Tableeghis stole my friend
A July afternoon makes an Edward the vampire out of everyone; only we don’t grow any fairer. I hate sunburns so I spend it in my bedroom reading Tolstoy or watching The Big Bang Theory. One wouldn't like reading too much of Tolstoy on a steamy day so more often than not I am in front of the computer table watching the sitcom.
Last year on such days, Abdul*, my neighbour and former friend, would also join me. His dial-up connection had little respect for his time and high-definition videos. And he returned in the same coin by spending more time with me. At my place, almost every other day we had a chess match and the winner won a free Gold Leaf and a Fresher grape juice (grape because, as Abdul famously said:
‘Is may khumaar hai." ( This has passion).
None of us knew what this line exactly meant, it just sounded very controversial. Both of us enjoyed watching our victories turn into wisps of smoke, but for Abdul, excuse my modesty, it was always a vicarious pleasure.
I am a little hazy on the details but it was a week or two after Dr Israr Ahmad’s death that Abdul began diversifying his interests. The man, who even at a sorry speed of 33 kbps would daily check Gucci’s tweets, became suddenly fascinated by white quarter-shorts and baggy shirts. Initially, I thought it was because he had become conscious of his conspicuous rib cage and skinny legs. But then I wasn’t any healthier, either.
It wasn’t long before he went bald and began donning a baseball cap. What should have I thought? Quarter-shorts, baggy shirt, baseball cap, dark complexion and a lanky figure - all I thought was: what a shame he can’t rap! But rap he did. He rapped me for watching na-mehram women (Penny from The Big Bang Theory?), rapped me for reading fiction instead of Holy Quran, rapped me for not bringing my life to standstill in respect of the Azaan, rapped me for wasting hours on shatranj, rapped me for not covering my sattar (shorts?), rapped me for smoking, rapped me for drinking grape juice and rapped me for the sake of rapping.
Now that’s a little too much of rapping.
Once his lectures became a routine, I realized his new clothes didn't suit him. He too realized that. Soon, white kurta, shalwar and salaat cap replaced his old clothes. As I began taking stock of the situation, Abdul became more aggressive. Most tableeghis take the silence of their ‘victims’ as their victory. It’s like somehow they have brought such indisputable arguments into the debate that no man can reason against them. Abdul thought so too. Arguing with Abdul invariably sent in my direction accusations of being a murtid (apostate) and a dehriya (heretic). Though it was a lost cause from the beginning, I didn't lose hope until I saw him in a white turban, ankle-high shalwar and stubble. That was the moment I lost my friend to onion domes and mushroom minarets.
Abdul had come to understand that no man was just flesh and bones. Each one of us was a pawn in the fight between good and evil. We weren't capable of growing into decent men on our own. Everything was a farce; everything was a lie- reality had to be caged inside the super-reality that only one ‘ant-hill’ possessed. If someone refused to leave his refuge and join them, he was lost; left in the black hole of spirituality, as the rest floated through the dark matter to immortality. Yes, tableeghis stole my friend. They taught him that I was a battleground who could be either won or lost, but certainly not befriended.
*He wasn’t Abdul, just became one.