banno, dhanno and teja in bumm-bumm-bhole-land

The one or the other

A friend sent me this sms today.

6 am rush hour. Getting stuff ready for school. I get a call on my cell. A polite male voice wishes me ‘salaam walekum, bhai jaan hai?’ … I stammer ‘nahi, nahi’. My mind is blank, being yanked into a different world. I search earnestly, is it — salaam walekum or walekum salaam? .. What was the right thing?… Only when the voice asks for bhaijaan again that I remember to say wrong number. He says sorry .. I go back to world but thoughts creep between my stupidity of salaam or walekum and my son’s lunch boxes.  Could that be a terrorist? .. Strange how easy it is to make me suspicious,  even with all my intellectual upbringing which seems so skin deep.. How easy it is to break my faith on the other Indian who i’ve never learnt to wish ...’

It prompted me to write this.

That in turn, led me to dig up a short story ‘Alias‘, published last year in ‘Stories at the Coffee Table‘.

11 comments on “The one or the other

  1. memsaab
    September 27, 2008

    Arabic greetings are the most beautiful in the world. I want to adopt them into my vocabulary, but of course worry that I would offend.

    Sigh. Hi, hello, goodbye are so DULL compared to salaam or khuda hafiz…

  2. dipali
    September 27, 2008

    Both pieces were beautifully written, an indictment of these incredibly difficult times we live in.

  3. Banno
    September 28, 2008

    No, Memsaab, you woudn’t offend, I’m sure. Even if you just said, ‘salaam’ instead of the more complicated ‘salaam alekum’.

    Thanks, Dipali.

    And thanks, Space Bar, for linking this on Blog Bharti.

    September 28, 2008

    beautifully written, and deeply disturbing.

  5. Space Bar
    September 28, 2008

    It’s a fantastic post – and story. I wish DP would pick it up as well, frankly.

  6. Banno
    September 28, 2008

    Sur, Thanks.

    Space Bar, what’s DP?

  7. illusionaire
    September 29, 2008

    Loved both the links! thank you for the links.

    Stayed in Hyderabad for a year with Arab roomies. (Long story – we were neighbors at a PG, played basketball together, bonded, moved in together at a 3 BHK). That wish had become a part of my Mizo vocabulary.

  8. Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat
    October 1, 2008

    Oh Banno- what a lovely piece.

    Your writing remind me of my childhood- i once used “Bhagwan” for “God,” which completely freaked my Aunt (Christian)- and years later, I’ve used “Allah”- which has freaked some of my “Bhagwan” beleiving relatives.

  9. suniti
    October 1, 2008

    Actually the fear when you hear the arabic greeting on phone is a very new phenomena. It used to be an accepted form of greeting thanks to our movies. My mom grew up in Hyd and has a fascination for all things islamic. For her -walekum salaam’ comes naturally.
    pssst- she wanted to name me Shabnam instead of Suniti :O

  10. Banno
    October 1, 2008

    Shweta, Thanks. Yes, strange what freaks people out.

    Suniti, Imagine the fun you’d have had with Shabnam. Remember Bindu singing – Mera naam hain Shabbo?:)

  11. Hades
    January 22, 2009

    Very nice.

    I did try and comment on the Upperstall site but there’s some kind of bug there. Won’t accept my comments.

    And I know just how you feel–even in my set up the Salaams and stuff have sorta become out-dated.

    I mean, I’d still wish my Nani with it and say Khuda Hafiz when leaving but I don’t think I do it with any other member of the family.

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This entry was posted on September 26, 2008 by in my short stories, real world.

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