I witnessed something quite pleasantly, amusingly, poignant today.
I was standing outside of Bandra Stn, right outside the arches, at 2 o’clock. I need not add exactly how hot it was, but I should add how pissed I was, at the fact that it WAS so hot, that my bus seemed nowhere in sight, that the traffic and the honking seemed endless and annoying, and especially at the fact that for some reason, a good 50 odd Muslim men seemed to want to stand at exactly that same place at the time.
No, I’m not talking about the Muslims (sigh)
I generally get pissed at any congregation of men anywhere, simply because seldom do they congregate for the right kind of reasons. It means I have to be over cautious and get overtly stared at. Yet, the crowd here seemed quite on their civil behaviour, possibly brought on by the hawaldar bandobast.
It seems they had gathered to offer namaaz. They were chattering away, the whole lot, some praying, some kneeling, some doing something that was a mixture of all three. Every now and then a slightly older man wearing a pathan-like turban would come around and tell everyone to get in place. People kept getting in place and getting out. Basically there was a lot happening, and people like me who were waiting for the bus kept waiting for something else to happen too.
Then, as expected, the azaan rang out, and the men heeded. All of a sudden everyone got in their place and then, everything went shush. It was as if someone turned off a switch. I have never in my life seen Bandra station this quite. I was too absorbed looking at what they were doing, so I’m not sure, but I do think even traffic stopped moving for a while. Understandably, the men were engrossed with what they were doing, but even those of us who didn’t have anything to do with this, went quiet. There was no honking, no hawking, no yelling on the phone, no yelling at the hawker, nothing. There was just some annoying banter by the hawaldars (because they just have to ruin a perfectly great moment) – but other than that, it seemed like the whole of Bandra station had joined the men.
It was one of those moments that are filmed and edited to an audio of the National Anthem or Vande Mataram. For the five minutes that the namaaz lasted, pin-drop silence ruled the air. It was almost as if, despite the rush that we are in, despite how impatient we are, how irritated we get with crowds, how we regard the faithful of a different kind – despite all of this, each individual (running, walking, standing, sitting, eating, drinking, texting) knew that this was a moment not to be disturbed. This was moment to be looked at with some respect. This was a moment to feel something. This was a moment to be, even for a moment, a little better, even in the littlest way possible. Of course the hawaldars are an exception.
When it was over, Bandra station resumed its usual poise and grace. The men went to feast and the hawaldars, to fleece. I finally saw my bus snaking its way through the traffic (which had miraculously just started). But this moment lingered. Not because someone was praying. But because someone else decided to let someone pray in peace.