The Man and the Qu'ran in Bangalore

I stayed for 3 years in Bangalore. There were places I loved in the city, places that I liked and a few places that I hated. There were also places about which I cannot make up any opinion at all.

Among them was the Jumma Masjid on the Dispensary road. This is not to be confused with the more famous Trust by the same name that is close by.

The area around is always busy and the commercial street is also close. The markets were always full of customers, shopkeepers sold exotic items. Just a few hundred meters and you could also visit the markets selling lots of stolen goods, though the shopkeepers often deny that and then wink to show that they were bluffing. It is a fun place for a man to be in, a bit scary for many women, except in a crowd.

Anyway, I always found the place inviting in a peculiar way, the nearby Salafi mosque preaching the evils of other religions, the stench of the urinals, the cheap stolen goods in the market, the prostitutes on the road, the hustle and bustle of the city in general that seemed largely oblivious to the existence of this majestic white mosque.

I used to loiter around the place almost every weekend. The computer market was nearby and while returning, the commercial street was a happening place to visit before going home. So the Jumma masjid road was where I often got down. I clicked pictures, sometimes ate at the nearby food stalls, went though the many second hand book stalls (my primary motive to get down at this place).

The maulvi of this mosque must have seen me a number of times looking at the dome of the masjid or moving around it a number of times. One day, he smiled at me and called me. I went and we introduced ourselves. He told me some stuff about the mosque, about his life, his roots in Hyderabad, his royal origins or something similar. My legs were getting tired, he perhaps guessed that and asked to me to wait for a minute. I knew what he would be back with. He came back with a brand new hardcover copy of Qu'ran, an English translation of Marmaduke Pickthall. This was his Dawa'ah al Islam or invitation to Islam. I was still a bit surprised. He sensed some hesitation on my part and said that I should go through it and judge on my own. Of course, he did not know that I had read it already. I told him that, he was pleased. He asked, 'So what do you think?' I opened by bag, I generally keep a copy of Bhagvd Gita with me, and offered it to him. He looked at me without any expression, looking for signs that I was joking. I was not. I genuinely offered Gita to him. His expression changed, his eyebrows narrowed and he looked at me with disgust. He said nothing, held his lungi slightly up, turned back and went straight into the mosque back again. I could only see him washing his hands (it is a compulsory ritual) thoroughly from the distance. I never saw him approach me again.

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