Awaiting the verdict

The convoy passes down the narrow lanes, elbowing vehicles and pedestrians off the road. A chill descends. The chatter quiets as trucks, official cars and jeeps pass by. Men in uniform look out of the vehicles. Dead eyes look through you. Their faces say they’ve witnessed untold horrors and nothing you do will shock them. Others have black fabric wrapped around their faces, almost menacing in their posture. It’s a show of strength. The authorities are keeping an eye on us. We’re meant to be very scared. And we are.

Our car, shoved to the kerb waits until they pass by. My mother and I watch silently, our conversation broken mid-sentence. I wonder whether it was safe to have brought my old mother out, and thank God that the kids are home with my dad. Although technically she’s brought me out because she is driving and she’s not old – barely past 50. Anyway. You get the point. We’re 24 hours away from the verdict being announced in our Allahabad High Court and the streets are teaming with people rushing to do their last minute shopping. Cops are spilling out on the street corners.

We get to our destination. We’re buying Lucknow chikan kurtas and as we settle in, women in black burkhas walk in and ask us to shift up. The shopkeeper adjusts his skull cap and begins to display his wares. He’s sold little chikan slips to me since I was a toddler. He asks after my kids. I tell him I didn’t bring them out because of the tension settling on the city like a shroud. He shakes his head sorrowfully – “We don’t want any trouble, gudiya. We’re all working people. What good is the masjid if we lose our sons in riots? We’re not going to support any trouble.” The burkhas nod in agreement. I don’t see their faces but they seem earnest enough.

I head home and the lady my mother has engaged to massage my knee with a medicated oil arrives. Her bangles clink as she rubs my knee. “My children told me to stay home today. But I was worried about your knee so I came. Tomorrow I won’t come if there is trouble after the verdict is announced. Faith is in the heart, gudiya. If I have God in my heart I don’t need a temple. I hope there is no trouble. We poor are the worst affected and least interested. I think they should just have a hospital or an ashram there.” I nod. I have no words to comfort her.

The next morning we lock our gate. Schools close early. My parents’ office shuts at half day. We’re well stocked in terms of provisions and we switch on the TV and wait. At 2 pm the electricity is cut and the net connection goes down. Coincidence? The generator comes on. Datacards are dug out. We log on and wait.

————————————————

The verdict is out. Nobody seems very happy although the mango people say everyone should be satisfied. Each party thinks the glass is half empty. Streets are coming back to life. It is not particularly enjoyable to be stuck in the city that is announcing the verdict. Family jokes about going out to get some rum since its been a dry city for a while. I don’t want to know or joke. I want to hang a cross over the front door and get into a bunker. Memories of another curfew years ago still loom large. This isn’t funny anymore. I fear that the rumblings will begin soon. I fear that we haven’t seen what trouble is yet. I hope that I am wrong.

I want a safe country for my children. I want the CWG to stop being an embarrassment. As we turn off the TV a line on the ticker catches my attention – India wants to host Olympics. I bang my head against a wall. Can I migrate?

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48 thoughts on “Awaiting the verdict

  1. Stay indoors, stay safe. But I feel like there won’t be any riots, because both muslim and hindu politicians are busy calculating who was at a loss, and seeing as their IQ is < 20, they will be at those calculations for quite some time.

    Happy Birthday and YAY for being at home now :-).

  2. A Muslim friend says it’s time for him to migrate- he was promised an apartment in a complex in Mumbai by the builder, but the residents didn’t let him buy because he is a Muslim. His eight year old is the only Muslim in his class, which fact was brought home rudely to him recently in a discussion by his classmates on the Ayodhya issue. When will we realise that we are one country, whose citizens all have the same basic rights? Our divisiveness is pretty disgusting. That said, I hope sanity is retained following this judgement.

  3. This post makes me so sad. just the thought of fear and nervousness in so many people’s minds. It’s such an unfortunate situation.

    We..each n every one of us really need to work on leaving behind a happier n a more peaceful India for our children. I truly wonder when the world will become religion/caste free….Its soon going to become the need of the hour.

    About the CWG..i agree…they did a poor job. But that being said there is also a view that the media is showcasing only things that went wrong. Right? The media seems to be putting in plenty of time n effort to paint a bad picture of our country.. I wish they worried about more than just TRP. Know what I mean?

