I stepped outside the college campus where I work and found a colleague getting off from an auto rickshaw.
I asked the driver, “Basavangudi, Shankar Matt?”
He nodded his head and I hopped on. The driver was an elderly Muslim man. He had a little white cap on and his long white beard was a bright orange with mehendi (henna).
He was going in and out of various lanes and somehow we started talking.
He said, “So you are a teacher. Are you alone?”
I said, “No I have a husband at home.”
“What does he do?” was his next question.
“He is a teacher too.”
Moving on at a fast pace he said, “How many boys?”
I said, “Hmm….”
He said, “How many boys do you have?”
I said, “None.”
He said, “How long since you are married?”
Since this is a question that I get asked in India all the time, I have some creative answers.
I prayed to God to help me and said to my Lord that I am assuming (for my answer) this present moment is an eternal moment and all moments are contained in each moment.
I said, “Just now. Not too long.”
He said, “Ok, recently.”
I was happy he accepted my answer and thought that was the end of the conversation.
But I was wrong.
Waiting for the red light, he turned and said, “It is good to have children after 2 or 3 years of marriage. That way you will have support from them by the time you are 50.”
“Yes,” he nodded his head with great confidence and joy.
I asked him, “How many boys do you have?”
He said jubilantly, “Seven. Four boys. Three girls. All married.”
I said,”Seven! It’s great they are all married. You are free. You have fulfilled your duties.”
He said, “Yes – my sons are happy and my daughters are happy too. They live near me – in the next few streets. I don’t have to work even – but I take my auto out for a couple of hours a day. I can stay at home – go to Namaaz and sleep. But that is not good.”
He touched his healthy stomach and laughed. “So I take this auto for a few hours and go here and there.“
There was a pause and he turned again at the next red light and said with a sweet twinkle in his eyes, “You know, I have gone there too!”
“To Mecca and Medina.”
I said, “How wonderful. You are really fulfilled. Uupar waala aap par meherbaan hai. The Lord is gracious to you.”
He said, “Yes, He is. Why should He not be? He knows us. We are from Him and He is our own.”
He smiled and it was so beautiful. So simple. So true. The simplicity and truth of his faith, brought the pure, sweet presence of God right there – in that little auto, in the middle of the crazy traffic.
Soon I heard my mobile phone ring. My friend was waiting for me near our destination and said to me on the phone, “I am waving to you on the other side of the street. Can you see me? Get off and come.”
I told the driver, “I think my friend is here somewhere, I can pay you and get off.”
The driver said, “Yes, yes, I see your friend. Wait my daughter, wait. I will take you there.”
Quickly he turned the auto in the middle of the busy road and took me to my friend.
We had met less than an hour ago and spoken for a few minutes and yet the tenderness with which he said, “my daughter” was so sweet and pure. There is a way in which God connects hearts by His presence which cannot be expressed in words.
I smiled at him and said, “Khuda hafiz.”
He took the money and smiled, “Khuda hafiz!” May God be with you!