Temple pays respect to a departed Muslim

Hyderabad, March 31: In all this din and bloodshed I found a temple, a Balaji temple, with a Hanuman shrine within, which shut its doors on Tuesday evening, as a mark of respect for an old Muslim neighbour who passed away.

And that too, on a day celebrated as Hanuman Jayanthi. And for a moment one felt the peace and quiet and happiness within. Thank goodness some things are not too visible. Not too audible. Like this temple in a colony I reside in.

I would usually remark to a few close friends about this temple situated right opposite a mosque in this colony. There was always something I liked about these two religious shrines— the time of the morning azan and the temple bells always have that strange sense of synchronicity. One starts when the other ends. I do not know the exact reasons, nor have I ventured to find out. I just like to believe it is a coordinated orchestra of some sort. And sometimes it is useful to also just quietly believe in some of these things. Every morning the temple bell rings when the azan has been called out. All kinds of festivals have taken place in the two, and there has never been trouble. The colony itself is a fascinating mix the mosque is surrounded by a Muslim basti and there is a dargah close by, and a Mysamma temple. And Muslims and so-termed Hindu Dalits live next to each other. Some steps away and you find a population of Tamils, mostly Brahmin, and two Tamil Brahmin temples. But I do not take up those temples for discussion here.

With Hanuman Jayanthi on Tuesday, its darkness was, for me, a symbol of peace that sometimes even death warrants us to observe. In death, they say, all becomes one; all goes back to where it belonged. Bells are silent, lights are shut out. And so the temple doors closed down.

A respected old man, one of our neighbours, just went back to where we all ultimately go. And the event I witnessed, as one of life’s surprises when you least expect them, in its relative quietness, reconfirms my faith in humanity outside of religious bickerings.
But is it all so hunky dory? May be not. May be the azan and temple bells are just a matter of convenience. May be, the temple shut down for fear of trouble? As some skeptics, or the skeptic inside me, too, could, and would, argue. But no, the people who stay by the temple precincts lay my skepticism to rest. They say, emi godava? Maa majhya eppudu godavalu levu; adi anta paata bastilone jarugutundi (what trouble? There is no trouble between us, all that happens only in the Old City.

And there is yet another who confirms all is not well either when she says, why close it down for a Muslim? But there is also a reality that the two communities in these parts live in peaceful coexistence.

Some parts of this area have more than a century old history, and there has not been a single instance of inter-community conflict that I have come across in chapters of history. But for a moment, forgetting the social analysis part of it all, it just made a huge difference to me that today, while Hanuman jayanthi is being telecast in all the TV channels, alongside scenes of communal riots and frenzy in the old Hyderabad areas, one non-descript Hanuman shrine was enveloped in darkness because a Muslim man passed away. All other things, as they say, could stop, for a while. How long, this quiet, is a question. For, as I come out, peacefully, from that quiet basti with its temple and its mosque, a few Bajrang Dal men on motorbikes pass me by, as well as the temple they do not know exists (thankfully), shouting slogans of Jai Hanuman.