Lata Mani

Azan is the Islamic call to prayer. This five times daily invitation to the faithful is organic to the rhythm of life in the vicinity of mosques and intrinsic to the Indian soundscape. From The Integral Nature of Things: Critical Reflections on the Present, Routledge, 2013, 199-200.

It came upon us suddenly. Like the roar of silence that dissolves sound and suspends time. Everything paused. Half-syllables of commerce on the cusp of a transaction. Faucets and door knobs about to wrapped. Shop assistants half-way up the ladder. As though someone had yelled, ‘Statue!’

‘Alla . . . hu Akbar . . . !’ The reverberations slid gently off each surface and crevice to rest with aching slowness upon the sill of our hearts. Waiting to see who would admit the call of love.

The muezzin was in no rush. Longing and hope elongated his sonorous cry. ‘Ash-hadu an la ilaha ill-Allah’. Personal yearning purely expressed became a universal summons.

‘Hayya ‘alas-Salah. Hayya ‘alas-Salah’. It was all one could do to remain standing. To not kneel and touch the ground.

The old man across from me was looking down intently, his eyes half-open. The young boy beside him gazed at the chipped nail polish on his hands. Cream was forming on the glasses of tea left untouched on the counter. ‘Al . . . la . . . hu Akbar. Alla . . . hu Ak . . . bar. La . . . ilaha . . . il . . . l-Alla . . . h’.

As the final note faded, the owner of the hardware store coughed. Then said to no one in particular, ‘We are Hindus, you know . . . . . . ’ And the hum of activity was resumed.