I could write a funny little couplet with the three characters , Obama, Osama and me, but I won’t. Because though funny thoughts do creep up my mind, what I’m posting today is far from it. I’ll be writing about Osama and how he changed my life. I’ll mention Obama, who must have have faced a percentage of what I did. I’ll talk about me and the ones close to me. I’ll talk of all the agony and pain we went through. The humiliation, the anger the confusion. I’ll talk of all the things that went wrong because of Osama and why his death does not bring any relief or respite.
But first, something about Obama. Its close to election time and since the Prez didn’t have much to count on for a second term, does the timing of this operation sound suspicious to you?? It does to me at least. So there was Osama, not hiding under a rock or a bunker, but living lavishly in a large bungalow with his family. So, wasn’t the US aware of his hide-out until now?? I, for one, am not impressed at the way the operation was carried out, even if Obama was hunkering over the screens, watching with baited breath as the Navy seals went about their task.
So the big Terrorist- chap was gunned down in his house. Great.
He was done in in the presence of his family. I wouldn’t really say ‘Great’, but I guess the family saw it coming one day or the other.
Since we are not typical television watchers AND we didn’t get any papers yesterday (because of labour day), it was pretty late in the evening when we saw the news and were stunned into silence.Initially, I was rather skeptical of the whole act. The US claimed they shot him and dumped his body in the sea. Really?? I don’t believe you, I said. I refused to accept the news until finally, sometime later that night,they showed his dead body. It did look like the same fellow,I admit, specially the mouth part. With a head riddled with bullets, it was difficult to be 100% sure. But the world was sure and slowly, I too accepted that this guy was no more. Till late in the night, the family was discussing the consequences and repercussions of this death.
Because as a middle-class muslim family, we’ve had our share of abuse because of him.
I was doing my post-graduation at that time, didn’t have a TV or a radio at home. When I reached college, I heard a lot of animated conversation around. Conversation, that would suddenly stop in its tracks when someone spotted me. Gradually, someone came up to me and asked me if I knew what had happened that day? I remember joking about some lecturer not turning up for class. Alas, the truth, when told, was more horrific. Because, though I was informed about the ghastly deed, it was with a lot of raised eye-brows and hidden questions. ‘Did you know about it? How do you feel now that your people have done such a horrific thing’?
Good friends stuck by me, not bringing up the issue in front of me, unless I did so myself. I could feel their reluctance to talk about in my presence. For the life of me, I could not understand why they thought talking bad about the taliban would hurt me!! I have NOTHING to do with them, I could have yelled and it would still have fallen on deaf ears.
My brother had a traditional day in his office that day. He wore a Pathani to work. The minute he entered the office, the first thing he heard was a colleague shouting across the workhall, “Kya ______, yeh kya kiya tune??” Brother was obviously confused, until colleagues came up and demanded explanations about why he blew up those towers. Can anyone imagine the humiliation, the consternation of being accused of such a heinous crime publicly?? Something which he had NO hand in whatsoever?
It was the same for years after. No PG accommodation/hostel was ready to take me in after learning of my surname. I walked from one place to another, saw that there was vacancy and yet, the owners would claim that the place was taken. It came to a point when the first thing I did after ringing the bell was to let the owners know that I was a muslim and if they were okay with keeping me as a paying guest. Should I be surprised that ALL of them bluntly told me that they don’t keep muslims. The only time I got a place was when a girl living in one house turned out to be an old friend from Dehra-Dun days. Even then, she didn’t tell the owner aunty that I was a muslim. It was only on the day that I entered the house that she found out the truth. She didn’t like it one bit, but it was too late to back out. Thankfully, the one year that I stayed with her, she encountered no issues with me and we got along rather well.
In all this, would it have mattered to anyone if I told them that my father was a war-decorated army officer? That he spent 35 years of his service for his country, a country that is as much mine as it is yours? That patriotism runs in our blood as much as it runs in yours!!
You know what irks me the most? That no other religion bears the brunt of activities of some of its outcasts!
So a bunch of Sikhs can blow up a Kanishka, but no one will point a finger at a Sardar and insinuate that he’s a terrorist or a persona non-grata. Christian terrorists can blow up sections of the North-east in India or hundreds in Cuba, but no one will ever dare to term Christianity as a terrorist-religion. Hindu fanatics will go around burning people alive, but Hindus will always be the ones terrorized . Its only when a muslim terrorist blows up a place and the entire populace is quick to term ALL muslims as violent. ALL muslims are terrorists. ALL muslims should be avoided, boycotted. Like the time the BF was in USA and was refused accommodation because of his religion. Yes, even he was directly told by the owners that they didn’t rent space to muslims. Whom did the BF finally put up with?? Other muslim students who were similarly shunned. The irony is that the BF was on H1 visa to US with his colleague and good friend, who was a hindu. His friend got a place easily, the BF didn’t. I think, if you are NOT a minority, this kind of humiliation would be difficult for you to fathom.
(Please note, I’m NOT pointing fingers at anyone here. I’m just puzzled at the way the wave caught up about equalizing muslims with terrorists. It has come to such an extent that it is actually fashionable to talk of the two in the same breath!!)
This is something we go through each day. Try hunting for a house in a good society…..sorry, No muslims. Try getting admissions to a good college…..sorry , no muslims. Try even schools ……and you have a fledgling of a chance of getting a seat. And even then, you’ll be made to feel gratitude, because, you see, the management doesn’t generally allow muslims, but they’ll make a concession for you . For a hefty amount, of course!
Now that Osama lies buried somewhere in the Arabian sea (probably eaten up by the fishes by now), a normal middle-class muslin can think of breathing easy, for a while. But somewhere, there will also be a niggling thought eating at us that this may just as well be the beginning of the end. Things may just get worse from here. We may rejoice his death, but there are many more like him around for comfort. And the stigma that lies buried in everyone’s mind will never go, Osama or no Osama.
But I guess this is just the pessimist in me speaking. I would LOVE to be proved wrong. I would love to see my kids holding their heads high when they walk into prestigious schools, places where they get admission on their merit and not religious inclination. I would LOVE to live in a society where the neighbors don’t call their kids back home just because they entered our house. I would LOVE it if my kids came back from school and talk about their achievements rather than wonder why their teacher called them some bigoted names. I would LOVE to see my kids mingling with other children, understanding about their culture and religion and not wonder why no one’s bothered about their’s. I would LOVE to have the freedom to be treated as an equal citizen of this country, a place I was born and brought up in. A place I love just as much as you if not more. A place, I hope my kids get a chance of knowing and loving as much I do.
So tell me people, am I asking for too much??
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