Friday, September 26, 2008

A season of hate

It's the NRI (non-resident Indian, or non-reliable Indian or non-required Indian: take your pick) season in Ahmedabad, when far-flung sons and daughters of the soil return for weddings, family meets, looking up on loved ones, or just a bit of shopping.

It's a mixed bag of feelings - as a couple, Nino's Dad and I have pretty much lost most of our friends to foreign lands, so we relish having our favourite adult company back and around, so much so that even school-nights have a party feel to them. But with these dear friends, comes the attitude that some expats are famous for: a right towards India, but no responsibility.

All these years, we had to grapple with the that's-what's-stopping-India kinda comments. They cribbed about not being allowed to vote, when I know for a fact most of them were too tied up personally/professionally when they were Indian citizens and had to exercise their vote. At times like these, we'd politely point out the positive changes, pull them up when they broke traffic rules, or pee-ed in the open, only because, well, you can't do it abroad.

This year, unnervingly, it's all been about religion. It could be because of the recent bombings in the country and this city and it definitely is because all of the expats we know belong to one religion. Removed from what the citizens are going through, or the people of India are going through, are these sons and daughters who believe in exercising their opinion on racial discord loudly, and repeatedly. Needless to say, Islam has taken a beating here - the recent activities of the so-called Indian Mujahideen being to blame.

And increasingly, I find myself side-lined as I look at friends I bonded with years ago. The words drip with hate, the verdicts are extreme, the judgement severe and unashamed. And as they turn to me, mouthing the now-famous phrase every right-winged person uses, 'pseudo-secularist', I wonder what happened to my friends who loved Mughali cuisine, spent hours listening to Sufi music, admired Mughal architecture, and adored artists/singers/painters/poets who all happened to be Muslim.

It was pointless reiterating the Muslims who've lived and loved India in a far more fitting manner than us. It was pointless quoting statistics that the world's fascination with Islamic militancy has managed to cloak the other terror acts in the world, and in India, that kill and maim more people and homes than Muslim extremists do. My voice struggles to be heard over the verbal gherao - and I wonder who these people are, who don't live here, but who come, to divide and help someone like them rule.

And then, I found this picture. And as the tears began to flow, I realised my friends could no longer look at this picture and marvel at its detail, the peace on the face of the subjects, the sharpness of the the camera. They wouldn't see the resplendent colours of the Indian flag, the child's curiosity, the father's loving glance. They would see a cap and a beard, and no more.

I remember my mother telling me a few days back that she had walked into my grandmother's room in the evening, to find her bowing her head, hands clasped to the forehead to the sound of the prayers read in the Mecca, on tv. Amma, 90, Tam-Bhram, had said, verbatim, 'I love the way they pray. It sounds so good. This tv channel is very nice, it shows all Gods.' Amma passed away a few days ago, and my uncle, one who's labelled 'pseudo-secularist' much more often than I am, had said that Amma was a 'true Hindu'. One who believed in the powers of the almighty, no matter what his/her name. One who believed in the power of spirituality to heal, no matter what the name, the method, or the requirement. One who believed in believing in the best in people. Just like the scriptures said - just as Hinduism, quintessentially a philosophy not a religion, urged. I hope to be a Hindu like her too.


For those, who are willing to listen and see, let's start with this. And then write to me, we'll talk it out.


pic courtesy: Reuters


OrangeJammies said...

Hi Nino's Mom, I hopped over from the Mad Momma's and absolutely need to tell you how beautifully you've crafted this piece. It rings true, loud and clear and I hope more people will read it and see the good sense in it.
Will be back for more!

mumbaigirl said...

What a beautiful post.

the mad momma said...

hey sweets - beautiful piece.. and i think the community needs more of us outsiders to speak up reasonably

nits said...

Hi Nino's mom - I am an NRI (all three versions of it) and I'll start by saying I'm sorry. Sorry for these typical NRI comments and even more for this lack of bond it turns into with old friends.
I'll admit - I do some of the same. And I'll admit, I won't stop. I used to earlier - I was stopped by comments of "you betrayed India", "come back and then we'll talk". And then I stopped and thought I speak up about what I see as atrocity abroad as well, so why not here? Why does being an NRI strip me of my right to opinions? The truth is Nino, only when I moved away was I able to see things that i didn't.
I guess what hurt you is not that your NRI friends had opinions, but their rabid, hurtful opinions. Well in that aspect I am the opposite. As I ranted on MM's blog, I am of the Hindu majority and constantly lamenting against my own. A friend's gujju husband bristled when I talked about Godhra. He was shocked that I dared to in front of him. Truth is, I didn't even remember he was Gujarati. My Hindu parents will not stand for my opinions as well. I have no hifalutin comments about traffic, pollution and water. I eat the rasta food, I grimace and sweat in traffic but am happy to be home where I grew up. These things are not of consequence but the alienation of our minorities hurts me.
All I'll ask is some sympathy for those of us who feel the need to say something about what hurts you as well . I wouldn't if I didn't believe it.
As for your NRI friends, kudos to you for putting up with it. You're a better person than me :)

Nino's Mum said...

Hey Nits:
I totally relate to what you're saying: you are absolutely entitled to expressing an opinion about a country that is home and there's no denying that - epecially, because as you say, you do believe in bringing about better difference. But you're right, it's the rabid judgemental statements that refuse to delve deeper than what is visible, that don't intend to use rationale to heal, that hurt and make me angry.
On a side note, LOL, I can't believe you spoke aloud about Godhra in front of a Gujarati and lived to tell the tale! I do it all the time, right here in Modi-land and my family believes I've some major angels watching over me! Hugs.

Nits said...

Leaving my hyperlink to my pretty much inactive blog this time. The Modi lovers are sure to descend on me will see what every second post is about!

I'm from Bombay so it's not overt but it's closeted Modi land; we all are pseudo, not just pseduo-secular :)

Nino's Mum said...

Nits -
I can't access your blog! Lemme in!

Nits said...

oops sorry! now?

Nino's Mum said...

And I'm in! Thank God I'm wearing my lucky chuddies today :)