Sunday, June 27, 2010

My name is Shaikh and I am an Indian

Last Saturday (12th June 2010), I was coming back home after a hectic day with two meetings at office. As I stepped out of office, the emptiness and tensions of my life took over. Together it left a severe headache to bog me down still further... Then the traffic at Haji Ali... Finally I reached Mumbai Central station and got a Virar train. I was late for a Saturday (it was almost 6 pm). On Saturdays (after 4-5pm) and on Sundays, the First Class Ladies compartment is not very crowded as you don't find the office crowd then. But alternatively, the crowd in the Second Class compartment increases as it is filled with lot of non-regular commuters, who are holidaying and visiting relatives!

I sat down and closed my eyes, hoping to catch a little nap to relax my mind from the stress of the past 1-2 months. A few mins has passed since the train had moved as we could hear two ladies fighting with each other. In the new type trains, as Mumbaikars are aware, the first and second class ladies compartment are divided by a few steel rods between them and you can clearly see the other side. The fight was a usual one, where people unburden their anger and frustration of getting into and travelling in a crowded train by blaming each other. 'You stamped my foot', 'Dikhai nahi deta?', 'Chadne nahin aata kya?', 'Seedhe khade raho', 'Andar jao', 'Udhar khisko'...... blah blah.... it doesn't end. All these are common phrases and you get used to it. The sober and mature people just stand quietly ignoring everything as if nothing's happening around them. Some look at each other and give a knowing smile. So also when the fight started people hardly looked to see what's happening. But after a while it got real nasty. It started with one lady telling the other to get in properly. The other retaliated as she got inside the compartment and continued to do so. Then they both got into a brawl over who's right, till the lady who'd moved in started screaming her lungs out and insulting and demeaning the first lady. 'Tu pata nahin kahaan se aayi hai', 'Tere muh se S.....s ki baas aa rahi hai (your mouth smells of shit)', and many more abuses.... People was shocked at the words. Some as usual were giggling over it all. The second class compartment was behind from where I was sitting. I turned to see who these Ladies were. This is what I saw - The first lady was in 'Naqaab' (Burqa) and standing with her back against the metallic partition near the aisle / door. The second lady was dressed in a shocking pink saree with a big round red 'teeka' on her forehead, was screaming and hurling character abuses. This was a usual fight, with both people making a fool of themselves. People usually intervene and stop it. But from there the incident took a different turn....
A few educated (?) working Ladies in a group in the second class compartment decided something and together they screamt at the lady at the door- 'Mumbai amchi aahe. Tu zaa Pakistan la'. (Mumbai belongs to Marathis, you go back to Pakistan). And burst out into laughter, as if they said something very nice. When the words, 'Mumbai amchi aahe...' were mid-way, I was expecting some words on 'bhayyas' as the general impression among non-muslims is that burqa-clad Muslims are from North India, plus this was the MNS slogan too. But here the remarks were outrightly communal ! I wondered for a moment what do some Marathi people actually want for Mumbai ? Throwing out people of other states as well as throwing out the Muslims (even if their motherland was Maharashtra?) !!! Surprising all the other Marathi women started laughing and supporting the group, though not that vocally. Slowly there was a huge commotion in the Second Class. The fight was on and others were parallely adding communal fuel to it. People were talking in hushed tones even in the First Class compartment, while some seemed pleased with the comments of the Ladies group. This only showed how many people thought similarly. Not one did object or even say that the comments were wrong! There was one woman in the First Class compartment (a Marathi lady herself) who dared to scream back at the group of ladies who had passed those communal comments! She seemed sober but when you have to deal with a bunch of people who scream, act violent and seem beyond reasoning, you have to raise your voice too! The lady screamt and said in Marathi, 'What nonsense are you ladies talking ? Can't you see that the other lady is very much a Hindu and equally wrong? Where does Pakistan come into all this? Why are you guys giving a communal tone to it? It is because of you people that communal tensions take place in India'. Of course, the ladies group couldn't keep quiet and another parallel fight started between them and her! They started asking her whether she got her food and ration from Pakistan. The Lady said that she was very much a Marathi but not uneducated like them! The Ladies group got more nasty stating that she was a shame to Marathi people. And a lot of blah blah.... Nasty words flew from both sides. The Ladies group got a few silent supporters. They were screaming (till the veins on their neck swelled up!) and threatening the other Lady to get down and come into Second Class to prove she was brave to face them!

The original fight died down in the commotion. People were commenting on even bringing Pakistani artists to India.... it went non-stop. Some ladies in First Class who were earlier giggling in support, changed their stand when they realised that this was getting communal and were shocked at the language used by the Ladies group! Some of the group were glancing towards people in First Class for support. But except a few, majority chose to be quiet. What was in their minds, God knows! After several lectures, the daring Lady from First Class kept quiet as the message was conveyed, but the group on the other side kept on going blah, blah, blah... A few ladies from Second Class compartment, who earlier showed pleasure on comments of branding the Lady in Naqaab as Pakistani, tried to cover up the entire episode to look like a Class Divide. Hushed tones were heard from the other side stating that people who travel in the First Class think no end of themselves and consider people travelling in Second Class as lower citizens, hence the comments. Here, the question was not at all about a Class Divide. But a smooth cover-up for the communal tension which brewed and boiled and overflowed for a full 1/2 hour to 45 mins of the journey! I took care to mention First class and second class in the entire narration to bring out its prominence which was higlighted in the end!

The Lady in the First Class got down at Mira Road and so did I. After that I could hear a few ladies who'd got down from Second Class passing comments on the Lady and more comments on Class factor.... What a smooth cover-up on the main issue! Just like any other Politician in our country would have done ...... !!!

This taste with bitterness in the train brought me glimpses of 'My Name is Khan' (the last movie I saw way back in Feb 2010). It showed the struggles of an Indian Muslim living in America post the 9/11 and the flak he faces while practicing his religion and living amidst hatred for Muslims! The dialogue 'My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist' is still fresh in my mind. I wanted to keep a similar title, but chose to use Indian, as the purpose was to highlight that I am not a Pakistani as some people would like to brand Indian Muslims!
Courtesy : Image taken from

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