Thursday, September 4, 2014

Najeeb Comes back to Meet an Old Friend

(Najeeb Vahid, second from left in red jacket with his badminton mates in London)

My architect friend and well known alternative modern structural designer, Lijo Jose, after reading my ‘Finding a Muslim Friend in You’ that I had written in December 2008, addressing my long lost friend, Najeev Vahid, in the wake of the Hindu-Muslim strife immediately after the Mumbai Terrorist Attack, asks me what happened after my happy meeting with him a day before (3rd September 2014) in my home at Vakkom where he came to meet me with another close friend, Syam Mohammed Raice, who works in Dubai. Immediately after that happy union I re-posted my old blog in the facebook and it was the reason for why Lijo asked me that question.

A long, enduring and warm hug is what Najeeb gives me as he steps out of the brand new white Scorpio of Syam. I suddenly imagine a scene from one of the popular generic movies of Mohanlal. Rich, powerful and stately Mohanlal comes with Siddique to meet their school time friend, a struggling writer, Sreeraman, who lives in their childhood village. The reunion is filled with unspoken words. I need not tell you who are Mohanlal, Siddique and Sreeraman here.  But I have to say, I see Siddique in Najeeb. They tell me that they have been driving around in the village at night waiting for me to come back from Trivandrum where I went for a drive with Shibu Natesan. I am late and it is quite late. Syam’s mobile phone rings and Najeeb comments that the call is from the Home Department and is a final warning call to Syam.  Najeeb is still in his irreverent best.

(Syam Mohammed Raice's white Scorpio)

Najeeb looks the same. If you wear a khaki shorts and a cream color shirt you could straight away go and attend the classes in Vakkom High School, I tell him. That was the color of our uniform. He has not changed at all. Except for a little darkening around his eyes and close cropped hair that hides his otherwise curly hair, he looks the same. He squeezes by back and shoulders and he feels the same. I warn him not to beat me with his rough palms. He had this habit of beating my thighs where baby fat was refusing to fade during the high school days, with his strong and rough palms. I used to cringe when he did that. I heard you had escaped from Dubai to London, I tell him. He glowers at me and clenches his first. Suddenly he becomes Mammootty. I hear him saying the famous dialogue of Chanthu in Vadakkan Veeragatha. “Chanthu, the one who used reed needle instead of iron needle. Chanthu, the one who bribed the blacksmith. Chanthu, the one who gave a faulty sword to his friend. What else the gossip mongers say?” Najeeb does not ask this, instead he punches me softly on my stomach and asks, what else I have heard about his mythical escape from Dubai to London. I smile into the darkness.

I apologize to Syam as I am not talking to him that much because Najeeb has taken over the scene of reunion. He is in his irreverent best. Slangs fly thick and fast from his mouth. Each time he utters a word that could be eminently beeped out and gleefully stored in our memory, he looks around in the darkness to see whether some elders have listened to his harangue. Old village boys in us have not died out yet. They are still careful. They still respect the elders around though irreverence is the underlying theme. Najeeb and Syam wear white dhoti and they have adequately double folded it above their knees. I wear a saffron lungi and a white kurta. Najeeb asks me whether it is my ‘usual’ dress. I tell him that it is my dress for the night, may be for the time being. Syam is not surprised at my dress code as he has seen my various avtars in facebook. Syam is an ardent fan of Kerala Transport Corporation. He always posts the pictures of Transport buses, picking them from the site of a group of IT professionals who spend their money to even rebuild and conserve the bodies of some of the old transport buses. We all carefully protect something from our past; it could be busts or buses. Syam wears a white shirt with lines and Najeeb wears an olive green shirt with white vertical stripes.

(Syam Mohammed Raice in Dubai)

Najeeb tells me that he had a struggling period in London and now finally he has found his foothold. He has two children, a fourteen year old son and seven year old daughter (am I right there?). They must be speaking very accented English, I muse. Yes, says Najeeb. But they speak to me in Malayalam, he adds. Also he adds that they speak to his wife (their mother) also in Malayalam. “Otherwise there will be bloodbath,” he says with twinkling eyes. Najeeb’s accent too has not changed. His accent, like his body remains unchanged. Vakkom seems to have this blessing of making its people to be original in their manners and language. If we are bad we are bad to the core, and we are good we are the best. But when it comes to language, we are puritans. We do not mimic any accent though some of us thanks to habit spice up our talks with some broken English sentences in between. Najeeb when he swears positively looks up and takes the name of Allah, let his name be praised. He remains the same even in that aspect.

Out of curiosity I ask them how they thought I was at Vakkom. They were moving around in their huge SUV making many necks turn even if it was night and there at the SN Junction they found Sunil Lal, our beloved friend (I have devoted one full chapter to him in my To My Children Series’. “We found a snake at the junction, with it hood open and shaking,” Najeeb tells with a laugh. In our village the drunken yet standing ones we call, snakes (paambu). “Which one was that snake?” I ask, though I know the answer because I have just seen him while passing the junction a few minutes before with Shibu as he comes to drop me at the gate. “Sunil Lal, who else that could be?” Najeeb says. Sunil Lal, the moment he saw them had told them about my presence in the village. In village things travel fast than facebook virals. The other day I had seen a woman at the bus stop. I suddenly had a feeling that I knew her. I went and asked her whether she was so and so. She was just getting into bus and I too was taking the same bus to a nearby town. Once she settled down, she came to the edge of her seat and asked me whether I was the same Johny who used to live at Vakkom. I said yes. She told me that he came to know about my presence in the village another friend who had told her about meeting me quite accidently when I went to see the flooding of backwaters almost a week back. Friends remember me and I remember them, that is a good feeling.

It is time to go as Syam’s mobile screen glows again. One more warning call for Syam, Najeeb says. How will you escape the wrath of your wife today, I ask Syam. “I am going to take Najeeb with me as a shield,” Syam laughs. Najeeb’s family is in London. So he decides to go with Syam ‘specially for protecting him from his wife’s wrath.’ We all laugh. When shall we meet again? The question manifests amidst us. They are all leaving in a week’s time to Dubai and London respectively. “I may come to Dubai in December,” I just tell them. “You are my guest,” Syam says. “You just need to let me know, I will fly down to Dubai from London for two days,” Najeeb assures. My head reels and I am overwhelmed by their love. I am an avadhootan, the one who without home or money. They are people who have gained things in their lives their hard work and determination. I say thanks to them for visiting me. And the words sound hollow as Najeeb gives me a warm hug again and squeezes my hands. In that half an hour we remember so many friends who have left the village for building up their career and life. “Amongst us you and Kamaneesh became big,” Najeeb says. “No” I say.  “We have become more refined human beings,” I want to add. But I remain silent in humility. The white Scorpio takes a turn and with a boom it goes and fades into future, only to reemerge in another ‘present’.

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