I stood before the class and started my new lecture about Sufism and secularism, let us start….everything should have a proper beginning and an appropriate ending….. So here it is…. I am a lecturer at a private university of Karachi….the megacity of our times…..my love and my love’s love….. I teach anthropology to new comers and always find them confused about this subject till they become used to of it…. Since majority of students come with certain beliefs and I tell them to ask questions about their belief, they get confused which brings a smile to my face because I myself was confused studying anthropology in an American university. Since most of my students belong to a religious family they start doubting on every other statement that comes out my mouth along with shower of spits coming out once or twice. They were confused during the very first lecture when I had told them:
“Rather being study of truth anthropology is study to find out facts,” everyone had annoying looks on their faces, it was that irritating Salma in her black burqa with grey eyes (she is an activist of a religious party and proudly shows it off by quoting tradition after tradition without knowing what it actually means) out of sixty students of this year’s batch who asked:
“Sir, what is the difference between truth and fact?” hearing the question I smiled, I was sure someone was going to ask this question and wasn’t surprise that it was irritating Salma sitting in the first row.
“Truth;” I told the class: “is perception of people, everyone carries a different truth with him or herself, for example a person has same qualities whether good or bad but because of those qualities some people like him and some people dislike him and it is the truth, had it been the same truth everyone would have liked or disliked the person, there is no scale to weigh the truth, on the other hand facts could be tested on scientific measures,” I stared at the class, everyone was sitting with a dumb face, I understood that no one has understood what I was telling them…. Pointing to burqa covered Salma I asked her to stand up. She is a twenty-three years old full figured young lady, who comes with a new color of her silky burqa, when the male students leave the class their gaze always follows the swings of her round buttocks, she thinks that the solution to every problem of Pakistan is in caliphate system, she is more interested in Islamic studies then anthropology and finds herself detained in the classroom, especially in my classroom as she thinks I am the one who propagates odd idea and most sure I am an American agent, it is not her fault half of countries population thinks that the other half is someone’s agent, you would find people tagged as Yahodi (Jewish) agent, RAW agent, CIA agent, Russi (Russian) agent, Irani (Iranian) agent and the list goes on and on…..
“You know you have some particular habits?” I asked her.
“Yes sir,” she replied moving her shoulders carelessly.
“Meaning it’s true,” I said with a smile: “but is it necessary that whole world should like you, just because you have those particular habits?” she nodded her head indicating no, the class seemed interested in this discussion.
“If;” I said with a smile: “those habits are truth, which they are…. Then whole world must like you…” I had a small pause everyone was focusing on me, I said: “it is not so because everyone has a different perception of truth….please sit down.” Salma sat down, but after that day she always tried hard to prove me wrong.
My first days at this university as a lecturer were amazing, once in the class while having an open discussion the subject of “How much evil America is…?” came under discussion, I wanted to tell my students that it was not so, but they were in no mood to listen to me, so I coughed and stood behind the glass podium with microphone system on and asked the class:
“How many of you are anti-Americans?‟ I asked the class trying to have a start after our introduction, all of them raised their hands, and it seemed that there was an unwritten state policy for students to stand up against America. This brought a smile out of mockery on my face and turning to male students as we are male dominated society I asked: “why?”
“America is the real terrorist,” said one in blue suit.
“It is murderer of innocent Muslims,” said the guy in black t-shirt.
“America preaches anti-religious stuff in name of secularism,” cried the thin fellow with light beard and trimmed moustache.
“America is Dajjal (something like anti-Christ in Christian faith),” cried a young mullah with pointed beard. During all this I just kept on smiling with mock on these young people who were just shown one side of the picture. Then I turned to eight burqa-girls and two dressed in simple traditional clothes:
“What you have to say about America my gentle ladies?”
“America only supports Israeli capitalists,” said one burqa-girl they all looked alike without any discrimination, only their sitting order was distinguished.
“They don’t have moral values,” said one in veil with enthusiasm, another of many conspiracy theories created by religious extremists.
“They throw out their parents from houses,” said one sitting in the second row with total confidence.
“They drink, dance, gamble eat swine and want everyone to do so,” said one burqa-girl from last row.
“What if;” was my reply to them with a smiling face: “I tell you whatever you have said are myths about America?”
“You;” said the same mullah with pointing beard: “must be admirer of their trends and traditions!”
“Maybe,” I said with confident smile.
“Don’t you think;” asked someone unidentified from girls section: “they are misusing power?” it took me few moments to find out who asked the question but was unable to do so.
“Yes;” I replied facing them: „but anyone who has got power in history has misused it, the
Romans, Greeks, Germans, British, Arabs, Christians and Muslims, human history is filled up with massacres and bloodshed, in sub-continent Mughal rulers used to kill their brothers and fathers just to sit on throne.”
