Saturday, October 27, 2007

A brief contextual history of the blogger, in the light of Islam (ism?) and literary spats

I grew up with nursery rhymes. My mother says that I had begun to recite four-line rhymes (and was very annoying, am sure, but she doesn't say that) by the time I was two. These were politically incorrect rhymes. Like "Ten little nigger boys".

I didn't know what 'nigger boys' were. I only learnt the rough meaning when I began to read some American Literature, such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Even then, while it had entered my juvenile brain that black people had been oppressed unfairly and that white people back then didn't like them, it still didn't enter my head that 'nigger' was not an acceptable word. I saw a few movies and read more books, where there were plenty of references to the word - black people calling each other 'nigger'.

It was much, much later, when I used the word once in conversation, that some NRI-type student - freshly politically sanitized in the USA - told me that it was, indeed, unacceptable. You can't say it.

But, I protested, they say it.

Yes, he said, they can. They're it. You can't say it. It's offensive.


I grew up thinking of myself as 'mozi'. Not Muslim. My mother hardly ever used the word 'muslim' to refer to our family. We were 'mozis'. Actually, she hardly ever referred to us as anything at all. She just made sewaiyyan twice a year, and gave me glass bangles to feel happy in. But there was no escaping it, was there? In this country, with this name, with that festival, you had to be something.

Similarly, she never called a Sikh, a Sikh. She called them 'surds'. It was apparently a Delhi thing. A college girl thing that clung to her and all her sisters over the years.

But, I digress. Where was I?

Yes, so we were 'mozi'. I didn't realize that meant anything much. Except that we also celebrated Eid. We celebrated Diwali and Holi and Christmas too. But there was one vital difference between us and the others.

They celebrated only Diwali and Holi. They did not celebrate Eid.

Over the years, it slowly, very slowly sank in: we weren't like the other kids in the colony. We dressed up in our shiniest best on Diwali, took our firecrackers to our friends', made a common pool, watched the lights, gorged on sweets. Ma put on a silk saree and went to visit other people. She also waited at home, knowing other people would come, and laid out sweets. Some namkeen too, because they would be tired of sweets by then.

But on Eid, we celebrated alone.

Almost. There was one other muslim family in the colony. Mujib bhaiyya's family. He was my brother's classmate. His sister, Nusrat, was a year younger to me. (She died one summer in a road accident, during the summer vacations) My mother had little in common with their mother, but twice a year, we'd go to their place for lunch. I still remember that their rotis were tougher than I was used to and Mujib's elder sister would tear them up into morsel sizes for me, laughing at how plump I looked but how my fingers had no strength at all.

Still, after Eid and before, I was like all other kids. And towards middle school, my friends had started asking curious questions about Eid, asking me to bring sewaiyyan the next day in my tiffin.

My mom said, just ask them to come over.

Apparently, they'd been waiting to be invited all these years. They came over.

The next Eid, they didn't show up. Apparently, because I hadn't extended a formal invitation. I remember thinking, you don't need to invite me over on Diwali; I just come to wish you, don't I? But I didn't say it. I just made it a habit, telling them to come over.


The first unpleasant memory associated with being 'mozi' came in.... the fourth standard?

The memory is a vivid one. I was at the 'matka' - our school didn't have fancy filters then; we just drank from an earthen pot, using our palms as a cup - with Rimjhim, a junior in school. (She was a very pretty girl and would ask her fan-friends to tie her shoe-laces, when they came undone on the playing ground.)

She said, you're Pakistani, aren't you?

I said, no. Of course not.

She said, no, I know that you people are Pakistani.

Even then, I knew that I was not Pakistani. I was such an overt patriot that I cringe to think of it now (had saare jahaan se achha by heart - the whole six verses). But in that instant, looking at her face, her smugness, the authority with which that child of eight (I think) spoke, I also knew that there was nothing I could say or do to win this particular argument.

Almost two decades later, I cannot forget. She was a child and I have forgiven. But I have not forgotten.


Over the years, I learnt not to speak of religion in public.

My mother never mentioned her religion when we traveled by trains - going to Lucknow to visit our grandparents twice a year. She hardly to talked to anyone, anyway.

I have vague memories of my mother silently sitting through a conversation in which other co-passengers spoke of how muslims should be killed. She wore sarees and no purdah, so they assumed her was one of them.

I was too engrossed in my Agatha Christie novels to know. Later, between adults, I heard hushed whispers recounting the conversation.


I still don't tell anyone my religion when I travel. Recently, in the waiting room at Gwalior, a young Punjabi girl - a schoolteacher - plonked herself down next to me, noticed my laptop and decided she wanted to get to know me.

She asked me, what are you?

I said, a writer.

She asked, no, but like, what are you?

I said, I told you... what do you mean by what?

She said, like, I am a Punjabi Hindu.

I said, like that, I am nothing.

She asked, what's your name?

I said, Annie.

She said, are you Christian?

I said, no.

She said, but how can that be? It doesn't make a difference to me, what you are, but you must be something.

I said, I am - writer, journalist... woman.

She said, but your family must be something?

I said, no.

She said, but everyone is something... born something.

I said, I don't know.

She said, what do your parents say you are? What are they?

I lied. I said, if they were, they never told me, and I never asked.

She finally shut up.


We never fasted during ramzan as children. My mother didn't either. We went through a brief phase when we dabbled a bit in roza-keeping. I did too. But by that time, I had outgrown the phase in which I said the namaaz.

My grandmother used to call my ramzan 'kutte ka faaqa'.

People who fast but do not pray are likened to starving dogs.

I laughed. I liked the idea of 'kutte ka faaqa'. I still do.


When the Babri masjid was brought down, I was still a schoolgirl, and not very interested in newspapers. Nobody even told me that it had happened. And I don't know if I would've felt particularly dismayed if I had heard: mosques didn't mean much to me. There were places where women don't enter (in most places). I had only gone to dargahs and imambaras so far. I hadn't even heard of the Babri Masjid.

Since I watched Ramayana and Mahabharata every Sunday on Doordarshan., I knew more about Ram and Krishna than I did about mosques or Babar or Mohammad. Nobody had ever told me that I should know more about one or the other.

The idea of a secular nation hadn't meant anything until then, because it had never been challenged - on a notional, national scale - until then. But that year, the riots broke out.

I wasn't affected, but my brother was a young college-going fresher. In Bombay. Panic struck as we struggled with telephone lines and reassurance.

For the first time, the word 'riot' meant something to me.


We still didn't fast. We still didn't pray in Arabic.


I went to college in Ajmer. It was a convent, and so I went to kneel in the chapel when feeling particularly devotional. Or went to beg favours from the khwaja at the dargah.

We all wore shalwar-kameez with dupatta, in college. I was the only girl in the hostel who did not wear a dupatta that first year. And was teased and ragged about it quite often. Eventually, I wore dupattas because it was the fashionable thing to do.

We were not allowed to walk about in shorts even though it was a girls college and there were no men at all except the watchman. We weren't allowed to step inside the mess if we wore shorts, pajamas or short skirts. We were discouraged from wearing sleeveless clothes.

I finally told the warden as nicely as possible that my mother herself made all these sleeveless kurtas and really, my people didn't mind.

She told me there was no point, I'd achieve nothing except getting a tan.

I laughed and told her I could afford to get a tan.

