My encounter with Shaykh-al-Bahir: A life lesson: True story

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Stories have always fascinated me to the core. I remember when I was a Child; I had the privilege of rummaging through the library of a government school in my village. It was there that I found some of the gems in shape of books which continue to inspire me till date.

Every time when I go through an experience I somehow end up relating it to the teachings of these books. When I reflect back on the experiences through the lens of these books i begin to feel that my experience is not unique. There was someone, probably a couple of hundred years ago or maybe a thousand years ago who experienced the same things. The path which I am walking is definitely not unique as these stories are their footprints which tell me that many have walked it before me and many more will walk it after me. It is to those that I submit this; the men and women who will come after me through these same lanes that I wish to narrate my own experience.

If you have not read Sinbad’s Seven Voyages, you must read it. Here is how I relate to it.

Sinbad was a sailor from Arabia. He was famous for his sea voyages which were full of adventure. He was daring in his attempts and a son of the sea who loved riding the waves of open oceans, always yearning for new adventures and fortunes to be made from the trade. For this, many a times he would set sail and travel from island to island, city to city making profits and satiating his hunger for wealth and adventure.

On his fifth such voyage, he set sail and conducted several profitable deals across cities. He sailed for days in the open waters until eventually he found himself amidst chaos. The events so happened that two giant birds dropped stones at his ship because his fellow sailors ate their egg. The stones broke his vessel and drowned it, killing all of his crew. Sinbad grabbed onto some wooden planks and faded unconscious. With waves he drifted in the ocean. When he opened his eyes, he found himself on the shore of an island.”

Now, I am not a sailor, hack I don’t even know how to swim. But, for once I want you to focus on the essence of the story. Sinbad was in trouble and so was I.

On the Morning of 6th August 2020 two very close, my dearest, best of the human beings parted ways without a hint. Both of them were solid pillars who just went away without telling me why. In this emotional wreck I found some things to grab on to and managed to stay afloat. I drifted for days until I found the ground beneath my feet.

“Sinbad found that the island is a paradise in itself. It’s full of fruit trees and beautiful sights. There is water, food and shelter and everything else that he needs to live on the island. However there are no people there. He explored the island, thanking his fate that it landed him on such a lovely habitat. Had it not been for the wreck, he would not have seen this beautiful part of the world. On one of the mornings, he found an old man sitting beside him. The old man couldn’t talk but was making gestures. Sinbad took him for a survivor of another wreck and felt sorry for him that he was in such a miserable state.”

Once I gained the control of my life back. I found that perhaps this is the best thing that could have happened to me. It made me realize that I had become complacent and I made some mistakes which led me to this. Now I had a chance, to look back upon my life and make some changes. I was happy of the fact that I had so many corrections to make, so many things to do. I got busy in routine life. I was doing well in my personal and professional life.

Until one evening, I get a call. The number was familiar because I met the person once through a friend. For dignity’s sake let’s name her ‘Ms. Flower Kumari’. The first thing she speaks is

Hello dear, Flower Kumari here…..

When I met her last, she was a friend of my friend ‘Mr. Gardener’ (changed name) and later on became his girlfriend in due course of time.

I picked the call and there she was, all hopeless and tormented.  Apparently Mr. Gardener decided to breakup with her as it was getting difficult for him. (I must admit that I had no idea of it whatsoever). But whatever method he was using was not working out well. I gave her hope and I told her that I will inform Mr. Gardener about her call and I will ask him to get in touch so that they can work it out.

That’s it. It should have ended at that. But it didn’t.

“Out of compassion, Sinbad knelt down to pick the old man up so that he could carry him to the fruit trees and get him something to eat. The old man quickly put his legs around his neck and climbed onto his shoulder with a firm grip. Sinbad noticed that the old man’s legs were unusually muscular and leathery. Taking it as a natural built of the old man, he focused on the path and kept moving. Upon reaching the trees, Sinbad knelt down again and asked the old man to climb down from his shoulders. As soon as he did so, the old man tightened his legs around Sinbad’s neck and strangulated him until he fell unconscious.

Now, Sinbad found himself in a very tricky situation. Whenever he tried to get rid of the old man, the old man would thwart his efforts by using his legs to strangulate him immediately. No matter how hard he tried to hurt the old man and get away, but he couldn’t escape. The old man enslaved him and used him as his mule to go to places wherever he desired. Days passed and Sinbad kept getting thinner and weaker, on the contrary the old man was getting heavier and heavier with all the diet.”

