‘Asad-u-allah, illaha… .’

It was 5.15 am. The haunting cries of the Muezzin at the ancient Minara Masjid called the faithful for the Namaz-ul-Fazar. To begin the day by worshipping the Only God. The God of mercy. The Greatest.

Nooruddin was kneeling on his tattered prayer mat in one corner of his small room at Dongri. He wasn’t much of a devout, but he never missed the Fazar, Johar and Maghrib namaz of Friday. A Muslim is supposed to attend all the five namaz, everyday. But, it’s mandatory to attend the noon and evening namaz on Friday for those, who are unable to attend others due to any compulsions. He completed the sajda and prayed for the mankind, as the Holy Quran instructed and got up.

His garrulous grandfather was ranting about something. He rolled his mat and asked his mother to give something to eat, so that he can go to meet his friends for the practice of something or another. His grandfather suddenly quit his expert observations about America and Gulf and directed his artillery towards the 14 years old Nooruddin Mohammed Shaikh. A five feet two inches tall grave young boy of 16, who weighed 42kg.

 “And, where will you be going, you good for nothing boy! Again with your stupid friends? Maulana Asgar was complaining that you haven’t been to the Madarsa for last seven days! Do you think that you can ever learn the Pak Hadis by roaming around in streets like a vagabond? Just you and your Kafir friends! Last Friday you didn’t attend the Bayaan of Haji Sahab too!” The grumbling was going on.

His mom was busy in the corner of the single room, which was designated as the kitchen. Noora just bowed his head down and sat. He instinctively knew what all ship captains across the globe know. It’s suicide to face a storm. It’s always prudent to run before the storms with all sails hoisted. Resistance to a violent force is only advisable, if you are more powerful. Like a single masted ship, he just waited for the storm to abate. His grandpa initially ranted and cursed, then slowly subsided. It’s impossible to hit someone, who won’t hit back. Ask Gandhi! He formed the concept of Satyagraha on this doctrine! Resistance is a must for the pleasure of a fight

Prasad Joshi was an 18 years old athlete in the same building. His father was a priest in the local Ganapati temple at Walpakhadi. Today was Angarki Chaturthi. The auspicious day of Ganesha, which falls on a Tuesday. He had warned Prasad to be at the temple at 6am. It was already 7.30am and Prasad was missing. He was fuming. He knew that his son would be with that useless Muslim boy. He resolved to thrash him roundly in the evening.

Both the friends met at the Irani restaurant at Char Null in Dongri with their entire group. Most of them in the 16-20 age group.

The problem was huge. It wasn’t anything puny like religion or something. It was related to the only thing, which matters! Heart. Chinkya was in love.

News. We all are like those stray and pathetic dogs, who run like a soul possessed  behind cars at nights. What would they actually do, if they really catch those cars? We always chase news. What will we do of it?

Here’s a news for you, oh, you ever-hungry reader… Chinkya is in love. The fact is, he’s kicked by his mates because he missed the last Dahi Handi practice! By God! With the Janmashtami around the corner, this bastard decided to woo his lover by missing the practice! This crime was being evaluated, till then, Pt Prabhakar Joshi arrived there. He slapped Prasad twice and dragged him by the scruff of his neck. Chinkya was hiding behind the big fridge. Already he was kicked by his lover’s brother, he was damned if he would accept a slap from that arrogant pundit!

The team met at the Walpakhadi municipal ground to practice. Noora was standing in a corner. Ramzan was on. He had failed to attend the daily Sehri namaz today and was hiding from his grandfather. He saw Prasad standing in the group for a mock practice for the Dahi Handi.

Human Pyramid is a science. A simple calculation. It uses the same fundamental theory as of those ancient load-bearing walls. The bigger bricks at the bottom and the lightest one at the top.

Chinkya was standing at level two, when he decided to sneeze. Sneeze is a queen. She’s not a slave, who will demand your permission. She’s authoritative. She proclaims, ‘Here I arrive, like me or not!’ and you start shooting. Chinkya sneezed and the delicate equilibrium failed. Everyone collapsed like a house of cards.

