Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Their Temple, Their Mosque

Today, the customary call from my mom ends with an uncustomary word of caution, ‘be careful and avoid going out between the 24th and the 26th of this month’. I have asked her to do the same. My parents stay in Faizabad. I stay in Mumbai. To the uninformed, September 24, 2010, is the day when the Allahabad high court’s Lucknow bench announces its verdict on the 60 year old case on the disputed site in Ayodhya. To the informed, the connection is evident.

As a student of literature, I have learnt that a comparative study of the private and the public history of a particular event is an interesting exercise in demystification of that event’s absolute truth. Often, there is a conflict between the personal and the public memory of the same event. Fact is permeated by the shadow lines of subjectivity and fiction.

My mom’s call makes me put this theory to test. I decide to have a chat with my nation. Have a look.

NATION: In 1949, idols of Ram, Laxman and Sita mysteriously appear inside the Babri mosque, Ayodhya.
ME: Is it? Do the idols appear as ‘mysteriously’ as the English disappear from our country?

I am hysterical with laughter.

NATION: What? What is so funny?
ME: Nothing. ‘Mysteriously’ has become my favourite word. It gets me cracking!
NATION: In 1950, Mahant Paramhans Ramchandra Das starts the litigation process.
ME: But, our Constitution is just born! The Mahant should have been sued for child labour. Err... in the English court!

Nation is appalled at my audacity.

ME: (With a great sense of achievement). In 1985, I am born!
NATION: (Sarcastically). And, you are not the Constitution.
ME: But, I take birth in the military hospital, Faizabad – Ayodhya’s twin sister!
NATION: Whatever! (Thinks for a while). On December 6, 1992, Babri Masjid is demolished.
ME: A seven-year old me studies at the Central school, Air Force Cant, Agra.
ME: So, nothing! The seven-year old me and my friend Sana wonder what Babri Masjid is and why you seem so worked up!
Anyway, in 1994, my father takes voluntary retirement from the Indian Air Force and re-locates in Faizabad. I join J.B. Academy as a grade four student.

Nation Ignores me, and is busy looking into the security arrangements for the 24th. I continue.

In March-April, 2002, there is an influx of karsevaks in my city. The city is barricaded. So, our home exams are postponed. We are thrilled!
NATION: You are thrilled!

Nation is horrified.

ME: Of course! Your history is easy to study, Chemistry isn’t. I get more time to prepare. (Grinning now). But, won’t you conduct a research on the percentage of thrilled Muslim students?
NATION: (Furiously). Is it a joke for you? I have just witnessed one of the worst riots in my history, the Godhara carnage!
ME: (Quietly). And, you let it happen…

Our dialogue ends here.

I know the idols should not have ‘mysteriously appeared’ in 1949. I know that December 6, 1992 should not have happened. But, we have had opportunities to redeem ourselves 1992 onwards. We can not forgive ourselves for Godhara. Because, the seven year old Sana does not know what ‘Babri Masjid’ is. Because, while the ‘child’ me rejoices at the postponed exams, she is also irritated with the karsevaks for usurping her city to build a temple. She does not want them. She does not want their temple. Her Ram resides in her home, her heart; just as Sana’s Allah resides in hers. Because, when Sana is told :"Zarre- zarre mein uska noor hai/ Jhaank khud mein na wo tujhse door hai/ Ismein usmein aur usmein hai wo hi/ yaar mera har taraf bharpoor hai "; I am told the same:"Ram to ghar-ghar mein hain/ Ram har aangan mein hain/ Mann se Raavan jo nikale/ Ram uske mann mein hain."

The city of my birth, and the city which I now call home are being ‘prepared’ for the 24th. The rest of the ‘sensitive’ pockets elsewhere in the country too, are being put on alert. What kind of justice is going to be meted out on the 24th? A justice that puts the entire nation under scare! A justice that robs our freedom to move! A justice that puts our fundamental right to live, under probable threat! Hitherto, proud of their inter-faith heritage, socio-cultural harmony and long syncretic tradition, the twin-cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad are going to be marked forever by a justice that has long lost its power to be just.

Whatever the verdict is on the 24th, I don’t care. Neither does Sana. Nor do the twin-cities. I hope we have company.

Mandir to ban jaayega
Par Ram kahan se laaoge?
Uss masjid ki deewaron ko
Kya pak kabhi kar paaoge?
Jis chaukhat par log jale
Ram wahan na jaayenge
Jin galiyaron mein khoon gira
Maula kya reh paayenge?


  1. To start with, India is not that bad a place if you look at the even worse ones. But yes, we should always look at the better ones and change.

    Sometimes, I wonder what this concept of religion has brought to the mankind. May be we were better off without God, that would have at least saved a few riots/killings/massacres. Faith is a good thing, but only till it does not interfere with common sense. Is it the lack of education, it is about blind faith, or is it just some negativity in our society....what ever it is, it's the truth. Personally, I feel the best solution would be to just keep on deferring it as long as possible. But may be, these wise people have a better solution. I hope !!!

