He sat hunched, spirit broken. His head lay, in between his legs, and everything seemed grey, his clothes, his turban all of it seemed sepia toned color after countless washings. The only thing that stood out in sharp contrast was his white beard. He was born a Punjabi, but sadly was defined as a Muslim by his religious identity today.
The last time he had ever visited a mosque must have been when he was a toddler taken by his father and his uncle’s for his formal name keeping ceremony. Ever since that day, the country had been divided, his family was here and some were there and it didn’t matter to him. Life had embroiled him in his circle and he kept on living day by day caught up in between wife and children and birth and death. Where did he ever have time for Allah? God had taken a back seat.
Aziz was in shock, his entire life played in front of him, like a film reel and never had his name been a problem when he partook langar in the Gurudwara. No one had ever stopped him for entering and eating langar. In fact the last Bhaiji who was his friend made sure he got his share of Prasad in the morning every sangrand.
Today was gurpurab, and Guru Gobind Singh ji’s birthday and he had thought he would go and take his langar there with the rest of the villagers . All human beings have the same eyes, the same ears, the same body composed of earth, air, fire and water. The names Allah, and Abekh are of the same God; recognize ye the whole human race as one. Guru Gobind Singh.
That was what he had been taught by masterji and now these radical, free thinkers, custodians of modern day fundamentalist religion questioned him once just over his name.
His snide remarks made him think, and he was made to realize that he was different. Did they come to know from his turban? Was his beard cut differently? Who was a Sikh or who was a Muslim? Where did the lines come in the forefront? How on the day of commemorating the birth of the warrior saint soldier, poet who saved humanity and let it flourish by all his acts ,was he being questioned?
Wasn’t being human more important or was it just a phrase coined for marketing gimmickry? Aziz , sat , tears rolled down his eyes and he felt his years now. The years sat heavy on his shoulders and he felt old. Life had dealt him partition, division, births, young deaths, separations, property disputes and riots , and countless things and the latest demonetization where his old pension was also withheld ; the sarpanch failed to get money out from the bank in the long serpentine queues.
Nothing had affected him, but being questioned just because his name was Muslim,had shaken him . To be set apart, by young boys who he had seeing born and were now sprouting flowing beards proclaiming a stronger claim to being a sikh. A sikh was a person who was a seeker of truth and that’s what he had been all his life , working with the villagers to make the gurudwara , tilling the land and even building it .
Tears rolled down his grizzled, wrinkled cheeks and he wondered , and wondered , when a small hand touched him.
He looked up and a little girl asked him what was the matter?
She took his hand and asked him to come along and she took him inside to the gurudwara , talking in a sweet gentle tone that all human beings were equal and the word langar had come into existence just because everyone should sit together irrespective of caste , creed , color and social standing.
He followed her, with eyes blurred with tears , a smile forming and as he sat down it seemed as if he was at peace.
Last , he could hear was a sound of someone shouting Babaji , uttho and then calm.
Infact , humanity reposed faith once again.