Playing cards in a field outside Aurangabad
I asked the kindly old Muslim man where we were. He said something. I was like OK. I’d woken up a hundred miles away. He asked whence I came, and how I liked it. “Aurangabad is a bit, well, dirty. I don’t like it.” He grinned. He said he was from there. Chagrin. The gentleman bought me a chai. I asked him where we were going, more generally.
The jist was, well, he’s conservative. A conservative Muslim. He believes the Koran is the word of God, the absolute truth and that this modern value system leads nowhere good. On many counts I agree. I mean, I asked him about homosexuality and evolution and stuff and we don’t agree on that, but on the crux, on that old-school morality, I dig. I understand it and in many ways wish I could live that way, but I am torn.
The issue with the old ways is choice. That the youth cannot choose. But – in my experience – it’s also hard to break away from western mores. If I say I’m waiting for sex till marriage my scene would laugh. If I don’t drink people look hurt. It’s not like they’re going to stone me or whatever, but it’s still hard to be different. Not that I am. I mean, I don’t know what I am, but part of me wonders whether one might just listen to what prophets and parents have been saying for years.
I told him this. I told him I agree, but it’s hard, and I worry about what people might think. That this is not the way of the world. That I don’t live among the umma and I tend to go along with whatever looks normal and right.
He smiled. He told me more, but one thing sticks with me. “Where are you going?” he asked. “Hyderabad,” I said. “If you want to get to Hyderabad, what does it matter if everyone is on the train to Mumbai?”