We were warned against going to the dargah. We were warned against hanging around outside in Ajmer. We were warned that if we met boys outside, the nuns would find out and we would be thrown out.

In third year, a girl went outside to meet a boy and stayed out beyond the stipulated time. The nuns found out. She was thrown out.


I was already a journalist when Godhra and the Gujarat riots happened.

Nothing happened to my immediate family. I was in Lucknow when the news broke and missed much of the madness on the ground. When I returned, it was just an overwhelming barrage of words that didn't seem to register.

I do not have a single coherent, logical memory of this entire time. Those two months are a blank in my head, even now.


After the Gujarat riots, I remember visiting a friend in Pune who was doing her MBA at Symbiosis. We were hanging out with a couple of her friends - sitting near Khadagvasla, talking, joking.

We started talking about taboos and I happened to quote Mark Twain.

'You know what they say.... Holy cows make the best hamburgers.'

My friend didn't get it and asked what that meant - 'holy cows?'

A young man in the group cut in and said, very soberly, 'It's a joke. Against us Hindus.'

My jaw fell.


A year after the Gujarat riots, visiting a friend, I found myself saying that for the first time, in this country, I have begun to wonder where I belonged... if I belonged. Why was I made to feel like I didn't?

She wisely pointed out that perhaps I should think, then, of where else I would belong.

There was nowhere else. You just belong where you belong.


When the Bombay serial blasts happened, one of our relatives was badly injured. Very badly injured. She worked in an office with lots of glass. The glass shattered. Splinters.

Shatters. Splinters.


When the bombs went off in the local train last year, the panic was a personal one.

I have college-going cousins who use the local trains. I have close friends who use the local trains.


A young writer friend wrote about her experience in Nizamuddin. She had gone there and decided to buy a burqa. She's not muslim. The article was an exploration of her own desire to buy something that is clearly an identity-marker for the 'other', something she is not and something that is not considered desirable for her.

When she read the piece out in a small gathering of aspiring writers, an older woman decided to initiate a discussion about Islam and gender, Islamism, and the conversation immediately turned to terror and 9/11.

Apropos of nothing.


The same older woman came back to the next gathering with a poem. About bombs and veils and the need to stand up and take a stand against this sort of thing. Terror. For the sake of our freedom.


You may have heard about Martin Amis. And how he's decided that he doesn't like Islamism very much. Terry Eagleton has decided that Mr Amis is a racist, an Islamophobe, and a lot of other things, besides.

Emily Hill has said some other, more mixed, things. Such as "Amis’ literary reputation, meanwhile, has gone the same way as the World Trade Center."

The spat is a very public one and perhaps, an ongoing one. It doesn't particularly perturb me. It doesn't surprise me either.

The Hindu carried an edit piece outlining Mr Amis' views: “There’s a definite urge — don’t you have it? To say: ‘the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation — further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan… Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children.’”

Hill's article explained further: "Islam, in Amis’ view, ‘is a religion that’s having a nervous breakdown’. And Islamism is a variation on a death cult – an ‘ideology within a religion, a turbo-charge, steroid version of murderous belief’. He made some interesting points about suicide bombing, describing it as a ‘paltry’ act, signifying nothing but a ‘besplattering’ of the self. What the Islamic world needs, he said, is dramatic progress: ‘Martin Luther, John Calvin… religious wars, then Enlightenment, then you enter the modern world 300 years after that.’ He argued that it is the Western world that is giving Islamism its power to commit atrocity, even helping to legitimise that atrocity, by trying to ‘understand it’."


In some ways, he is right.

We will have to pay the price. I don't think it is fair. I don't want to pay the price. But I will.

I will suffer a little bit more for being born to a Muslim mother (who never used the word muslim, and who wore silk sarees on Diwali and first taught me how to make baatis out of cotton-wool for the diyas, and how to make valentine's day cards, and how to bake a cake for Christmas) because of the idiot fatwas and the crazy bombings. I could well be strip-searched if I traveled abroad and if that happens, I will grind my teeth and bear it.

Oh, yes the larger muslim community will pay the price alright. Is there an alternative?


Amis says the community has to get its act together. That parents have to teach the children. Sometimes, I wonder... what sort of writer is he if he doesn't know that nobody has ever been able to teach anyone anything, especially if it's about non-violence. Gandhi tried and failed.

Each generation rebels. One generation migrates, the other becomes too liberal, the next one too conservative. One wants to slash at roots, the next one wants to find them. It has always been like that. And each generation has suffered. How can any muslim parent prevent a child from turning fanatic? Does Amis seriously imagine that muslim mothers preach bloodshed at home? Or does he seriously imagine that muslim children are any more or less obedient than kids anywhere else?

I don't blame my mother for me. And if I ever have children, I hope I won't get blamed for them. I don't blame terrorists' families for them. I don't blame the white parents of children who attack black children. I don't blame the black parents of children who attack white children. What will blame achieve?

I think that it is funny that Martin Amis should not understand. Writers know these things. But, I don't blame him either. What will blame achieve?


For a moment, I wondered if Amis has close muslim friends. I am convinced that he has never loved a muslim woman. He can't have. Love twists your mind around, even against yourself.


I'll concede that the community (but which community?) has to get its act together, for there are identities beyond religion, and sooner or later, they will assert themselves. Already, they do. Shias kill Sunnis and Sunnis kill Shias. Kurds. Various clans and tribes in many, many African nations. Genocide is not always about religion. And religion is also not always about religion.

Religious wars, did Amis say? Yes, we are having religious wars.

Breakdown, did he say? Yes, the religion is having a nervous breakdown.


I think muslims (and non-muslims) need to let their hair down and have fun. I think they need to stop attempts that seek to turn them into a homogeneous mess. To be many other things besides muslim; to refuse to be tacked down to that awful phrase 'muslim community'. To prove that there is no one 'muslim community'.

The community needs to stop being a community, a vote-bank, a lump or a mass. It needs to reject responsibility thrust down our throats if it is based on identity.

Sure the community that isn't a community needs to change. It needs to laugh at itself and its fracturedness, and its idiosyncrasies. It needs universities and investment in culture and art. It needs to run about in the sun and plant shady trees and fragrant flowers and respect all sexes.


I have never read anything Martin Amis has written. (I might now, seeing that there's so much fuss). Even if he had been one of my favourties, what difference would it make? I don't break bread with him. He does not come to my place to talk about poetry. Like we say in Delhi, saannu ki?


Yet, there is this business of Islamophobia.

You see, I don't like most organised, violent groups, especially if all members come from the same religion. I am afraid of fanatics. I don't like aggression or imposition.

I don't like most preachers. But I see the need for priests and preachers. I am annoyed by tradition. I follow tradition. I break rules. I know the rules. I don't like violence. I am surrounded by violence.

Am I Islamist? Am I Islamophobic?

Do I hate myself because I do not like organised religion, and yet, cannot find a way to break out of ties that depend on religious ritual?
Do I hate myself because I do not identify with organised religion?
Can I bring myself to hate those in my family who like the organised part of religion and who want to go strictly by the book?

What does faith have to do with any of this?

My faith is closer to sufi. Are sufis muslim?
Sufis did not like mullahs and mullahs did not like sufis. Are sufis Islamophobic?

