Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who is right?

My friend Afzal Ali is a globetrotter. Dynamic and extremely forceful, the world is his oyster. He never comments on something that he does not know. However, there are not too many things on which he is not on the know.

He claims he does not know much about religion, yet the following post would clearly demonstrate his profound thought process and his perception of human spirit. Exposure to myriad cultures only broadens one's horizon, clearly that illumination is evident in Afzal's writing. He raises a pointed question, whose claim is right in religion?

In a poignant observation he answers his own question in not so obvious manner; it is the journey that is so important, rest is mere game play.

Now read it all in Afzal's own words:

Observation during the month of Ramadan ...

Typically, I fast (if I am not traveling), even though I do not perform many of the other Islamic rituals.

I was in Shanghai during the latter part of August. It was a mind boggling, eye-opening experience to see so many new, ultra-modern sky scrapers scraping the sky!! Multi-lane roads, all the European luxury brand cars, people hustling down the roads in a frantic pace, restaurants filled with patrons, businesses busy trying to get the next global project, etc, etc. Nowhere did I see any trace of Islam, Muslims, South Indians, for that matter, a single dark skinned person!

Shanghai with a population of 20 plus million, probably, does not even know the meaning of Ramadan. In fact, a very small % of the 1.4 billion Chinese population might have any clue about Ramadan. I spotted not one physical evidence or structure of any religious significance.

On to Thailand ... 90% Buddhists. Many images of Buddha and many temples everywhere. Life seems to be moving fast as well. 100 million people here don't really know what Ramadan is all about.

Then, on to Dhaka. It is Ramadan. It is immediately obvious. Restaurants have shades pulled. Many people are fasting and many others are not, but no blatant feasting in your face. Even the saree store wala's did not offer me a coke or a cup of tea. They did not even ask if I was fasting or not. It seemed that the entire city had to put up a facade ... fasting or not, they felt compelled to indicate that they were.
Two thoughts come to mind ...

First, the need by everyone to show everyone that everyone was fasting was disturbing!
Secondly, visiting Dhaka after Shanghai and Bangkok was a striking contrast. How is it that the non-believers (I have to be careful here) seem to be faring far better than the believers? While all of Dhaka seemed to be leading a pious, restrained, life of abstinence, billions of people, at the same time, are moving at their merry space doing their merry stuff. Who is on the right track?