Monday, September 04, 2006

24th Aug, 2006

Spent a good part of today confronting my bitterness.

Riots, biases, violence has always moved me. There were the World War II bedtime stories told by my dad and the glee expressed by my brother at the senseless violence in movies that i tried to enthusiastically emulate. But it was the Bombay riots of '93 that woke in me a feeling that i had never felt before. Well two feelings: fear and selflessness. As the mob ran through my street, pelting storefronts and yelling things i did not understand, i stood with my back to the wall, praying fervently, not for my self (shockingly) but for my father and brother. I had heard of the stuff they did to men, particularly that they did it to them in front of the women and i was terrified. that week my dad and brother left for the US, and we were again scared to death that their taxi would be stopped on the way to the airport. it was a week that caught me by the collar and forced me to grow up. forced me to acknowledge that when it came down to brasstacks, i was in fact a muslim. forced me to acknowledge that human beings have a dark side.
since then, i've done a lot of thinking on this topic - trying to understand why people kill those that they do not normally hate. not to that extent anyway. i still don't know, but all this thinking has got to stop. its whats making me bitter.

as i find out about the various episodes of genocide around the world, read the books, understand the theories... still nothing. and this week in gujarat has precipitated an explosion of bitterness. as i travel around the state, i stare at the faces and wonder whether they participated in the carnage, what they think about muslims, whether the waiters that serve me at restaurants have blood on their hands. and i hear the villagers talk forthrightly about their biases against other communities. i didn't think all this accumulated in a pressure chamber inside me, but it did.

and as usual, nishant served as my safety valve. poor guy - i accused him of not eating fish due to his bias against muslims or something ridiculous like that. the fish discussion was triggered by a talk we were having about fun stuff to do in indonesia and i was excited about living off a sailboat and eating the fish that we caught. he instantly asserted that he would under no circumstance eat fish and something snapped inside me. i think the talk the previous day with the harijan community in the village had affected my subconscious deeply. they had said that the fish-eating muslims are usually not allowed in the village.

after this episode i talked to nafisaben. as usual, she had a whole warehouse of horrific stories like that - when their team was relatively new and had three dalit members, some villagers would insist that those dalits had to bring their own cups so they didn't "soil" their vessels. The team decided to take a stand on this and told the dalit members not to take their own vessels. When the villager rudely asked them where their cups were, they humbly said that they hadn't brought it and it was ok, they didn't want water anyway. The team was up in arms and said that if the dalits didn't have water they wouldn't either. the villagers were furious and accused the utthan team of insulting them. apparently the situation escalated to a point where it was almost violent. and i'm ashamed to say this, but while nafisaben was saying this story, i kept hearing nishant's voice in my head saying "the sight of meat disgusts me". oh what tangled webs we weave.

what i need to do is find something constructive to store my bitterness in. its eating at me right now, and i want so bad to get out of this horrid state (notice that state has two meanings here).

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