For The Readers, Simple New Year Gifts And Thoughts
In recent years, I have been alert to the possibility that I may one day be identified as a Muslim. Instead of pride, this new sense of being has arrived with doubt. Some items of identity are so close to ones skin that one grows up without noticing them. But we are now advancing towards an age of such concentrated focus that we need to narrow our vision.
I fear I may now be called upon to declare where I stand, say, on the Imam of Jama Masjid or on Khushi Mohammad, the pujari of Goga Mehri temple, the latter being of greater sociological interest because the legend survives tenaciously, away from major highways. I am perfectly willing to put it down to a kind of cowardice, but I have become increasingly quiet on many issues.
Some of this self imposed silence is actually tactical. Since communal polarization is the staple of current discourse, the best step some of us can take for self preservation is to fall deafeningly silent. On provocative issues, if you say nothing, those trying to provoke you cannot retaliate. If you do not present yourself as a foil, communal polarization cannot be affected. Ofcourse, this tactic of silence is offered with the full knowledge that sometimes nothing works.
In Julius Caesar the mob turns upon Cinna the conspirator. The man throws up his hands. “I am Cinna the poet”. Someone in the mob, all charged up, shouts. “Kill him for his bad verses.”
Let us, however, persist with the “silence” theme.
How do you give effect to this policy of silence on a wider, public stage. Well, one trick is to deter self appointed Muslim spokesmen from trooping into prime time TV shows where they are generally knocked out by the double-fisted tattoos of professional harangues.
If this communal polarization can be contained by reigning in the professional Muslim spokesman, the other much more important polarization could grow exponentially – the polarization between good sense and its exact opposite.
A few days ago one thought the nation was on edge because of televised reports of mayhem at cinema halls screening “PK”. But the film, which takes a dig at Godmen, Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs, down to sects, Shias and Sunnis, has actually, broken all box office records.
This is the important polarization which is obscured by the TRP chasing prioritization of news. Lumpens digging up pitches is news but management of the world’s largest cricket crowds is not. Vested interests keeping artists in exile is news; exponential growth of art galleries exhibiting their work is not. A few vandals outside cinema halls in opposition to PK is news, but record crowds are not.
My sister, Naheed, has given me a simple New Year gift I would like to share with you. She has returned from a driving holiday from parts of North India with an observation which will appear commonplace but it made my New Year Day.
“Spend a fortnight in rural areas, away from TV and newspapers, and the country is quite as lovely as it was when we were children.”
Brother Shanney’s gift for the New Year is a poem which may well have been the inspiration for “PK”.
“Yeh Mussalman hai, woh Hindu,
yeh Masihi, woh Yehud
Ispe yeh pabandiyan hain,
aur uspar ye qayud,
Shaikh-o-Pandit ne bhi kya
ahmaq banaya hai hamein
Chotey chotey, tung khanon mein
bithaya hai hamein
Koi iss zulmat mein soorat hi
nahin hai noor ki
Mohr har dil par lagi hai
ek na ek dastoor ki
Ghat tey ghat tey mehr e aalam
tab sey tara hua
Aadmi hai mazhab-o-tehzeeb ka
Kuch tamaddun ke khalaf, kuch
deen ke farzand hain
Qulzumon mein rehne wale
bulbulon mein band hain.
Kya karey Hindostan, Allah ki
hai yeh bhi dayn
Dudh Muslim, chai Hindu, Nariyal Sikh,
Apney hum jinson se keeney mein
bhala kya faaeda?
Tukre tukre hoke jeenay mein bhala faeda.
(Here’s a Muslim, there a Hindu, Christian
Here these rules apply to me, and there
those ones are meant for you
In God’s fair name, these priestly types have made such idiots of us all,
They’ve pinned us down in tiny square, where none of us
can grow at all,
Man, meant to beam his glorious rays, is now
all darkness and all strife
Confined to curious, cults and cant,
promoting just some narrow life.
In his imagination man was meant to
hold the oceans, wide
But he now lives in little bubbles, protected from both, time and tide.
Now our fair India shows these trends, why are
we worried, you and me?
Muslim milk, and Jaini Jam, Sardarji nuts
and Hindu tea.
Let’s free ourselves of bogus priests,
who make us quarrel for their gain
let’s fly with birds or hide in groves
and trample on sweet sugarcane.)
This, free translation by Shanney of Josh Malihabadi is offered for improvements.
# # # #