The Mystique of ‘M’
M was born in a moderately affluent and educated Deccani Muslim family in the capital of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram. He had, along with his two sisters younger than he, an ordinary childhood. Like any other child of his age, he too was fond of listening ot stories and his grandmother indulged him in his love. As is to be expected from a devout Muslim lady, the stories were of the Prophet Mohammed and saints of that religion. Since he had not shown any precocity, either intellectually or spiritually, what kind of impact these stories had on him, no one can say—not even M himself. Nevertheless, as later events were to prove, they must have notched, albeit subliminally, some mark on his young, impressionable mind. Whatever be the reason, he was formed into the ready receptacle (upadhi) for the experience that was to come soon—an experience that is, in the light of hindsight, epiphanic in its import.
M was about eight years old at that time. He had come back home after his evening games and was in the backyard of the house readying himself to obey the standing order that he should enter the house only after washing the dirt of the playground off his person. The golden spangles of the sun were stippling the dusk with fast changing shadowy forms and figures. His eyes followed the interesting chiaroscuro with childish enjoyment. Soon, his eyes found a form more substantial and static than the fleeting shadows. This was under a big jackfruit tree. Its solidity riveted his attention. It started moving towards him. As it approached nearer and nearer, he could make it out to be that of a man of flesh and blood and no mere phantom of his imagination. The boy stood transfixed to the spot, unable to move; he was by now in the grip of an emotion which was a mixture of awe, curiosity and sheer fascination. (“Normally, as a child I should have been afraid of a stranger appearing before me, but, incomprehensibly, I was not.” M recalled years later when he thought and talked about it.)