My faith is selfish. My faith often does the disappearing trick. My faith is tender and fragile and unbreakable. It is plastic. It is solid. And I cannot bring myself to feel enthusiastic about ramzan. But I do not like Lord Ram or think of him as either a god or as 'purushottam'. I do not like the word 'Ram-janmabhoomi'. Does that mean I am Hindu-phobic?

I am scornful of young, Israeli tourists who flock to places like Manali or Pushkar, stoned out of their minds, rude to the locals. I pity these young Israeli tourists who have just finished serving in a compulsory army and who seem not to know what to do with themselves, or where to go, barring to the places where others have gone before them. Am I an anti-semite?

I pity Palestine too, and all the young people there. I pity those who live on the border. I pity their fear. I empathize with their fear.

During Durga Puja, I had gone to C.R. Park and offered 'anjali' to the Goddess. What does that make me? Secular?

If I am asked my religion when I go to temples, I lie and give them a Hindu name. What does that make me?

I don't like the idea of Pakistan. I detest the idea of religious states. Does that make me Islamophobic?

I want to visit Pakistan. I have family there. What does that make me Islamist?

Sometimes, I want to kill all the Taliban. If it were possible to kill a mindset, in one fell swoop, I suspect that I could be persuaded to kill. Am I Islamophobic?

What is Islamophobia?

What can you fear, if you don't know it? Or can you only fear what you don't know?

I know the fanatics as well as one can safely know them. I know them as they bomb the shopping complexes in my city, the trains in my brother's city, the dargah where I went, the cinema in a city I travel to for work. And knowing what they do, I know that they are ordinary young men with half an education and maybe only a little money, which is not any antidote to fear. Or hatred.

What does that make me?


Anonymous said...

This is beautifully written.

You are definitely one of the best writers I have read on the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of Thucydide's quote- you may not be interested in politics, but does not mean that politics is not interested in you!

>What does that make me?

A minority within a minority. A psuedo- secularist. A writer,as anon says above, of exquisite prose.

Anand said...

this post reminded me of a lot of things about which i rarely talk.
of growing up in middle class lucknow and not knowing the difference between hindus and muslims till nineteen ninety, or whenever it was that the babri masjid was first attacked. of how the world changed after that. and how it changed again after 2001-2002.
to make a mishmash of heaney, benjamin and dilbert - history says, don't hope on this side of the grave. but only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that without a sense of humour you're basically pretty fucked anyway...

Irshad Daftari said...

Stunning, some of it felt like it was my own life story.

I'm the product of an unlikely union of a Gujarati Jain father and Bori muslim mother, but both my parents were atheists. I grew up neither one nor the other, was often mistaken for a Parsi (my parents separated incidentally), went to a jain temple when I was 12 and never have been to a mosque yet. In school, I was just one the guys that liked to get into trouble.

But, I started getting taunts when in college. "you muslims are dirty"... "I should get you a pig"... etc. No amount of explaining that I'm Indian and no other identity counts worked. I nearly came to blows with an acquaintance when he said, all you pakistanis should leave the country.

Finally, I've decided not to let it bother me. My defining identity remains Indian, Bombayite, Journalist. But the amount of double-standards amongst the most educated people I've met has been unsettling to say the least.

Anonymous said...

My daughter who is 8 years old, whenever she talks about one of her friend starts with her religion.

Wish we caould all go back in time when we knew people as people.

metaphysicallycomplicit said...

It's beautifully written. And you're raising a lot of relevant questions.

I can relate to some of it too. I come from a Hindu family, but I'm an atheist. Yet, because my name "sounds Hindu", people will wish me/ force me to participate in prayers, etc. And Diwali's only around the corner...

I have a Muslim friend who is interested in Hinduism and seems to think I'll know all about it. Another Muslim friend reproaches me for not taking enough interest in Islam, when I happen to not take interest in any religion, including my family's.

What does that make e?

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie,

That was a very touching post. I am an atheist and so don't understand all the fuss about religions. As far as I know, all religions preach peace, not hatred. I was brought up in Mumbai and Pune. We were in Mumbai when the '92 riots took place and were very concerned for our father who used to work in the riot-afflicted areas. Fortunately, the riots never reached the suburbs (we were in Mulund) and hence I don't really know the gravity of the riots. Throughout my school and college days I have had many Muslim friends and we never had any problems at all. Most of them were from middle-class families like us and even the boys seemed very docile (unlike portrayed by movies and media).
Its been three years since I came to the US as a graduate student. I have had arguments with a good friend of mine who is a Hindu brought up in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. He (he's doing a PhD)says that Narendra Modi is a hero and did the right thing by teaching Muslims a 'lesson'. He witnessed the riots firsthand. I know other Hindus who have an equal hatred for Muslims. I am shocked how educated people can have such extremist opinions! Most think that 'an for an eye' is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, moving and poignant...your questions rise to a quiet crescendo. As someone who identifies (and doesn't) with many different belongings, I can relate. And yet, at another level, pretending to understand totally would be presumptuous.

Hindustani said...

An outstanding post Annie.

Anonymous said...

Reading this post felt like i am reading myself. Very nicely written!
I am doing PhD in Europe. So, I got chance to have some pakistani friends. I argued with them about many issues. It cleared many reasons for which i could hate other side of border. I would really wish if i ever get a chance to argue with you.

Keep it up!

hedonistic hobo said...

this is by far some of your best writing.

your post reminded me of moments questioning my 'identity', moments lurking around every corner. my parents are hindu but my ethnicity is mixed: kashmiri (pundit)-punjabi. in london on the suburban train a rather cheerful and louqacious drunk sat next to me with her family and felt it appropriate to strike up a conversation because i looked indian. i am indian, of ocurse. she said: "so are you punjabi or are you muslim?". i just stared at her for a second, stumped for words, "excuse me. i don't think i understand your question." she looked at me rather pitifully and repeated her question. i couldn"t help myself but point out the daffiness of her question. "there's a punjab in pakistan as well you know. and there are muslims in indian punjab as well you know, don't you? i think you've framed your question incorrectly." i think she's framed her world view incorrectly but that's for her to recognize when she's being strip searched at heathrow for her obvious skin pigmentation. and before leaving i told her, not that it was any of her business to be asking me this in the first place but i'm normally a lot more forgiving towards indians i meet abroad for asking me remarkably personal (read: invasive) questions, "i'm half punjabi and not a hindu. i'm aethiest." i don't think she liked that very much.

another. to highlight the fickleness of identity especially the hindu identity (much like the much-touted 'muslim brotherhood' concept eh?). a chap called ramakrishna X, decidedly hindu and decidedly tamil as well, works with me here in germany. he asked me, "where are you from?". "delhiite", i said. hoping that should suffice as a response. it's honest and it honestly answered the question. for him though this was an insufficient response because even though you're born and brought up in delhi, being a delhiite is not a mark of your ethnic identity. fair enough. so he said, "no, but where in india are you from?". i know what he meant and for once i managed to curb the snarkiness that lurks within me all the time especially when faced with such imbecility. "my mother's from kashmir, my father's from punjab and i am from delhi." "ohhhh!", said he, "north indian na?". and that was that. themost relevant part of my identity for him despite being hindu or him assuming i'm hindu because of my hindu name, is that i am north indian. sometimes i wonder whether identities are about finding affinities or are they more about finding difference? the assertion of one's identity is necessarily in opposition to another. even though the multitude of inter-subjective identities that we all subscribe to don't necessarily exist in a dualistic opposition to each other. but this is where the tension constantly arises i guess, in identifying 'me', i am simultaneously identifying 'the other'. those who are not me or us. and then them. it must be troubling, deeply aggravating for fanatics to reconcile themselves to that. to know that their identity cannot exist independent of the other.

