Tale from South Asia: "Yaa Warris"
Syed Ali Mujtaba
I met one interesting character in the passenger train on travel from Shiekhpura to Gaya in the Indian state of Bihar. He had no marks on his forehead nor he had any tuffet hair on the back head.
From top he covered himself with woolen cloths but below he was dressed in dothi, the kind Gandhiji wore, and that’s how I could identify his religion. He was with two Muslim guys.
They were Muslims because one had beard, the other was clean-shaven but was wearing ‘pajama’. A kid sat in the Muslim guys lap and was wearing modern cloths. The Muslim guy was giving toffee and the Hindu guy was cuddling the kid. I cannot make out his religion of the child but guess he was related to the Hindu gentleman.
The most peculiar thing about this gentleman was he whispered "Yaa Warris" intermittently.
This was just as some Christian may say “Oh Jesus,” or Muslim "Ya Allah" or some modern day north Indian Hindu picked make their obvious statement saying “Jai Sri Ram,” this person seems to have picked up the fancy for "Yaa Warris" that was on his lips all the time.
He looked to me an interesting character and I was watched his activities minutely. Suddenly his mobile phone started ringing and instead of saying hello, he yelled "Yaa Warris." He closed his conversation in the same way.
When the train reached the bridge on the river Phalgo, on the banks of which Gaya town or Bodh Gaya is situated, he stood up, and folded his hands to the river and bowed his head. I could see him chanting some mantra after which he sat down. He continued whisper "Yaa Warris." in regular intervals after that.
I was itching to unravel the mystery of "Yaa Warris” but I was shy not ask him anything as that could be personal and may put me in tight spot.
I came home and narrated this spectacle to my folks. They said this person could be follower of the Sufi saint Pir Warris Qlander of Nawada district whom Hindus and Muslims alike revere.
I realize these passengers had boarded the train from the same station. I was also told that a private coach operator from Nawada, who is a non-Muslim is also the follower of this Sufi saint. He owns a fleet of buses that has “Warris Piya” written in bold letters up in the front both in Hindi and Urdu. I remember seeing a few such buses in my last trip to the same place.
My fellow travelers in the train looked to me moderately educated as one could make out from their talks. They seem to be friends engaged in some petty business activity. Their dress said they were not so poor either. The most conspicuous thing about them was they were above the Hindu Muslim communal madness that’s ripping India apart. They had perfect understanding with each other and respected each other’s faith.
This was an eventful journey that I may like to remember for long. Still the sound of "Yaa Warris" rings in and the face of the gentleman who was whispering haunts my mind. I am tempted to acknowledge my fascination for this strange but wonderful unknown Indian."Yaa Warris".
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org