Believers Beyond Belief
During Aurangzeb era, several Islamic clergy men travelled across India to spread Islam. That’s how Muslim preacher Ishaq Medina ended up in southern Indian coastal town of Vizag somewhere in1600’s. Preacher Medina became popular among the believers and people from all faith travelled from far away distances to receive blessings from him. According to folklore, one day, a local prince was tired travelling on a horse in hot sun, stopped at Medina’s Masjid to quench his thirst; he ordered his attendant to pick a coconut from a tall tree on the Medina’s premises only to be objected by preacher Medina. The prince was perplexed at Medina for refusing his attendant to pick a coconut and asked Medina “are the coconuts on your tree have ears or something to be special not to be picked?”
“Yes sir, this coconut tree is special and the nuts do have ears and I will show you one with ears,” replied Medina and extended his hand into the air like a hydraulic crane to pluck a coconut with ears to show it to the Prince. The Prince was amazed at the miracle and accepted Medina as a miracle man for real. Preacher Medina became ‘Coconut Baba’ since then and almost everybody forgot the real name of ‘Coconut Baba.’ Even after almost 400 years, believers visit Coconut Baba’s grave also called ‘Dargah’ to receive a miracle blessing.
During a recent visit to Vizag Juggernaut visited Coconut Baba’s grave. The Dargah was small around 12 feet long and 8 feet wide. Juggernaut visited the coconut Baba Dargah to see for himself the four hundred years old coconut with earls still believed to be at display in the Dargah. The Dargah’s custodian was a man in late thirties appeared sad and angry in explaining that the miracle coconut with ears was missing for some time now although the incident of preacher Medina picking the coconut with ears using his extended hand was a true fact recorded in the history. Disappointed, Juggernaut rested at the grave of coconut Baba for few minutes and prayed for a miracle to occur in his favor in whatever shape or form in near or distant future.
Juggernaut was not allowed inside the Dargah because of non-compliance with respect to dress code, however he was allowed to sit at the entrance and peek inside the Dargah. The small dome shaped inner ceiling of the Dargah was spectacularly decorated with dazzling semi-precious stones and colorful stone chips.
“A rich Hindu devotee of Baba donated lot of money to restore the dome recently,” said the custodian with emphasis on Hindu devotee.
“Do you get more Muslim or Hindu worshippers at Dargah?” asked Juggernaut.
“Believe it or not more Hindus attend this Dargah than Muslims, you see Coconut Baba is more popular among Hindus than Muslims though he was a Muslim clergy man,” the custodian was now more relaxed and eases with Juggernaut’s inquiries.
A woman in Muslim garb came with a young lady with a jar of clarified butter as offering to the Baba’s grave. “Would you take a spoonful of butter as an offering and return the rest?” asked the Muslim woman with a pleasant face.
The custodian was unwilling to give the jar back to the lady told her the entire contents was an offering and could not be returned and uttered some prayer lines loudly to her satisfaction. The woman with his face half covered with a black veil stepped backwards slowly bending her head few times.
“Do you travelled a long distance to come here?” inquired Juggernaut looking at the lady with dark mascara around her black eyes.
“Yes, we travelled two hundred miles to come here to worship Coconut Baba and hoping for a miracle in favor of my daughter to get married soon to a good husband,” she said looking at her daughter. To Juggernaut the young woman resembled her mom in physical stature and facial futures. “I am sure with blessings from Baba you will get a good husband soon,” said Juggernaut turning towards the young woman. Both the daughter and the mother looked happy.
Walking on the winding descending steps Juggernaut bounced into a tall young man in dark skin in long Muslim garb. “Me Ishmael,” he said.
“Are you a Sunny?” asked Juggernaut.
“Me Ishmael Sunny.”
“You are not a Shea?”
“Me Ishmael Shea,” said Ishmael.
“Are you a Shea or a Sunny?
Ishmael appeared confused. “Take my picture,” begged Ishmael.
“Me Ishmael, me Ishmael,” Ishmael pulled camera from Juggernaut to touch his picture on the camera screen with his fingers.
Ishmael looked and spoke like an alien; he spoke only few words in Urdu (Muslim language) and could not understand one word of local language as if he grew his entire life on the hill top at the Dargah and never came down the winding steps to the street level to mix with the local population. He refused to accompany Juggernaut to walk to the street level; instead he climbed back the steps half-way to the street level towards the Garbah in a hurray as if somebody would catch him on the street.
Ishmael, a Muslim but not sure whether a Sunny or a Shea, may be is an incarnation of ‘Coconut Baba.’ At the foot of the steps at the street level, several Hindu faithful, believers beyond belief were getting ready to climb the winding stone steps to reach the Coconut Baba’s Garbah to receive a miracle blessing.