Myths about Indian Muslims?

Much has been made about the IBN-CNN survey on myths about Indian Muslims (click headline link). It was supposed to be a liberal take and all that. The following is my take…

I would register my protest at the extremely patronising survey. Every ‘myth’ here has an even more fabulistic analysis.

Besides, they have polarised the two communities, instead of bringing in the others. There is every reason to discuss Muslim issues, but not on a major event as Republic Day. What were they trying to convey? That the Constitution has to be reinterpreted or that is has not been adhered to by one community?

Let us take the myths:

1.Myth of Muslim Population.

They say, Muslims “overestimate their own population”.

I say: It goes against the discussion where you state they are insecure.

2.Myth of Extra-territorial Loyalty.

They say, “This myth is not spoken about, but hinted at and whispered…In this survey, all but two per cent of the Muslims said they were ‘proud’ or ‘very proud’ of being an Indian. A clear majority of Muslims said they are first an Indian and then a Muslim.”
I say: Are you hinting and whispering too? How did you pick up the courage to even ask such a question? Can you define pride? Suppose a Muslim were to ask inconvenient questions about the administration, the law, social mores, would they be deemed to be disloyal? And what is this business about what you are first? People are several things besides their religion and their nationality. Grow up and look out of the window.

3.Myth of Islam and Democracy.

They say, “Three-fourth of Muslims, about the same proportion as the Hindus, are firm in their rejection of any non-democratic alternatives.”

I say: How is “the same proportion as Hindus” a proviso? Why was this poser necessary in a secular democracy? Do you think Indian Muslims people some cuckoo land in their minds where they dream of an Arabian Nights adventure of being flogged to death?

4.Myth of Muslim Personal Law.

They say, “69 % chose livelihood issues as compared to only 4% who talked about religious matters. An overwhelming majority of Muslims, more women than men, disapprove of the practice of polygamy as well as ‘triple talaq’”

I say: I am curious about how this question was posed. Like, did you ask them, “Khaana chahiye ya talaq?” You call this a myth? This is completely lacking in common sense.

5.Myth of Muslim Appeasement.

They say, “One out of every five Muslims interviewed in this survey said they had personally faced discrimination on religious grounds. The more educated and better-off Muslims experienced greater discrimination.”

I say: Appeasement is a sop; it has nothing to do with discrimination. That is the reason the more educated people are the easier it is for them to see through the game. Besides, a kaarigar in the interiors of a village is worried about survival and does not understand the concept of appeasement.

6.Myth of Irreparable Hindu-Muslim Rift.

They say, “Only 13% Muslims feel that the rift cannot be bridged, about the same feel that it made no difference in the first place. The largest number of Muslims feel Gujarat did cause serious tensions, but now things are getting back to normal.”

I say: And this survey was sponsored by Narendra Modi? On a more serious note, Hindus and Muslims do not think in terms of a rift in day-to-day life. But the communal cleavage is not something to be sniffed at. Daily life is always back to ‘normal’.

For the rest, it is all about bricks and stones.


Oh deah, why am I not a-whining?

My tongue feels like heavy metal. And some rock! I hear the term whiner and I chortle. I really got to do it. Then they will know what the word means.

One day I suddenly got giddy-headed. The room was doing a waltz around me. After an hour or so of watching this slow dancing, I decided to hold on to a chair and get up. The doc said the blood pressure had dropped lower than a Hindi film heroine's pallu. Ok, she said it was dreadfully low. "Get a fruit juice immediately," she said. So, there I was sitting in the middle of the road drinking off every little drop till I came to the end of the carton, pushed the straw further in and went, "tsu-tsu". It had to replenish me.

I couldn't stop laughing after that. I mean some watery grapes, strawberries can control my life? The little swines!

Then for 15 odd days from end-December to January something I was down with flu. Real bad. When I was not sniffling, my throat was real deep. One day I flashed a torch inside and saw how cavernous it was. What secrets it held...I would suck on lozenges to keep it lubricated. It was all very sexy.

Then a few days ago I was propped up nicely on a stool at a store when I felt this terrible ache. In the car, I bent over. The first thing I did on reaching home was to strip to the bare minimum and lie on the bed. I watched the ceiling and it felt as though it wanted to come down to me. It would be too large and hard an embrace, so I declined the offer...

Now I am down with an infection. The antibiotics need to complete a five-day course. It makes me feel like I am attending some seminar on the art of living. You know, you have to get out all the bad stuff and swallow bitter pills to find your self blah.

Every morning I wake up with this bitterness. But it is only in my mouth. The rest of me says I have to switch on the computer and get down to basics. I do.

Hey world, tell me, if life is a bitch, then why the hell does it not wag its tail at me?


Save Delete?

I had gone cold and from my dry throat I could feel something aching to come out. I went to the sink, my face all aflush. I was ready for some real heavy-duty non-medical pain now. Sure enough it came...which is why at 3 am I was thinking about the travesties of life and trying to throw up. Damn, I could not even bring up anything decent.

As I looked in the bathroom mirror, I was forced to confront myself with just one question: do I always have to react to everything? Why does one assume that words said in mellow moments are meant to be taken seriously or as permanent seals of your destiny?

I am tired of the “You are kind of different” line in every sphere of my life. Because that is a nice way to place me on some high rock and meet me when the urge for adventure sports creeps into a routine life. I know I was not designed for mundanity as it is understood, but I need my simpering smiles for the soul just like everyone else.

