A short story by Faruq Masudi
It is one of the most hospitable places of the world. It welcomes every body with a warm hug and a sumptuous cuisine. Times Square is the ultimate destination for the glamour struck tourist. Hustlers and junkies compete equally on its sidewalks for their daily bread. Electronic bill boards, neon signs and LED signage jostle with each other for people’s attention. Underneath its belly, runs the constant rumble of the famous NY Tube, which is haunted by travelers and tramps alike.
Jumshah was one such tramp, a familiar face with the NY commuters.
He would roam the streets and underground stations of Manhattan but accept only home cooked food. Big Mac and KFC were despised by him. He had a fetish for cleanliness but was often accompanied by a flea infested, stray dog who was perennially scratching itself. Neighborhood kids would constantly nag and tease him but he never seemed to mind them.
Jumshah was a very dramatic tramp.
He would change his attire every week. If he was an army general today, he was a buffoon the next day. Depending on who donated what dress to him, he would slip into it like a chameleon and behave accordingly. He would make a stunning appearance on the Broadway in one moment and appear astoundingly in the Central Park the next moment. He provided a lot of entertainment and happiness to the NY neighborhoods.
Today, a group of children was following him and shouting, “Jumshah, Jumshah”.
He seemed to be enjoying it when a young boy suddenly asked him.
“Hey , man, who is gonna get into the paradise amongst us guys, man?”
Jumshah did not take even a moment to reply. He pointed to the lamppost and said.
“That lamp, but cut out the pole”.
The children had a hearty laugh and went away. They carried the news with them to their homes and the joke spread around with an unpleasant rumble.
It raised many questions about the origin, religion and motives of Jumshah. Even his attire became a point of discussion. And before anybody knew, the homeland security swooped on him, picked him up from the Times Square and deported him to an unknown destination.
Time Square was not a hospitable place any more. Not for a tramp of an extraordinary kind.
* * * *
Sheikh Zayed Road
It is one of the most modern cities of the world and known for its proverbial Arabian hospitality. Its swanky hotels, all night golf clubs, tall skyscrapers and large shopping malls draw the famous and the wealthy across the globe to its comfort, luxury and opulence.
Jumshah had trespassed into the largest shopping malls of the world, The Emirates Shopping Mall and created quite a commotion there. Wearing a clean and crisp, whiteQandoora with a tattered, dusty Bisht, he had started indulging in dhikr to the inconvenience of international shoppers. He had blocked a whole corridor and was running about it, shouting the Holy names of Allah aloud. A small crowd had gathered around him. One of the shoppers asked him with a sarcastic smile.
“Ya Akhi, who will enter the Paradise?”
Jumshah looked towards the nearby electronics store and said.
“That TV set”.
The crowd had a good laugh but a head turned away angrily. It was the neighborhood priest who led the prayers in the nearby Jumeirah Mosque.
Jumshah’s proclamations picked up fast enough on the gossip circuit. Every body talked about them. They all found it funny and laughed about it but not the local Imam. He was perturbed by the pronouncements of this loony character who was outside the jurisdiction of Sharia but dangerous for the society nevertheless. The Imam got the Auquaf Muttawas to act.
Jumshah was picked up by the religious police, thrown into a desert prison and forgotten by everybody. It is believed that he died in the prison and was given a decent Islamic burial. Shifting sands soon made a dune over his grave in the shamaalseason and people shopped freely at the Emirates Mall ever after.
* * * *
Shah- e -Hamdan’s Khanqah
This six centuries old monastery cum shrine is an architectural wonder and perhaps the only one of its kind in the world. With a fusion of Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim architecture, this shrine is one of the most revered places of worship. Once an abode of hermits and proselytizers alike, the Khanqah is a symbol of religious tolerance of Kashmiris.
One Friday, Jumshah suddenly appeared at the Khanqah just before the Jum’a prayers and created a stir with his weird attire.
“Shh…Who will enter the Paradise?” Jumshah asked one of the priests at the Khanqah, grabbed the cell phone from his hand and yelled into the priests ears,“Your cell phone”!
That was plain sacrilege!
The local priest decided to act and called a meeting of the elders. Jumshah had to be stopped otherwise he would influence the children with his heretic and un – Islamic thoughts. Some people thought that he was just a loony and be left alone but the Imam thought otherwise. Jumshah had to be prosecuted and tried in the local Sharia court.
Jumshah was summoned to the court. He looked his best. He was wearing a Kashmiri embroidered Phiren, covered with a tattered Arabic Bisht and an Italian Armani silk tie with a dimpled, trendy knot. He wore a turban with a Saudi Agaal circuiting it all around.
The court started the session. The Qadi read the charges.
“Jumshah, this court is charging you with heresy. Is it true that you said that a lamp will enter the Paradise?”
There was silence. Jumshah did not seem to be hearing the question. Suddenly a flash popped. Cameras whirred and news anchors pointed their cameras at Jumshah. It was a live telecast, being simultaneously relayed in New York, Dubai, Kashmir and host of other countries
“Jumshah, answer the question. Did you say that a lamp will enter the Paradise?”
The jury asked which was as composite as Jumshah’s dress.
“No.” Jumshah replied casually.
There was a murmur in the hall. The Qadi continued.
“Is it true that you said that a TV set will enter the Paradise?”
More murmur. More silence. And more anxiety. This tramp was a liar. Nobody had expected him to go back on his words.
The Qadi came up with the last charge.
“Jumshah, you are also accused of having said that a cell phone will enter the Paradise. Is that true?”
“No, that is not true”.
The court was certainly intrigued now. This tramp had made his heretic pronouncements publicly and now he was denying all of them in this august assembly.
The Qadi collected his thoughts and said very softly to the tramp.
“Jumshah, if you speak the truth and admit to your sins, this court will recommend that you be set free after your proper atonement. Now, tell this court if you said all those awful things that a lamp, a TV set and a cell phone will enter the Paradise. Is it true that you said that?”
“No!’. Jumshah was adamant.
The whole court gasped in surprise and disbelief. How could a loony be such a shameless liar. There was a collective murmur of disbelief in the jury.
Jumshah realized that some thing was terribly wrong. He looked around and knew in just one glance that these people will not give him his daily bread. They will not let him roam the streets anymore. He was suddenly afraid. He resolved to speak the truth.
“Jumshah, for the last time, who will enter the Paradise?’ The Qadi asked.
“Your honor, Jumshah will enter the Paradise”.
Jumshah said and died in the dock. There and then!
He did not have to answer any more questions to a sane World.
About the author
Faruq Masudi has more than two thousand episodes of TV serials and shows to his credit as a Producer, Director and Writer. These include a Hindi feature film, Rehguzar, and an Arabic feature Film, Eqaab.
After earning his Master’s degree in English Literature (1972) and a post graduate degree in film direction (1975), Masudi’s employment with top international advertising agencies like Lintas, Clarion McCaan and Manhattan Advertising saw him moving to the Middle East for two decades.
1988, he set up the first Urdu TV Channel in the Middle East for the UAE Govt; Sharjah and served it for four years. His next calling came as Commercial Manager of Sharjah TV which continued for another two years. Subsequently, he set up his independent production company, Hoo Productions. Since then, nine of its long running serials have been broadcast over fifty five countries across the globe, including the blockbusters, Dastan and Chattan. Masudi is also working on his first collection of short stories “Halal Fiction”. His future projects include a modern biographical film on The Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Currently he is Head of Department Media Education Research Centre, University of Kashmir.
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