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Intolerant India: Being of a Different Faith
What constitutes an Indian? Are you Indian if you are born in India or is it your Indian genes which make you Indian? Are you not Indian if you are of a different religion or pray to a different God? Are you seen just as a number, a vote bank by conniving politicians in the great tumult of the Indian Elections?
Sabina Himani, an Indian artist who is Muslim and lives in New York, offers her ‘humble thoughts’ on a comment which has dogged her through the years and now she hears once again about Muslims, due to the elections.
“All Muslims should leave India and go live in Pakistan ..”
And now suddenly this is once again a part of the debate in today’s ‘intolerant’ India.
Her answer to all those who make that statement:
“First of all, the audacity, nerve and sheer idiocy behind such statements blows me away. That people can still talk this way in this day and age – is a bit surreal. Being a Muslim, born and brought up in India, a place that I grew up regarding as not just home, but literally, my motherland … how do I even begin to express the hurt and pain a simple statement like this can cause?”
Many Indias, All One India
The Indian Mosaic
“My closest friends growing up were Hindus, Christians, Parsis, Baha’is … we delighted in sharing our food, customs, festivals and stories – I must admit here I enjoyed Holi even more than Eid. I prayed at the feet of the statue of Christ and Virgin Mary in the convent chapel before exams, happily lighted diyas, firecrackers and made beautiful rangoli every Diwali. That even after leaving India as a young bride, more than 25 years ago, a simple played out ghazal like ‘Chitthi aayi hai’ can still bring on hot tears of nostalgia every time I hear it. That memories of banyan trees, sacred cows, temple bells ringing alongside soulful azaans are sights and sounds ingrained in me.
So say, if I still lived in India … and did ‘move to Pakistan’ ( as per the suggestions of some … er .. enlightened individuals ) … what do I do about this pungent Indian blood running through my veins, the fierce patriotic love I will always feel for my country? Would you have me cut open my veins and spill that out too?”
The Colonization of the Mind
Facebook is increasingly the public square where friends can connect and share their dilemmas. When Sabina Himani posted this on her Facebook page, she got scores of responses which showed that this thoughtless comment is still being asked of Indian Muslims, but the majority of Indians do not like it.
Another Indian Muslim responded, “It is painful, though there are extremists and close minded people in every religion. Indian Muslims, Indian Sikhs and Indian Christians will always be Indian and proud of it. We just need for our true Hindu Indians to have a louder voice than these imbeciles.”
Yet another wrote, “When will India start thinking about what is good for the collective vs pandering to the megalomania of individual politicians? The British were effective not just in walking in and looting the country of its material wealth but also in looting our minds with their policy of divide and rule. In essence we’re still colonized. Sadly.”
And of course, cricket had to come into a conversation about Muslims, India and Pakistan: a Hindu wrote, “I couldn’t agree more.. Being married to a Muslim I see it firsthand…a physician asked my husband whether he supports Pakistan during India vs. Pakistan cricket matches because he is Muslim?”
Most voiced the emotions that another commenter expressed in quoting Rumi: “‘I looked in temples, churches and mosques. I found the Divine within my Heart.”
India’s greatest strength is her diversity and if tainted and misused by its holy men and its politicians, it can become its killing field, its burning ghat.
Himani, who is from Mumbai and was a student of English literature and psychology at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, is now an artist in New York who paints with oils on canvas. She brings her strong belief in the oneness and richness of India into her paintings. You can see her work HERE One of her most cherished paintings is ‘Cosmos’: ” It is an amalgam of colors and to me, perfectly reflects the beauty of diversity in India.”
Time for all of us to embrace the many faces, the many religions and the many colors of India. They are all part of the DNA of the nation and a divisive, crass comment hurts us all. Each of us is indeed our sister’s keeper.
What do you think? Please share your opinion.