So another miracle in Mumbai, which itself is a miracle. The reports say, “On Friday night after local fishermen washed their hands in a stream off the Mahim bay after namaaz and allegedly found that the water was sweet, word began to spread about the 'miracle'.”
As usual the media went into a frenzy as we watched people knee-deep in the muddy water, scooping it in their palms and drinking it, forcing it into little baby mouths and filling it in bottles. Some made money by selling these bottles. Then we had those mandatory panel discussions with scientists telling us it is either sewage or rain or river water, and it is not potable.
We had communal harmony type scenes where even tilak-wearing sadhus talked glowingly about the miracle.
I think miracles are wonderful palliatives. I do believe that faith in something can work at least at a psychological level. But when it goes beyond the individual towards mass hysteria, then something has to be done.
The TV channels should not have taken their cameras there beyond a minute; many people follow a herd mentality and could have been lured by the celluloid drama.
Instead of scientists going into their sodium-calcium deposits techie stuff, a doctor should have shown the real possible consequences.
And some proper Muslim face should have been brought in to say that even if the water had turned sweet, Allah would prefer that it remained untouched.
I don’t know what will happen if there is some epidemic or widespread reports of diarrhea etc. What will happen to Allah’s miracle?
The Sufi saint whose dargah is in the vicinity and whose indirect connection with this miracle is being talked about was said to be against superstitions.
As a child nearing my teens I remember there was one 'religious' lady an aunt used to visit. She had regular majlis (prayer gathering) at her house and on one occasion a minor miracle took place; I do not recall the details but I remember that it was considered something very important. My aunt got lots of red threads blessed by the miracle and all of us had it tied round our wrists. I was thrilled because I love trinkets and no one in school would object because this had religious sanction.
With time and several baths it began to fade into a dark pink, then a lighter shade and finally it got to look shredded. My mother took it out and said, “Thanda kar denge”. (Which meant you did not throw these things, but set them free in the water.) I was impressed by her properness until the next day I saw her hand it to our Hindu helper and tell her to put it in the Carter Road sea.
Very funny. That is where all kinds of lovers would sit and throw god-knows-what in the water.
I asked her how she could do that. “Kaise pataa kaunsa paani saaf hai?” (How does one know what water is pure?)
One thought does cross my mind now, though: What did they think any child, usually accused of innocence, would want or need to be protected from? If it was bad thoughts, then it wasn’t working. My prayers were essentially pleas to pass exams without having to study, getting decent sized-breasts ASAP and hoping every morning that Keith would walk to wherever he was going at the same time as I was ready for school, so for those few minutes as we waited to cross each other’s paths I could feel a strange thrill.
Some of these miracles did happen. But what really pissed me off was why that one family was blessed and we had to depend on them for red threads. I discovered that the lady of the house was a kathak dancer and wore flowers as jewellery. That’s it. Allah was a patron of the arts and we, despite howling our lungs out over Madan Mohan, S.D.Burman and Naushad hits, just did not qualify.
Our family remained miracle-less. Instead, every birth, every monsoon on time, every beautiful sunset was hailed as a “kudrat ka maujeezah” (nature’s miracle). Bird droppings falling on one’s body were considered “lucky”, but the washing up after that was so scrupulously done that one began to wonder whether anyone was all that serious.
There are things one does as a matter of course. Like, even today when I travel, some money is wrapped and kept aside. The amount is either five rupees or eleven rupees. This is done for a safe journey and return. When I do return (no one bothers to ask how ‘safe’ I was at the destination!), the money is given away to a beggar. It pains me to know that my safety is worth so little, but I guess the good thing about such beliefs is they come so cheap.
“Do you believe in miracles?” I still ask my mother.
“Haan, haan,” she says. “Isn’t it a miracle that you have got into so much trouble -- and continue to do so -- and yet managed to survive?”
Ah well, I shall drink to that…and no muddy sweet water for me.