By Chandan Gomes:
“Be empathetic and thoughtful the next time you express your ecstasy.”
The news of Afzal Guru’s execution spread like wildfire across the length and breadth of this nation, evoking stark reactions. I will not get into evaluating the legitimacy of these reactions, but I will assert without an iota of hesitation that today was a sad day for the many unknown citizens of this ‘great nation’. In the act of glorifying his execution as an act of nationalism, many of us have ensured that some of our fellow countrymen will not be able to walk with their heads held high in the streets until this storm settles down.
My neighbour is a fine gentleman. His name is Mansoor Ahmed and he is a carpenter by profession. I fondly refer to him as mama (maternal uncle). Usually jovial and chirpy, he was very restrained today. There were contours of worry on his face and his eyes were dilapidated with a sense of guilt that was perhaps self-imposed. We met a couple of times, but our eyes never met. We shook hands, but the warmth was missing.
Disturbed by this sudden coldness between us, I paid him a visit in the evening. We indulged in a petty discussion about the oldest biryani vendor in Old Delhi followed by a long spell of silence. Unable to break the ice, I decided to head back home. As I was leaving, he held my hand, rose from the sofa and hugged me. I could feel his heart thumping against mine and his tears slowly trickled down my back via the collar of my shirt. I was too stiff to wrap my arms around him – stiff with the realization that how certain celebrations wreak havoc into the lives of those who are made to feel like uninvited/ungrateful guests.
Be empathetic and thoughtful the next time you express your ecstasy. For your freedom (of expression) might infringe upon someone else’s and in the process leave him/her marginalized, unwanted, uncared for.
“For every man celebrating in the streets today, there is someone helplessly mourning in some unknown part of the country.”
I live in an eclectic Old Delhi neighbourhood nestled in a Mughal Garden built by Aurangzeb’s sister Roshanara. I woke up to the sound of Dhols today. Elders from the neighbourhood were distributing sweets while children were dancing and jumping around, most of them unaware that an execution was being celebrated. Saiful, a 5 year old too joined the festivities, only to be taunted by some of his friends. One of them said to him “Tumhare Afzal abba ki to phurr ho gayi Mulla ji”. At this moment some of us intervened and reprimanded this boy. Realizing the gravity of the taunt, better sense prevailed and the celebrations were called off.
Till the end Saiful did not understand why he was taunted, but there was a sense of grief in his eyes and his body language. These were his friends with whom he walks to school and play’s cricket with. What broke my heart was the sight of him taking off his Taqiyah (the short, round cap Muslims wear while offering prayers) and hastily burying it his pockets.
I am sure Saiful and his friends will soon forget the happenings of this morning for they are children, still united by a sense of innocence and purity. I am hopeful that I’ll find them playing together in the evening and that Taqiyah will soon finds its rightful place.
But the question we need to ask ourselves is, what does upholding the honour of our nation means to us? Can the nation’s honour be upheld without upholding the honour of its people? What will it take to remind us that the honour of our brothers and sisters in Chhattisgarh, Manipur & Kashmir is trampled upon daily? What about the honour of our friends perishing in Vidarbha and Koodunkulum? What about the victims of the 1984 Sikh Riots? Please remember that for every story that is told, countless go untold. For every man celebrating in the streets today, there is someone helplessly mourning in some unknown part of the country. And there is no one to respond to her/his wails and cries.
Our actions today will decide what sort of a future we wish to gift to Saiful and his friends.