Anonymous said...

wah wah beautiful .. but then what are we ...

Anonymous said...

Fabulous.. the best uve written in a long long time.. i guess this post has been in the making for the last coupla decades.

Saturday Night Takeout said...

Thanks for taking the time to write this down. It's like a glass of cold water thrown in my face...

liberosis said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Touching post. Esp.

"..But on Eid, we celebrated alone.."

reminds me I dont know any and havent wished any Muslim on Eid leave alone celebrating with them.

2. Am oddly uncomfortable with any minority person abandoning the markers of their identity, its like some kind of failure on the part of the majority to safeguard an environment that allows such identity to flourish.

Hope this was a personal thing.

3. Nitpick: The conclusion was rather off. You possibly think you know what they know. It is rather possible they think they know something quite different.

Fully educated, well paid and wealthy people subscribe to the same fear and hatred you have described.

Here I took education to be formal education. You probably intend something else.


Anonymous said...

I just noticed.."How can any muslim parent prevent a child from turning fanatic?.."

Any parent (not restricted to Muslim) has a *fair* chance at it. Like Ottayan, I am at the same stage myself.

1. Expose your kids to a liberal environment at home, teach them universal values, if possible from all faiths.

2. This is taking things a step beyond the "but all faiths do teach the same things" line (and then quickly going back to ones own books), its practically demoing that to them.

3. There are differences in some aspects, dont dwell on them, focus on the commonalities.

4. Ensure your kids dont get any contradictory messages from anywhere any kind of school/ seminary/ teacher that glorify violence.

5. Most religious books dont condemn violence outright, they couch it and shade it with no violence against 'the innocent' and talk of 'just wars'. Skip this with young kids, bring it up gently with pre-teens. Let them question these concepts.

6. You talked abt Palestine. I certainly dont think their kids get out most evenings to throw rocks at tanks and soldiers without their parents knowing (even if they dont agree).

Yes I did read abt some of them sneaking off bunking school or not returning home after school. but I dont think one can absolve the parents of responsibility there.

Conclusion: One may sincerely try all these above, and end up with kids turning fanatic. One cannot 'prevent' in the narrow sense of the term such an eventuality or blame oneself directly for what their kids did.

But if I implemented at least a few of these, I would rest easier. And its unfortunately true that with the worldwide "Islam vs. West" thing about, I would, if I were a Muslim parent try these more seriously than if I were a non-Muslim.

But for this, excellent post.


Tabula Rasa said...

what a fantastic post. thank you.

Anonymous said...


Its a very interesting potrayal of your internal conflict for an identity... I guess everyone goes through one or many of the various phases at one point of time or the other...

But what struck me most was your explanation of the "fear" which has ,in a very morbid manner, occupied our minds.. mostly since the 90's... I am a tamil hindu... not very temple-going, but god does serve a purpose in my life... or rather... my belief in god does serve a purpose...

The reason why the fear exists.. is because ppl don't realise that the need for god or religion to guide us.. is a very personal thing... it becomes a problem when my beliefs are questioned by those who i would consider as third party.. its not the debate which i am against.. its the brainless criticism of it...

I have seen this fear change everything... Chennai used be an amazing place... where ppl were treated as ppl... irrespective of their personal beliefs... These days.. ppl just stick to their own groups.. or worse to their own families... the intelligence of communities, which depended on exchange of ideas, questioning of beliefs, debates on politics etc., has greatly dimished.. ppl these days are afraid of rival opinions.. or beliefs... for fear of what it might trigger..

Its a sorry state of affairs really.. but its good to see someone write about it.. in a very personal and sensitive manner...



Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this down, and congratulations for being the one to call a spade a spade. Finally!
I come from a mixed religious background and have felt this subtle pressure from people around me to choose one way or the other. I have steadfastly refused to pick and I plan to remain that way. Both my parents' faiths are of great importance to me and have played a role in defining who I am today. Why deny either of them their pride of place?
I hope, Annie, you keep up your secular (for the lack of a better word) spirit and are not forced to narrow your identity to suit society. Stay the way you are. You are perfect!

There's one thing, however, I have often wondered about -- I too have gone through this "not-invited-for Eid-hence-can't-go" phase.
Indeed, why is that so? Why this discomfiture? Why this hesitation?

I think it works both ways, Annie. First, I didn't have close friends who were Muslim.
Second, there is this impression (and I am a victim of it too) that Muslims are a closed society.
Since my father encouraged me to learn more about other religions, I had once made an attempt to learn Arabic from a school friend so I could read Islamic texts. I must've been 13 years old then.
My friend first agreed but then backed out because a family member told her that our school uniform (dresses that stopped short of the knees)wasn't appropriate for a "religious" class. I only wanted to learn a language, but I respected the sentiment, and that was the end of that.
I never learned Arabic or read Islamic texts.
I am not blaming anyone at all for this. I could have found other sources to learn what I wanted to if I really wanted to, right?
But, you know, when life in general takes over, moments of inspired curiosity like these quickly die out.
And given that I've never lived in a Muslim-dominated region, I didn't feel the pressing need to participate.
My bad. Really. But that's how it works.

Later in life, I had some wonderful Muslim neighbors, but religion never came up in our discussions (and yet I knew they were Muslims :)) so it didn't make a difference.

And then there are the radicals, even in civil society. They shock you with their public stances.
For instance, the Pakistani cricket captain made this stupid statement, thanking Muslims all over the world for supporting the Pak team.

Now, should we care? Absolutely not! But it feeds the fire, you know. It just adds to the general feeling that Muslims choose religion over regional boundaries.
Not too many people (and that's true across the globe) put that much thought into what's being said and done.
We tend to go with the flow.

I think it's important for us to clearly -- and vocally -- distance ourselves from people we don't agree with from our respective "communities".

I wish you luck, Annie. And once again, for our sakes, I hope you stick to your identity the way YOU deem fit. You belong where YOU want to belong.
Please don't let anyone take that away from you.


Madhat said...

That title is amazingly accurate. Tells me that this post is carefully written...
When do you release that first novel? :)

Anonymous said...

Annie, you are amazing. I've quietly read your blog for years, but this post brought tears to my eyes. I eagerly await the day (presumptuous as it is to ask such things of an already prolific writer) when I can sit under my favourite tree with a book by you in my hands.

Anonymous said...

A word about 'teaching kids'. Well...I don't agree that nothing can't be taught to anyone (children in particular). One good thing in my point of view is to not force kids to treat religious scriptures as something god-given. Doing so only make them close-minded (sorry for cliche ) and due to this they start questioning their own beliefs very late in their life. Some never do. Also if one cares about being connected with 'god' and stuff, then they can encourage going to religious places of all or most religions and without paying special consideration to 'their own' religion.

In short, questioning religious beliefs should not become a taboo and I believe deep down all this helps in avoiding it.

ps: Though it must be obvious, I am not writing this message in specific reference to kids or families of some particular religion. As for me, I am Hindu by birth. Thanks to my 'liberal' parents, I was never told to adhere to any religious beliefs. I did studied some religious stuff veryyy late in my life, as if reading some novel and find it kind of interesting study from social/historical point of view. Anyways, enough self-indulgence. Keep the good work on.

