By Nadeem F. Paracha
While driving to my office the other day, I almost crashed head-on into a motorcycle.
The burly man riding the bike was coming in from the wrong side on a one-way street. After braking, I gestured to him as to what on earth was he up to?
The motorcyclist gestured back and then shouted: ‘Are you blind?’
With half a smile and a full frown I told him he was the one coming from the wrong side.
‘So?’ he asked.
‘So, my friend, you are the one who has broken the law,’ I explained.
‘Whose law?’ he said. ‘It’s not God’s law, is it?’
Shaking my head, I replied: ‘God doesn’t make traffic laws. He leaves that to the discretion of human beings. Surely, he has given us the wisdom to make a few laws of our own.’
After hearing this, the gentleman dismounted from his bike and started walking purposefully towards my car.
‘Listen,’ he said, wagging a finger, ‘I can ride my bike any which way I want to. Why should I care about traffic laws made by corrupt people?’
Politely pushing his finger away from my face, I asked him how he knew the traffic laws were made by corrupt people.
He started laughing: ‘What are all these thullas (traffic cops)? Aren’t they all corrupt?’
‘Perhaps,’ I said. ‘But their corruption is as wrong as anyone breaking the law.’
‘Achha? So now you think I am corrupt?’ He said, still laughing.
‘Don’t know,’ I said. ‘But you most certainly were wrong by coming from the wrong side on a one-way street.'
‘I don’t care about man-made rules!’ He announced, and started strolling back towards his motorbike.
‘Bhai Saheb,’ I half-shouted, tilting my head out of the car’s window. ‘Had you hit me, you would have ended up in jail, not me. So try using your brains while riding your bike.’
That stopped him in his retreating tracks: ‘Only God decides who knows. Who are you?’
‘Someone who is willing to use the mind God gave him,’ I replied.
‘Yeh dil ki baat hoti hai (It is matter of the heart),’ he said. ‘Otherwise, even Kafirs have a mind!’
Now it was me who started to laugh. Taken aback, he began plodding a few meaningful steps towards the car again: ‘What’s so funny?’ He asked.
‘Bhai,’ I said, smiling. ‘If it was only a matter of the heart, most of the Muslim population would have died of a heart attack by now.’
He wasn’t impressed by my quip: ‘You people think that by reading a few books you are an authority on religion?’ He asked, sarcastically.
‘No,’ I said. ‘But how many books have you read to be an authority?’
‘I just know, because my heart says so,’ he announced.
‘And did your heart tell you to break the traffic rules and laws as well?’ I asked.
‘I only follow God’s laws!’ He replied.
‘How can you follow God’s laws when you can’t even follow simple man-made laws?’ I asked.
‘Man-made laws don’t mean anything,’ he replied, while walking back to his bike.
‘That’s a very well maintained bike you have,’ I half-shouted again.
He didn’t answer and kick-started his bike.
‘Man-made laws may not mean much to you,’ I said. ‘But man-made machines sure do!’
He didn’t reply and sped away, still riding his shiny machine on the wrong side of the road.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com