The Sorrowful Fatalism of Sahid Khan

nathanielkiddnathanielkidd on 1224166064|%B %d

The winds are changing…

I’ve fallen back into a normal sleep cycle, which means I have to do my writing during the day. Since it isn’t particularly safe for Sarah to go on great adventures on her own, this means long, boring hours in the hotel room. It’s time for a change of pace.

Nicky is going to Goa, where the business is better. Amar has offered to take us to Rishikesh for a couple of days, and show us some of the sacred Hindu spaces there. We have agreed to this, and will be departing this evening.

All of these things were on our minds as we had a snack and a soda in Grand Sindhi—all of these things were on our minds when we met Sahid Kahn.

Sahid looks a lot like a CC student, except that he is fortysomething and Indian. He has long hair that he wears in a pony tail, and large, round eyes red from substance abuse. When we met him, he was even wearing a shirt that said “Training Camp, Colorado Springs Division.” But in truth, he didn’t even know where Colorado was, much less Colorado Springs.

After our conversation, all of our friends warned us about Sahid Kahn. Dharvinder, proprietor of the Grand Sindhi, told us in his broken, nasal English, “Don’t listen him. What he say, let go in one ear, out the other.” Nicky told us, “His business, no good.” Amar said he had a French friend who (against Amar’s advice) went with Sahid to a party. “He take some injection, and he pass out. When he wake up, all his money and passport—gone.”

But that wasn’t the sense we got from him. Sure, we could tell from pretty early in our conversation that he was the kind of person our mothers always taught us to avoid. And (no, mom) we don’t plan on doing any sort of business with him, or getting into any sort of compromising situation with him. But as broken, lost, corrupt, and shriveled as a person can become through their sins, they are still human beings, created in the image of God.

And for some reason, this human being chose to share his heart with us; for some reason, he chose to extend the garland of friendship to us. Personally, I am not shy about crediting the Holy Spirit.

“When I leave my village,” Sahid told us, “my father tell me two things. First, if you do business, don’t make a friend. If you make a friend, never do business. Second, always your hands like this—“ he held his fingers together, as if pinching a coin“—and never like this—“ he held his hands out, to receive it. “That is to say, always be giving, and always work hard, that you never need to beg for anything.”

I am inclined to believe that he has chosen us as friends, not potential clients. He is, after all, the first Kashmiri we have met outside of the context of a shop. He is the first Kashmiri we have met who did not try to sell us a Kashmir vacation package. (Indeed, he admitted that Kashmir is an expensive and dangerous place, and probably not the best place for us to visit.)

He was even the first to confess to us the litany of his misdeeds. “I am a bad man,” he told us. “I sell drugs. I drink alcohol. I smoke. I cheat. I know it is wrong. I know one day I will have to stand before Allah and answer for all these things. But I will tell him, ‘I know only one path. Why you give me only one path? You show me a better path, and I take it. But this is the road I go.’”

Sahid’s name means “riverbank,” and so the river of life has been harsh to this man, eroding away much of his earthly treasure. He lost his wife and child in the London bombings of 2003, and since then has suffered from sleepless nights and alcoholism, and has fallen into drug dealing and loose living on Main Bazaar.

“Bullets have no religion,” he told us, sagely. “Those men, they did not know whose lives they were destroying. They did not think what stories they were ending.” His eyes were blank and dry as he told us his story, all of his tears having been swallowed up long ago into a well of despair too deep to measure.

He tried to keep a light heart in the midst of his sorrow. After he told us his story, Amar came and joined us. (He was not surprised; apparently we have developed a reputation on Main Bazaar as the friends of the shoe shining boys.) He joked for a while that Amar was secretly in love with Sarah.

I have never met anyone so aware and openly articulate of their own deep hopelessness and despair. Sahid is well read, intelligent, and articulate. Beyond this, he was a first class story teller. If his life had been only a little different, if he had only made a few different choices, he may have been a profoundly wise man, well advanced in virtue. But the gravity of his emptiness has sucked all the beauty out of his life: all that he can see clearly are the flames of hell.

“In life, there is a fork in the road,” he told us, using the salt and pepper shakers to demonstrate. “One way is good, and leads to heaven. The other way is bad, and leads to hell. One day a woman approached me and said, ‘I want to take this road.’

“I told her ‘You do not want to take this road. This is a bad road. It leads to hell, where people lie, and cheat, and steal.’ She insisted, and I let her go. Later she came back. ‘I did not like that way,’ she told me. ‘Can I go the other way?’

“‘You are free.’ I told her. ‘Why not?’ And so she went the other way.

“Later she came again. ‘That way was better,’ she told me. ‘How did you know?’

“‘I am from hell,’ I said. ‘I know all the torments there, I know the ways of that country.’”

He went on to tell us another parable. “There was a man who went to heaven, and he saw there all the things: the trees, the peace, the rivers, the animals, the open spaces. But there were no people there. He said, ‘This place is no good. Show me somewhere else.’

“And so the angel opened a stairway to hell. There he saw many people, many women, much drinking and he was very happy for a time.

“Then came the devil, and took him, and chained him to a wall, and began to torture him. ‘Why do you torture me?’ the man asked. ‘Two reason:’ said the devil, ‘First, you saw heaven, but you preferred hell. Second, for all the sins you committed while you were on earth.’

“‘But I was good when I was alive!’ the man protested. ‘Still you have many sins,’ said the devil, ‘and you must pay for them.’”

“You know Aristotle?” he continued. “Aristotle very wise man. He could look at a person and say, ‘You are bad,’ and it was true: he was bad. All men are sinners. You know how you know you still have bad in you? If your shit stinks. Truly holy men: their shit, it doesn’t smell.”

“I want to do what is right,” he told us. “but it is so much easier to do what is wrong. If on the good path, I do work, I make, maybe, ten rupees—on the bad path, I make one hundred, two hundred, three hundred rupees. Same work.” He went into great detail about the economics of his everyday life, and how he really didn’t have a good option for a more legal career.

“The worst,” he said, “the worst are the people who want to rule the world. Who want to have everything. Hitler. Mussolini. Alexander the Great. You know Alexander the Great? Half the world he conquered. Even in India. But he took nothing with him, and his empire, it went away.

“You know, one time, true story, Prophet of Muhammad came to Alexander the Great. He said, ‘You are a very bad man. When you die, the sky will be yellow, and you won’t see your mother.’ (Alexander very much loved his mother, you see.)

“Alexander, he did not listen. He conquered half the world—even India, parts of India he conquer with his horses. And then, one morning, he wakes up. His tent, he sees, it is yellow. He feels weak. And he remembers the words of the Prophet of Mohammad.

“Quickly, he calls the doctors. They feel his pulse. ‘You have only thirty minutes to live,’ they tell him.

“‘Call my mother,’ he says. But the doctors say, ‘There is no time to call your mother.’

“So he requests that when they cremate him they spread out his arms on the pyre, so that all his body burns, except his open hands. Then the world will know that however much you accumulate in this life of wealth and power, you leave it empty handed. And this poor man: not only did he have nothing, but he died without even his mother’s embrace.”

He got up to leave quite suddenly. “I’m sorry I’ve wasted your time,” he said.

“No, no,” we told him. “We appreciate your stories. We know they come from your heart.”

As broken and as empty as it is, there is still something beautiful there, something human, something that Jesus died to save, something that God invited us to witness.

The winds are changing for us. Tonight, we are leaving for Rishikesh, and after that, we don’t know. But we have a strong sense that God will bring us back to Main Bazaar, where there is much deep pain, where the presence of Christ in us is much needed.

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