    Did u read this article that was written by this guy working at O&M ??It’s so insulting to India…made me want to slap him!

    On a completely different note… have u seen “An Inconvenient Truth”..i saw it earlier this week…n thot of u while seeing it. You will surely appreciate this movie.

    The last line of the post makes me laugh !

  4. I think there couldn’t have been a better verdict – what can be better than sharing the land? I wish the media would talk in a more positive voice – being skeptical and raising doubts at this point of time is inflammatory.

  5. It was a strange day all the way here in Bangalore too. I can only imagine the eerie silence in Allahabad.

    I so hope there are no more rumblings. Take care MM!

  6. Is that so – about the dissatisfaction? the cup 1/2 full feelings? on TV everyone said they were ok with the decision. I really hope no one uses this opportunity to foment trouble. Wish for peace. everyone deserves it – esp the poor who will bear the brunt of the mayhem. So much to say on the issue…

  7. I agree MM. I am scared as well. Specially when I see people talking about grand temples and expecting Muslims to show restraint in the same sentence.

    And India and olympics in the same sentence can only be joke.

  8. All I remember is that 18 years back, we were glued to the TV and my mum said, “I’m scared. It’s going to be like ’84.”

    Today, I felt that ’84 feeling too and chickened out – came home early, ensured that everyone in the family did, but once home, I was okay. Been thinking of it since and feeling like we’re all so divided that no matter who we are, we’re all the disadvantaged. There’s a strange comfort and sadness in that thought.

  9. gudiya, you’ve had some week…crazy eventful even by your high standards. Quit the job, turned a year older, back to ranting with a vengeance! what next, dare I ask?
    I want to bury my head in the sand everytime the CWG is mentioned in the newspapers here or on the telly, usually drawing smug comparisons between that colossal waste of time and money and the neat little Asian Games HK is hosting. want to host the olympics? try again in a million years or after we’ve lined up and shot every slimy politician and bureaucrat responsible for the CWG embarrasment.

  10. I don’t know if anyone truly understood, “ishwar, allah tero naam…” I guess not. 18 years after the rampage and hundreds of years after the British rule, we still divide and rule. Did we make any progress at all?

  11. The fear and concern is palatable to the reader of your post…the common man, Hindu and Muslim, are least affected by these issues, they just want to go on with their business of living. The South has seen less of these problems and we have not really lived in fear ever. The verdict is out and I think there is a sense of relief in all Indians that it is finally over.

  12. “think we should gift Ayodhya to Sri Lanka in reparations for all the fires our monkeys caused over there a long time ago”
    copied message, but its the funniest i’ve read in a while!

  13. We were in Coimbatore when the bomb blasts & riots happened. They cannot be very similar to what was the situation then. But I can understand. Staying safe is the priority.

  14. I so relate to this post. The fear and the hatred and the eerie silences and the police patrolling – I want to live in an India without all this, too.

  15. has any country which had a grand tally of approx. 20 medals from ALL the Olympic Games it has participated in, ever hosted an Olympics? Or will we set a precedent :P:P:P 😀

  16. We were all very tensed too even though I live outside of India. But I’m relived and happy to see how matured the common man has become. I was however livid when I saw P Chidambaram’s statement that the verdict does not absolve the guilt of the mosque demolition. That statement was unnecessary and I felt would create confusion among people. But I should not have been surprised because the biggest losers of this verdict are the politicians – what will their new manifesto be now that people have seemed to have moved on from petty religious politics?

    Your article and few of the other people have mentioned the issue of migrating from India in face of discrimination. I have lived in the US for 12 years now and I can tell you the only that stops bigots (there are a lot of them that have come out of the woodwork since Obama became the Prez) here from lynching brown-skinned and non-Christians is the prospect of a swift and harsh punishment meted out in the courts. If that was not there, you would have heard of “brown-skinned people” run over by cars, lynched, shot at every day of the year. So it is really not very green on the other side of the pasture!

    CWG – I don’t even want to think about it. Love your blog – keep rocking!

