Sunday, September 28, 2008

The World Calls him a Terrorist

[A couple of years back, I got into an argument with a bunch of otherwise sensible Americans who seemed to want to brand all were Muslims as terrorists, unless proved otherwise.
Since I had heard this real story from my hubby (who was then traveling within the Arab countries 20 days a month) just a few days before, I had to write it up.

The story is from the PoV of the head of my hubby's firm, and is appropriate to recount during the month of Ramzan.]

He stepped out of the private elevator into the lobby of Kuwait’s tallest building, after an invigorating half-hour session in the gym of the Chairmans’ Club, feeling better than he had for a long time. The work was decent and the pay was good, but to be honest, the Middle East was not Wall Street. And while the people were nice and friendly, they were a long way off from being the scintillating company. Perhaps things would change after his wife joined him after Christmas. But till then, he really should take advantage of the lean season enforced by Ramadhan to work out in the gym more often.

The lobby was empty. It was only the second time he’d seen it this way – the first was when he’d crawled out of the office at 3am, after a gruelling session with the investment bankers in charge of his company’s IPO, and even that time, his colleagues had been with him. It took him a moment to realise why – the faithful were all away breaking the Ramadhan fast. All Kuwait was feasting with their family and friends, and he was all alone, a stranger in an alien land – in all his years, he had never felt as lonely as he did at that moment.

“Sir, would you give me the pleasure of sharing my humble food with me?”, the voice jolted him out of his reverie. He looked around in search of the owner of the voice and found the smiling face of the doorman.

He stopped on his tracks. The doorman! The person he passed every day, without even glancing at him. The person who must have held the door open for him dozens at times, and who he acknowledged automatically, if at all. What was he doing here – why was he not away with the rest? He noticed the neatly rolled up prayer rug and realised that the doorman must have said his prayers right there – made sense, he couldn’t leave his post after all, he had a job to do. He made a mental note to try and find out the man’s name, so he could recommend his name for the next increment.

“Sir, would you partake my food?”, the doorman repeated.

“Me??”, he stared incredulously at the steel container that contained the doorman’s only meal of the day.

“Ji Hazoor. I was going to break my Ramadhan fast, and since you are here, would you do me the honour of having your meal with me?”

He hesitated, and the doorman misunderstood the reason for his uncertainty. “Please Sir. The food is very clean. And my wife is the best cook in Kuwait. Never will you taste biryani as good as hers – not even in your fancy restaurants. Please Sir, share my meal.”

“But, but”, he stammered, and then blurted out the real reason. “But there is not enough there for both of us, and you have been fasting all day. If I share your meal with you, you’ll go hungry.”

“Sir, my religion tells me to share my food. You cannot refuse it.”

“But what about you?”

“Sir, if I do my duty, Allah will take care of me. Please, sir, share my food with me. It would give me immense pleasure if you do. Please, sir, please.”

The aroma of the cooked meat and exotic spices was wafting up, and he could not resist any longer. Rolling up his sleeves, he sat down awkwardly next to the doorman, and had the best meal of his life.

The World calls him a terrorist, but he is the hungry man who happily shares his food with a stranger.

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