Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Every time I used to mention a name from school at home as a teenager, I remember my grandmother asking me what religion my friend belonged to. She used to say that making out one's religion or in many cases caste was difficult - everyone had modern names. I would then wrack my brains and sometimes get it right, most often I would have no clue.

What do you do when you have a Roshni George or a Hira Yusuf as classmates? But the truth is that wasn't a question we actively sought an answer to. It was never a 'cool' question nor did it really ever matter...Now was that 'secular' thinking...

I didn't think of it that way then, but just the other day a friend's dissertation had me thinking. The questions weren't all that comfortable..They were on multiculturalism...And the worst is when you are standing on a majority perch, talking about 'multicultarism' and minority sentiments and trying to objectively analyse how one felt about it. It sometimes comes out as pontificating..and to some answers of mine, I myself thought, 'Heck, what do you know about it?'

To me the black and white baseline about being secular is about not thinking of a person's religious background or upbringing the first time I meet them...and maybe then broaden it to respect, appreciation and even accepting and adopting 'slices of life'.

After all for Indians, isn't culture a huge fat melting pot...and multi-cultarism a word that has never been segmented and differentiated? Hasn't India over the centuries, allowed every religion it encountered some living space and a lot of growing space...and with its teeming millions guaranteed followers too?

So when did the questioning begin of whether the fabric of this nation is still secular? To a pointed question on whether I thought India's secular fabric was at threat, I wrote NO...Is that naivete? Aint I right when I say its a narrow perspective that extrapolates incidents which did momentarily threaten India's secular fabric to represent a general view.

For I dont believe there has been a complete polarisation of communities, but a distrust that has finally been fed and fostered by political parties who have built and rebuilt their votebanks on it. The turning point in Hindu-Muslim relations was definitely the Ayodhya issue followed by the riots in Mumbai, which was further aggravated by the Godhra riots. Nor can we blink out the Anti-Sikh riots or the Kandhamal violence.

Why is the word 'minority appeasement' so dirty in its slant? I don't think I did a good job of that questionnaire, because I have not thought these questions through in my mind. Am I seeing my country through pink curtains and a soft focus lens? Or is it that an urban existence inures me from encountering bias? My name never merits a second double check, I know of friends who are bitter about living in a country where very often their name goes against them. Despite hearing about these, I still believe this does not hold true by and large...Am I wrong in still believing my nation is secular? Or Wonder if its the theory of relative existence?

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