Some days, we simply cannot. Other days, we flourish. Some days, we need each cell to function barely normally.
Some days, we are not enough. But together, on some days, we are….
IS This Who We Are?
Paris. Syria. Iraq. Karachi. Bangkok.
It seems there’s not a place left in the world that hasn’t suffered, that pain has truly become worldwide. That the worst of humanity walks unseen among us.That we should resign ourselves that death will come us unexpectedly not by the Hand of God, but by the hand of Man.
What is wrong with us? Is this who we are? A hundred and twenty dead in Paris. Bombers quickly reached Syria when France retaliated. Mali gets notched on the map in the interim period. At the same time, Turkey shoots down a trespassing Russian jet, with two pilots, whose bodies are shown off to the camera by insurgents, triumphant that the people carrying death to them were blown out of the sky. And I’ll bet you anything, anything, that they considered this some sort of Divine intervention for their side.
I don’t presume to know what God is planning for me, let alone for us all. I don’t think anyone can claim to know, unless they’re seriously demented. But that’s exactly what’s happening, isn’t it? ISIS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, extremists here, insurgents there, they’re all Muslim. And according to them, this is all God’s plan. And people like me can go blue in the face explaining that this isn’t Islam, but let’s face it, we’re being drowned out by the explosions these people set off worldwide.
Islam does not lie in killing. Jihad is the most misused and misquoted word on the planet. This is not who we are. This is not us, these are not Muslims. Find me a Muslim who will not break down when he sees the bodies of the Syrian children, toddlers, instants, women crying over their ruined homes and families. Find me a Muslim who was not rendered speechless by the military school in Pakistan where each and every child was systematically executed, to teach the military a lesson. Find me a Muslim who is ready to blow up a mosque packed to full capacity for the Friday prayers, because he is Sunni, and the mosque is Shia, or vice versa. Find me a Muslim who believes any or all of these, who is ready to punish the innocent civilians walking the streets in NY or LA for what the army led strikes did, the politically motivated wars have done to Iraq, and Afghanistan. Find me a Muslim like this, and I will tell you, this is not a Muslim. That’s not even a human being.
Human arrogance does not lie in our negligence of our mortality. It lies in our assumption that we are a part of God’s grand plan to make the world kneel to us. That is exactly what these deluded mad men are doing. They strap themselves with explosives and walk into a room full of white people, and think that they have earned Heaven. That a choir of angels is waiting to pick up their fragmented bits and ascend to the pearly gates- No. If you believe in Islam, if you are as staunch and as thorough a believer as you say you are, then you know the price of taking a life. You take on every single one of the murdered’s sins, and while the dead go straight to Heaven, no matter what their sins, you will have to pay for them. Or do suicide bombers conveniently forget this bit?
What about this nonstop rhapsodizing about the glories of Jihad? We are NOT at war. The Islamic world is NOT at war with the rest of the world. Stop using that as a pitiful excuse to justify your madness. If anything, the Islamic world needs to be at war with themselves, to root out these weeds and throw them out.
The world has come full circle. Today there’s an exodus from the Middle East, instead of to the Middle East. Palestine still bleeds. Syria is bleeding. Pakistan is bleeding. America bleeds. France bleeds. Is this who we are? Are we going to be responsible, revenge and retaliation, for the extermination of our own race?
I’m not saying that blame lies with any one side. It lies equally distributed on ALL our shoulders. We have the Maharashtra government in India, which has imposed a ban on beef (punishable, on suspicion, by public lynching) in a secular country. That’s right, India is a secular country. And the ban has gone unchallenged by the powerful central government, even though it is essentially unconstitutional. And people are too afraid to openly challenge it in court. Okay, okay, I get it. Cows are sacred to Hindu people. But Hindu people need to realize that they can’t force their religious restrictions on Muslims or Christians. And Muslims and Christians need to to realize that it’s just BEEF, for god’s sake. Stop smuggling pieces of meat, stop smuggling burgers and curries across the border. Are you going to fucking die if you don’t eat beef? If it’s that much of a sensitive issue, then just fucking stop eating it! I know it’s not ‘right’, that it impinges on your ‘rights’, but can’t you at least be reasonable? And face it. If someone walked into a Muslim restaurant in USA or UK and demanded they serve pork because those are Christian countries, wouldn’t you be immediately offended? Muslims I know are just a stubborn, just as adamant in their refusal to compromise. Why should we compromise, they bristle. We don’t bow to a stone god, that’s ridiculous. Have you ever stopped to think what the stone-god-worshippers think of you? They think you have no god, that you worship the sky, that you’re a bunch of goat fuckers and child molesters who think blowing yourself up earns you eternal paradise. A guy I know once asked me why all the fuss about beef in the first place, didn’t Muslims understand how sacred cows are for Hindus? After all, didn’t we find pigs sacred and refuse to eat them? It took me the better part of the afternoon to explain that pigs and pork are considered unclean, not sacred, and even then he didn’t look entirely convinced.