Manish Bhatt said...

A mighty thought provoking read, Annie. Wraps itself well around the enormous complexity of the issue.

nativeindian said...

Every individual is an island. The terrain will determine what grass, shrub, tree or fruit will prosper therein. The climate will determine how long, how well. As, long as, you do not desire to merge with the mainland or become an adjunct to it.
And…Therein lies your identity.

Society has always been apposed to individualism. But, that has not stopped individuals from becoming cults, societies or religions.


Anonymous said...

Read but couldnt complete that very lonng Amis article. He does a real number on Islam / Islamism.

Much of it not very relevant to us in India IMHO. Lets keep out of this Islam vs. West thingy as much as possible.


Bhaskar Dasgupta said...

very good, I linked back to it

Sarover Zaidi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
@nks said...

couldn't resist myself frm commenting ...!!
as every one said ... marvelous post...

but i wont say it felt like my story ...
neither m i an atheist...

but yah ... !! ppl are forgetting the objective of religion ...

Anonymous said...

That was a nice read. Appreciate your efforts. Though don’t agree that parents can’t influence their kids. They sure can help them in being more tolerant.

Gazelle Aparajita said...

This post made me cry. Literally.
another Zaidi in Dilli..:)
I am so happpy there are such like thinking people here.. I would love to have links to you blogs.. it makes sense and make me feel stronger..

Thanks and Peace!

Blackbird said...

wonderfully written...and you ask several questions that i dont know anyone has answers to...

i agree with the observation that somehow we, as a people, like categories - like a filing system into which we neatly arrange our friends and acquaintances..

i have always enjoyed watching others struggle to classify me...being a bengali raised in hyderabad... my parents have asked me several times to shave off a goatee i sport (and failed)..and its not rarely that i used to respond to 'Salaam Aleikums' on the street..
its somehow fun when people dont really know where to plug you in.

Anonymous said...

A very touching piece of literature indeed. Having grown up as part of a Kyastha family in Lucknow and other towns of UP we alwyas had a no of muslim friends in class room and in neighbourhood.We went for sewain and korma every year on Id .Now at the age of 53 having joined transferrable job I do miss the strong presence of Muslim community in our social groups and in civil and police services.

The horrible ideas of bloodshed and massacre which clog the minds of so many youths (of all the communities)could have never been imagined till eightees. Hopefully the silent majority of sane people would train their offsprings to deligently carry forward theier secular beliefs and so that this age of religious insanity may be wiped off from memory of humanity someday.

Anonymous said...

annie i can feel the pains that the muslims have to go through. even when we are not against them with swords or guns, we are able to make a deeper wound in them through doubting eyes and sharp language used against them.

i remember how a colleague of mine was having difficulty finding a home when we had abundant of them available.

Anonymous said...

hey since you might well be the resident expert on this sociological category, wanted to ask you. Is it true that muslim girls love anal sex, unlike say hindu girls. apparently bcos of lack of purity/pollution fundas. how true?

Adi said...

Hi, something somewhere touched a cord ...

Its shameful, we are all either punjabis, gujjus, mozis.. etc etc ... no one is indian

Ever since i remember, this nagged me and whenever somebody asks me who i am , I tell them Im an Indian (And this was long before SRK made it popular)

we all belong here, dont let anyone or anything tell you otherwise.

My dad was in the army and un the regiment they used to have the Koran, the guru granth sahiib, Jesus on a cross and a idol of Ram in the same room. All festivals celebrated in the same room, all together, irrespective of your relgion

religion is overrated ... sometimes i think it is we who are morally and religiously bankrupt rather than the westerners

long comment, but I had to say it

you write very well

1conoclast said...

AMAZING, AMAZING STUFF! Wonderfully written! With you around, we don't need anyone else to say anything!
With this post, you've become the Ghalib of prose!!!

Annie Zaidi said...

Ok, am very pressed for time and have been so for the last few days, which is why I've not been so good about responding to comments here. But thanks, everyone, for being so generous with their praise (vis a vis my writing ability) and for affirming some things that I have believed in. I also hope that there are others out there who read it, and were forced to think or rethink their positions.

I'm just going to respond to two or three things generally.
One, about parents having the power to form their children. I agree that they have some role to play. But by the large, a child's actions both as a a child and as an adult are equally formed by rebellion, and a rejection of everything his/her parents stand for. This may not be true through a life-time, but it doesn't take a life-time to pick up a gun. Or a syringe. Or an LSD-laced drink. Does any parent tell a child - go forth, my brave one, and OD on coke? But thousands of children across the world do precisely that. Influences come from everywhere. Information comes from everywhere. Aggression comes from everywhere. But that doesn't mean that parents should not try or not keep an eye on what goes into their kids' heads. Try, by all means. But don't blame, unfairly.

Secondly, about not having muslim friends or neighbours... I found this very touching photo and article. sikhs in bhopal waiting to shower flowers upon muslims, on eid.
I'm sure they don't know these muslims individually, but they do this as a gesture. if this was done in every city - a variation of it, perhaps.... think of how that would change this country.

and, suman... this post wasn't sexual in its context. Your query belongs elsewhere. I haven't the faintest idea how to answer. In case this was somehow intended as an insult... I actually found the comment rather funny. A trifle pitiable, but amusing nevertheless.

dipali said...

Have felt so guilty, esp. after the Babri Masjid demolition and subsequent riots, about the status and the perception of minorities in India. And how dehumanizing the whole thing really is. How human lives are without value. The entire scenario is really terrifying.
And yet, life continues with the hope that things get better-when it is all for all,not one against the other....

Anonymous said...

Annie, lovely post...

Emma said...

Annie, a beautiful and touching post. Thank you for it, for in a lot of ways you have put into words thoughts and feelings that lie deep within me.

Anonymous said...

I was in school, too, when Babri masjid happened. Thats when I realized Muslims were 'them'. 'They' were close childhood friends, trusted family retainers, favorite 'uncles'. I didn't much like 'us'. Thats when I started telling people,' Technically, I'm not a Hindu. I'm Jain..its a non-violent religion.' It probably didn't matter much to those who died. It wasn't until Mandal Commission happened that I started recognizing the difference between various castes and subcastes. Thank you for writing this..I don't know how things will get better. But this helps.

Anonymous said...

very well written! But, seriously, who gives a shit? people should grow up. And if you grow up before everyone else does, yeah, you are in trouble. tyranny of the majority

Sam said...

One of the most touching pieces I have read in recent times. Simply beautiful. The way things have been held by you paints a picture which few amongst us have seen though we try hard to imagine. The plight caused to teh common man in teh name of religion is despicable. More so with Muslims. At least in India, when you try and raise your secular and tolerant voice you might end being the lone man/woman standing in a sea of "racist" humanity. Really makes me smirk and wonder at teh true identity of such people... and I include some of my near and dear ones too on that list!!

Anonymous said...

"..child's actions both as a a child and as an adult are equally formed by rebellion, and a rejection of everything his/her parents stand for..."

Have to disagree a bit here. Nobody I know has rebelled to that degree, the worst was drinking and smoking. A child does not 'rebelliously' kill somebody because the parents forbade it to. There is a difference between harming oneself thru drugs and harming or killing others (maybe for doing drugs?) that just cant be explained by 'rebellion'.