I know that this is a contradiction. How often have I protested against these niches. And I protest again as I read words that I am sure have been uttered so many times before to so many others -- Must one like being judged on a scale?

Must one feel good that you have touched people “where others have always missed”? Is this an archery contest? A hit-the-bull's-eye at some funland? Is being “a maverick” not a cul de sac? Does one want to be that, knowing well that the next step is falling short and being told, “Oh, so you too want to be like the rest?”

How does one say that there are some things that are done for everyone, but they must be done in special ways? From a distance crystal and glass look pretty much the same. So even if crystal is told it is crystal, but after being informed about the wine being drunk from the glass, and the glass with its long stem standing there as a reminder of its presence, it defeats the purpose.

A Lalique vase filled with salty water can do nothing for flowers that have weathered many storms and prefer to wither away.

Life is just a delete button away. Promises were never rose gardens, memories are not written in indelible ink.

In the dark, I reach out for the water and pick out a tablet, hoping it is the sedative. Won't make a difference. All these are placebos to make us believe we are alive. I pop the pill, water drops spilling on my chin. I shut my eyes.

I think sleep broke the dream I had...


Come into my purrlour!

Are people really harsh on women writers because they are women? I do not want to accept that. I have been in denial although I have written several times about it, hoping it was not the complete truth. Someone just sent me a link to a Maureen Dowd article and it left me with a sense of déjà vu.

I can recount tens of instances where being a woman seemed to be my only identity as a professional.

*The editor who commented on the colour of my nail varnish.*The male colleague who wondered why I worked at all considering I had a keen sense of couture aesthetics and a chandelier in my house.
*The interviewer who was doing a cover story on the new woman who went to great lengths to describe my clothes, my hair, my jewellery, my perfume, and then wrote about how he wondered what I could be – a scruffy feminist, a coquette, a dominatrix with a whip, a Muse… *The reader who was aghast about my boldness, but chose to call me a “frustrated bitch”.
*The other reader who came in to ‘defend’ me by telling him off with the wonderful claim that I was more likely to be the sort who had multiple orgasms.*If men appreciate you, then your feminism is seen to be suspect.
*If women appreciate you, then you are gay or a feminazi with a moustache.*If you talk about vaginas and breasts, you are sexually obsessed.
*If you talk about politics…guess what?...you are sexually frustrated!*If you like to enjoy the good life, then you are just so elitist and have no business to have a social conscience.
*If you discuss activism, then you are either a hypocrite or a killjoy with dirty fingernails.*If you decide to be visible and shoulder responsibility for your views and actions, then they will say you are an attention-getter.

*If there are things where you do not want to be associated with and stay invisible, then they will say you are misusing your powers….
Recently, I have had more than one reason to smile. Some people have started rating me. Due to the guidelines that are in effect, that bit was removed. Now, they start ranting that this is being done because by playing watchdog I will stay in their line of vision for I do not want to be forgotten! They start the rating, the discussions because they cannot forget…and then they blame the recipient of their remembrance….wow….and this passes for analysis of character. How very trivial.

Reminds me of Ambrose Bierce saying,
Mark how my fame rings out from zone to zone
A thousand critics shouting, “He’s unknown!”

I do not believe it is necessary to flash it if you have it.

About my first ever column I had no idea that I was the only woman on the edit page for four years. Till they pointed it out when they introduced another woman and said I would have “company”.

When they started using caricatures, it was all the male columnists who protested; I loved it.

Yet, even today, there is the belief that you are peopling a man’s world, whatever the heck that means. As I had written a while ago…

Imagine me dancing like a dervish, tongue hanging out, hair askew, eyes darting back and forth in a mad frenzy, body heaving between gasps of breath. Not tough, eh? Who else could be the ideal candidate to send you on this fantasy trip, but the one who takes on all those penile dysfunctions, without even bothering about their religious significance?

That’s it. They expect you to always be a gleam in someone’s eyes. The moment you kick up dust and a speck of it finds its way into those orbs, you irritate the hell out of them. No, you do not provoke. You irritate. Because they cannot handle you. Sometimes, when they are at a loss for words, and defensive people usually are, they finalise your fate in that one unspoken delectable phrase: Female hysteria.

And why don’t I mind it too much? Because I know that it is the first sign that you have made an impact. It may have all kinds of nasty connotations, but when you think about it, you have had your say, and, more importantly, you have not withered in the force of the typhoon.


The Doll's House

A sad end to a sad life: Gudiya died of septicaemia. She was 26. A simple village girl who was used by the media. Did they keep track of her life? Did they care to see how she was faring?

This is what I wrote on September 27,2004:

Gudiya had to go through this humiliation. Everyone knows about the case of this young woman in a UP village whose husband, Mohammed Arif, was called a deserter when he went missing during the Kargil War. When it was recently discovered that he was in a Pakistani jail, he was brought back. Meanwhile, when he had disappeared, Gudiya’s and Arif’s families decided to get her remarried. She seemed happy enough with Taufiq and is now eight months pregnant with his child. Muslim clerics deemed that since she was not divorced from Arif she should return to him; he has refused to accept the child. So Gudiya will have to keep the child with her parents 10 days after her delivery. That is all the time Arif will give her.

Zee TV virtually dragged these people to the studios and conducted an on-camera panchayat where these decisions were taken. Gudiya remained a mute doll, forced to accept words of the Shariat being mouthed by those present. It is being said that a fair public judgment was passed. Gudiya had been quoted as saying earlier that she would not give up her child and was happy with Taufiq. But she has been given no choice.

The rest of the story is linked to the headline.