It wasn’t a very large room but it was airy. Flower patterned walls with too many holes- or maybe those were not walls but just huge windows- from floor to the roof. The ten year old me was standing in the shrine of Daata Ganj Bakhsh. It was my first visit and has been the last so far. I had heard my parents talking about taking us kids there as we were visiting a family in Lahore. I had imagined it to be somewhat huge- something straight out of the stories of Alif Laila. You can imagine my disappointment at finding that after passing through frighteningly dense crowds outside, it was afterall just a grave. The grave however, was a big one. Whoever was inside must be fairly tall. There were many heavy looking shawls on it and many more were still being laid on. Strangely the shawls were mostly either green or black in color.
Only pious men have shrines. If the pious men are awake in their graves- as has often been told to me, then I wondered how burdened and suffocated Daata Ganj Bakhsh must be inside his grave- under the continuous weight of embroidered velvet.
I was busy looking around at the walls and windows, lots of people coming in and going out but very few were talking. Most of them were silently praying and they all would come to the grave and bow on its marble edges. I nudged my mother and asked her why were people bowing on a dead man’s grave? Don’t they know that we only bow before Allah? Or are they not Muslims like us? She shushed me with a look of warning and then almost whispered that they are all Muslims, like us and they are only paying their respects. She asked me if I had any special prayer. I told her I had many but if we pray to Allah and believe that He is everywhere then why do people come here for their ‘special prayers’? I can’t recall what my mother said to me or maybe she didn’t hear me.
My mother had once told me that she had come here before and prayed for a daughter, and so I was born. There might be some truth to the greatness of this saint which I did not and still do not fully understand. So I decided to keep my vanity and ignorance in check and pay my respects.
I went near the grave and put my stretched hand on the marble edge- wondering that if he were alive, this would have been my handshake with him. I prayed to Allah to give this man most generous rewards in heavens and then went on about my petty issues and selfish wishes. I wasn’t finished when someone behind me- a woman perhaps, put her hand on the back of my head and made me bow. She released me few seconds after my forehead had touched the grave.
I let myself do something I absolutely did not approve of and I did nothing to resist it because a forceful hand, much bigger than mine had grabbed my head.