    Just for the information, Babri Masjid was built in 1528, Rancharitmanas was written in 1574. How can there be a temple at the site. And the first petition was filed in 1886, {2010-1886 != 60} :P
    Courtesy: Wiki

  2. @Nivedita

    You were doing great as an artist on this blog..your poetry is in a league of of its own for someone so young...are you sure you want to dabble in political commentry? As a reader of your blog I would be disappointed to see politics on this space..but thats just me..may be others wouldn't..all the best..

    I dont know what existed there before 1528 but going by your logic, since 'Discovery of India' was written in 1942-46, how could India exist before that? :) For the sake of the believability of your existence today, I hope nobody writes a book on you 50 years from now :)

  3. @Niel: Ever heard of the difference between history and mythology?

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. @Nidhi

    All the best with what YOU have 'heard'. I dont want to quarrel on this beautiful blog. It would be rude to Nivedita. My apologies if I have hurt you. Hope that settles it.


    Sorry for this little argument I caused..you might want to delete my comments for Nidhi..blogger doesnt allow me to do that..

    Lets get back to poetry please :)

    Zameen bhi uski, zameen ki yeh neymatein uski
    yeh sab usi ka hai, ghar bhi, yeh ghar ke bandey bhi
    Khuda se kahiye kabhi voh bhi apne ghar aaye!


  6. Nidhi and Neil, thank you for visiting. Feels nice to be read!:-)A little rushed at the moment. But, I have to come back soon to respond. Till then, kuchh tum socho, kuchh hum sochein...shayad woh khoyi nazm mil jaaye! :-)

    P.S: I like the alliteration in our names!Pleasant coincidence. Isn't it?:-)

  7. @Nidhi: I agree with you. I wouldn't want to belong to any other country but India!

    Although I understand your point-of-view, honestly I have not been in favour of deferring the judgement. We need to have faith in the power that we have given to our judiciary. Once justice has been meted out we must have the strength and maturity to accept and uphold it. Else it speaks badly of us as a mature democratic nation.

    Oh!'My source' mentions the 1950 petition filed by the Mahant. 2010-1950=60! Hence!:-) That's what my point has been. If there is no absolute truth, if there are 'versions' of a truth, how can we fight for one?

    Please keep the communication on. Keep the pen (keyboard) alive.

    Best wishes.

    @Neil: Thank you so much for the kind words about my poetry. They encourage me to write more and write better.

    I do not intend to write a political commentary. I understand politics too little to comment on it. This piece is just a passionate and honest outburst of a girl who feels that her city is being made the scapegoat of a sinister agenda.

    On reflection, isn't all art political? I read an interesting article by Mark Vallen. I am including an excerpt here:

    "Artists do not create in a vacuum, they are indisputably coupled to the society and times in which they work. It may well be that an artist can realize aesthetic triumphs while ignoring society, but willful unconcern regarding social matters is also a political position.

    But what about the transcendent qualities of art, doesn't that universality place the arts soaring above the corrupt world of politics and the vulgar materialism of society? Doesn't the spirituality of art keep it free from the constraints of avarice? Doesn't the mystical aspect of art place it above earthly and mundane concerns? Yes and no. Art will always strive to be free of society's manacles, and it will forever serve as a conduit to humanity's higher self, but the questions posed here imply an intrinsic relationship between art and material reality. It is an ironclad fact that an artist must eat and pay rent, and so it is also an irreducible fact that we are bound to political arrangements."

    I am sure this position too is open to debate. And there is no end to arguments. Therefore, we shall 'get back to poetry'! And very soon!:-)

    Keep thinking, have an opinion and keep writing.

    Best wishes

  8. oh...I missed some fun. Can someone mail me the deleted post, please :P

    @nivedita: You believe there is a better solution to the problem than just deferring the verdict? I just hope you are proved right tomorrow.

    Regarding the alliteration, there are 6 billion people on this planet and only 26 alphabets,such a 'pleasant coincidence'.

    And continuing from my previous comment, do you believe that Ramcharitramanas is history rather than literature? I just want to know your opinion, we can always agree to disagree :)

  9. @ Nivedita: Came across "A child of Ayodhya, I hate seeing it made a cause of discord" in the TOI, well said!!!
    We are lucky in India that we can even talk about this. The people who drafted our Constitution were smart enough to ensure that we would not have an official religion, and this allows us to choose (within some limits) what we believe, how we go about believing it and who we can associate with to support our beliefs. It also gives us the right to have no religious beliefs at all and still be a fully paid-up citizen of the country...! :)

    Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
    But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
    He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
    Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

    S. Akhtar

  10. @ Nivedita:an aspiring actress....
    Best Wishes for the "Writer"
    keep it up!!!

  11. hiii Nivedita... visited ur blog for the first time... seriously , ur way of writing is awesome.. i totally loved it... I have become fan of ur piece of writing.... i totally concur you... awesome piece of conversation btw u too... very nice imagination....
    keep writing.. would like to read more of urs...

  12. Very innovatively written piece.
    Just a little question.
    Is the poem at the end of the article written by you or borrowed from somewhere?
    I am sorry if I am offending you but it seems that I have heard it somewhere else. May be they picked it up from here.

  13. @Cutting Fashion & Murthy: Thank you! :-)

    @Amod ji: Thank you. The poem is mine :-).

  14. Good to know that. Came to know from google that you are multi-talented. All the best for your acting career as well.