Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On a personal note

An hour and a half yesterday and two hours today, spent reading Shashi Tharoor's Riot. Leaving me in tears, trembling at different times throughout the book. Different perspectives, all terrorizing, terrifying. Remembered feeling like this when Tridib dies, in Amitav Ghosh's The Shadow Lines. Issues of such complexity, become so mind-numbingly simple to a lathi or sword weilding lout. Little things, scald, burn, multiply, become indelible scars on the psyche and end in reckless, heartless, vengeful violence.

So many issues dealt with together, Ayodhya, Operation Bluestar, the Mughals, Indianness, oppressed women, arranged marriages and difficult choices. Words of wisdom, not spouted uselessly or reeking of jingoism but those that appeal to you in the way's that's best - when your heart sees the truth. When you feel the pain of a character, his words about his nephew. There's no use of a book that doesn't make you think. Words that provoke you, incite feelings about things forgotten, the terror that makes your heart thud when you see huge processions shouting slogans, waving flags whether green or saffron, beating huge drums that you can feel thundering inside your head, the imagined horror of seeing someone close to you being butchered or burnt alive, the anger, the hatred, the lust for revenge.

The definition of an Indian Muslim. The number of times I get links/mails, many a time from people who scarcely understand that the underlying issues are not as club-beatingly simple as they are made out to be, 'Look at this. They beheaded this guy/ They killed this woman/He has four wives/Why are you people so intolerant? Other people don't have such problems when people make fun of their religion'. And while I feel guilt for how little I've let people understand, I wonder how they would feel if for every injustice I felt, I sent a mail saying 'Oh look, your people did this. And this. And this'. Friends putting up links they hardly understand the significance of, 'More funny links on the cartoon controversy'. It's a simple matter to me, what you can ridicule, you cannot respect. And I used to think being human and well-mannered enough to respect other people's feelings comes easy.

Yet, I've hardly suffered. Apart from snide comments and occasional overlooking, nothing major has happened around the place I live, even though its actively denounced as a 'communal tension filled' area. Maulana Azad's speech about belonging and feeling you belonged was true, but the most enlightening words were those of an American character, about how we let history matter ... too much. It does matter in the identity it gives us, but it cannot and should not define who we are and how we live our lives.


And yet
you jab me,
in my eyes,
repeatedly
and ask,
searchingly,
if it hurts.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

nothin bout religion but RIOT is a pretty shitty book. the whole concept of putting the book in the form of diary entries, letters and newspaper articles might be novel but just shows how incapable Mr. T. is of writing a proper book. just commenting on the so called indian diaspora does not make him a great author. the characters are not clearly chalked out and especially laxman (the lead... who is a DM or something.. not sure bout the name as i read it a long time back) should hve been discussed in much more detail. there is not a single line in the book which makes you go, "wow.. this is good shit".

Anonymous said...

"Words of wisdom, not spouted uselessly or reeking of jingoism but those that appeal to you in the way's that's best - when your heart sees the truth. " i remember feeling "ooh how cheesy" while reading it. the so called pain looks forced like an over-acted srk movie.
both comments by me..
handa

sapphire said...

Our country is strange and our politicians are louts. Trust me if being a minority is difficult, being a majoriy doesnt help either...
And yes Riot did not impress me much but yes Shadow lines was beautiful... it made me think :)

Sagar Rastogi said...

i was abt to put up the link to 'More cartoons on the cartoon controversy' on my blog. I didn't but u've still made me feel. I wasn't aware that ppl were actually affected by stuff like that.

But why do you let such things affect you? You are smart and educated and you should know that most of us (smart and educated ppl) don't paint all muslims with the same brush. Neither should you. Why not just laugh at the cartoons like the rest of us. I personally feel that religion, every religion, is too great to be ridiculed by mere mortals. Further, I think each person has his own variation of religion - his own favorite version of a particular brand, a set of core values, and everybody should respect each person's right to that. This respect does not mean that you cannot laugh at something that's funny. Remember all those Sardar jokes that we've laughed at since childhood. That doesn't mean that we don't respect Sikhism.

agastyabhrata said...

May God bless you with more courage and may God bless the ignorant with wisdom.

Sagar Rastogi said...

s/feel/feel guilty/ in the first para in my comment above. btw, you've linked to my old blog. The new one is at http://rastogi.wordpress.com

Ashish Gupta said...

While it would be your personal choice, this statement is not objectively true.

It's a simple matter to me, what you can ridicule, you cannot respect.

All of us laugh at Sardar jokes, husband-wife fights jokes, etc. which doesn't mean that we don't respect them or will not love our spouses. In fact, being able to laugh at, knowing that you are just laughing and it needn't be take to heart, is sign of familiarity and comfort with the issue. Taking things in context is (usually) human nature.

Swapna said...

Just because you make fun of something does not mean that you don't respect something. At the same time, try to think of it from the perspective of the person being made fun of. After a while, it gets tiring and you just start getting annoyed.

Respecting other people's feelings is something I've found that even highly educated and so-called great people don't do.

Dreamcatcher said...

I didnt think 'Riot' was shitty -it was an interesting concept though - different perspectives through journals, interviews and the like. Didn't move me though.Tridib's death, was for me far more moving because just one blow says - its so stupid. Death is of course the greatest leveller - it doesnt care who you are and what religion you belong to.
Community directed (not communal) humor is a light hearted way of celebrating our differences. Jibes are something else.Respect unfortunately does not come from education - the most educated people have shocking opinions..how i wish that could be changed. Makes my blood boil sometimes.
'forgive them for they know not what they do'

blister said...

ain't read the books baby.i know exactly how you feel though...feels that way..easy to get carried away. not saying that what Mr.G writes about is true or untrue, but yeah, it's different being a minority.a lot of uneducated people are more sensible&tolerant than some educated idiots who you just feel like 'aaarrrrrghhh, how can such people ever exist?!!' what people need to do is try and not blame a perfectly good car for a lousy driver, and handa...boo to ye.

Arunima said...

Forgive me for I know not which book is this but thanks I am enlightened and shall atleast think whether to read it or not.

By the way, I like the colour combi of your blog.

mythalez said...

can we have an update in this blog?? :)

burf said...

it's been ages since i came here

it still feels good coming here

which IIM did u finally get into?

Anonymous said...

IIM K .. Mam is going to Gods own country.