Friday, 04 March 2005
Dr Safia (PhD of Anthropology from the University of Hamburg) now teaches me intermediate / advanced German / German philosophy and basic / intermediate Urdu and Punjabi at the outdoor canteen by the office from 7:30-9am six days a week after what I hope to make a daily habit of running in the mornings in the polo ground five feet from my nano’s house. We sit under the shelter of a canvass tied to the surrounding trees.
The canteen’s other morning patrons are policemen, army non-commissioned officers, custodians, a few old bearded men with prayer hats, sometimes young working boys and occasionally the odd professional or two. The people sitting closest to us always listen in wonderment to the elderly short lady and tall young man who communicate in tongues.
When she thinks she has something important to tell me she pays no heed to the flies that settle on her nose or her shoulders. Her nostrils flare wide-open, her pupils thin and the blue threads of her old eyes become pronounced, her hands rise and her whole face explodes as the fire catches on to the straggly strands of hair, and then she ends her sentence, “It’s like this, you see. It’s no joke, you know,” with a defiant earnest look in her eyes.
People think she is senile, but they don’t understand that her mind just operates in a different plane. We found out, after our first lesson, when she was visiting the Aurat Foundation library, that we didn’t actually know each others’ names. When something amuses her, she mischievously cackles.
After I'd repeated the same inane question several times this morning, she asked me if I'd drunk red wine or champagne. I told her I hadn’t, but I had come back home at 3am last night from seeing the Sufi Puppoo Saingh and had been exposed to plenty of passive marijuana smoke.
Though it’s free of charge, Sufi Pupoo Saingh’s music and dance prayer rituals at (the saint) Shah Jamal’s shrine on Thursday nights have (apparently) become commercialized. Known around the world and having performed at the Royal Albert Hall, he’s also developed something of an ego.
He refused to play to the predominantly 1100 working-class hedonists and bourgeois yuppies teeming the stair-cases and square to the entrance of the shrine and the roar of motorbikes outside until an hour and a half after midnight.
The audience itself had become the spectacle for the three hours that we waited. Upon entering, Ahmed and I were greeted by a far-gone-stoned middle-aged short lightly-bearded man with fat lower lip who spoke a deeply colourful Punjabi (little of which I understood) with a deep, resonant voice. I think he was preaching to us about spiritual enlightenment and then about buying marijuana from him. I don't think he would have been a misfit in Trench Town.
A few of those present (perhaps 20-30%) had come for spiritual reasons, spontaneously shouting out collective prayers and raising their heads and hands to the sky, but from the line of men who shamelessly and disgustingly came to light a cigarette and coldly stare and gape at the handful of covered-women in their allocated cage, it was obvious that spiritual elevation wasn’t on the agenda of most people there. (Not that it was on mine either).
I was sceptical as the legendary Sufi began to beat his dhol to his protege, but half-an-hour into it, it became apparent that if he had started out to oblige his patient audience, he was now playing to communicate with G_d. I let myself lose myself in his beat and shut the outside world out. I had to hold back the tears as he triumphantly declared, “LOOK HERE, GOD! HERE IS MY FACE!”
I opened my eyes again to find his long-haired, long-bearded disciples dancing in possessed trance clockwise in the middle of the cleared square. One man spun himself around at a speed I would have never imagined humanly possible, and then dived as the beat stopped. Others would complete the circle and thud their feet alternately with their arms flailing in time as the collected in front of Pupoo’s drum, and then complete another cycle of earthly-rhythmic dancing.
One disciple stood out from all others in the crowd. A tall, slender man, with the skin-tone and intensity of Wesley Snipes’ piercing black eyes and the long hair and features of Johnny Depp: he was, without a doubt, the most beautiful man I, Ahmed, Sahar and Meher had ever seen. Perhaps he shared the same relationship with Puppoo as Glaucon did with Socrates.
This Greek dude from 2600 years ago makes some great predictions for modern U.S. democracy…
“… an excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to the demand for tyranny… A democratic society in its thirst for liberty may fall under the influence of bad leaders, who intoxicate it with the neat spirit… In such a society the principle of liberty is bound to go to extremes – it will permeate private life …. So from an extreme of liberty one is likely to get, in the individual and in society, a reaction to an extreme of subjection. And if that is so, we should expect tyranny to result from democracy, the most savage subjection from an excess of liberty.”
In other news, I’m going to be interviewing for Feature Writer at the house of the Editor of The Friday Times, a leading national newsmagazine, after work today. This could be a huge stepping-stone. Wish me luck.
EDIT: Jugnu Mohsin liked my work a lot. I am skipping around the house!
The Republic (Penguin Classics)
By Plato, Desmond Lee, Henry Desmond Pritchard Lee
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