Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tryst with Mashallah
It didn’t take us long to catch up with the ways of polite society and we always remember to suffix or prefix our sentences with Mashallah.
“You’re wearing a lovely suit, Mashallah,” is a great ice-breaker at parties where often the only other person you know is your partner.
The host and fellow guests will promptly say “Mashallah” when you are introduced as so-and-so’s “begum” or so-and-so’s “shohar”. Sometimes the odd man out will check you out and remark: “Maaashaaaallah – so this is your Begum!”
More often than not the term is employed to ward off the evil eye. So if you’ve got a beautiful house, beautiful children and beautiful currency sitting in a beautiful Swiss account, I’d pray and pray that you figure in the NRO list, but I’d disguise my real feelings by beautifully lacing my sentence with “Mashallah, what a beautiful house/lawn/children/.”
Another widely most-used "Mashallah" is when one spots a beauty on two legs. The sudden without-batting-an-eyelid Mashallah could safely be translated into a “wow” of colloquial English.
Then there are the party-people always on a high (no pun intended). Even though your existence never mattered or will ever matter to them, yet they are always happy to see you and greet you with a dramatic “Mashallah! Mashallah! Now look who’s here.”
Sometimes the Mashallahs that come our way, except, of course, from our dear, dear friends, hardly seem like compliments. When late for a party the host greets: “Mashallah, you are on time!”; the cook complains: “Mashallah your guests have a good appetite”; the fund collector from a mosque: “But…Mashallah, Allah has given you so much”. How is that for sarcasm?
We’ve seen the term take on a totally different connotation even with others. When a child flunks, the mother gets told: “Mashallah – your son has failed!”; teenager asking for money: “So your pocket money is already over? Mashallah!”; when the cricket team loses: “Mashallah, phir haar gaye” or worse “Mashallah India se phir haar gaye!”