Only in India: Suleiman and Anwar celebrate a noisy but legally noise-free Diwali

'We are like that only.'

 |  5-minute read |   20-10-2017
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The flight from Riyadh to Delhi was uneventful. Suleiman Khan glanced impatiently at his Rolex watch as he waited outside the airport. Anwarbhai said he’d be here by 5.00pm, he muttered to himself as he searched for his friend in Delhi’s early-evening haze. He was looking forward to celebrating Diwali.

Just then Anwar Sheikh’s spanking new Mercedes drove up beside him.

“Get in, Suleiman,” said Anwar cheerfully. “I have a surprise for you.”

“What’s that, Anwarbhai,” Suleiman asked, brow knitted as he slid into the front leather bucket seat of his friend’s E-250. He had lately become wary of Anwar’s surprises.

“I’m taking you tonight to your first noise-free Diwali party.”

“Ah, you mean after the Supreme Court ban on the sale of firecrackers in NCR,” said Suleiman knowingly.

“Yes, Suleiman,” said Anwar. “The ban is a great idea. It’s only those right-wing Hindutva types who are upset about it. As if the Supreme Court is trampling on their divine right to pollute the city with smoke and noise.”

Suleiman nodded thoughtfully: “Yes, Anwarbhai, Delhi as winter sets in is polluted enough without all those firecrackers.”

Later that evening, the two friends drove up to quiet colony in south Delhi where Anwar’s friend was hosting a Diwali party.

As they entered the gate of the sprawling two-storied bungalow, Suleiman recognised a high-profile lawyer famous for writing poetry in between charging enormous legal fees to get his wealthy clients out of prison.

“Anwar!” the lawyer exclaimed, bouncing up to the pair and hugging Anwar. “What are you up to these days?”

“Oh, just the usual,” said Anwar, extricating himself from the bear hug. “Met madam the other day. She says the time is ripe for Rahul to take over.”

The stocky, white-mopped lawyer, on a retainer to the Family, nodded in agreement. “Yes, Anwar, it’s about time. Rahul has fire in his belly! He’ll do a great job.”

“While he’s in India,” murmured Suleiman, under his breath.

“Eh, what was that,” the lawyer asked, cocking his ear towards Suleiman, the wide grin on his face vanishing.

“Oh, this is my friend Suleiman from Saudi Arabia,” Anwar said quickly. “He’s here to get a taste of Delhi’s noise-free Diwali after that wonderful Supreme Court order.”

Just then a loud explosion behind them made the three men jump. “What was that,” asked Suleiman. “I thought firecrackers were banned!”

Anwar smiled sheepishly as the sprightly lawyer bounced off to greet a group of men, loudly discussing Modi’s waning popularity. “The Supreme Court, Suleiman, has banned the sale of firecrackers in NCR but not the bursting of firecrackers already sold. And there’s a stock of over one lakh kg of firecrackers in shops around NCR.”

“Ah,” said Suleiman. “So it’s a noise-less Diwali only on paper.” He smiled as Anwar rolled his eyes on hearing multiple crackers going off on the lawn in front of them. “In India, Suleiman, the law can sometimes be an ass.”

ptida_102017031706.jpgSale of firecrackers banned in Delhi. Photo: PTI/Representational

“That’s why Indian lawyers are doing so well,” grinned Suleiman. “Like your poet-lawyer friend we met.”

Just then, a kurta-clad man with a shock of thick white hair came up to greet Anwar. “Happy Diwali, Anwar,” he said. “We on the Left look forward to supporting the Congress in 2019. Modi must go! He has killed free speech, his cow vigilantes beat up poor Muslims every other day, Hindutwadis are killing journalists and activists who stand up to him. Modi must go.”

Anwar said soothingly, “Of course, he must go, but as our new young leader said, we don’t want a BJP-mukt Bharat, just a Modi-mukt Bharat.”

Suleiman was puzzled. As the white-haired leader of the Left, still breathing fire, walked away, he asked his friend: “But Anwarbhai, didn’t the Karnataka SIT chief say last Saturday that there was no evidence of right-wing extremists being involved in the left-wing journalist’s murder, contradicting the Karnataka minister?”

Anwar looked crossly at his friend. “Suleiman, don’t fall for all that BJP-RSS propaganda. Of course, she was murdered by right-wing extremists. Even the firearms that killed previous rationalists match the one that killed her.”

Suleiman shook his head. “No Anwarbhai, they don’t. The SIT chief said so specifically at his press conference on Saturday. He said he’s still not ruling anything out, including a Naxal angle.”

Anwar looked at his friend in good-natured exasperation. “Sitting in Riyadh, Suleiman, how on earth do you know all this?”

Suleiman smiled and nudged his friend. “See Anwarbhai, isn’t that bearded gentleman the TV channel tycoon who has run into problems with the I-T department and the enforcement directorate?”

“It’s all vendetta politics Suleiman,” Anwar said gruffly. “His channel is so professional, so fair to the Pakistani point of view. It’s Congress’ favourite channel. It’s such a refreshing change from those nationalist channels where anchors scream for two hours every evening.”

As Anwar and Suleiman walked towards the buffet table groaning under the weight of multiple cuisine stations, another bang went off. “Just kids playing with crackers bought before the ban,” said Anwar nervously. “Don’t give it a second thought.”

Suleiman smiled, thinking to himself, this can only happen in India. A noisy but legally noise-free Diwali.

Dinner over, as they prepared to leave, the two friends were startled to see a small stage with two men performing a skit. One was dressed in a smart sherwani, looking pleased with himself playing the bridegroom. The other was dressed in a simple white kurta, looking coy and demure, playing the bride. They exchanged occasional sideways glances, one smiling confidently the other coquettishly.

Anwar laughed as the two friends walked towards the exit. “It’s a marriage of convenience between the BJP and JD(U),” he chuckled. “Wait for our national mahagathbandan in 2019. That will end this marriage for sure.”

The deafening sound of firecrackers followed them out of the gate. Suleiman shook his head in mock despair. “We are like that only,” he said to himself as they slid into Anwar’s Mercedes and drove down a crowded Delhi street alive with a group of revellers bursting firecrackers led enthusiastically by a man he recognised.

“Isn’t that Chetan, Anwarbhai?” he asked.

“Yes, Suleiman, it is,” Anwar replied, his voice muffled by the sound of firecrackers bursting all around the car.

Also read: For one region in Uttarakhand, Diwali is still a month away


Minhaz Merchant Minhaz Merchant @minhazmerchant

The writer is the biographer of Rajiv Gandhi and Aditya Birla. He is a media group chairman and editor. He is the author of The New Clash of Civilizations

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