Identities when revoked again and again become a defining part of us. We Indians are deeply communal in our way of thinking and it is high time we realise and mend it.
5th standard, 2002
I was a lean and tall boy back in school. Not much liked by the teachers, I did not knew how to communicate with so much authority. Either they were too bossy or I was to meak. Out of a strength of 50 there were only 2 Muslim boys in our class. Me and my then friend Naved. Naved had taken 5 rs from Amar (or maybe he did not) and once during the break Amar was chiding Naved about the money, asking him to pay back. Naved did not had the money or did not had the will. That is beside the point. The point is what Amar was saying to both of us, “tum Musalman chor ho, sab ke sab ek jaise”/ “you Muslims are all thief” . I felt very offended by his remarks and complained to our then sports teacher Mr Gyan Prakash. Gyan sir explained to him how it was a wrong thing to say so. I faintly remember a song that someone had made as a joke.
Kheencho inke dono kaam
Bheja inko Pakistan
Taaki phir na aayein ye Hindustan”
It was much later I heard it and it was targeted as a joke and in a playful manner.
(As I write this I come to a realisation that when I was in fifth it was also the time when Gujarat riots had happened)
B.A 2nd year, 2011
I was in Delhi University, pursuing second year of my Bachelor’s degree in English. I had remained aloof mostly to the communal targeting. Except for the fact that back at home my parents used to worry that the police can book me under any case, that never happened though. A few other Muslim students were booked and releasesd booked and released but not me.
I was very good with cultural activities and was heading the stage theatre society of my college. I was the only Muslim student in my course and in the cultural society. The college was like my extended family and walking by its lanes was an endless process of meeting people. Some known and some unknown, some whose names were known and some who I knew by face.
Once I was walking down the corridor as a person who I regularly met stopped me and said hello. “How are you brother”, I asked. He said he is fine. I did not knew his name and neither he did mine but we just waved to each other regularly. He asked for my name, ” I am Tahir”, I said. “Accha tum Musalman ho (pause, awkward realisation) chalo koi baat nahin”/ “oh you are a Muslim, (pause) don’t worry it does not matter”, he said.
I was perplexed and I joked about it for a few days. Then I absorbed it in me.
2017, at Home city
I was at a friend’s place. A close friend I must say, whose place I have been visiting since 2008. Her mom had always been discriminatory in traditional ways eg giving food in different utensils or limiting entry into the kitchen. But me and my friend we realise this and my friend had always been vocal against this. So it was an ongoing battle and it was alright.
This time the hindu extremist party the BJP came into power and she said that it is good because at least now the Hindus can say with pride that they are Hindus. I was amazed, when had anyone stopped Hindus from saying that they are Hindus.
In the same election the Prime Minister of my country had said that there will be no discrimination now on, there will be as many cremation sites as there are graveyards and that electricity will be available for all hindu festivals as it for Muslim festivals. Masses said this was an appeal of equality while gleeingly accepting the communal undertone it had.
I was more worried about equality in education or employment or political representation.
2017, during travels
I went to a barbers shop for a massage with my friend. While giving the massage the barber started to talk about how this area had no Muslim population. He did not knew I am Muslim. He meant it in a bragging way. My friend sensed this and said that Muslims are also people, to which the barber agreed. The barber asked my friend his caste to which he replied that he belongs got the cast of the CM of Andhra Pradesh. The barber was satisfied.
My friend had been earlier telling me about a film being telecasted on TV which he said was about this king Gautamiputra Satakarni and how he defeated the Persians and how he brought whole India under one empire. The king he told me reigned around 100 CE . I told him about how the idea of modern India is very recent and when I cross-checked the king had defeated the western kshatapas, the indo parthians and the Indo-greeks. I wondered if in contemporary popular imagination this Hindu king was defeating the evil Muslim invaders.
The movie was very creative with the kings horse climbing vertical walls of the fort and slamming his thigh to challenge others.
There might be many more such incidents, some forgotten, some absorbed in my subconscious and some that I remember but might just be whims of my imagination. In contrast to all the love I have received, these are nothing, the idea behind writing this post is to highlight the life as perceived by person belonging to a religious minority.
The problem is not about Hindus and Muslims, it is about people who dream of a better country which is above communalism and people who want to be invested in petty issues and misplaced egos.
The problem is about coming to terms with plurality, accepting diversity. If we do not have that than we are doomed as a country because we are plural, from North to south and from east to west, not one culture but many. If today we see Muslim as others tomorrow it will be Dalits, then tribals, then woman then north easterns, there is no stopping this evil then..