Friday, May 26, 2006

Mosque Candy

It was a strange sequence of events that found me at 10.30 pm on this Friday night inside a mosque rather than inside a cinema theatre watching X-men 3, or shooting some pool at a sports bar or bowling at an alley. I was at a friend's place away from the TO and he lived right next to the biggest mosque in that town. It was Isha time, the weather was nice and I wanted to go for a walk.

As I sat waiting for the prayers to start, I began to categorize the people present into groups. The older folk could have come straight from Pakistan/India/B'desh. Many still wore their shalwaar kameezes (with huge tea-stains at the corners), or were dressed in their thobes, stroking their footlong beards, their heads adorned with caps that had multiple patterned beads on it.

Then there was a group of young guys, around my age. They were seated in a circle, listening to some speaker in the center. They were dressed in long garbs, with jackets on top, and their heads covered in either caps or hoods. All had huge beards. Bits and pieces of the speaker's talk floated to me.

" ... must remain steadfast to our faith ..."

" ... be humble and kind ..."

" ... true salvation is in serving Allah ..."

Here, all this time, as I looked at those young people, I thought, 'boy, I have absolutely nothing in common with them'. Maybe it was just boredom but I was stereotyping these guys as strict conservative types.

I am used to our university crowd at the mosques - dressed in shirts, trousers or T-shirts and jeans. Beard is minimal (smartly trimmed or none at all), hair styled back, and so on. Guys who would pray and then drive off to the multiplex or mall.

I was a brown Muslim guy in a mosque filled with other brown Muslim guys and I felt like fish-out-of-water for some reason. How would a white convert feel?

Suddenly, a cellphone rang from somewhere. It was from one of those young men in the halaka circle. Frantically, he moved his hands from stroking his beard to searching the pockets of his dishdasha for the cellphone.

And why not? For the ringtone, in clear, loud, audible words to the rest of the congregation, was

I take you to the candy shop
I'll let you lick the lollypop
Go 'head girl, don't you stop
Keep goin 'til you hit the spot (whoa)

Maybe we have something in common with these guys after all.


1 comment:

neela said...

Perhaps, I'm wrong, but isn't this what the neo-liberal world does: steamrolls and leaves behind a vacuum? Such that people turn to religion. I'm not at all surprised at the upsurge in religious popularity: beards are a hit around campus!

And I resent the stereotype that long beards are a symbol of conservative fundamentalism. They can be quite the attraction. Hah!