“What have you to say;” the burqa-girl with confidence asked: “about high divorce rate, homosexuality, pornography, consumption of alcohol, incest and all other evils in their society.”
“I would suggest you;” was my reply to her with a sharp smile: “stop watching Dr. Zakir Naik,” and there was a roar of laughter in class that touched its roof, this crumbled young lady’s confidence, when the little laugh session ended, I asked facing the class even those empty seats at back were in clear view: „how many of you have ever been to USA?”
No hand went up; this brought another sharp smile to my face.
“You see;” I said to the young ones: “this is the root of problems we don’t work on grounds, none of you have ever been to a certain place, but have already made up your minds against it just from hearsay. What I want to tell you is be opinion leaders not followers.”
After a little pause I said:
“I’d very same ideas and prejudices against America, but living for whole two years amongst them I was made to change my mind, they respect every progressive mind be it of an
African, Asian, Jew or an Arab, they don’t discriminate as far as progress is concerned, you’d find pyramids at Washington DC, built exactly the same way Egyptian pyramids were made, and at Smithsonian Museum they’ve preserved the arts, culture and civilization of whole world. The thing is America is like nest of honeybees you deal with them properly and would get honey, you throw a stone at nest definitely the honeybees would react.” None of the students liked my pro-American sentiments; most of them might have thought I’m their agent planted by FBI or CIA, to preach Pakistanis goodness of America and am here to distract them from true path that leads to paradise.
“Let me share with you my own experience of America, and be assured I won’t manipulate a single word,” this brought smile on my audience faces.
“As I’ve told you;” I started: “before touching the soil of America I’d very same feelings against them that most of you have, such as they all are evil, filthy people, living just with pornographic minds, and drug addicts, caring only about sex,” as I uttered this forbidden word (forbidden only in Muslim world) the heads of burqa-girls went down in shame and disgrace, young mullahs showed me their eyes almost coming out from their sockets, thank God I was standing before them as a teacher or they might have torn me into pieces.
“Few years back;” I continued in confident tone: “I was admitted to a college at Boston to do course of creative writings. Boston is America’s important city; built on water it has a great seaport and merry time center, also famous for taking part in American Revolutionary War, anywhere you go in Boston you’d find sizzling old houses and mansions, its many parks make one feel relaxed for eternity, its market place is a city in itself, and let me tell you
Boston is the educational capital of America.” After a brief introduction of Boston I coughed and said:
“It was my first week at campus, its building a landmark; there I saw a sizzling black beauty Stella an Afro-American with an athletic body, every part perfectly curved, and her ultra – huge tits were a treat to watch.”
“Aaaa…!” the burqa-girls exclaimed in shame and anger as though I was talking about their anatomy, I knew these things were harsh for these religiously brainwashed kids, few clean-shaven boys showed their interest as though they had started reading an erotic novel.
“Seeing those perfectly round cups,” I carried on avoiding the gestures of narrow minded students: “my jaw dropped, mouth started to water, saliva came out from sides of my lips, and suddenly a foolish thought entered in my mind to touch and feel those two beautiful huge globes of flesh and know whether they really are real or its just my imagination, because I’d never seen such a size back in my country. I started following Stella, she was women’s boxing champion of the college and strongly built, that day she was wearing white t-shirt, blue jeans shorts and pair of tennis shoes, following and noticing swings of her bums I was burning with desire and was driving to some other world that of my fantasies. Suddenly I got a chance to face her, she’d noticed much earlier that I was following her, as our eyes met she smiled, which only increased my confidence to feel and touch her enormous figure, after this little hide-n-seek finally I walked to Stella, my legs trembling but giving myself confidence that buddy you are in USA, girls here are open to everyone and for everything, as soon as I reached near her without wasting time in hi or hello I pressed and squeezed her globes at front, that was a shock of life for her, an angry gesture came over her face and then she slapped me on face as hard as possible calling me bastard walked away.” There was a roar of laughter in the class that touched the roof.
“That day;” I continued with smile: “I realized that all American ladies aren’t potential prostitutes, they’ve their self-esteem and self-respect, and from then onwards I was taken as an illiterate Paki, and too a sex manic, also became a saw thumb in my own Sindhi community at Boston, while girls at campus used to avoid me during whole course of time I spent there, as for Stella, for three days she remained absent from campus feeling humiliated by my foolish act, I was never able to come before her again even to say sorry.”
At last the electronic bell buzzed and burqa-girls rushed out from class even before me.
Standing in the classroom of this wonderful private university having modern infrastructure, parking lot, lash green gardens, canteens, labs, a huge library, I adjusted my navy blue tie that has white dots and started my new lecture saying:
“The difference between Sufism and secularism is very minor, there is just a thin string between them you pull away that string and you find both are actually same.”
