Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Love thy neighbor

Allow me to explain my indolence. I have been suffused with loads of work and whatever remained of my time -- went to the understanding of ‘History of God’ by Karen Armstrong. I've read Armstrong previously and I think -- in this case -- she has a beautiful and enlightened comprehension of both -- the concept and the history of God. I like her arguments, which kept me engrossed in all my unslept hours during this past week. Consequently I continued to remain in a state of bloglessness. [Phew: What an excuse!]

For quite some time now I have been wanting to blog on an insecurity that seems to have crept overnight in our lives like an untamed creeper. This is about the Muslim vulnerability after the recent bombs in Delhi. They are feeling victimised and estranged. Although not very visible, the funk is subtle and prevalent. I can gather the sentiment from the pamphlets that have suddenly appeared in the upscale Muslim neighborhood I live in. The Jamia Milia Islamiya has also put up banners extolling its secular credentials. Elsewhere there are hushed whispers. There is a talk of victimization and identity. The PM spoke about it the other day. The mass media and cheap bollywood fare is adding to this sensation.

It appears funny though. How could a spate of bombs -- even if planted by a handful of misguided Muslim men -- shatter the confidence of an entire community. Are India's societal bonds so weak? The Muslims, perhaps, think about the Sikh predicament in 1984, following the killing of Mrs. Gandhi. She was gunned down, as is widely known, by her Sikh body guards but why did 2,800 Sikhs have to die for the dastardly act of a handful of their co-religionists. That was about 24 years back, you try to assuage. Gujarat was recent, the Muslim mindset appears to say. In both cases, Delhi 1984 and Gujarat 2002 -- the police sided with the goons.

Perhaps we are not a civilized society after all? And all this cloying talk of secularism and plurality goes for a toss, with the hiss of a tyre blast. I flunk to understand: Is this a lack of civility and values [the muddle-heads are the first ones to resort to violence] or a problem with our collective perception [most of the middle class feeds off the idiot box and the crassness emanating from it]. Or some concoction, with a dash of our religious prejudices. Is this a nation of morons?

I've never felt alienated in any way -- during all my years in Delhi -- but it would be unfair to assume that everything is hunky-dory. There is a shift taking place, somewhere deep, very subtly, like the crack of ice in early spring. One can notice it in the number of suspicious glances drawn by the mere sight of a skullcap in a restaurant. The mention of a Muslim first name is enough to make the other person look at you -- over again, may be with a mix of horror and unease. Is this the end of all commonality?

Politics in India is shallow business. The right-wing crap generates a lot of excitement amongst the masses. Electronic media is totally gross. Mutual suspicion is growing. Tempers are frayed. It just needs a tinder. Another blast, may be, before we openly bay for each others blood.

The colorful, multi-thread fabric of India is decaying.