The markets are so full of bustle on Eid eve that they present the appearance of a fair. Shopping which is the main activity on this day gives one an excuse to roam about in the markets. So there I was on the Eid eve standing amidst a crowd at a bakery shop. The queue being long and the salesmen rather sluggish, the waiting presented an opportunity for people to interact among themselves and express their opinions on various issues confronting humanity in general and the ‘muslim ummah’ in particular (of course that is when they were not shouting at each other!).
“The muslim ummah is in a bad shape today,” a man of considerable body proportions, standing next to me said. The fellow standing to his right sighed loudly. I couldn’t quite decide whether it was in response to the fat man’s statement or just a deep breath of relief consequent to the fat fellow’s transferring his bulk to me, as he leaned in my direction. “Amrika is a devil of a country! It is killing so many innocent people and look at the world, it is watching all this without any concern!” the fat fellow continued as he munched a stray biscuit that he had managed to grab as ‘interim relief’ till his order was attended to.
“Our problem is that we lack leaders!” said the other guy whose lungs had expanded to their normal state by now.
“It is a clash of civilizations. The White Man is out to grab the world,” another fellow mumbled through a mouthful of pastry and proceeded to regard his depleted piece of ‘white forest’ suspiciously as if expecting a ‘white man’ to come out of that.
“It is just that we have become cowards and lotus-eaters. We are not brave and aggressive enough!” the fat fellow said rather fiercely snubbing both the opinions. He jabbed a finger at a passing salesman (nearly knocking me over in the process with his beefy arm) and said to him, “Hey you! I have been waiting for more than an hour now! Pack two dozen chicken patties, four plum cakes, five kgs of biscuits…,” reeling off his requirements, adding “And yes let me try that namkeen biscuit first and I might take a kilo of that as well!”
As the salesman hurried to do the needful, the fat fellow again turned towards me and continued his political commentary,
“The problem is that we are not united. We could teach these angrez a lesson or two if we got together!” Meantime, the salesman had returned and the political commentary got interrupted midway as the fat fellow berated him for packing the wrong biscuits and explained which ones to pack. He then turned towards me and asked, “What do you think?”
Well, of course, all these topics being oft repeated ones, I had my own set of theories and opinions like everyone else and so I cleared my throat preparatory to vocalizing them.
“Well what do you think?” repeated the fat fellow, a deep frown of concentration on his face. “Will two dozen chicken patties suffice? You see my son likes them a lot and I am also rather partial to them. Between the two of us we can clear up a dozen at a go! No I guess I should take a dozen more…”
“Um…uh!” I said not altogether helpfully and filed back my political theories and opinions till some other opportunity came up to express them.
Meanwhile, one of the other guys who had maintained a rather sullen silence after being snubbed by the fat man turned towards me, and pointedly ignoring the fat man said, “Amrika’s days are over. I don’t think that country will last long now.”
The fat man snorted contemptuously. “Not till we get our priorities right. Not till those Arabs change their lavish life-style and instead invest their money in making nuclear bombs!” he said thumping the counter.
This at least had one effect. The salesmen, mistaking all this aggression as being directed towards them expedited the process of packing his order. A short while later the fat fellow grunted with effort as he lifted two heavy bags full of the choicest confections and then charged through the tightly packed crowd with a fierceness that looked like he was ‘attacking’ Amrika in his imagination (armed with two bag-fills of ‘ammunition’!)
By the time our ‘orders’ were taken care of, we had discussed the various ‘problems’ of the ‘community’ threadbare and had come up with quite a few ingenious plots against the ‘enemy’. Of course, there were the usual interruptions as we munched various delicacies and made appropriate comments about their freshness or to the contrary and revised and modified our shopping lists.
(Truth is mostly unpalatable…but truth cannot be ignored! Here we serve the truth, seasoned with salt and pepper and a dash of sauce (iness!). You can record your burps, belches and indigestion, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org)