“Sir;” it was Ashfaque with huge black beard from northern areas raising his hand and asking: “aren’t both of them blasphemous?” hearing this I sighed, whenever someone asks such a question a sigh of disbelief comes out of my mouth and replied:
“You see my dear, our biggest problem is we become judgmental very quickly and immediately call person unbeliever, unfaithful or infidel just because he doesn’t agrees with our ideology.” At that moment I missed my class fellow Amber a lot, she too was judgmental and used to give tags to people immediately.
Amber was my class fellow at University of Sindh, when I was enrolled in the bachelors program, she belonged to bureaucratic family of Lahore and don’t know how she got admission on domicile of Mirpurkhas, during those days I was a student leader of a Sindhi nationalist party which was striving for the rights of Sindh. Amber used to tag me as traitor and agent of neighboring emeny country.
I said to the class: “the main difference between these two is that sufism is based upon spirituality, while secularism is based upon materialism, since a puritan sufi is spiritual and has no charm for earthly bounties, he is not corrupt.” I had just stopped talking, when irritating Salma, this time pink silky burqa rose hand and asked:
“Sir, why people like you always oppose caliphate?”
“But that is not today’s topic,” I said looking at her with astonishment.
“Sir, don’t you think that the solution to all the problems of our country lies within Islamic caliphate, and this western system is nothing but falsehood.”
“No,” I nodding my head said: “true democracy is the only solution of our problems, ” I was enough irritated by Salma but no one was there to stop her and she said:
“But sir what have we got from that democracy...!”
“And what if we get a caliph like Yazid...!!” I said, entire class burst into a laughter, Salma became speechless.
“Miss: Salma,” I took her name and asked: “have you read Moullana Moududi’s book Khalafat aur maluqiyat?”
“No sir,” she replied, seriousness in her tone.
“Then try it once in your life without a prejudice mind.” The class time was coming to an end, everyone was waiting for that shocking noise of electric bell, the history lecturer certain Mr. Asif Ali was standing outside waiting to get in and I was waiting to get out. The electric bell buzzed I came out from the class and with a smiling face passed greeting to Asif the brown half bald fellow, at thirty three we were quite different from each other in fact many of students belonging to other faculties take me as a student and most often ignore me, a well-crafted clean shaven guy with straight black silken hair can never be a teacher according to imagination of Pakistanis, a teacher has to be monstrous according to us, I walked towards brown marbled stairs so that I could go to my office, inserted the key in glass door which seemed greenish in color and entered, though my office is not big but it is beautiful with three shelves just above my chair filled with books and assignments of my students, even my glass table is messed up with number of books, I love to read and read and read and a bit to write, though the institute has given me a laptop with internet connection but I most often use printed books as my reference material.
I sat on black foamed rolling chair and lit my first Dunhill of the day, after the first puff I closed my eyes smoke came out from my nostrils like a dragon, as I closed my eyes Amber’s delightful face came before me. We usually had ideological difference, once my party came to know that she is from Punjab, they tagged me as state agent....don’t forget we never forget to tag people upon their believes and friendships, her entire upbringing is from Lahore, and in that part of the country, including its capital Islamabad, Sindhis are taken for granted as bandits and traitors.... You would find many more tags.....from history of Pakistan, which is only in bits she was told that to speak against One Unit was treason against Pakistan, while for us Sindhis the struggle against One Unit was struggle for survival of Sindh. She considered opposition of Kalabagh Dam as Pakistan’s opposition, while for us Sindhis Kalabagh Dam is another name for doomsday. Anyways, she was a beautiful young lady with full grown bosoms. I always tried to convince to her that we could live peacefully even with our ideological differences.
We were in final year, that was a beautiful Thursday morning, I reached Arts faculty which was at walking distance from my hostel, I was to find my other mates who were working with me on our final project, Amber and Rukshar were also in our group, as I reached the garden of Arts Faculty, I found Amber screaming and crying, her head laying over Rukhshar’s shoulder, while Rukhshar was patting her head.
“What happened,” coming close to them I asked: “is everything alright?” none of them replied, i sat on the grass beside them. Thick tears were coming out from Amber’s beautiful eyes and falling on her red cheeks, I stared at Rukhshar with blank face, she didn’t speak a word as though it was sin to speak on that particular day or someone had sealed her cherry colored lips. Amber sighed and then screamed at me:
“The culture and civilization for which you stand fast have died and are burried in pages of history,” she carried on with crying.
“Would you tell me what has happened?” I asked, almost screaming.
“Would you be able to listen it,” Amber screamed back and then took out a smart phone from her black leather and played an audio clip.
Girl’s (Amber) voice: hello....
Male voice: Yes Amber, I am Aftab Ahmed...
Amber: O! Sir, that’s you...how are you sir... (now friendly tone).
Aftab: fine....fine...... A pause for a while.....
Amber: Yes sir, can I know why have you called me...?