I do believe the child picks up the ambience at home and the larger neighborhood (which includes the great-uncles etc.), and if that ambience is filled with fear and distrust (lets say Palestine) the child has little chance of NOT being affected.

It is pathetically easy to manipulate children, and fear and distrust will only lead to hate. Add to this the dash of 'heroism' or bragging rights and some sense of 'approval' (however faint) by figures the parents look up to (religious heads) and you get them to chuck rocks at armed soldiers.

PS- Again none of this is specific to any religion.

Anonymous said...

.. and by extension of that rebellion logic... the extremist problem is going to solve itself, if we just wait long enough, right.

Any militants that survive and have children will have their kids going rebelliously pacifist. Most of today's problems will be gone by 2025.

Sorry for making a joke out of something so serious.


sharanya said...

Am amazing, brave and lucid post... Thank you.

Anonymous said...

No doubt very readable prose.

But the gist of this post -- and the genre of this writing -- is age-old. It is to project victimhood, and to demand sympathy on that count. And by implication, to point fingers at the baddies .. who either chat you up on a train or a flight, or cast slurs on you in school or college. Your innocence is ruptured: how can these people be so mean, when you've been brought up on a diet of secularism and liberalism at home -- sleeveless blouses, Ramayana, Diwali, and the whole works?

Sorry for being blunt and sorry for spoiling the party. If you want to make the point that the Muslim identity is a more particular target of vicitmization than any other identity (Hindu included), give me a reasoned argument. "Emotional" appeals do not make one.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post. An eye opener.

Unknown said...

I remember being teased by friends about backing up Pakistan during Cricket matches as I am a Sindhi. Was told several times that my brother's are playing obviously referring to the Pakistanis. My dad frequently refers to us as the most screwed up people on earth.

Salik Shah said...

Took time, read, tried to understand if there was a way out of this? But again, it was you asking questions- questions that have started to confuse me. I try to imagine a world without any religion. Would that be a better place? Religion is a science- science directly related to our lives… we experiment with them all our lives.

To find answers.

Muslim! Hindu? What they are? Yes, semi literate men do have business to do. What about the Dubiya Man?

Thank you, for writing your truth. What if there was only one religion in the universe? And, that of love! Many tried, failed? Gandhi didn’t fail, don’t count numbers. If he has changed even a single life, then he has already a success.

Of course exceptions don’t rule the world, but sometimes I feel only if I was not human at all. Only if I didn’t know anything…

Anonymous said...

i dont believe that rimjhim said what she was claimed to have said; or if she said at all, she had any malice in mind. Eight year olds are not capable of the kind of prejudice attributed to them.

I do not believe either that in a setting of strangers, as in a train car, anybody would openly say that muslims should be killed.

Kits said...

In this post you've talked abt paying the price inspite of the fact that u don't want to. I realise this and work against my own conditioned responses at times. Its a very hard process to give up feelings n emotions u mite have against a community.

An incident stands out in my head - I was going to join Xaviers in 1997.Riots had broken out in Ghatkopar at the time for reasons tht elude me now.

We were coming back frm Xaviers and walking towards VT. At the bus stop,a Muslim family was standing along with us. Suddenly someone yells,'They r throwing stones' and everyone ran. My mom said,'They have the most to worry abt'. That statement has never left my head.

Its tragic that we live in a society where we cannot be ourselves and always hide ourselves to protect ourselves.

chica said...

At the risk of sounding like a parrot, you write beautifully. Very personal and coherent rambling (!).

My 2 cents about the state of affairs; I really do believe that, unfortunate and unfair as it seems, the community does need to work on its image. There comes a time when no matter what, every person needs to speak out, put in words when others can't see the action. Be that in any situation. When you profess your undying love to a partner of many years, when you stand up and ask for a raise, when you convince your parents that you are old enough to make the right decision (at the age of 35!).
And I think your article goes a long way in doing this..
I do wish a lot more people would feel encouraged in doing so, this is how people will know the real unidentified you.

And what am I? With respect to the thought of this article, I am technically a Hindu, but in reality, still on the look out of a religion for myself.. I have been leaning towards creating my own religion.
How do I identify myself? I am just A one in THE millions or THE one in A million.

eyefry said...

A beautiful lesson in perspective. If only such clear thinking was accessible to a wider audience. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is that in a world where moderates are an overwhelming majority, the extremists (could be terrorists or people who dont go all the way, but still have prejudices in their mind) still draw a lot more attention through their remorseless and mindless actions.

Maaz bin Bilal said...

After 56 comments of which i won't claim to have read even half, its highly unlikely that anything I will say be new, but yet it is the kind of post that warrants a response.

well written, thought provoking, insightful n the rest of all the real good comments but for once actually true.

You have talked about your experiences in school Annie, I'd just like to share that they can be much worse for a guy, being the only non-hindu in class, though even in a top notch Delhi public school. even teachers can make random comments such as homework not being done because of ur locality(I guess she at least didn't have the guts to exactly spell out her real concieved reasons). I say the guy thing because i believe that the same stuff didnt happen to my sister in the same school, i guess because of some patriarchal notions. Women seem to be kept out of it as long as there is not an actual Gujarat-when they face the worst brunt of it.

Talking about Gujarat 2002 I am surprised u managed to remain so unaffected during it. It is something that continues to haunt me, that has made me feel highly disillusioned in the very concept of India, for which I used to proudly claim my grandparents and their parents spent years in Jails. In fact somewhere I think my whole mindset has been canged because of it. I don't hate anyone because of it (except for Modi, and now the few other names Tehelka has provided)because i don't realy know who to. The tens of thousands of Gujaratis?(My school was a gujarat Education Foundation one by the way) or all of the hindus? yet i dont have a single muslim friend!
Anyway, linking to your experiences, at the time of Babri Masjid I was 5-6 and like you making rhymes at an early age. Possibly this though was a difference in the religous grooming that mine happened to about the MAsjid itself-a 'sher' on it that i still very distinctly rememebr, the only one out my childish repertoire.

Another point I have to agree with regarding the role of parental grooming in life would be how i was almost bred to be deeply religious till not very late back(my younger brother is a hafiz) only to make up my own mind about my own religion,and my God, though unlike you even if i become a complete atheist I would never want to be rid of my identity as a muslim, whihc i see as much more than religious. It is tradition, it is heritage, that i too often run away frm, only to return at some point in my own way. to put it in your way- Is that being a Muslim?

I find ur mom's term 'mozi'quite interesting?Is it completely her own invention or is it used in some circles that I am unaware of?

And Annie, the way you wud expect your views to be accepted, debated yes but still accepted nonetheless-and hope that no Nathuram kills you- I think you have to accept the Taliban as well. They believe they follow the Word of God, we have no ground to challenge their belief. You may denounce their methods, the violence- but I am sure you arent serious when it comes to killing them.

or are you? :)

Aruni Kashyap said...

Congratulations Annie, one of the most thought-provoking personal reflections (and yet so political!)I have ever read in recent times.

the mad momma said...

beautiful again annie. ignore the idiots who miss the point.

all i can remember is our first day in class during introductions and said, 'I am Annie, and I am an Indian.'

Mizohican said...

I got nothing to contribute. My mind is still reflecting upon your beautiful piece of writing. I read your comment about the part mentioning you are pressed for time... I'm not expecting any reply for this. All I wanna say is THANK YOU for such a prolific piece of writing. It sure feels great to read everything at one go. God bless.

