It is usual in our mosque as I am sure must be true of other mosques too that the Maulvi sahib often receives a request for a special prayer. The request is usually written on a piece of paper and the one who sends a request sends along some donation for the mosque as well.
Maulvi sahib announces the donation sent by the supplicant and the requisitioned prayer is read out. Then he lifts his hands and prays for the fulfilment of the supplicant's prayer and the congregation responds with a resounding 'Aameen'!
Well it was like this last Friday too. Maulvi sahib got up before the prayers and took out the slips from his pocket and started reading out the donated sums and the requested prayers.
Now normally like other people I too am actively pursuing some mental assignment while in the mosque and my hearing is on autopilot and in response to the supplications of Maulvi sahib I automatically supply an Aameen when required.
However that day I was actually listening to Maulvi sahib the reason being that my friend who works in Dubai had sent a donation and a prayer request for his father through me. I was listening intently for mention of the same because I intended to record it on my mobile phone and whatsapp the same to my friend. And that's how I heard this request for this pretty strange prayer!
"Mohammed Imran has sent 1000 rupees for the mosque and he has requested special prayers that he may soon receive a suspension order from his boss. I beseech thee O Almighty that Mohammed Imran's prayer may be granted. O Lord of the High and the Low please get Mohammed Imran suspended from his job."
I couldn't believe my ears at first and then I thought that Maulvi sahib had probably bungled the prayer. It must be that Imran already stands suspended and is seeking reinstatement.
Of course nobody in the congregation noticed anything amiss, for after parking their bodies in the peaceful precincts of the mosque their minds had as usual gone grazing in faraway green pastures, so everybody responded with an enthusiastic Aameen.
As for Maulvi sahib, his mind is probably always busy negotiating with the Creator (like all middlemen he gets a handsome commission for this!) or with the vagrancies of his flock (which provide fodder for his sermons!) so he too mostly reads out these prayers in auto-pilot mode.
As luck would have it I ran into Imran while coming out ofthe mosque after the prayers. Humility writ large on a face with unassumingfeatures, framed by a wispy beard of a shade of brown so light that it might aswell have been blonde, so much so that unlike most beards which emphasize theface it actually further softens the countenance, a self-effacing manner, adiffident posture…gentle to the extent of actually being anxious to pleaseand more so not offend – that's Mohammed Imran for you! It is impossible not tolike Imran so I was really sorry that he had been suspended at work (for that'swhat I thought!) and to add to that the Maulvi had bungled his requestedprayer.
"Why have you been suspended? Someone like you! It is unbelievablereally! And that Maulvi really messed it up! Why didn't you get up and correcthim?" I asked him.
Imran blushed (he always does when someone talks to him!)and said, "No I have not been suspended. In fact that's what I had prayedfor…that I may be suspended."
"What! Are you in your senses?! Now why would anyone prayfor punishment?"
"Getting suspended is no punishment," Imran mumbled.
"What do you mean?" I was astonished by his reply.
"You know Akbar Dar?"
"Of course! The scoundrel! He embezzled quite a hefty sum athis workplace. And he was suspended wasn't he?" I said wondering what he wasgetting at.
"Yes and he remained suspended for more than 10 years and visited his workplace only occasionally to mark his attendance. He took the 'opportunity' to start a business and today he has two hotels and is running a school too.
He 'proved' his 'innocence' in the court and has been reinstated now. Got a huge amount as pending salary for the decade he didn't do a bit of work and three promotions in quick succession too as his due!
"And there is Sattar Sheikh of our office. He manhandled the boss and remained suspended for a year. He was attached to the office and there he would sit for a couple of hours every day enjoying tea and gossip and heated debates on politics.
Meanwhile I would be sweating all day because his duties had been assigned to me (I was already holding the charge of three additional sections at the time because either people were on leave or they were gloriously inefficient or rude and so nobody wanted them). Whenever Sattar Sheikh saw me he would grin and pat my back patronisingly and make me feel like a fool.
You must have heard about Nazir Haji? He too got suspended for some reason and was attached to the Head Office. Sitting there with nothing to occupy his time he soon got cosy with a beautiful young clerk and married her after he was reinstated."
"But he was already married?"
"So what! He took a second wife."
"And I presume you are a bachelor still!" I said with asmile.
He sighed and said, "I never get the time…"
He sounded so wistful that I really felt sorry for him solifting my hands I prayed, "O Almighty! Please grant Imran's prayer. May he geta suspension order from his bosses soon and may all the blessings of being suspendedbe his!"
"Aameen!" Imran intoned solemnly.
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