. Anyway the story-teller is at it again. Remember that this is a true story.
sis al-ajnabia, you have made some very good points. I am not sure of the answers though. All I can say is that you have made me think.
OK, the story:
Where should I start now?
I attended the nikah of my friend’s fourth daughter on 6th February this year, the rukhsati on 7th, and the walima on the 8th.
It is normal, you would think, but is it?
Let me go back in time again.
When I first met him, it was on our coach to work. He had just joined our organization, and was trying to be friendly. I took an instant dislike to him. He was my exact opposite - huge, tall, heavy, loud and opinionated. He rented a house near me, and so I got to know him better. Initially, this knowledge increased my dislike, because he sometimes talked to his wife in a harsh, condescending manner, using words that the English working class use, and that too, in front of me. So, I disliked him even more.
With time though, I began to see the positive side of his nature.
He would think outside of the box. And he chose his words and behavior to shock us into thinking and action.
This small elite town has some drawbacks. One of which was due to its being house to the bureaucratic and the legislative power elite. The police were afraid of the Sahibs, who were lethargic as far as the affairs of the State are concerned. Every once in a while we would see one vehicle crashed against a wall erected where the main road turned left sharply. Behind the wall was a deep nullah, so this wall was to “protect” the travelers, I guess. At night and in the wee hours of the morning the wall was not visible, no road lights on this most important of roads, you see. So any speeding car would go crash right into it, falling into the nullah together with a portion of the wall. Probably someone complained. So one fine morning the local authorities sat and scratched their heads and came up with a solution. They made the wall stronger and stronger so now the crashed vehicle stayed crushed against the wall.
Brilliant solution, wouldn’t you say?
We saw this happening with a disinterested look. We used to work day and night for our organization, which did not pay us to be socially observant, so we just saw and talked of other things, staying clear of politics, and of our bosses' blunders, and anything that smacked of rebellion against the authorities.
But my friend was a rebel, and he wanted to change society and he used this technique of "shock and awe", and it worked.
but he made enemies.
Now i am also a rebel. I also think outside the box, but i use this judiciously. So while i have made enemies too, this is because i do not bend before false gods, i just ignore them, and would confront them only when i have no way to get away. My friend would challenge and invite these false gods to a duel.
|02/23/04 at 23:44:05|
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