A tale of two beards

While one was visible the other one was more evidentWhile one was visible the other one was more evident
A tale of two beards

This is about two beards but of course since beards are notindividual entities but mere attachments this is about two persons as well.Only one of these two persons sports a lush beard and if at times you seestubble on the face of the other it is just a lapse or laziness rather than aconscious effort towards cultivating an ideologically defining facial addendum.You must be wondering why I spoke of two beards in the title as well as in thebeginning of this write-up when only one beard seems to be visible with onlyone of the two protagonists of this story sporting one. Let me hasten to assureyou that there is a second beard as well. It will make its appearance as thestory unfolds; in the meantime I would counsel patience.

The two persons are neighbours and live in houses facingeach other across a lane. The person with the beard, let us call him Khan sahib,lives in a sprawling bungalow which has all the appearances of 'old money'.This 'old money' comes from years of felling and selling old and new trees inthe forests of Kashmir, with nine out of the ten felled trees being over andabove the permitted one. Beginning with a forest guard of an accommodatingnature in times of antiquity, the clan has progressed through generations toproduce quite a few forest lessees and a couple of MLAs as well. As forests gotdepleted the clan forayed into other ventures (including politics!) and all ofthese (including politics!) turned out to be fairly profitable so much so thatthere was enough capital laid by for the current as well as several futuregenerations. With neither need nor inclination towards work Khan sahib seemedto be destined for a nondescript existence till one day he discovered themosque. Even here the felled trees stood him in good stead. Wealth and byextension the wealthy hold the same fascination for people that moths do for aflame so it was not long before the Khan sahib of our story became the cynosureof the Masjid Intizamia Committee. When he went further and donated a couple ofrolls of prayer carpets for the mosque the committee as well as thecongregation went into ecstasy and some of them even prefixed 'Hazrat' and'Maulana' to Khan sahib's name. All this convinced Khan sahib that he was somesort of a divine vicegerent on earth and he took on this role in earnest.

The other protagonist of this story, let's call him Mirsahib, too merits an introduction though it will be understandably briefbecause he has neither pelf nor pedigree to recommend him. He is just anordinary person with ordinary aspirations and even his connection with theAlmighty is of the ordinary sort. Khan sahib would often try to catch hisneighbour to try his newly acquired proselytizing zeal on him but Mir sahibwould excuse himself citing some urgent work which was rather annoying. Work!Of all things! Khan sahib considered work to be one of the baser instincts of manwhich invariably kept him away from the Divine.

Mir sahib on the other hand viewed his neighbour with anindifference bordering on contempt. Being his close neighbour he was privy tothe fact that contrary to his projected image Khan sahib was a selfish andconceited person too full of himself and totally inconsiderate towards others.Among his other obnoxious habits there was this daily practice of his washinghis driveway daily on a frequent basis almost paralleling his five-times-a-dayablutions which would flood the lane and create a big nuisance. Mir sahib hadsubtly tried to bring this to the notice of his sanctimonious neighbour but tono avail. In fact it is this particular practice that brings us to thedenouement of this story as you will see.

One day Khan sahib accosted Mir sahib in their residentiallane. Since both were going in the same direction (that is towards their homes)Mir sahib couldn't think of any way to escape. Seizing the opportunity Khansahib started lecturing Mir sahib on the importance of growing a beard. Mirsahib listened silently till they reached near their houses. Now as it happenedto be Mir sahib was getting the driveway of his house repaired and where itjoined the road outside he had laid out a ditch which was covered by a grilland connected to the drain so that when he would wash his driveway the waterwould get drained easily without flooding the road. When Khan sahib's eyes fellupon this innovation he said, "What is that?"

"Oh that!" said with a short laugh, "You see my drive hasgrown a beard!"

"Drive has grown a beard!" Khan sahib said sharply.

"Well Khan sahib as you have been saying a beard is the signof a moomin (righteous person) and I have heard numerous times from you andothers too that a moomin is one who does not harm or inconvenience his fellowmen. So you see my driveway has also turned moomin because nobody will beinconvenienced when I wash it. Considering that, the contraption you see is abeard in a symbolic sense. You can understand that of course as MashaAllah youtoo sport a beard."

Khan sahib turned a beetroot red progressing rapidly to adeep purple and his veins and eyes bulged out. Muttering something aboutblasphemy he stomped away and entered his home making sure to bang the doorloudly. Mir sahib laughed till tears streamed down his face…

(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, atsnp_ajazbaba@yahoo.com)

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