This is our problem. We seek to retaliate, not to understand. We don’t want to acknowledge that the person sitting opposite us could worship a different God, and yet still be as good a person as we consider ourselves. Or even better. Our pigheaded opinions of our superiority, our divinity, this rabid belief that each of us worships the true God while the rest are all in the wrong. Does believing in God mean that you look down on everyone around you? I really don’t think so. As far as I think, believing is supposed to make your heart softer, not harder. We are all flesh and bone and blood. And if you think your religion tells you that your blood is worth more than someone else’s, you’re probably reading something wrong.
There is so much pain around us. There is so much anguish around us. We have painted our houses in our neighbors’ blood so that the curse passes us over. What did you accomplish, ISIS, by bombing France? What did you accomplish, Al Qaeda, with 9/11? You’ve earned the world decades of suffering, backlash attacks, retaliatory strikes. Like a stack of dominoes, world peace is collapsing. Governments rise and all, people come to power and leave, disgraced or forgotten, but everyone wrecks havoc, whether they carry a stately title or a cash award for info. A scant handful actually aim for damage control, but they’re shunted aside just as rapidly. And the monsters watch the show from their shelters, planning and plotting where to hurt next. Is this who you are? Is this who we are? I refuse to believe in this, that we could not violently refuse an association with the worst of humanity, whoever they bow to.
If you seek to hurt someone, you are wrong. If you choose to cause pain, you are wrong. Whether it’s one person or one hundred. If you aim to cause damage, cause death, you are wrong. If you believe that God wants you to, you are wrong. You are as wrong as can possibly be. You carry the burden of hurting everyone you have hurt on your soul. Whether it’s a guy who’s heart you broke, or a goddamn building you blew up, do you understand?
How will you even stand before your God?
How will you even face God?
I seem to be losing a lot of people these days. People who matter, people who are important to me. In a mire of people I don’t particularly care for, former seem to be a rapidly shrinking minority. And someone left today too.
Earlier this week, my great aunt passed away. She was a good few years ahead of eighty, and she passed quietly in her sleep. The funeral was a loud and shrieky affair, as large family gatherings usually are. And in the midst of it all, I sat next to her as I had done many times, only this time her withered hand wasn’t clutching back.
I wonder how many of the noisy mourners around me knew her well. My great aunt from my father’s side was actually related, in a very roundabout way, to my mother’s side too. She grew up playing in the fort my great grandfather ruled his province of about seventeen counties from. My gradfather and his younger brother loved their little cousin like a sister. There were no little girls in my other’s side of the family, and suffice to say, my great aunt was the only one whose orders were followed without blinking. As life will have it, my grandfather’s younger brother and my great aunt transitioned into being more than childhood companions eventually. Both were similar in temperament- kind, shy, reticent, quiet and thoughtful, as opposed to my grandfather, who was the kind of bad boy that only old, old money can fuel. The fort and the reaches of the palace were lit up for miles around to see every week, when he held his parties and his gambling fests and what not, but my great aunt and his younger brother grew closer in their reticence. It almost seemed a sure thing that they would marry, till a disastrous fact came to light. Apparently when they were born, which was in the same year, the same wet nurse nursed both of them. By some derivation of culture, that made them akin to being siblings of a sort, since they were fed by the same nurse. Consequently all possibilities of a marriage disappeared. Heartbroken, my grandfather’s brother left for Oxford, and my great aunt went to live with her cousins for a year. But that year, a lot of things happened.
The Partition of India, for one. The great swath of land that stretched seamlessly under British Rule was divided into India and Pakistan. There was a lot of pressure on muslims living in the subcontinent to migrate away to the country being made for them. My gradfather was seventeen at the time. His grandmother was his guardian, both parents havig died a long time ago, and a seventeen year old prince didnt seem like the best person to challenge a rising democracy that would swallow his slce of the provinces in one bite. My great grandmother decided to move to Pakistan, where her estranged brother lived, taking the equivalent of their assets with them, leaving the lands behind for democracy to claim. One grandson in Cambridge, and one in Oxford, she made the shift of her own accord, but when she got to Pakistan, she was in for an unpleasant surprise. Her estranged brother turned out to be a commnist of the most idealistic sort imaginable, a gift of his education in Moscow. He refused to file any claims whatsoever, saying that a country that was just establishing itself did not need the burden of aristocratic leeches. My great grandmother had to content herself with living ‘just’ as an upper middle class person. Of course, my grandfather was blissfully unaware of all this. When he and his brother finished studying and takking their gap year, they were ‘informed’ of the change in address and change in financial situation. Neither of them hesitated to adjust, although from what I have heard, the transition was painful and slow.
