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I see beard, I think terrorist.
That is the truth of the matter, and the crux of all that follows.
Perhaps beginning with a disclaimer would have been wiser. But hey, better late than never. All ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are my own and represent no other - living or dead...or maybe they do. But just as a point, this is just a rant, no offence meant. (And please remind me NOT to apply for any jobs for the post of disclaimer writer)
Mumbai, my new home, has a lot of things I don't like. Monsoons and Muslims lead the race. Why monsoons? Because they suck. And why Muslims? Uh...they suck too. For starters, the mosque joined at the hip with the building I live in is the bane of my life. That mullah/maulvi/maulana, or whatever it is that they are called, screeching azaans five friggin times in a day beginning at 5 effing 'O clock! (Are you guys sure Mr Allah wakes up that early?)
Secondly, a huge procession of them topiwalas, with their band-baajas, is passing from right under my house just when I'm trying to put baby to sleep. Aaaaaargh!
'So what?', you may ask. 'Don't you know Ganeshotsav's right around the corner.' Sigh. I know, I know. When I point a finger at them, the other three point right back at me. Yet, a biased Hindu that I am, I will leave no chance to find fault with them Greens - however flimsy the grounds.
Yes, I have an MA, I am liberal enough to smoke before my in-laws, I broke rules and married a Christian, but I cannot get myself to behave 'normally' with a Muslim colleague - just because he sports a beard. If I didn't look at him, or looked only neck down, he could be a buddy. He wears jeans, he talks cool, he even brings French toast for dabba! But he will never be my friend because he is an Ansari and not an Adhikari.
Frankly, I don't know much about Muslims. My GK about that huge part of the world community is restricted to the Khans of Bollywood, Mughal history, Biryani, the Taj Mahal, and some stray words like Mecca, Haji, Talaaq and what have you. But sadly, the stronger repertoire consists of words like terrorist, Al-Qaeda, Osama, Sharia, stoning, bombing, killing, many wives, many-er kids, uneducated and dangerously provocative.
With any newspaper on any given day throwing up names like Javed and Farid and Aslam and Mohammad in almost all crime stories, my beliefs only get stronger. This, with years of hate conditioning, a separatist, collective consciousness and lack of exposure has left me with little choice of perspective. Funny, how I've learnt to not learn the lessons in secularism.
But I've tried. I've tried to read and understand, in vain, about Islam, reveled in the exquisite arts that Muslims are masters of, gorged on the most delectable of Mughlai cuisines, but the prejudice refuses to budge. One white skull cap or one black burkha is all it takes for me to clench my jaw, cringe my nose and generally get all worked up. My personal walls go right up.
I'll probably never be able to accept a Muslim as a normal, living, breathing human being. To me, they'll always remain 'they', 'the others', 'the minority'. (Heaven help me if I ever have to live out of India.)
It must be difficult to unbelong, thus. It must be one heck of a curse to live with preconceived and wrong notions about yourself. It must be extraordinarily tough to have to prove yourself at every step of the way, just because you are not what most others are. Viren (my Catholic husband) says I'll never understand what it feels like to be a 'minority'. Perhaps I won't. Perhaps I will. Jishnu is supposed to be raised as a Catholic. The thought scares me to no end. It terrifies me to think of all the unfair burdens he may have to live with...
May the world have fewer people like me. :(