I am going to tell you a story, the story of a young man who lives in a town and also happens to be my best friend. He prefers to be anonymous but wants me to share with you all, his story in totality. He belongs to a normal middle class baniya family and has ingrained the Hindu sabhyata (cultural ethos) from his father and a rational secular outlook from his mother.
He was all of 8 years when, Babri Masjid was brought down. Unaware of the wider implications as also its meaning in entirety, he was happy that Lord Rama had scored yet another victory of good over evil. He was convinced that now there would be a great, new, better world with Lord Rama at the helm of affairs, unmindful of the communal frenzy that had gripped entire Awadh.
As he was growing, he was attracted towards political Hinduism (hindutva) and began to take deep interest in its literature. He was romanticized by the very sight of Bharat Mata with undivided India behind her and a lion in her service. He was convinced that Hindus had been historically wronged and that Pakistan is rightfully ours and that we as a community face tremendous threat from Muslim terrorists. It was high time that Hindus show their virility to the world in general and Muslims in particular.
As luck would have it, he got admission in one of the most up market and liberal colleges of Delhi University. Here also, he prevented himself from mixing with the crowd, paragons of immorality as they were. While at Venky(S V College), my friend continued to reply every Hi! with a Namaste! But he had not as yet become a fundamentalist, the lively environs of the college, with more girls than boys had a sobering effect on him. Also as he read more about people like Ambedkar, he realized how iniquitous his own social order was!
But the person responsible for a sky change in him was a Muslim named Jamal. My friend realized one day, that he had a neighbour. Out of etiquettes, he enquired whether this new person needed anything. When his name was asked this new person answered: Bobby. My friend insisted on the real name and realized that the new fellow was a Muslim. Gosh! How difficult would it be to live along with an enemy?
Upon getting to know that the new fellow was a social worker, my friend began interacting with him. They talked about the most recurrent questions that create doubts in the minds of people who are unaware. Jamal accepted that there were some problems but for most other things he gave persuasive answers. It were these conversations that made him realize that most of the notions that he used to hold about Muslims were ill-conceived and were little based on facts and more upon the hatred preached by those venom spitting oldies.
My friend’s attitude changed and it changed for good. He came out of the shell and began enquiry with an open mind. Meanwhile, my friend prepared for the MBA entrance and made it to one of the most prominent minority institution in Delhi, a university offering professional courses: Jamia Hamdard. It was here that my friend, for the first time realized how it feels to be numerically less. If he felt a bit ‘different’ just because the majority of students were Muslims, it was entirely possible and justified for Muslims to do so in a country which is overwhelmingly Hindu in character.
As he spent a little time here, he realized that the majority of his friends were ‘normal’ people, with dreams and aspirations of making it big one day. Yes, there did exist a lunatic fringe that had ulterior motives; but by and large, he did not notice any hate whatsoever against him in anyone’s eyes. He did the unthinkable, stayed at hostel with Muslim friends helping them with Organizational Behaviour and Managerial Economics and getting helped with Financial Management and Quantitative Techniques.
There was this incident when the naughty but likable Shadab broke down completely while talking to his Ammi (Mother). Where is the difference, my friend wondered! Same human emotions govern us all alike. Then came the fasting month of Ramadan, it was he who would give missed calls to close to a dozen classmates as an alarm at the time of Sehri (the time in the early morning for one to eat something, following which Roza or Fast would start). He would share Iftar (breaking the day’s fast) with the friends in return.
One day, my friend went to Ber Sarai with a female friend to get some old books at concession prices. It was when he ran out of money that he spotted a sleek copy of The Song Celestial (Gita). He recalled an incident during his graduation class when he was arguing with his young female Oriya teacher at Venky about the importance of the unification of Hindus. The teacher asked my friend that whether he had read The Bhagavad-Gita, the most potent source of Hindu darshan? My friend was taken off-guard.
He immediately borrowed 200 bucks from the female friend and purchased the Penguin edition. He avidly read the text and realized that the true Hinduism was altogether different from what he had believed it to be! Hinduism is so conceptualized that it possible to include anything and everything within it. Its strength is its tolerance and malleability. Whether you are a believer or an atheist, a Shivaite or a Vaishnavite, an Aryan or a Dravidian; you are a Hindu all the same.
Fellow Indians, my friend exhorts you all not to play into the hands of a lunatic minority within us who claim that we are in danger. Don’t forget, they only say while extolling the virtues of our great religion that Hinduism has no beginning and has no End as well (Na Aadi Na Ant). He agrees in totality and therefore suggests that there is just no need to be afraid of a perceptual threat which anyways doesn’t exist.
God Bless All!