Hornswoggler said...

Was I living under a stone? why haven't I read you before!

Anonymous said...

If only faith could be just a personal belief. You seem like the african american person who hates to belong to a disadvantaged community or the dalit/sc indian who curses his fate to be born into a community with a prefix backward.

They try, they try hard to break away from these identities. Its easy for you to attempt this since you do not belong to the group of traditionally "believing" muslims ,some one who is willing to detach from Islam both on a spiritual as well as social level.

But what about the believing muslim who loves his /her identity insite of it working against her the muslim man with the surname mohammad would undergo strip search a thousand times at the airport but never hate his islamic name , the hijabi who gets stared at supermarkets or the muslim man who gets to hear snide remarks about his breaks not for coffee or a smoke but for his daily namaz.

What about 'US' its harder for us trust me to live with a faith we love in this society but I'm stil going to be proud about being a muslim.

Lalbadshah said...

Annie, I was led to here from IndiaUncut. I frankly don't know what to say.. But I'll say this: Being an Indian Muslim, I've been planning to write something on these lines for a very long time. But now, I plan to simply link to your article.

It is surely an autobiography any Indian Muslim would gladly accept for her/his own.

1conoclast said...

Hats also off to you & all your friends who seem to effortlessly ignore the anonymous comments. They're quite a load of shit, but the Internet is open for all I guess. What surprises me is why they hide behind the anonymous tag?

Anonymous said...

Hi Annie,

I wish I didn't know what you are talking about, but I think I know it too well. I have gone through a similar life and have asked similar questions.

I know your question is rhetoric, but i will try answering it. Ignore me if you find me preachy.

You are just another human being. A luckier one than most others though. You have seen more sides of life and that makes you more tolerant and wiser. Everyone gets called bad things, tags that they do not deserve. But you know how to react and keep your calm. The world needs more people like you.

Thank you for sharing bits of your life.


Jai_Choorakkot said...


1. All the anon comments that end with regards,Jai have been made by me, Jai_Choorakkot

2. I havent intended to hide, its a lot of trouble logging in with word verification and the thing makes you do it twice.

3. Not really contested anything Annie wrote with the exception of parental influence on kids, and there too, I'd think reality is somewhere in between.

4. Not been ignored either.


Anonymous said...

well, what can i say, other than that some muslims have brought it all upon the others.
when they start citing their religious identity as the reason for their violence, when your religion is reason enough to indulge in terrorism, it's only natural that anyone sharing that religious identity is looked upon with suspicion - a muslim, any muslim, already has enough intent (religion) to wreak jihad, going by that logic.
Similarly Pakistan was created as a "homeland for muslims". That State indulges in terrorist activities against india as anyone knows. They also inflict enormous tragedy on the non-muslims in that country. They destroy age-old statues of buddha.... i can go on and on here. so it's only natural to wonder why muslims stayed back at all in this country, and why they aren't packing their bags and going to some place where they get better freedoms, if they so feel they are victims of marginalization and discriminations in india.
only if you "secular" "liberal" indian muslims eschew the rest, prove yourselves trustworthy, will all of this stop. the ball is in your court.
hindus have suffered enough at the hands of muslims from centuries to merit having enough hate. it's only the tolerant attitude of hindus that has made sure that muslims haven't been booted out of the country israel-ishtyle.
muslims take their religion way too seriously.... if they'd all just loosen up and let the rest of the world know it's not that big a deal, that they can actually laugh at themselves and their customs and parody muhammad and all their holy symbols as members of other religions have done, that someone having pork at the same table isn't committing sacrilege.. that they are fine with others eating during ramzan (i'm talking about the Gulf here), maybe things would be better.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

Beautifully written, very thought provoking. I am a hindu, but managed to get thru a number of years of my childhood without knowing it - wish we could go back to that time.

1conoclast said...

Anon (before cynic in wonderland), you idiot! Don't adopt that condescending tone, you don't deserve to. Your comment clearly brings out the bigot in you. You need an education & I'm going to give you one. Jihad refers to the war against the inner evil. The war against people who attack you is only an extension of that. But I don't expect you to know. That you received a lowly education is amply clear from your comment.
Lesson # 2: Age old Buddha statues (Bamiyan) were destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan not by the stupid Pakis. Wonder all you like about why Indian Muslims don't pack their bags & go to Pak. You're not expected to understand the contributions of Maulana Azad, Zakir Husain, Dr. Kalam, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Aamir, Salman, Shahrukh, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan etc. You're too blinded by the bigotry you were brought up with to notice all of that. I pity your parents. They mustn't be proud of the child they brought up.
Lesson # 3: Hindus haven't suffered at the hands of Muslims in India. Hindus have suffered at the hands of Hindus in India; refer to the caste system. Sikhs have suffered at the hands of Hindus; refer to the 1984 riots in Delhi. Christians have suffered at the hands of Jews; refer to Biblical history. And any excesses under Aurangzeb were repaid by the mountain rat, Shivaji; refer to Sardeshmukhi.
Lesson # 4: Salman Rushdie not only mocked his religion & his prophet, but lived in hiding for years after that. But like I said, you don't have a world class education & you're therefore not expected to know what goes on in the wider world.
I wonder why we pay any attention to idiots like you!!!

Jai... previous comment wasn't directed at you, it was the coward anons.

Annie... Muslims all over the world are different. It's cultural influences that make you who you are. So Brit Paki Mozis like Alvira in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom also exist. As do Russian Muslims like Marat Safin & his sister Darina (

CandidConfessions said...

You have so thoughtfully touched upon these most sensitive idiosyncrasies of the society that we live in. I know of friends, muslims at that, who celebrate diwali. And after reading your article, I am left to wonder why i dont celebrate or even know what Eid mean?

Ultimately, I believe the society is a novel of the politicians. Schools of thought are one thing, politicians preaching is another! No matter, how much I want to believe my Muslim friends are just as me, my mom wants me to beware! She believes the politicians!

WillOTheWisp said...

What can you fear, if you don't know it? Or can you only fear what you don't know?

That just about sums it up ... I guess. If you know, what fear then?

Of course, a lot of us fear knowing itself ... for fear of what it would do to our mind and perspective.

Neena said...

Thanks for sharing it!

Minorities lives are difficult everywhere. Even those of us who are able to migrate to Pakistan from India, and native Sindhis, Baluchis and some Pathans are still waiting to be treated equally as Majority Pakistani Punjabis. I can never able to get a job somewhere other than Karachi due to my heritage (my grand parents are from New Delhi).

Zyborg said...

got goosebumps reading it, I could so relate to it, I am supposed to be brahmin by birth, but am not religious. my early childhood was in Srinagar, and I have a whole lot of memories which are from other end of spectrum... I guess as humans we all think and feel alike.
loved the way you write it

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

The content makes me sad. The form makes me envious.

And organised religion makes me just mad. Anti-Semitism. Islamophobes. Hindu-baiters. Protestant vs Catholic.

If there is a God s/he must be either very twisted or incredibly incompetent.


1conoclast said...

JAP... Why blame God for the follies of men. God created man, set him on the Earth, gave him Prophets & Religions to lead his life by. If man misinterprets it or places his faith in religion-peddlers instead of the scriptures, refuses to model hiself on the likes of Jesus or Mohammed, how is God responsible???

