Saturday, August 29, 2009

Urdu Poetry and the Honor of Distant Friendship

Gul Bakhshavi works at the 7-11 behind our house. For the last 10 years I have been walking around the corner late at night. Before Elijah grew up, got married, and moved out he and I would walk there and talk late at night, and meet Gul's smiling face.

Gul has been working the graveyard shift most of the 10 years we have lived here. I would greet him with a smile, ask him about his home and family in Pakistan. We would do small talk, and then I would smile and leave with a running joke about the fact he worked the graveyard shift.

He would say "have a good night."

I would reply, "Have a good day." He would laugh because it was the beginning of a long night doing the graveyard shift. He sacrifices himself each day, and plans to work 10-12 years in the US, living frugally, saving money, and then go home with enough money to live comfortably.

Tonight I saw Gul again. I really don't remember his name, and he does not remember mine. Once he gave me a series of tapes on Islam, and shared his faith with me. He knows I pastor a church in town.

Tonight he gave me a book he wrote. It is mostly in Urdu, but has an intro in English. It is a poetic translation of 400 years history, combined with a rough poetic translation of Obama's acceptance speech.

I did not vote for Obama. I would not if the election were to happen again now. That does not matter. Gul wrote on the back/front page, "for my best friend Phil."

I am honored:

1) to be given the book.
2) to be called a friend by a Muslim man working in the US, and waiting his lonely days before he returns home.
3) to see into his heart and see the hope Obama's election brought to him.


Anonymous said...

If he's the same guy that I'm thinking of, which he probably is considering the large amount of hours he works, I agree. This guy is cool.

Shah said...

Phil, great post. I think one day he'll do a blog entitled, "I need a friend" See my blog, under the same title.
His name is gol or flower in Urdo. Just remember what's made in soccer, goooool...and you'll never forget his name.
Bro, we should be all about what you're talking about, make friends and respect those we disagree with.

Pastor Phil said...


He is a pretty amazing guy. I have enjoyed getting to know him just the little bit I have over these few years.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Shah,

Thanks. You are the master of these things bro. I feel honored to have you consider this post worth reading.