Masala chai

“Mein royaa pardes main, bheega maa ka pyaar

Dukh ne dukh se baat ki, bin chitthi bin taar

..Chhotaa kar ke dekhiye jeevan ka vistaar

Aankhon bhar aakaash hai, baahon bhar sansaar

..Sab ki pooja ek si, alag alag har reet

Masjid jai maulvi, koel gaaye geet

..Saaton din bhagwan ke, kyaa mangal kyaa pir

Jis din soye der tak bhookaa rahe faqir

..Chaahe Gita vaachiye yaa padhiye Quran

Mera tera pyaar hi har pustak kaa gyaan” – Nida Fazli

[(While) I wept in the foreign land, the mother’s had moist (eyes full of) love

Poignancy of this sorrow was shared (between the two), absent a letter or cable

..(Try and) see if you can abridge your life’s (desires’) expanse

The sky’s is limited to what the eyes can show the world restricted to the circle of the arms

..Everyone’s prayer is the same, only the rituals vary

The maulvi visits the masjid (beckoned by the azan) the koel’s (cuckoo’s) melody is its song

..All seven days are devoted to God, whether Tuesday (auspicious to Hindus) or Friday (hallowed for Muslims)

On the day he sleeps late, the faqir (mendicant) goes hungry

..Whether you recite the Gita or read the Quran

Love between you and me is the only knowledge that is imparted by each (venerated) Book]

One cold January morning my mentor and friend, Prof. Singh and I were sitting together, sipping very welcome cups of hot, sugary masala chai (Indian tea leaves boiled together with milk, sugar, cloves, ginger and other spices) and chatted about nothing in particular. He looked out the restaurant window and saw an old lady shivering in the bus shelter across the road, waiting for her ride. He asked me if I would be willing to take the lady to her destination and I readily agreed. We got into my car and drove up to her. She obviously recognized Prof. Singh and was happy to get out of the cold. Her son’s home was not too far away and she recounted stories of her grandchildren as we drove her there.

On the way back, Prof. Singh shared a similar incident in his life. One cold, blustery morning he had to go to work but his son was running late and left without giving him a ride in the car although their workplaces were not too far apart. Prof. Singh trudged through the snow and waited at the bus shelter for his bus to arrive, just like the lady we had helped earlier. Fortunately for him Prof. Singh’s neighbor happened to drive by, spotted him and pulled up to offer a ride, adding that he was enroute to making an urgent delivery away from Prof. Singh’s workplace, but would be happy to drop him there if the detour and the delay was not an issue. Prof. Singh said it did not matter and was most grateful when his young neighbor eventually took him to his destination.

“The important lesson here, puttar (son)” said Prof. Singh, “is that between getting from point A (my house) to point B (my workplace) there were three possible travel options of the many other possibilities. I could have driven the car myself, taken a bus or requested assistance from a neighbor or a stranger. Eventually, I did cover the distance using the mode most suited to my need at that time. Although late getting to work, I got there. So it is with life. We all seek to be one with God. There are many paths and means (religions) available to us to get from this stage of our life to where we seek to arrive. We have to learn to utilize what is available that would help us get to our destination, instead of obstinately continuing to wait at the bus shelter for transport that might never arrive or leave us stranded because we “missed the bus”. The path may not be a short direct road and might involve detours, but if we do not lose sight of the goal we will get there. There is also no competition to get “there” ahead of others either, as eventually everyone reaches their personal destination in their own time”.

I miss the conversations with Prof. Singh, who found his own resting-place several years ago. My journey continues however and I look forward to getting there eventually and sharing a “cuppa” with him and several others whose love added a special flavor that enriched our tea ritual.

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