I don't like the concept of Hindu-rashtra. Does that make me anti-myself? Since I'm born half-Hindu. And I don't like the idea that Pakistan is based on either. Does that make me totally anti-myself? Since I'm born half-Muslim.

It makes me nothing! I am what I am & not open for analysis!

D said...

To feel like an outsider in your own country must hurt... but it also hurts when our Mulsim friends say we don't celebrate Eid like they celebrate Diwali, that we make them feel the way they do...

I live in Lucknow, have lived here since I was born... and the year after the Babri Masjid was demolished, we went to visit our family friends on Eid... it made no difference to us. Why didn't the world change for me after the bomb blasts at the Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi... Why didn't I think now they won't even let us pray... Why did I not question where I belong... I belong here, like you, and nowhere else!

What's unfortunate, Annie, is that the experiences that made you conscious of religious tagging, works both ways. I was in class 7 when a friend, a Muslim friend - whom I never saw as anything else but a friend till before that day - said something I have never forgotten: "Humey is desh ne diya hi kya hai badnaami ke alava?" So why don't you leave this country, someone asked. And her juvenile reply was, "The Mughals have given so much to this country. Humey woh wapis kar do, hum chaley jaayenge!"
I guess that girl was echoing stuff she'd heard at home, which means they did talk about such stuff... Her father was a doctor in Riyadh and she said Muslims were given better facilities there. By the way, she lived in a sprawling bungalow in a plush locality in Lucknow! I didn't know then what she was talking about, I don't know still what she was talking about! But I do know, I'm sorry she talked that way and made me look at here as "one of those"...

tan said...

feels weird, my stumbling on this post on a date like today.

am one of the unfortunate ones to be born into the 'majority' and slowly, painfully understand how much we take for granted, how much we have to be grateful for, how much we expect, without any intention of ever giving back. without any guilt about that intention never crossing our minds.

i'd love to add you to my blogroll. may i?

arunesh said...

Ann deh walls came down...sang I as I add my two bits. I remember the pesky woman at the Reed-meet. We all firmly avoided telling her what she was obviously unable to see from both sides - important for easing conflict.

Gosh, you just let it all hang like any good writer, digging for meaning within yourself and the world goes to town with interpretations!

The 'kill muslims' conversations are a fact and a cultural blot. Yes, they do happen and sometimes these things are said in the heat of an Indo-Pak cricket match. They are also said openly when the teller is sure there are no muslims present.

It's like i read somewhere how during a Religions of the World type conference, a rabbi had to make the first speech. So he steps up and starts. 'Im sure these gentlemen will all tell you about how they worship god in their different ways. I would like to say that I worship him in His way."

Brilliant, agreed but bang goes the open forum! The author goes on to say how in a poly-cultural world we cannot afford such like.

Hey, am from a hindu himachali father and a tamilian roman-catholic and personally always said, "But mah deah, ah'm cawsmopawlitin." : )

Finally, to me surds are groups of irrational numbers and moz(z)ies are mosquitoes.

Annie Zaidi said...

more people: thanks for sharing your own experiences and letting me see more angles to the same story.
t: of course, you may. ye bhi koi poochne ki baat hai?

IR said...

my family came to india after partition, my granparents frowned at the thought of us (me and my siblings) having muslim friends , maryying one will prob lead to another partition !

i dont share their feelings , beacuse i dont impose my religious beliefs on non-hindus , my muslim friends dont impose thier beleif on me, however if in urban or semi urban india, amongst people our age there is animosity on the basis of religion it is because of politics of faith, reserving seats for muslims, just to get them to vote for your party etc etc

i am a hindu , and i send customary diwali greetings to all myfriends (including muslims ) , have never wished them on eid , never got their "customary" messages on eid , i dont know why ?

if you did not tell that lady you met at the railway station, you are a muslim beacause , being a muslim was not really part of your identitiy while growing up , i guess its ok,

however if you did not tell her because you feared some sort of backlash or something on those line , then you made a mistake , its not for her to decide how "indian" you are because of your religion

as you have written here muslims have ended up becoming mere vote banks in india, because of our politicians,

your article is brilliant ,better than any piece we are subjected to in the mainstream media after some hindu-muslim issue flares up

Mechanical said...

Reading this made me so emotional I had to do it in three sittings :)
Personally, I didnt realize what it felt like being a minority, growing up in delhi within a highly homogenized middle class punjabi culture and public school upbringing. Almost everyone was the same and you didnt really need to assert much in terms of culture and beliefs.

Now, having lived in a so called multicultural western country for a few years, I can identify with almost everything you narrated, and am shocked that in the world I called perfect (Delhi) there are people who feel the same way that I feel here.

Like you, I am also of the opinion, its not fair, but sure, I dont mind taking on some of the punishment to make the world comfortable. But just knowing what being a minority feels like truly helps. I eally do wish everyone could have the 'minority' experience.

Anonymous said...

A wonderfully written and touching post. Thank you for sharing a very personal side of your life.

small squirrel said...

amazing... touching and poignant. it is difficult to be the "other" no matter what that label means.. either to yourself or to the people that surround you. I could relate to this in so many ways. and it made me think about things in my own childhood that I have long since forgotten. I now think of my daughter, part hindu, part jewish, both by inheritance... what will she be. will she feel lost wherever she goes, not an indian, not an italian, not an american....

maybe one day she will write as beautifully as you do.

KingSlayer said...

Gawd (which one though???! its all been said in the comments before I got here.

This post is perhaps the best I have ever read. And that 'perhaps' is just in there coz i like saying 'perhaps' perhaps. Stunning stuff.

I am not a very seasoned blogger, and I have generally blogged just for myself, dont even have a blog roll to add you into... But if you dont mind, can I start my blog roll with you?

Fingers crossed, eyes squeezed shut expecting the " dur hat phitte muuh" coming my way..

Annie Zaidi said...

thanks, once again, more people who have left more generous comments. and kingslayer, of course you can. link, blogroll, whatever.

Dewdrop said...

Beautifully written. One of the best posts i have ever read. :)

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing stuff... Spell-bound... Honestly what you have written here is not something most of us don't know... But the way you expressed it, is absolutely beautiful...

With due permission can I blogroll you?

Surya Ragunaathan said...

Its very important for BOTH Muslims and Non-Muslims to come forward and make a genuine attempt to mingle with each other...

For one, we mustn't hear of "areas" in Bombay like 'Kurla', 'Mahim', or Rabodi (in Thane)...

Education should be priority... and Education via mainstream schools..

A country that is expected to be ONE and that needs to be ONE, shouldn't be governed by TWO sets of laws - Govt laws and Laws made by Muslim Law Board. Only then will there be uniformity in laws...

Neways, these are some points that I felt...


Anonymous said...

Hi Annie,
I am not sure you will read this comment, but I just came across your post and was very moved by what your experiences.
Let me try and say this without coming across as patronising:
India belongs to you as much as it does to any one else, Hindu or not. Don't let anyone take that ownership away from you. I know it is tough given how ignorant and obnoxious some people can be, but it is your country and you have a right on it.
I would like to add that though I in fact agree with some rightwing policies (have been a BJP supporter), I firmly believe that all Indians are equal and nobody should or can question anyone's loyalty to the country. Hope we all grow out of this mentality.

Though I don't have any close Muslim friends, I wish to be able to celebrate Eid at least once.
Take care!

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