No dog in our town was safe. Mo and his gang instinctively reached for stones the moment they saw one. With savage glee they would attack the mongrel as if impelled by some atavistic urge, as if not to hurl a rock would violate some secret adolescent code. Similarly, no schoolgirl could escape their catcalls.… Read More

The earth was damp and loamy, and the grass wet. It had rained all night. I stood on the pathway edging the cemetery and watched them walk toward the grave, picking their way among tombstones. Bush and nettle had overgrown, colonizing every spare space. The neem and peepal trees loomed large, the mighty sentinels standing guard over the dead.… Read More

The drive from Toronto Pearson Airport was slow. The car crawled in the Friday morning rush-hour traffic. Zoya, our seven-year-old daughter, exhausted, slept in the backseat. My husband Juzer had taken the morning off to pick us up. Shielding my eyes from the bright late August sun, I was thankful to be back home, relieved… Read More

Her mother died when she was eleven, and she remembers vividly the commotion that followed. The argument, she recalls vaguely, was of religious nature, something to do about burial. Farzana wanted those people, those angry voices to go away, leave her in peace. This encounter with religion was not a happy one. It seared her… Read More

Tell the auto rickshaw driver to drop you off at the Red Tower in Zampa Bazar, that is the only tower in Surat, he will know, she said. Fifteen minutes later I arrived in a busy street swarming with people and traffic, a typical late-morning rush of any mid-sized Indian city. There she was, standing… Read More

As if one Dai were not enough for Dawoodi Bohras. Now they are burdened with two. The dust on Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s grave has hardly settled and his family is at each other’s throats, vying for power. For the past two years there was the Mansoos (successor designate) Mufaddal Saifuddin. He was apparently conferred the… Read More

Sayedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, the 52nd Dai ul Mutlaq of Dawoodi Bohras passed away early Friday morning of January 17, 2014. Tens of thousands of Bohras from all over India – and abroad – converged on Mumbai for the funeral procession. The great crush of people overwhelmed the logistics it seems, and the stampede that followed… Read More

I vividly remember the day, some 30 years ago, when the cover story by Asghar Ali Engineer was published in the Illustrated Weekly of India. With Sayedna Moahammed Burhanuddin’s picture on the cover and the title “A Law Unto Himself”, the article created a sensation. Nobody had dared to challenge Sayedna Saheb so openly so… Read More

On a cool December morning I knock on the door of a house in a posh Los Angeles county. A diminutive man opens the door. He is Ismail K. Poonawala, former professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at UCLA. There is renovation going on in the house, Prof. Poonawala apologises for the mess. We make… Read More

Although food is integral to human survival, for Bohras it boils down to much more. After faith and culture, it is food that binds them together, brings them together. In fact faith would have little currency without that inevitable jaman. Food, or at least the expectation of it, helps one endure those dreary majalises. And… Read More