The human pyramid in Dahi Handi is as organized and fine-tuned as any army practice. They seem to fall haphazardly, but even the falls are organized. The faller pulls in his elbow and chin. Each person tries to support the guy above and pushes himself down. Everyone is composed and it’s really rare for anyone to get hurt.

Noora was watching the show in amazement, till he felt his ears twisted and then a resounding slap…

Haraamzaada!  How can you be here! Maulana Asgar… “

Noora didn’t wait to hear the entire recital and scampered like a startled puppy.

He met Prasad after the practice. The team was subdued. They lacked Krishna. The troupé of Dahi Handi is called Govinda. The guy, who actually reaches to the Handi is Krishna.  The guy who was selected for this was down with viral flu. Prasad looked at Chinkya and whispered something in Noora’s ears. Initially Noora was scared, but later agreed.

Eid coincided with Janmashtami that year.

Mumbai police is very smart. We are better than the Scotland Yard. They investigate and catch, we catch and investigate. Police was everywhere. Kanha was ordered to not to flirt with Muslim girls. No flutes allowed to woo them. It’s against our culture, na! Flutes and flirting. Before his birth, Krishna was jailed again that year by the politicians.

The day went by peacefully. Except a few slaps and kicks to our heroes. But, as they are regular, we won’t waste our time on the cause.

Next day was Dahi Handi. Our Team was prepared like those centurions, raring for a battle. The only battle which mattered was the Tadwadi Dahi Handi. Digya approached Prasad and fought to be the Krishna. Prasad cursed Digya and denied.

The Team approached Tadwadi. The high hanging Matki was intact. The prize money was Rs 149,999. The height of the Matki was 60 feet. Around 20 meters.

Chinkya was raring to go. Prasad called everyone. And they formed the initial layer. Each guy holding the shoulder belt of another. Then, the second layer began their orderly ascent. Each guy, placing a well placed dainty foot… As a lady…

The master was shouting orders. The fair was on. Giant wheels were busy with screaming guys. Boys were eating faluda and eyeing girls. Girls were busy eyeing each other. It was a busy day!

Chinkya was ready. Prasad screamed the order. Chinkya climbed up. Noora was standing down. By the time Chinkya reached the 3rd level, the tottering pyramid collapsed.

It was a scene filmed in time warp. My friend, if I’d fall from the second floor, I’d die. These guys didn’t. Because, of the Team Work.

They began again. Everyone was ready. Noora was screaming happily. They reached the 4th level and the second level guy slipped again. The entire castle slowly collapsed.

Only one try left! Prasad looked at Chinkya. They did a Team Huddle and changed the formation. Now, Chinkya and Prasad were at level one. Prasad asked Chinkya in sign language if the plan decided 3 days ago is a success. Chinkya just smiled like a pouting girl.

Maulana Asgar suddenly saw Noora’s grandfather, who was standing there, watching the revelry. Maulana screamed at the old man, above the screams of the speakers… “When Nuru… ” his remaining speech was lost in the blast of some disco song.

The sixth level was erect and stable. Prasad and Chinkya looked at each other. Krishna was needed now! The entire tableau froze. Then they saw Maulana. Chinkya screamed to Digya, “Krishna kuthe aahe re?” till then he felt an infinitesimal weight increasing on his shoulders. He knew that Krishna is up. Between the struts of strong arms, his mischievous eyes met another pair. Two eyes laughed. The crowd screamed. People mobbed. Loving and touching the Krishna and the Govindas.

Maulana Asgar saw into the eyes of Krishna. Noora smiled from the top of the human pyramid, before smashing the curd filled Matki.

Maulana laughed amidst the fanfare caused by screaming mob.

The above pic is a genuine selfie shot by a govinda, just before breaking the Matki. It’s courtesy Shiv Jayanti Utsav Samiti, and I’m truly grateful for it and to them.