Table for two Metroplus

Dishing out an option

Table for Two with Faisal Khan, Revivalist of Khudai Khidmatgar at Triveni cafe, in New Delhi. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty   | Photo Credit: Shanker Chakravarty

The times have changed. Also changed is the look and feel of New Delhi’s Triveni Terrace Café, once a popular joint of Mandi House artists and city’s activists. With time, faded jeans, kurtas and jholas have pretty much given way to smart dressing here. Bar stools have replaced the low wooden ones too. Thank God, its tasty toast and club sandwich can still be found on the menu. Thank God, one or two activists sipping chai from gilas and talking about bringing a ‘revolution’ can still be spotted.

I am with one such person. Though he would rather be more specific and call himself a Khudai Khidmatgar. Faisal Khan, the man who revived Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s welfare organisation Khudai Khidmatgar (KK) in India some four years ago, is keen to talk about what is on the agenda to celebrate Frontier Gandhi’s 125th birth anniversary on February 6. Though it is a little after lunch time, almost every table is taken here.

The air is thick with conversation, one overlapping another. A corner is taken by some familiar faces from the electioneering Aam Aadmi Party, sipping chai, huddled together in a chat.

Luck favours us too and there we are, occupying a table now, and sipping chai from glass gilas too. Keeping the tasty toast for another day, we ask for a plate of poha and palak patta chaat, two of the four new additions to the menu.

At once, Faisal gets down to talking about the line up for the anniversary celebration. “There is nothing planned in Delhi. We have a membership drive in Bangalore along with a book launch to mark the day. It is a book on Frontier Gandhi translated by Dr. Jivanandan. Then, on February 7, our volunteers would meet at Pachora in Jalgaon (Maharashtra) for a sadbhavana conference.” He also lists some recent events of KK as a build up for the anniversary celebration. “On October 2, we launched our 100th district unit at the Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat. Some 50 members from various communities joined that day. Also, on the same day, we started a 100-day peace march from Kanyakumari which culminated in Chennai on January 12.”

Till date, Faisal states proudly, “KK has more than 10,000 members covering 110 districts across the country.” He calls it a good progress highlighting, “For any organisation to make a difference, it is important to not only have cadre but dedicated ones. We have to do a lot of screening before inducting anyone into the organisation simply because we have to be sure that the person is willing to step out of the narrow communal mindset and work for peace. We then train them on Sarhadi Gandhi’s ideals; they take an oath on his 10 points.”

On a cold afternoon, hands cupping a warm glass of tea add traction to the conversation. Faisal continues, “We are conscious not to turn it into a Muslim only organisation, it is for everyone. We work for humanity, education for all, and peace for all.” “The Indian Muslim League, during the freedom struggle,” he says, “tried to dissuade people from joining KK by saying that Khan sahab had nothing to do with Islam and was only a follower of Gandhiji’s non-violence. This view is still strong among some Muslims. They don’t know that Khan sahib said he didn’t learn non-violence from Gandhiji but from Islam itself. He said, when the Prophet went to spread Islam in the city of Taif, people threw stones at him. But he forgave them saying he would pray for them too. Peace and non-violence is at the core of Islam. We tell people about this example given by Khan sahib.”

“But there was no doubt about a strong friendship between Gandhiji and him,” underlines Faisal.

He relates interesting nuggets, “When Khan sahib would read the Quran at Sabarmati, he would borrow Gandhiji’s spectacles.” Then, a Gandhian told Faisal recently that “though the food at Sabarmati was vegetarian, Gandhiji would quietly hand out a few annas to him to take out Khan sahib for a non-vegetarian meal sold near the railway station in Ahmedabad.”

“The man is now in his late 90s and lives in Bhavnagar. With tears, he related me the story,” says Faisal.

In Faisal’s house in Jamia Nagar, the situation reverses. Digging in to a plate of poha typically rich with fried peanuts, an affable Faisal says, “I share my house with a strict Hindu vegetarian, a KK volunteer. So in my house, it is mostly vegetarian fare. Also, I travel a lot; much as I would like to have it but it won’t be very easy after a chicken jhangezi meal and jumping into public transport.”

One joins his full throated laughter when he says, “When I have student volunteers visiting me, I usually serve them a vegetarian meal even if they are non-vegetarians. One chicken has only two leg pieces. I don’t want anyone to feel bad that they were not fed well by me.”

This may be a humorous example of people’s egos but Faisal says he has to perennially deal with bloated egos in public life.

“It is pretty strong in people, some would not like someone to be asked to sit on the stage or address a gathering, some others would take offence if his name comes at the end of an address…” If communal organisations keep KK gatherings on their radar, and at times prodding him “to join them”, so does “the Intelligence Bureau”, claims Faisal.

Taking a final swig of tea from his gilas, he says, “I tell them all, we spread only pyaar mohabbat. Like water is necessary for survival, like offering water to someone is insaniyat, so is offering love to one another.”


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 4:59:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/table-for-two-dishing-out-an-option/article6856814.ece

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