Centuries ahead, here I was. I conveyed the message to Mr. Gardener he assured me that he will take care of things. But the frequency of these calls to me increased in a few days. As it turned out, Mr. Gardener was not willing to give her a moment more. One fine evening, I heard Ms. Flower Kumari weeping incessantly.

Even though I consider myself a hard hearted individual, but tears is something which no one can ignore. I decided that if I could somehow lessen her pain and give her strength, it would be good. This idea emerged from the simple fact that I knew, not having someone to share your emotions, your joy and pain with can be a really bad feeling. Remember: my friends left me a few months ago only. I went through the same pain a while ago.

Being human, I decided to lend an ear to Ms. Flower Kumari’s troubles and counsel her out of the pain. I noticed that there were many things wrong with her thought process. But then I ignored them considering that people are entitled to have the independence of thoughts. I would listen to her frequently, sometimes for multiple hours a day. But it was all fine because she said it’s helping her. It continued for few days. Then, as I neared my goal to completely elevate Ms. Flower Kumari from her from pain, I started to trace my steps back. All this while, I never left a scope for any misunderstanding or never did I send her any wrong signals. I made sure that she knows that as soon as I am done. I will get back to my own world to chart out my own path.

One fine day, comes the missile of confessions. Flower Kumari was now in love with me. I wondered whether 3 weeks were long enough a time that Flower Kumari forgot her one true, the only one of a kind, babu shona love and found a new one in me. But I knew that it’s time to cut the strings. In my very first attempt, Flower Kumari threw the emotional tantrums that she is just confessing and not demanding. All of a sudden I was declared judgmental when just a day ago I was the most understanding man on the planet earth. Yet again, this gender sensitivity kicked in and I heard myself saying to me, it’s ok to keep her as an acquaintance. Deep down I knew that I am enslaved now. This meant I would have to pick Flower Kumari’s calls and listen to her blabbering even when I didn’t want to. It meant that for at least an hour a day, I would have to put up with her rhymes. Worst of all, the anticipation of the horror next day would keep my mind in chaos until the moment arrives. Hack I couldn’t even say, I don’t want to. It’s very insensitive and ill-mannered to turn a woman away. Especially when she says “I am not demanding anything from you, I am just giving.”

I wonder whether value of time and peace was an alien concept for her.

Anyways, whatever she was giving was like a Dung cake with all the love and care in it, which I had to eat, just to show my solidarity with her concept of Self-sacrifice and Selfless giving.

Flower Kumari would call me every other day sometimes many days in a row and would eat up hours of my time and energy. She would throw tantrums when I stopped her from expressing her love to me. I felt puke travel up my throat on some of the occasions but i would gulp it down with some of her absurd ideas and thought process. I would put a brave face with all the politeness and she would fight and call me a gentleman at the same time. Out of desperation, I began to pray and hope that I don’t receive a call from her ever again. But like the same old man, I would find her strangulating me the very next day.

Out of desperation, I decided to use my own DIY homemade nuclear missile.

I made her my sister.

I can’t describe the feeling of joy I had when this idea bubbled up in my brain. I was driving a motorcycle when it popped up and I began to bounce on my seat. For the first time in weeks, I was waiting for her call, with my finger on the launch button.

As soon as my screen flashed Flower Kumari, I picked it up. After a few sentences I began to find a moment where I can launch my attack and justify it at the same time. Yeah, yeah, I was trying to be the nice guy still.

But the moment arrived and I said,

You know, I have been thinking about it for some time now. I think you remind me of my Sister. Henceforth, I shall call you my JiJi.

Aah, the silence on the other side was so pleasurable, that I took the most relieving breath of past weeks. But soon, came the reply.

I don’t make brothers, I have many already

I was quick to retaliate

But I do make sisters, and I just made you one.”

This was my all-time best dialogue, delivered with pinpoint precision, dead accurate’”

I heard an ok from the other side and after some dialogues; I quickly put the phone down. I was so elated, that I felt like basking in my own sunshine. I was so proud of my mind. I was so sure, that she wouldn’t call now.

