The diary of a Muslim girl in modern day India.
The refugee crisis has helped me understand the fabric of politics a little better. Lives can be bargained for and against, and giving asylum to somebody who truly needs it can be argued. All this points to the very questionable but instinctive character of human beings.
Sometime last year my Facebook was bombarded with liberal minded, modern, secular friends coming out against the Parliament’s move to amend the Citizenship Amendment Bill. An amendment that was going to single out Muslim immigrants despite relaxing the rules for obtaining citizenship, as it favored “minority religious individuals from neighboring countries.” This singling out continues as we shake hands with the perpetrators of a genocide. As I quietly refrained from tweeting “selfish attention-hogging hypocrite” to Tasleema Nasreen and “I hope you burn in hell” to Arnab Goswami, I was happy to see so many people I know resonate my feelings.
Our ‘news hour’ debate. Image source: Marxist.com
I felt a similar way when they trashed Trump for his wall talk, or when they stood with JNU and Umar Khalid, when they criticized Yogi Adityanath, when they ridiculed Chetan Bhagat for supporting the building of Ram Mandir. I felt safe and hopeful because I was not the only one squirming in my seat seeing what was happening to my country.
I felt secure because others were calling the bluff behind this unmindful autocracy of those in power, who in my country seem to have acquired along with votes, the warrant to dictate our personal lives. They tell us what to eat, who to say ‘I love you’ to, to forget the injustice that was meted out to us, to forget the loss of lives, to erase a memory that is etched deep into the epitaphs of our brains and give our `blessings’ to a project that ridicules our pain and reasserts the helplessness we have been feeling since 1992. The year I was born.
It was in those moments, that the veracity of the experiences I had seemed to be waning. Like the best friend who just stopped talking when I was 7, giving only “my mother won’t let me be friends with a Muslim” as explanation; or the suspicious looks at my tiffin whenever it smelled like meat; or when I was bullied into eating pork because kids went home and were told “never to eat out of a Muslim’s tiffin” and they just assumed I had fed them beef instead of chicken. I hadn’t. Or when years later, while talking about the difficulty my parents were going through in finding a home at a safer, cleaner locality because of their religion, an acquaintance blurted out saying “That’s because if we allowed Muslims to live everywhere then those places too would become like the locality you live in!”
I had a huge lump in my throat as I looked in bewilderment at his face breaking into a wide smile, while everyone else laughed hysterically, waiting for me to laugh too. “It’s not an insult Suman, it’s just a joke! The best people know how to laugh at themselves” their eyes said. So I laughed, not at the joke, but at the irony of it all.
It was this ridiculing, cornering, discriminating, assuming, singling out, and the absence of the basic feeling of belonging, that seemed to be going. You see, when there is the possibility of a silver lining, one keeps gazing unmindfully at the clouds, not noticing that it has already started drizzling.
Identity crisis. Image source: YouTube.com
I didn’t reason then, that the last elections saw the largest turnout of voters between 18-25 in all these years. It didn’t matter that some of my closest friends had voted for a party that was openly communal - the jokes, the jibes, the stereotyping - none of it mattered because I truly believed that things will change and the youth, we, me, us did not think like that. We are secular, kind, educated people who respect the freedom of others because we could not imagine a world where we weren’t allowed to drink, fuck and dance as freely as we do.
Sonu Nigam’s controversial tweet. Image source: spotboye.com
Until a week ago, when Kolkata was approaching twilight; people had passed out from being wasted and there were only five of us left, still pouring fresh pegs into our whisky glasses. A friend of mine blurted out, “I agree with Sonu Nigam, it is annoying to hear the Azaan in the morning”. Talking about it in the next few days many people agreed. None of whom had anything against Muslims, but their lack of compassion and ignorance appalled me. You don’t get to take away someone’s constitutional right because it `annoys’ you.
“Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins” I wanted to say to him, but I didn’t, because I stopped staring at the clouds and realized it was drizzling.
Mahira creating outrage on social media. Image source: Yahoo.com
If you saw me on a Friday night in the dimly lit basement of Antisocial, sipping away at a Gin and Sprite or a Bira Blonde, trying to ensure my fringe doesn’t crumple up from the sweat and making my way through the crowd that is typical of a night club, you probably wouldn’t think I’m a Muslim. But I am. Perhaps I am not a Muslim in the strict sense of the word, or the way the world perceives a Muslim at large. In fact I am not even a Muslim in the way my father sees a Muslim. I do not pray five times a day. Sometimes I pray more, sometimes I don’t at all, but in either case I have my own rituals and my own gratitude to offer. However, ethnically, culturally and habitually that is my identity and with every passing day this identity is under threat - the threat of being forced into something else.
Lying on my bed in my rented house I stare at the cracked and damp ceiling, thinking of the struggle I had to go through to find this house because I am a Muslim. I see what’s happening around me and realize that tremors are not mere reminders, but in fact the beginning of something terrible. And when you overlook tremors you land up in the lap of a dilapidated house crumbling down on your very being.
Baggage I can’t seem to get rid of. Image source: indiaresists.com
When a man was lynched in Dadri in 2015 it was a tremor, a signal that two years down the line an entire state is going to crack down on meat shops, with no regard to the damage it would cause to livelihoods. Much less that it was a basic infringement of my fundamental right, my right to eat what I have been eating for twenty-four years.
Juxtaposing these realities with the banal and perfunctory activism on Facebook makes me laugh. What good could people do to Muslim immigrants when they don’t even spare a fellow Muslim friend from their unwarranted jokes?
I see the world around me slowly shift and think of these words-
“Everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same houses our whole lives, because we can’t help it
We are all migrants through time”- Mohsin Hamid, Exit West
And I wonder if I too am becoming a migrant. A migrant with a passport and an Aadhar card.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101india.com
By Suman Quazi
Cover photo credit: artplaceamerica.org