Friday, February 01, 2008

The 'communal' scrap-dealer

A junk-dealer comes at your door and when you ask the price at which he will buy the old newpapers, he says "Don't worry, I will give the right money, I am not like Muslims, who are cheats".

Now, if you are a Muslim, will you be angry, hurt or get into a serious introspective mode about yourself, your community and the society?

Let me explain the situation. It didn't happen to me. We are the single Muslim family in the entire locality. I was away. My wife was selling the papers and a neighbourhood lady (not Muslim) who was passing by, asked my wife 'yeh log taulne mein be-imaani karte hain' (Take care these people don't weigh properly).

It was in this context that Mr Kabaadi said that 'ham nahin karte, yeh sab Musalman karte hain' and a bit more. My wife was too shocked and couldn't control her anger. She said that she was also a Muslim and questioned him, how he could be so judgemental about the entire community.
The guy appeared embarrassed but still went on to say...'maiN voh daadhi wale musalmano ki baat kar raha hun'. (I am talking about the beareded Muslims...not the ones like you!).

To this my wife gave him a piece of her mind. Some other neighbours and our domestic help also scolded him. Later he left in a huff. Had I been there, I may not have scolded him but my wife, who is much more rational and always considered it too to petty to judge someone on the basis of religion or caste, was astonished at the manner the junk-dealer could spell out his biases so openly.

She also gave him the rest of the papers without accepting the money, saying that 'hum log to be-imaan hote hi hain'. She took it to her heart and was upset the whole day. I think in her place I may not have reacted so strongly. But I can understand her anguish. It's better to give vent to your anger in such situations.

Though I don't think the guy was communal. Firstly, he was not expecting to come across a Muslim family in the slightly posh locality. Secondly, it could be his business rivalry with Muslim junk-sellers (there are lot of Muslims among kabaadis). But the ease with which he could spell it out, openly before any stranger, was surprising.

It simply illustrates the inherent biases in our society. In Maharashtra blame the Biharis for the ills or in Kolkata, the Marwaris. Of course, it is even better to blame Muslims for all the ills. Muslims are already branded, as fundamentalists, producing too many kids and found more in jails.......ek aur tohmat ki

So what should I, as an individual do, to lessen this impression.... Try to be even more fairer in my dealings, which I think I already am. Blaming others won't help. Isn't it time Muslims at all level seriously address this image problem.

Shall we not try for more interaction with people belonging to other communities and go extra mile in helping everybody. Ghettoisation has already divided Hindu and Muslim localities in most cities and that's the reason for growing hatred and misconceptions. Let's try and make more friends....

Or if you have any suggestions, readers of this blog!