Aftab: Amber I was called by a certain friend.... Who is a friend of your brother....
Amber: Yes sir....
Aftab: You need marks in my paper...?
Amber (in shocking tone): sorry sir....!!
Aftab (hesitation in voice): I mean to say.....
(a cool deep breath)
Aftab: You would get as many marks as you want, but in return you would have to do a favor to me...
Amber (in astonishing voice): What favor sir?
Aftab (more hesitation in voice): I mean to say.....
Pause for few seconds.....
Aftab: I have a farm house outside Hyderabad, if you would spend a night with me, i promise you would be position holder in whole department....
Call disconnected.... My brain started to burst hearing this conversation which Amber had recorded on her cellphone, Amber started to sob. Sir Aftab was our teacher he was a young guy in mid thrities at that time, he was a middle class Sindhi and was politically tilted to Communist Party, he always used to talk about change in the classroom. Hearing all this I was astonished, I sat there for a while and then stood up and went out from the faculty, took out my cellphone from pocket of brown jeans and started gathering my party members, we gathered in the canteen just beside Commerce department, I asked my comrades to stand up for Amber and after some hesitation they agreed with me. We were of the opinion that Sir Aftab would immediately apologize from Amber, we came to faculty and asked for bycot of the classes, majority of students thought that once again the nationalists have lost their quota of cigarettes and out there to blackmail the administration, they might have also thought that these are the real enemies of Sindh and Sindhi nation. There was propaganda at every level against the Sindhi nationalistic movement that now even the Sindhi middle class had refused to own it.....
We the students including males and females, started chanting slogans against Sir Aftab, our number started to increase by every passing second, neutral students and teachers stood in different wings and corridors of the faculty and witnessed our protest, the heat of the day started to increase. After half an hour we got the message from dean’s office that some students should go to his office and meet him, we were five students including me and Amber who went to dean’s office. He was a fifty-eight years old dark skinned guy with thin black and white moustache, half baldy and a pot-belly, we entered his air-conditioned office.
“What now,” he said in horrifying tone: “now whose birth or death anniversary is there so that we should provide you university buses, why you are up to ruin this university, you have nothing but empty slogans.” On that Amber spoke in Urdu, the baldy was shocked and stared at her:
“Sir, my family is settled in Lahore and I am a hostler here,” after that she took out her smart phone and played the audio clip, the dean started to sweat and took a glass of chili cold water from side table and drank in one breath.
“Don’t you every worry,” he said after gaining his calm, the administration would take serious notice of this issue.” After this statement we came out of his office, we knew nothing was going to happen, so we carried on with the boycott, we were in garden of the faculty, within ten minutes rangers and police conducted a raid on faculty, I saw a shell of tear gas falling in midst of the garden, the students tried to hide their eyes and noses suddenly cops started beating us with sticks, one fat ass in Khaki hit me on my head, blackness came before my eyes, yet I started to run but was caught by two rangers personnel, they started kicking me like a football, as I was black listed for arranging my demonstrations, I fell on the ground unconscious......
“If something happens to him I would never forgive myself,” I heard Amber’s voice followed by her sob and found myself laying on the bed of Rajputana Hospital of Hyderabad.
“Don’t you worry,” it was Rukhshar this time, there was pain in her voice. There were other students also, the duty doctor along with two nurses kept on trying to stop the blood coming out from different parts of my body, after half an hour’s struggle they managed to stop my bleeding and stitched me, as the doctor and nurses left the room, Amber, Rukhshar and few other students came in, I found it hard to breath. Amber took my hand in her hands and said:
“I won’t forget this favor of yours in my entire life.” I gave her a pale smile, every part of body was just in pain.
“Am...be...r,” I took her name in broken tone: “wo...ul..d... y..o...u.....do m...e a....favor...?” and started taking long breaths.
“Anything you ask,” she said in sobs without thinking.
“Whenever,” I said in broken tone: “rights of Sindh are on stake, would you raise your voice in valleys of Punjab?” she nodded in agreement and started crying for some time.
Suddenly my cellphone buzzed, I came out from my past, and the cigarette was still between my fingers, its ash spread over glass table. Samreen was calling me. She is thirty years old white skinned lady with bob-cut hair and blue eyes, she lives in Defense and owns a cafe in her flat were people of different backgrounds gather and discuss different topics, she a social activist and her cafe is known as FTS (Flat to Speak or Feel Free to Speak). She also collects books for reading at her cafe, there is a membership system, but on weekdays even non-members are allowed to take part, and pay for some cafe and a reading from whatever they like. Few days back she has announced to arrange a discussion on Balochistan issue with that grand old long marcher Mama Shabbir.
“Hello,” I said receiving her call.
“I’ve got another threat call,” Samreen said in a worried tone, hearing this my face turned pale and trying to be calm I told her:
“Not worry Samreen, I am with you......”