An unfair playground of Faith.
I had first seen him in one of the million street book shops of Paharganj. He had been a faithful customer of all the paperbacks those shops had, and his taste, (which I wasn't very sure of, for I only used to peek at his choice of books) seemed rather.. peculiar. He read Russian literature. From poetry collections by Innokenty Annensky to heavy literature works of Boris Akunin, Pavel, Arkady Averchenko... And I say these names with ease today, but five years back my tongue would've rolled in and tied itself into an ugly bow had I tried to even mention their spellings, forget actually pronouncing them. But a lot has changed in me, of those, my pronunciation is perhaps one of the most insignificant alterations.
Ekbal was a master of nine languages. French, Spanish, Urdu, Dutch,Swedish, Hebrew, Bengali,Hindi,Tamil. And back then, his pursuit was Russian.
Oh, just by the way, he was a Tamilian Muslim. His mind and heart were a beautiful accession of a bit of this and a bit of that from all around the world.. and maybe what charmed me even more was his gorgeous body which was a spread out map of the most interesting tattoos one could ever find. He was an alloy of all cultures in a single body.
Oh, not to mention his sincere fan craze for Rajnikant... the very blatantly humorous part of him was something I discovered later, with time.
So my visits to the hippie town grew from once a week or two, to almost thrice, some times four times a week. And since I was on sabbatical, I had all the time in the world to stalk people. So on a sunny Thursday, Ekbal and I (still strangers) happened to be going through the new set of paperbacks that had arrived in one of our mutually favorite book shop. While I raided all the sections of O'Henry, Eleanor Hallowel, and Pablo Neruda, he practically hopped to the other end of the shop hurrying through every Russian book he could place his hands on. After a considerable amount of time, we both stood to pay for a fortune on old paper that was ever so valuable to us... and I suddenly hear him remark;
"Doesn't it get bland after a point of time?"
And that one answer of a single syllable cracked me into a toothy grin which only widened over the next few years of our friendship.... or whatever you call it, but it definitely not love, yet.
He worked in Microsoft, lived about twenty minutes away from Delhi, and preferred to spend most of his time in Paharganj, The National Museum of Modern Art or any eating joint in the world. He wasn't the intellectual kinds that would go over board even if they saw a leaf falling from a plane and turn it into a blessing from the mighty heaven up above, like the pseudos we come across today with curly long hair and orange kurtas, but he had his intellect all right, and bothered to only keep it to himself. How a solitary bird like him became friends with a social butterfly like me is something only the gods could tell, but to be honest, it's an answer I'd rather not bother with. For that would just spoil the beauty of the amazement that fate could actually bring us, at times.
So we met up every second day. For drinks, to go dancing, to talk art, to just...... live in the most inexpensive and merry way possible. He explained me his theories. One of which explained his obsession with languages.
" Misha, it's not about learning up verbs or spellings of a discipline... it's about grasping the fact that the whole point of you breathing today is that you learn. Learn as much as you can about this world because you had a lucky bitch's luck to accidentally fall into it god damn it. You had the luck to see how there isn't a single possible barrier between the human race thanks to languages."
"But I thought languages DO make barriers.. there's a reason why we're a nation of linguistic states, Ekbal."
"Languages don't make barriers love, uptight power-hungry minds do who don't get any at home."
His humor killed. And I was awed at how he dripped with sarcasm in the most subtle way possible.. but a particular part of him always remained a mystery. His family. I knew they lived in Tamil Nadu, he had a brother Sohail, his parents were well to do and were extremely strict about their religion.. and hence he never really mentioned his friends (me and three more guys from office) as we were all Hindus. I used to find it hypocritical, initially.. but I moved on, and chose to ignore that one fact I should have actually taken up.
Anyhow, so three years passed and with those three years, passed many nights at each other's apartments, and a silent rope of romance that kept getting longer and longer the closer I pulled it towards me. After four years, we acknowledged things seriously, and wanted to give ourselves a shot. A marriage was decided on. My parents weren't the happiest, but agreed anyhow. They respected my life on my terms, and that was all that I hoped from them.. Ekbal, however, had other plans. He didn't want to involve his family, at all. He was stuck up over the apparent fact that they'd never agree and that I'd see his dead face if they ever found out him marrying a woman of another religion. Another faith.
I had a mind that was of a human. And to that naive mind that was overruled by a whirlpool of emotions, I arrived at insecurity for my exclusion he maintained from his family. And so, I gave him an ultimatum. Either he'd go and at least tell, if not convince his family about me, or we were done.
Ekbal, my lover that he was, resigned to my dogmatic approach and went off to the South, for my sake, for the sake of a life we wanted so bad.
Five days later, I received a call from his brother Sohail, whispering frantically and crying on phone telling me his elder brother was hit brutally by his father because he wanted to marry a Hindu girl named Misha Malhotra. He was hit by a cane, and finally, one of the hits on his chest led to his death.
Six days later, I received a call from his Delhi office expressing their condolences of Ekbal's sudden death while travelling.
They all knew the truth, and yet, sat in their caves like hungry lions hoping to kill another incident of unfairness and stop it from reaching the world.
I hoped to marry Ekbal, on this land that was supposed to belong to anyone and anything that breathed. That hadn't been sold before we were born. That stood firm under our feet when we walked, no matter what specie,color,race,caste or religion we belonged to.
But maybe this playground of soil behaved differently to every color, every faith. That's what faith is right? Caste. Obstinacy. Hierarchy.
Faith isn't love, belief, or a common destination to peace.
And as I dwell upon this satire of Faith that's been defined skies apart from what it originally meant, by us the mighty human race,
I shall hope and pray to unite with Ekbal in heaven... or maybe my bible and his Koran wouldn't allow that alliance... for we belong to different faiths, and our faith doesn't start at the same beginning-birth, or the same end-death.
We're so different. And will always be, as long as we own a mind that manipulates reality into convenience.
Goodbye, my Ekbal.
Awaiting your feedbacks as usual!