I like the side seats in trains the most. You have access to a nice broad-windowed view, the vendors do not have to reach for you, and there is a dedicated luggage space right beneath your seat. The seat can be converted into two nice and comfortable chairs at any point of time and if you happen to have a nice traveling companion then nothing like it. I saw the girl on the opposite chair of my seat. She had the Side-Top seat and all side-top ones have a free access to the side-lower seats for sitting purpose in the daytime. It is an established fact. She still courteously sought my permission to continue sitting on “my seat”. I nodded affirmatively. The lady was eerily beautiful. Her phone had an “Azaan” ringtone, she spoke hastily and her pronunciation was impeccable. But what aroused my interest the most was her ‘Burqa’ which was colorful with floral patterns appliqued all over it.
I have a condition, I can’t keep quiet for long.
Me: Hi, my name is Atul
She (reluctantly): Huzefa
She continued fiddling with her iPhone. I took out my phone, checked TFI Facebook Page, replied to some comments, and had a good look at the other inmates of the compartment.
Me: Hey! Can I ask you something? I sincerely hope that I don’t end up offending you.
Me: You are wearing a very different Burqa unlike any that I have ever seen, it isn’t black…it actually is colorful and has colorful patterns all over it. Mind explaining this to me?
She (smiles): Yes I am a Dawoodi Bohra, that’s why.
Me: Oh! Okay…next question. Who are Dawoodi Bohras?
She: We are a sect of Shia Islam. A minority in fact. Dawoodi Bohras are known as reformists as they keep bringing social reforms in the society. We are the trading class in Muslims. Also we are one of those rare breed of Muslims who do not exactly hate Modi.
Me: Oh! Okay…the Baniyas of Muslims?
She: What’s a Baniya?
Me: Oh! You don’t know about Baniyas? The trading/business class in Hindus…a more civilized way of addressing them would be “Vaishya”
She: Oh! I don’t know much about “You people”
Me: “You people” interesting. What do you do?
She: I just got married so I have taken a break, but I have finished my studies in religion from a world renowned university in Surat.
Me: Nice, so someone with a degree in religion doesn’t understand Hinduism, little weird no?
She: The university study was all about “Our” religion and “Our” sect and not about “you people”
Me: Sounds reasonable. So are you from Delhi?
She: Nope! I am from Mumbai, I completely hate Delhi.
Me: Why do you hate Delhi?
She: Because I don’t have friends here…there aren’t enough people here.
Me: There aren’t enough people in Delhi, wow…that’s intriguing
She (smirks): No! By that I meant, there aren’t enough “our people” in Delhi.
Me: Nope! You are mistaken ma’am, there are a lot of Muslims in Delhi
She: No, I am not talking about Muslims, I am talking about “our people” – The Dawoodi Bohras.
Me: I get that, there aren’t enough Shakdwipi Brahmins in Delhi either but then I don’t mind getting social with “other” people, even “your people”
She: Oh! So you are a Brahmin. I know about Brahmins.
Me: That’s nice, so what do you know about Brahmins?
She: Not a lot actually, I only know that Brahmins are the priestly class
Me: Yes! We are the Pooja-Paath Guys
She: Murti Pooja guys
Me: No! You see we worship statues, photos, trees, planets, stars, animals, stones, rivers, mountains even people…we are pretty cool with worshiping almost anything.
She: Islam is strictly against idol worship, idol worship is confining god and objectifying him
Me: Two questions – How do you know that it’s a him and not a her? And second thing, you guys face Mecca while praying right? So that’s also confining your god in one direction, a different way of objectifying, no?
She: No, yeah…ummm…It’s a He and yeah the direction thing is….ummm
Me: Perhaps you should have asked this question when “prohibition of idol worship” was being taught
She: Well! Okay…you are the third or fourth Hindu guy that I am talking to
Me: Leave that, so have you read the Quran?
She: Yeah!…I am in the process of memorizing it verse by verse
Me: Like Zakir Naik?
She: Haha, yeah like him…but he is not actually a scholar
Me: I never called him a scholar. So what do you have to say about Quran and what did you gain from it?
She: It is the greatest gift of life. It is a treasure of knowledge.
Me: Is it beyond time or can it be amended at some point of time?
She: No, never…it is the truest truth…truth has just one version…Truth can’t be revised
Me: Well…I am pretty sure, but I believe everything has loopholes and must be revised. Geeta, Ramayan, Mahabharata, Puraans, Upnishads…nothing is perfect
She: No that’s unthinkable and is blasphemy
Me: Awesome! What is your take on Polygamy?
She: I am cool with it
Me: Would you like if your husband brings other Begums right inside your home
She: I won’t like it
Me: So you don’t like Polygamy?
She: I am cool with it
Me: You belong to a reformist class, mind you
She: I am too religious to be a reformist, I guess
Me: That pretty much ends the discussion. Tea on me.
She smiled, took a spool of white thread out and started weaving a skullcap with intricate white and gold patterns. I looked at her and felt happy that she was one of those rare breeds who didn’t get offended while discussing religion in spite of being so deeply religious. I felt sad for her because her reformist soul was completely in control of her religious mind.
Image Credits: www.dawoodi-bohras.com/