An early phone call from a journo friend asked me to delete a new found group on a popular social networking site. I pondered over it for 4 hours unsure. Then I killed pride, ego, self respect and the most important strength of my identity as an Indian. My Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. I went ahead to press the 'Delete Group' tab. With a great amount of sadness and even tears in my eyes I must confess I stay in a country that isn't secular or united. Hell, the only saving grace is that you just don't need a passport to move within the country if you've got citizenship.
I, Archana Bhui, am a cocktail child. My mother's ancestors are from Orissa. My fathers' migrated to that part of no mans land on the border of State territories where in his district of East Singhbhum was kicked around like a football between Orissa, West Bengal and Bihar. Now it lies in mineral resources flushed Jharkhand. My paternal side is mostly Bengali.
I am born and brought up in Bombay and have witnessed most of the mishaps that have plagued my city on this side of the time line. As an 8 year old I was a witness to the bomb blasts and the communal riots that psyched me out against another religious group for a long time. A fear psychosis instilled by parental viewpoints mostly. As a teenager I even reveled in the 'bandhs' (closures) ordered by communally extremist groups for the want of holidays. I have walked 13 kilometers in waist deep water when my city was sinking and most recently as an Investment Banker I was in the heart of the attacks in Nariman Point when my city was besieged by terrorists funded and trained by militia groups in Pakistan.
I have been witness and a sufferer in all the events above and just so as to stoop to the levels of MNS and Shiv Sena, I gave my metriculation board exams according to the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education and inspite of Marathi not being my mother tounge I scored more than all my Marathi friends in that year of 2001. Not only that, hell I scored more in Marathi than the other two languages I had. So I see no business of a Bal Thackrey or a Raj Thackrey (who themselves write the marathi family name of 'Thakre' in an anglicised manner) or any other Mother Toungued Marathi questioning my love and commitment to this city and its culture.
And that is precisely why I will not permit such evidently power hungry people to force feed me their political agendas. Including, calling my culturally rich city of BOMBAY as Mumbai. People who argue on the name can go back to Asiatic library and open the books on the history of Bombay from the time of the Portuguese.
I had sent out invites to join the group. Some replied in the positive some retorted back in the negative. The positives were also from Marathi mother tongued friends. The NO's only from that subset. One of it happened to be from the mother of my best friend. Ove the years the mother has been closer to me than my own mother, seen me through the lows of life and I sometimes consider her as my best friend than her daughter. She said how she believed in a Hindu Rashtra and how Bal and Raj Thackrey were fighting for this cause and that Raj Thackrey was her hero.
I smiled. Ohh, we human minds and our forgetfullness!!! My friend now successfully flies with a European Airline and is leading the good life. But she had humble beginnings. You see she wanted to get into the hotel industry and getting a rank in the lower strata she ended up getting a seat in the Indian Hotel Mgmt. Institute of Guwahati, Assam. A state also under seige by extremist. There during those years from 2003-06 bombings were common news in Assam and the state almost always in the news for the wrong reason. What got her through those 3 years were room mates from all over India, including North India, South India, Maharashtra and even the North East. From her stories I felt they were leading the life of one big happy family. Then my friend was recruited by the Taj Bengal and again the national harmony prevailed in her stint at Calcutta. Now when she flies, her reporting base is Delhi in North India.
I only wonder in all these stints had any of the states displayed the 'political harakiri' that the Thackrey's seem to do what would have happened to my friends mother? It was only due to the openness of the country that her daughter is where she is now along with hardwork.
My fear psychosis of another religion went with time. A great deal of it. Now I count amongst my closest pals, a very forward Muslim peer from college who has enlightened me about a range of facts under the sun amongst many and look forward to attending their Iftaris during Eid, North Indian's, South Indians and even Parsee's whos food me and my significant other love to gorge on in Ratan Tata Institutes, Jimmy Boys and Brittania.
It was two human beings who first came to my help when my significant other had a sudden syncope attack on a basketball court and had to be hospitalized. It dint matter they were Muslims. Even if they were, then I had the time of my life being around them, having poker nights and outings and their hospitality and kindness. When I sit on a table with fellow people, it doesn't matter what God's they pray to everyday (looking at todays busy life I even wonder how many of us have the time to think of a specific God instead of just 'God') or what language they speak. As long as we understand and appreciate each others thoughts.
Having been trained in Hindustani Classical Vocal for 20 years, I have learnt to appreciate all languages including Urdu and Persian. I have read Rumi and listend to a Ghulam Ali. An Abeeda Parveen mesmerizes me just as much as a Jagjit Singh can lull me to sleep anytime. Its one of my to-do things to go watch 'dervishes' perform in trance on sufi music in Turkey just as much as I backpack across my own country and share beautiful stores and experience from fellow travellers and fellow Indians.
Not once have I even been looked down upon or insulted for being from Bombay when I am passing through Bihar. Not a fingure was raised on me or was I questioned why people from there are beaten down.
It not too diffucult to become a Taxi Driver you know. Then why doesnt the MNS and Shiv Sena teach their followers how to drive them and tie up with Venture Capitalists and start a business venture instead??
I am supporting Shah Rukh Khan in his stand. Not because of what he said. I have never watched an IPL match in my life and dont understand the functioning of it. The reason why I support his is because of freedom of speech and the dignified and lawful manner in which a citizen of India is expected to put forth his views.
Not by the hooliganism and vandalism the MNS and Shiv Sena resort to in a bid to outdo each other to grab eyeballs and airtime.
It is of concern that Mukesh Amabani wants to shift the Registered office of RIL to Jamnagar in Gujarat and Maharashtra is loosing a lot of new business set ups because of the lack of conducive environment.
I know my city is heading towards disaster and falling prey to narrow and closed door mentalities when I, living in my own city that is part of a so called free independent and democratic country wonder and in a tense manner contemplate whether I will be allowed my Freedom of Movement and the Right to Peace when I want to go and watch a movie 'My Name is Khan' to just have a good time with family and friends while I'm in BOMBAY!