Let me tell you a story.
Couple of years ago, while I was driving back from Bandra to Malad, and my driver Amjad Sheikh turned down the radio in my car that was playing my favourite RD. “Kya hua?” I asked. “Dada, Azaan ho rahi hai,” he replied sheepishly. “Hmm,” I sighed.
Each time he would pass by a mosque during the azaan time, he would look at me, and I would turn down the radio myself. I respected his faith and he reciprocated the same.
He served me as my most efficient chauffer for almost a decade. He is still in touch with me. The last time he smsed me to wish me for Maha Shivraatri. While he would bring Gosht Briyani and Sheer Qurma every Eid, I would take him around Durga Puja pandals. Niether of us, had any issue with each others religion.
Once Amjad decided to impress his newly married wife Sanjida and decided to keep 30 days fast during Ramazan. I was worried about how would he be able to do his duty if he fasts? But eventually he managed to pull it off, both his fast and his duty. I was working as Vice President with Pritish Nandy Communication those days, and we would travel from Nariman Point to Malad. Most of the days he would break his fast in the car. He would ask me to keep a check on the watch and would break his fast with one piece of khajoor and some cut fruits.
Every year during Ramzan I would visit Mohammad Ali Road for the scrumptous food. Baida roti, kati roll and kesar phirni would be my favourite. I would parcel variety of snacks for Amjad and his family.
During Ganpati, he would drive me to Siddhivinayak and stand in the queue with me to give me company. His religion didn’t allow him to worship idols, but that didn’t deter him from showing respect towards mine. He would take off his chappals before having modak, he would garland the car during Gudipadwa and bring mishti for all of us during Diwali.
Most of my Haji Ali visits were with him. I learned “wajoo” from him, while he would climb the stairs at Babulnath along with me, just to wait outside the sanctum sanatorium.
After working for so many years, he became family. Blessed with a wonderful daughter Alina and son Sameer, he is happily married and now lives in Nagpur. I remember we would often talk about religion and its “side effects”. While he would enlighten me about misinterpretation of Quran and I would do the same about Hinduism.
A complete phone addict, I would often see him surfing Sufi songs from pirated sites. “Yeh galat hai, isse music industry ko nuksaan hota hai,” I would stop him.
While I downloaded original sufi songs of Nusrat Fateh Ali for him, he would download all RD and Kishore songs for me. We exchanged songs, cinema and cuisine. And unknowingly we exchanged culture.
Both of us hated the fact Taslima Nasreen was banished from her own homeland for writing Amar Meyebela. We spoke about Babri Masjid, Godhra, Ajmal Kasab, ’93 blast and Osama Bin Laden. We argued on everything.
At times we would have our differences, but that never changed our relationship.
He would often accompany me for screenings of movies. We watched movies from Khuda Ke Liye to Parzania, from Lahore to Water. Being a film buff, we both enjoyed talking about cinema. Issues related to religion, caste and sex made him ponder. His sense of humour was well appreciated by my friends and colleagues.
Even today, though Amjad is no longer working for me, I still pause my radio when I hear the sound of Azaan. Even today, I visit dargahs and offer prayers after wajoo. Even now, Amjad plays holi with his kids. He distributes sweets during Diwali. He remembers me and my family during all Hindu festivals.
We both loved music. One of our favourite song was In Lamhon Mein from Jodha Akbar.
The movie remains one of our favourite by Ashutosh Gwarikar, who made a love story on Hindu princess falling in love with an illiterate Mughal emperor, who introduced Din-E-Illahi.
I still have the song as my caller tune.
Even Amjad does.
Incidentally, the song was rendered by Sonu Nigam.
Cover Picture Courtesy: The Nation, Pakistan. Original LINK