It could have been easier, had not more tragedy struck. My grandfather and his brother found themselves adrift again as their uncle passed, followed quickly by their grandmother. She had left a tangle of relations behind as refusing to accept my grandmother into the family (a ‘mere commoner’), she had fixed his marriage with one of the scattered blue blooded descendents of royalty that had migrated too. The proud and pericingly beautiful heiress didnt take kindly to being scorned, and in the spirit of damage control and stepping out of his brother’s shadow, my grandfather’s nrother married her instead. A series of bad decisions, and the news spread fast.
When it finally filtered back down to India, my great aunt, who had been riding out the partition safely ensconced with her relatives, decided that she would get married too, since evidently my her interest had moved on. She caught the eye of a Turkish aristocrat form god knows where, got promptly hitched, and moved off to Turkey. For seven to eight years no one heard a peep form her, till the day when she landed back in India at her parents’ house, widowed and with three children in tow. Her husband’s family, it turns out, had never taken kindly to the outsider as well, and promptly showed her the door when he kicked the bucket. Painfully aware of the burden that her presence was putting on their already restricted finances, she did what any proud woman would do. She got a job. A simple, clerical job that paid a good deal more than it would do today, but being a woman educated abroad was a big deal back in the day. She helped run the entire household on that pittance of a salary, and pushed her children through whatever education she could find for them within her means.
All this, obviously, happened a long time before I existed on the planet. My earliest memories of her were of a fragile, delicate lady who always had sweets in her bag for me. When my mother married my father, she was so overjoyed at having one of her childhood companions’ daughters living near her that she became, in essence, as reliable a figure for us as grandmothers are for other people. Toys, books, clothes, birthdays, school competitions, whatever it was. She was there for as many of them as she could make it to. She was the first person who tried to teach me how to be ladylike, constantly perplexed by my stubbornly mannish posture, ramrod spine and squared shoulders. She didn’t know why I was as tomboyish as I was, she didn’t know the details of what went on in our house. By mutual agreement me and my mother had always hidden as much of dad’s psychotic side from her as we could, because mom knew that she would tell her family, and she didn’t want her parents knowing how she really lived. I’m pretty sure she suspected some stuff, even though she was too graceful to poke and prod. She did poke and prod me though, multiple times, with that damned fan of hers. She has to be the only woman I’ve ever seen who actually carried a delicate lace fan- white, as befits a widow. Steel grey hair coiffured, clothes in mild pastels, and all the affectations of royalty, only undiluted. Not diluted, like in my mom, or me. Kings without kingdoms, princesses without palaces, but the aura and the carriage persisted and passed down generations, long after the provinces disintegrated.
I don’t know why I’ve gone off into such a long winded reminiscence. Maybe it was the thought that this woman lived a life so brilliant, and died so completely unsung, or just that I’m trying to process that she died at all. We never think that about the people who are fixtures in our lives. That they might, one day, just vanish, and leave a person shaped black hole of memory there. Or it was just the roiling anger I felt at sitting there next to that tiny, bowed woman, holding her wrinkled hand, talking to her while she stared at me, recognixing my face but not able to pin a name on it, in the last few years. Her memory had gotten progressively worse, till she forgot almost everyones names and faces, you see. But she would always smile when she saw me. More than once she told me, ‘I don’t know who you are exactly, but you’re a friend, I know that’. And I wont give in to being maudlin or wailing loudly, like they were doing at her funeral. One less reason to meet the mooks again, what make up her children and grandchildren. None of them took after her, none of them learned from her, none of them really cared for her. So they did what crass people do in such situations. Sat around her and exchanged recipes and gossip, throwing in a ‘It’s really too bad’ here and there, or mouthing platitudes like ‘it was meant to be’ or ‘who can deny fate’. Or the best one- ‘We all must die some day’.
But as they did that, and as I stood behind the gouped Amazonian sizzed women whose asses were literally level with my chest ( I kid you not, they were), I didnt feel the need to cry, or make a big show of my grief, or anything. I was taught by the best. I was raised better than that.
Thanks to my great aunt. She never got to marry or live with the man she loved, but she followed him into the void just a month after he left. A real lady, a true lady, A beautiful woman, a beautiful person. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
cry, or make a big show of my grief, or anything. I was taught by the best. I was raised better than that.
Thanks to my great aunt. A real lady, a true lady, A beautiful woman, a beautiful person. They don;t make ’em like that anymore.