Last weekend we all went to my Grand parent’s place for 4 days. As a part of the ritual, I was supposed to don a hat of a barber (or hold a scissor) and cut my nephew’s hair for the first time. It’s a well known thing in India that a maternal uncle should cut his nephew’s/niece’s hair for the first time. Thank God it’s only one time! It is not as simple as it sounds. This act is usually associated with a holy place. Meaning someone in the family would make a deal with God(TM) that they will visit so and so holy place to offer the hair.
So, in this case it was my nephew’s Grand mother (father’s side) who cut the deal. It was in a “Darga” (Tomb of a holy person) in a very remote village called “Bodapadu”. Yes, we don’t have any qualms about visiting tombs and offering hairs – they could also be used incidentally for tourism purpose for ya all white people.
Anyhow, as we are Muslims – there is a strict code in Muslim law (I haven’t studied it but heard about this taboo a lot many times) that we are not supposed to visit any tombs as Islam is all against with Idolization of our pithy worldly objects. So, we broke that rule. But usually in India all these tombs (the holy ones of course) are all an offshoot of “Sufism” sect. They do belong to Islamic saints but come from a sect where it’s ok to have a tombs built and adorned for you. But a lot of Muslims don’t understand that. There is actually no reference made to Sufism, except that it’s just called plain old wrong. If you think we freak out with Tombs wait till we see the whirling dervishes!
So we broke the rule eh and we traveled to this remote place with hair full of nephews. What shocked me once I got there was – how this place is maintained. It’s all maintained by Hindus! Shocking. It’s gets more shocking – the priests’ of this tomb are actually women! Did you get jaw dropped yet? If not there is one more shocker – all those women are widowed. Oh my.
To put things in perspective for people who are not familiar with India. Here are the steps.
- Imagine you go to Vatican to see Pope
- You are one of those million people waiting to see ‘him’
- Now you are shocked because the pope is actually a woman
- As you try to wiggle out from your shock, you also realize that pope is actually a ‘African-American’ woman.
- Oooh you say, then you are told that she is actually Gay!
So what are you thinking now? I am sure you must be saying, someone wake me out of this dream. It was something similar to me when I saw a bunch of hindu, widowed, women are playing the act of priests for a Muslim holy saint. Now this is not so un-usual in India. Shirdi Sai Baba a holy saint from Shirdi is actually revered and prayed not only by Muslims, Hindus but also from various religion people.
I was quite amused by the surprise I got. I think Indians in general has some high tolerance capacity for other religions than theirs.
As to my nephew’s hair cut. It went great. His dad fed him chocolates and I cut his hair. So, here is the cutie:
Here is me in action:
And after 5 snickers, a lot of cajoling, a barber, a holy place, 15 relatives and some crying here is the outcome – 1 clean tonsured head with some Sandal wood paste on it. Priceless.