It was half past 10 and I was returning from office. Heavy traffic, heat and the day’s work had made my eyes blurry. Jagjit singh’s voice was echoing in my ears through the ear-plugs and I was enjoying listening to “Aadmi, aadmi ko kya dega, Jo bhi dega wahi khuda dega”. Praising the song and talking to myself, I crossed the signal. An Indica zoomed in front of me and continued straight towards the left. For a moment I was confused, "had I not followed the signal properly?" After checking, I realized that someone was in too much of a hurry and hadn't waited for his turn to use the road ahead. I Thanked god that I had been saved by a split second. Some people never learn to follow traffic signals! Anyway, I continued crossing the road and this time more carefully than before to avoid uninvited ones crossing my path.
As I crossed the signal, I saw an old man standing there, probably waiting for a rickshaw or six seater to stop so that he could catch a ride back home. Something just made me stop the bike and start looking at that old man. After a bit of hesitation, he approached me and I asked him in the native language “Where are you going uncle?”
“Where are you going son?” he cross questioned me.
Sweat was running down his forehead, making it more evident that he was tired of walking and he desperately needed to reach home and have a glass of water. He was trying to wipe away all his weakness with the white handkerchief, but it was not helping much as the moment he wiped it, his forehead was wet again in an instant.
“I am going towards Shubham Gardens,” I replied. Mentioning the most famous and well known society in the area.
“It is ok son, you go ahead. I need to go to the Dutta Mandir. No issues, I will reach there somehow.” He replied in a tired voice.
I couldn’t hold myself back and I started insisting as I knew that he would walk and would be very tired by the time he reached. May be, I was concerned about him as a human being.
“I can take a turn from Dutta Mandir uncle that will not be a problem for me. Come I will drop you where you need to go. I can manage.” I insisted again with a smile on my face.
After thinking for a while he sat on the back seat and I confirmed if he was ok and if I could start the journey ahead. He replied positively and I rode my bike ahead.
We didn’t talk anything much after that. I would have loved to ride my bike faster, but I was riding slowly this time as I knew that people of his age can’t take it. After going ahead, there was a temple, there were people around it and I could sense that something was wrong. I did not stop my bike and just continued with our journey as I wanted uncle to reach home and take some rest.
“People will never learn unless they are hurt back.” An angry voice came from behind. I didn’t reply to it but just nodded my head in affirmation.
“You know,” he continued, “this temple here, is a very old one. And some freaks just don’t understand how to respect religion.”
“Do you know what happened there, uncle?” I asked him to get some knowledge about what he was talking about.
“Yes son. Some Muslim boys went inside there and now the entire place is dirty and unclean. Some people say that they have left meat loafs inside and the temple is now impure. Shiva! help us clean such dirty things from earth. Don’t know when these things will stop!” He explained the scenario to me and I didn’t say a single word.
After 1-2 kilometers, he asked me to stop the bike and got down.
“God give you happiness son. And may we together save ourselves from such bad happenings.” He blessed me and held my hand.
“Thanks uncle. Your blessings are all I need to be a good human.” I replied with respect.
“What is your name my child? I didn’t ask you on the way as I was disturbed with what had happened back there.” He asked.
“My name is Afroz Khan.” I replied.
His face, for a brief moment, was frozen and his eyes locked in mine.
“You’re a Muslim??????????”
I just labeled myself as a Muslim. I thought as our stare continued for some time more.
“Yes uncle, I am. But before that, I am a human who saw another human, who is elder to him, in need of some help. I decided to follow what my heart said and my bike automatically stopped and I knew that I was going to drop you, wherever you needed to go. I don’t need any label to help anyone.” I tried to explain to him the human part that everyone has inside them.
And suddenly, I could see his eyes becoming wet. I didn’t know what was happening. He took his hands off and showed me a knife that he was carrying in his bag.
“We had decided to teach them a lesson,” he explained “but after looking at what you have done and how you have treated me all the way, I don’t want to do it anymore. I will ask others as well to stop thinking like that. I will try to fix things first my son. Thanks a lot.”
As he was about to leave, someone he knew came up to him and said, “Hello brother, how are you?? Did you hear about the weird incident that happened??”
“I am fine. What happened? What incident are you talking about??” he replied, desperately waiting to know more about what had happened.
“Our leader, Mr. Swami’s dog went inside the temple with a meat loaf that he got from somewhere. Some Muslim boys saw this and they went behind him to stop him from entering the temple. But he ran inside and hid under the benches. He ate a little and left the meat loaf there only. While these Muslim boys went to get a stick to get the meat loaf out of there, people gathered and started thinking that the Muslim boys had done that. When they came back with the stick and went inside, no one knew what’s happening. It was only when they came out that everyone came to know the truth.” He explained and continued, “People, just think anything before knowing the entire story.”
I didn’t say anything while their conversation continued and just turned my bike and started moving ahead. I could see uncle in my bike’s mirror, wiping his wet eyes with the hanky and looking at me.
And the echo continued in my ears, "Aadmi, aadmi ko kya dega, Jo bhi dega wahi khuda dega".