Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
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Saturday, 9 February 2013

Modi for PM? Surely Not

Narendra Modi scares the life out of me. Some unthinking ignoramus recently compared him to Nehru in all but words. Now, Here's where I jump into action: Hands off Nehru, you sectarian cowards. You are talking about the man who had the vision of India as a secular country firmly fixed in his heart. And you dare compare Modi, with his history, to Nehru?

And now the EU is cosying up to Modi. All those horrendous deaths in Gujerat can be wiped out from our collective memories by someone saying it was a mistake?? Won't the West ever have a conscience where their investment interests are concerned? Shame on you, E U. Please go away and put your own house in order. Ours is a mess at the moment and we are searching for a way to that light  we used to have at the centre of our hearts. It's there. We'll find it in spite of our Nethas.

Having grown up in Thalassery, this sorry Hindu-Muslim non-question is beyond me. In Court Road, the centre of my child-universe, I was surrounded by large, ancient Muslim homes. They were not particularly wealthy and the little ones my age were my friends. The compounds were uncared for, slowly receding into decay.

To begin with Aliyumma did not wear a thattam. She went on errands for her family to the local corner shop and we talked to each other in front of my house. I would see her with a half- bottle of coconut oil with a paper cork. I think there was no money to buy a whole bottle. I don't think we got to a full bottle very often either.Some times Aliyumma came to the house behind mine to play.

The corner shop belonged to mammad, also a muslim. We hated him because he told on us to my father, about all our mischief on the road. We were not supposed to get on that road, where the Kunnoor bus hurtled past seemingly without brakes.

When I was around ten I noticed that Aliyumma had gained a cloth on her head. It wasn't much - just a thin long muslin cloth wound round the head twice and tucked into place. When she ran around it flowed behind her.

She was breath-takingly beautiful. So was her brother, mother, her entire family. I marvelled at their complexions, more Persian than Indian.

Soon Aliyumma disappeared totally behind that thattam. She stopped coming to the shop or to play. She must have been twelve then. Education had never been a big thing with the Muslims in our neighbourhood, not even for boys. 

Soon her Nikka was arranged. Before the ceremony I went to visit her ara - the room in which she would meet her husband. Later still, she showed me her collection of crockery and perfume bottles (attar, she called them) displayed on the shelves, gifts from her husband's family. I had a sense of disconnection. I was learning Wordsworth and Algebra and she was learning to be a Muslim woman.

On one of my recent visits to Thalassery I met her son, now the owner of a textile shop. We were delighted to meet up. His mother and father were long dead, but he remembered my house next door.

I wondered - did he get to school and college? I hope so. I have this theory that education is the only answer to sectarian problems, to Hindu-Muslim connundrums. But then, I would think that; I've spent half my life in education. I probably think a dose of Topology can cure Cancer. Wont it?

I remember the only Muslim boy in my College class -Savan Kutty, who later headed our Public Service Commission. He was then a member of the local youth congress. Not a single Muslim girl reached college in those days, the fifties.

Much later, when the first Muslim woman started College, the Government had to provide police protection for her. She went to College flanked by a uniformed policeman because the Mullas had threatened her.

And now, we are all educated - Muslims and Hindus in Kerala. How come then, we are more at at each other's throats than before? Is there a fallacy here somewhere . Have I got it all wrong again?