How to be?

I want you to imagine that you are Queen Elizabeth I of England, a protestant ruler of a Catholic-dominated country. Now, imagine you are Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar, Shahanshah of Hindustan married to a Hindu princess, Jodha Bai aka Mariam-uz-Zamani. Now, think that you are A.P.J Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of a Democratic India, a Hindu dominated nation.

The three people mentioned above had a lot of power. They had an entire country to rule, as a matter of fact, in the case of Queen Elizabeth I and Shahanshah Akbar more than just one country. And even though people were trying to take their places and people who were disobeying their orders, they still had the power to execute and I’m pretty sure that they did kill thousands of people just because they could, after all, they were kings and queens. In the case of Dr Kalam, people didn’t always have to agree with his opinion or point of view since we live in a democratic country but if anyone had tried to kill him, it would have caused civil unrest as seen in the case of PM Indira Gandhi.

Now, these were some really powerful people. Let’s think of someone who was/is not so powerful, a common man. Imagine that you are a Muslim living in 1949, per se, in Ayodhya, India. Declared an independent nation just two years ago, the country is dealing with identity issues. 22 December 1949, Hindus broke into Babri Masjid and placed idols of Ram and Sita inside. Since it’s a democratic country, you go to the court but guess what, back then you didn’t know that they were going to demolish the mosque 43 years later. You didn’t just lose a historically important mosque, you lost your Hindu friends, your neighbours and the unrest that was caused when Hindus placed the idols also took away your family. This happened 71 years ago but in 2017, Dusshera and Muharram date clashed which means many communal clashes also erupted in our country. Many people died in the name of religion, again.

Now imagine that you are a Hindu girl living in Pakistan. The fact that you are a Hindu is enough to piss off the Muslim population of Pakistan but being a girl makes it worse. You are better dead than alive. A few days ago, I found myself googling why Hindus hate Muslims and vice-versa. Before, during and after the partition of Hindustan into India and Pakistan, both Hindu and Muslim community developed a lot of hatred towards each other. 

My grandmother was born in the Pakistan region before the partition. She was five when she had to move to India, she remembers being on a bus and a lot of people being killed, but she made it in one piece. If you think about it, if the Muslims wouldn’t have helped her, she wouldn’t be alive, and so I wouldn’t be alive. It’s not just my grandma’s family, there are a million other Hindus out there who are alive because their Muslim friends helped them cross the border. The same thing goes for Muslims, there are many Muslims in Pakistan who survived because their Hindu friends helped them but guess what, It’s not just us.

Now let’s imagine that you are a young Sikh boy in 1984 living in Delhi. It’s 31 October 1984, you find out that PM Indira Gandhi, has been shot dead by her two Sikh bodyguards. Your father never returned from his office, you don’t know whether he is dead or alive. Your entire family is panicking, hiding, crying and your long kesh(hair) has been chopped off, you have been stripped of your identity. You are not a Sikh anymore. In 1984, from 31st October to 3rd November, more than 2700 Sikhs were killed in Delhi.

Now imagine that you are a Jew living in Holland during the Second World War. Why was Hitler anti-Semitic? According to the Anne Frank House, there are countless imaginative explanations for the reasons for Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Hitler is said to have been ashamed of his partly Jewish roots. Another explanation links his hatred of Jews to trauma caused by a poison gas attack in the First World War. Yet other theories suggest that Hitler had contracted a venereal disease from a Jewish prostitute. There are, however, no facts to support these explanations. When Adolf Hitler was busy killing six million Jews, there were many Aryans who risked their own lives, got themselves killed just to protect some Jews, and we know that because we all read about it in our history books, Diary of Anne Frank and Jojo Rabbit. I am not going to lie, I cried so much when Scarlett Johansson was killed.

There is something that I want to ask you. India and China have had a difficult relationship for a long time. The two countries fight a lot but do we Hindus hate the Indian Buddhist community or the Tao community? No, we don’t. The Dutch colonised parts of India from 1605 to 1825, the French from 1668 to 1954, the Portuguese from 1628 to 1633 and the Britishers ruled India for about 190 years. But do we hate the Christian community? No, we don’t.

I know that you are probably going to argue that the British built our trains, our houses, our college, and they helped us develop. But might I remind you that the Mughal also did a lot of things for us. They made India rich in almost every possible way, they gave us food, architecture, jewels, culture and respect as well and the Mughal were also Muslims.

My question is why do we attract toxicity more than something good for us? I mean it takes me five days to decide my next outfit and it took five days for Romeo and Juliet to know, love and ultimately be the cause of each other’s death. This is only an imaginary situation but let’s consider Hitler.

Anti-semitism is not a new concept, the Jews have been hated by Christians since the Middle Ages. But this one man hated them so much that he made almost all of Europe hate them as much as he did, and killed six million of the Jewish population. He did that because the Germans gave him the power to do so. What if Indira Gandhi’s assassins were Hindu, someone from her religion, would people have dared to kill Hindus in a Hindu dominated country? 

I just want to put it out there, Indira Gandhi was the Indian Prime Minister who was convicted of a minor election infraction and was banned from politics for six years but instead she declared a state of emergency throughout India, imprisoned thousands of political opponents, and restricted personal freedoms in the country. She also sued author Salman Rushdie because of a single line against her in his book, ‘Midnight’s Children’ (must read), the same year she was assassinated.

A few days ago, one of my English Professors was discussing the article, ‘ I’m here to understand what you mean by Taliban’ by Arundhati Roy. In that article, she said, “There are thousands of Pakistani and Indian soldiers deployed on the Siachen glacier. Both of our countries are spending billions of dollars on high altitude warfare and weapons. The whole of the Siachen glacier is sort of an icy monument to human folly. Each day it is being filled with ice axes, old boots, tents and so on. 

Meanwhile, that battlefield is melting. Siachen glacier is about half its size now. It’s not melting because the Indian and Pakistani soldiers are on it. But it’s because people somewhere on the other side of the world are leading a good life in countries that call themselves democracies that believe in human rights and free speech. Their economies depend on selling weapons to both of us. Now, when that glacier melts, there will be floods first, then there will be a drought and then we’ll have even more reasons to fight. We’ll buy more weapons from those democracies and in this way, human beings will prove themselves to be the stupidest animals on earth.”

India and Pakistan have a very violent history and I don’t know who needs to hear this but hating another religion isn’t going to take you anywhere. Your religion doesn’t define you, you do. You do you. I remember going to Jama Masjid to have biryani with my friends and there was not a single person who eve-teased or mistreated me. What was I wearing? Trousers and a sleeveless top. Religion doesn’t define the sort of person you are, only you do.

When you get to know that Azim Premji is the CEO of Wipro, you don’t care that he’s Muslim, you care that he’s Indian. When you get to know that Francisco D’Souza was the CEO of Cognizant, the fact that he’s Christian didn’t matter, what matters is that he’s Indian. Also, it doesn’t matter if Satya Nadela, Sundar Pichai and Indra Nooyi are Hindu, the fact that these Indians are the CEOs of Microsoft, Google and PepsiCo, respectively matters.

The question isn’t of being a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian, the question isn’t of existence or self-identification or to be or not to be anymore. The question now is how to be.

Hello, everyone! If you liked this Poem, do check out the related posts. Comment and like if you would like to read more similar works from the author. And don’t forget to share this on your social media channels.

Hi! I am Simran Tuteja. I am a twenty-year-old undergraduate student majoring in Mathematics from the University of Delhi. In 2019, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety disorder and that is when I started writing. I am a writer for The Teen Magazine and DamnFitt magazine. I also have a WordPress blog.


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