Keep it real — Ejaz Haider


While Al Qaeda has a problem with things elongated, where the length is always roughly three times that of the width, Hindus in India trek through the roughest terrain to go to Amarnath to offer prayers before an ice lingam
Mark Twain it was who said “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t”. Bacon quoted a jesting Pontius Pilate as asking “What is truth?” and without staying for an answer ordered Christ to be put on the cross. Even truth, it seems, is nothing absolute, though Bacon must have made up the story like the lazy reporter who doesn’t venture out and writes desk stories that cannot be verified.

Leaving that aside, however, how about substituting truth with life in Twain’s statement? Life too, without fiction’s controlled, select treatment and the writer’s deft handling of the plot, is not obliged to stick to possibilities. But perhaps I am wrong. When infused with the literalism of faith, life can begin to lose its myriad possibilities, even its colour, slithering instead through select grooves.

One report tells me that Al Qaeda in Iraq’s Sunni belt may be losing popularity because of “imposing their way of thought on the most mundane aspects of everyday life”.

And pray, what are those “mundane aspects of everyday life”? Hold your breath, gentle reader, because “They include a ban on women buying suggestively-shaped vegetables, according to one tribal leader in the western province of Anbar”.

Of all the “suggestively-shaped” veggies, apparently cucumber tops the don’t-buy list of Al Qaeda. I am impressed. If nothing else, this does show Al Qaeda to be progressive. How else would they know that an imaginative woman can do more with a cucumber than just chop it up and serve it to a good-for-nothing hubby?

Being never a geography person I don’t know if Iraq grows or exports bananas and moolis (horse reddish) but the report did not quote anyone mentioning an Al Qaeda ban against these two categories of ‘obscene’ items, one being a fruit and the other a vegetable. I mention them because I do not want the kheera to be unnecessarily isolated as the only vegetable that offers exciting possibilities.

It is a tad difficult to argue that the Al Qaeda course outline for Life 101 has in it Josh Malihabadi’s autobiography, Yadon ke braat, as a must-read. Maybe Josh has been translated into Arabic which, if has happened, I can assure you, would have the great Josh speaking French from his grave. But Josh being Josh did know that certain categories of vegetables should not be allowed into the zenana.

This is what I wrote in The Other Column on August 7, 2005, captioned, “No bananas and moolis, please!”:

“…Josh is not exactly famous for being mealy-mouthed. His description of the ethos of his time is not only interesting, it also shows that some veggies have traditionally been considered dual-purpose…. But Josh’s best shot at this point is the revelation that some veggies, which he alternately calls laanbi-laanbi tarkarian (elongated vegetables) and fohush sabzian (obscene vegetables), were not allowed into the zenana. This ban had been slapped with the express purpose of retaining the sanctity of the zenana…”.

There you are. While Josh had a penchant for the absurd, the obscene and what corporate jargon would describe as “multi-tasking”, Al Qaeda seems to be familiar with Russian porn. And why not? After all the Russians, like dual-purpose veggies, always offer more than one possibility to anyone desiring to kick the Yanks’ backside.

My only question is: What is Al Qaeda going to do about fingers, chop them off women’s hands? Strange indeed are the ways of literalism, especially when combined with violent morbidity.

Faith also has its twists and turns. While Al Qaeda has a problem with things elongated, where the length is always roughly three times that of the width, Hindus in India trek through the roughest terrain to go to Amarnath to offer prayers before an ice lingam, a symbol of creation and virility.

The problem is that because of increasing numbers of pilgrims and consequent body heat, the lingam begins to go flaccid and last year, says one report, “The object of the pilgrims’ devotion had melted to nothing before the high point of the pilgrimage… In its place, shrine officials had called for the hasty formation of a stand-in, a lingam made of snow hauled into the cave from a nearby hillside”.

But devotion being what it is, the pilgrims didn’t give a damn about the authenticity of Shiva’s manhood. And why should they; if the cucumber can be a substitute for the real thing, and when times are scarce even be pleasurable, why can a stand-in lingam not be worshipped? Also, if people kill and get killed for an ice lingam it makes eminent sense. Elementary.

The best statement came from Shree Amarnathji Shrine Board’s Arun Kumar: “The lingam has melted owing to the rise in temperatures. It is a normal phenomenon Weather affects its shape and size.”

Indeed! Only, an ice lingam works in reverse, rising in the cold and melting away with the rise in temperature. The cucumber too begins to decompose. Moral of the story: the real thing is just that — the real thing.

Ejaz Haider is Consulting Editor of The Friday Times and Op-Ed Editor of Daily Times. He can be reached at sapper@dailytimes.com.pk

 

Source: Daily Times, 17/8/2008

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