Then, came the next day. I realized, all my attempts to escape failed. Because now she was ok being a sister and still she ate my peace and my time, moreover, she left me with her absurd thoughts which would shake my own beliefs and made me sleepless.

One day Sinbad was carrying the old man to the other part of the island. On his way, he found some gourds along the path, the particular kind, which had a hard outer shell. He quickly gathered some and ate away the soft insides to make them hollow. He took the shells and filled them with mashed grapes and left them to ferment. On a fine day, when the old man was forcing him through the same path again, he picked the gourds and smelled the fermented wine. He took gulps and soon became ecstatic. He began to dance around and sing. Seeing all this, the old man sitting on his shoulders snatched away the gourd filled with wine and drank it. He felt his mind light and demanded for more. Sinbad kept giving him the wine filled gourds until he felt the grip loosening. In one move, he threw the old man down and in next he smashed his head with a rock killing him.

This ended Sinbad’s misery. Many days later when he was rescued by a passing ship, he narrated the incident to the captain who told him that he is called “Shaykh-al-Bahir: the old man of the sea”. Till date, no one has escaped his clutches.”

Three good things came out of this failed nuclear attack. One, was the revelation that she is a cockroach, only they can survive a nuclear attack like this. Two, she stopped confessing her newfound love for me and Three, I was enlightened now, that there is no replacement for the word ‘No’. I began to look for another opportunity where I can throw a clear NO at her head.

But all good things take time. Few days of torture later, she approached me to teach her biology. Apparently, she was preparing for some exam and she had no background of the subject. This was acceptable to me, as I myself was thinking of refreshing my concepts because I was about to sit for the exams as well. I agreed and I started to take online lectures to help her out. (I know, by this time, you are like, ‘This is how it all started in the first Place’. But I am an ape, that too a dumb one). Three lectures in, and again came her verdict that this is helping her a lot.

At the end of the fourth lecture, I got my opportunity. She said and I quote

This lecture is all fine, but you are so formal. I want you to stay informal with me.

I asked her

Why? I am just doing what I am supposed to do. Teaching you!  What’s so formal about it? Even if it is, Why would you want me to be informal with you?

That’s how I like it, if you don’t then let me know your fee as well, I will pay you” Came her reply.

I was infuriated. But I cut the Google meet. I was not willing to engage Flower Kumari for more than she deserved. I was already at the end of my wits.

Then several hours later came her reply. ‘Sorry, I was angry’. Huh, as if she knew what I have been going through, I thought.

Next day I didn’t take her class and I let her know that I won’t be taking her classes, I am busy. Here is the final conversation which followed.

Can you send me a compilation of Pdfs of your lectures?

I did.

Can you send me the editable ones?

They are all editable. Edit them at Xodo.com.

I don’t know how to use it. I am sure you will send me the editable ones.

No, I am sure I will Not. Learn how to use it. It’s a simple online tool. (My last text)

And then she went all guns blazing. Accusing, cursing and saying all the mean things she could to me. Blaming me for everything, that was wrong with the boys of this world and everything which the girls faced everyday. Apparently, I underwent metamorphosis first to lure her, but as soon as she came near me, i showed my fangs. From being declared a gentleman few days ago, i found myself being declared a slimy snake with a six feet tongue who walks on two legs and wears sunglasses and is out on hunt every night for innocent Flower Kumaris like her (That’s my addition. Can’t tell you what she said). But I knew that this is the moment. Finally it has arrived.

She kept on sending hurtful and mean messages. The ones which will burn your heart, vaporize your soul, after all the niceties that you have shown. 11 long texts later she stopped.

I never replied

Because I knew, I am free now. She was never calling back again. She crossed her line, and I let her. I was out of the bounds now; the old man of the sea could no longer enslave me and strangulate me.

Moral of the story

  • Identify the Signs; there are always signs (leathery legs of the old man) which tell you about a person or a situation.
  • Do not repeat the mistakes as I did
  • Learn to say No.
  • Finally, Learn from others. Specially those, who have walked the path before us.

Flower kumari is just one, I am sure there are Many Flower kumaris or Flower pots (Male conspecifics) too. Beware of both of them.

About Author

  • Ankit is an avid reader and a writer by interest who views life as a process of continues conquest. He is an environmental enthusiast and has a Master's degree in Environmental Studies.