    Cheers,
    Kavitha

    • I came back to add to the question of religious equality outside of India. Equality based on religion is a myth even in the West. I can never see a Hindu or a Muslim becoming a Governor let alone the President of US at least for the next hundred years. Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley have been popular because they tout themselves as devout Christians. I doubt they would have come this far had they called themselves Hindu/Sikh/Muslim. But India has had PMs & Presidents from all regions and religions and on that front we can say India is a more mature democracy even though we have been existence as a nation for a mere 63 years.

        • We follow a policy of tokenisms. Let’s have a muslim president or a woman president and settle it at that. the real spirit of democracy, the concept of equality before law and rule of law are a work in progress. The West is far ahead in these areas and these are the ones that matter

          • yes – i agree with you. this is tokenism at its best. i’m amused when i hear people say things like oh we have a muslim president or a sikh PM. neither of them were voted in by the people you know….

          • True, West is far ahead in enforcing equality and justice. West did not acquire this overnight – United States has been at it for a mere 234 years! I don’t condone any of the atrocities that happen. My point is that India is still a young nation whose cultural fabric is so different that there is no other country in the world that one can compare in terms of language, religion, customs, etc. Change will certainly come as it came in the West…slowly.

            • perhaps, but i’d rather they didnt use the tokenism as a front. there’s no point having sikh and muslim heads of state if you cant be fair to the people, right? and yes, i hope change comes. at least within my lifetime…

    • I’m afraid I must disagree with you there. Chidambaram’s statement was necessary. Just because the judges found that the Hindus had a valid claim to the Babri Masjid land, it doesn’t justify the demolition of the mosque. It was and is a criminal act and they took the law into their own hands. and I think his statement actually helped cleared up a lot of the misunderstandings surrounding the judgment.

    • perhaps. but whatever be the reason, they have a solution. here you have lower caste people being persecute, khap panchayats and corruption that has destroyed the CWG, with no fear of persecution either.

  17. Well this is not the end of story, is it? Now that the HC verdict is out and no party is particularly thrilled / happy about it and there are no clear winners or losers, which is the reason for no violence, I guess. It doesn’t end here now, does it? Everyone wants to appeal to SC and then there will be all this tamasha when the day comes for SC to announce the verdict. I doubt if there will be an end to it. *sigh*

  18. there was no fear of riots then, nor today in the part of small city i inhabited. a colony and village which had equal number of hindus and muslims.
    but i had fear deep in my heart this time. no i didn’t stocked up provisions because i didn’t knew it should be done..somewhere in my heart i believed that we were too busy to start a riot but on the d-day when my brother stopped me from going to a nearby complex, i realized that it can happen. its a good decision, but next day the headlines read “2 parts to hindus and 1 part to muslims” .
    isn’t it kind of throwing stones in otherwise calm water. the media was constantly tring to put words in the mouth of eminent people which might have started an agitation, thankfully that didn’t happen. why can media be all praises and show the positive side of the judgement? why can’t we divert our precious man-hours towards more productive work? there are so many mosques and so many temples, how well are they taken care of? so many questions… i wish i could answer them.

    • i wouldnt have stocked up if i were in Gurgaon. but I was home in allahabad and you know the atmosphere there was tense. Your nani and all would know…
      also, i dont know if the media should be blamed for all our ills. There were plenty of people saying the same thing. My cook was running around celebrating saying – oh we got 2 parts and they got only one.
      and Muslim staff were upset the moment the verdict was announced. So i guess the media only said what people were thinking. What remains to be seen is how people behave after the announcement.

      • It’s funny how the same people will go out of the country and behave completely differently. Hindus and Muslims work, eat and play together. Everyone celebrates Diwali and Eid. You’ll find muslim weddings with a lot of hindu rituals etc.

        Why is it then that we do all this nakra only when we’re back in our homeland?

      • MM, it may be true that some Muslims were upset with the verdict, but the media has to show restraint even while presenting facts. Some things are inflammatory, even if they are facts. If you remember, during the 9/11 attack, after a point, american channels weren’t allowed to keep playing visuals of the plane crashing through the WTC – because it was inflammatory and provocative. Our media just doesn’t show that kind of restraint. I’m sure you have seen how barkha and co are so fond of playing the video of the Babri masjid demolition on their channels. Yes, it’s a real event that really happened – but do they want more people to get provoked into fighting with each other? The hindus got 2/3rd and the muslims got 1/3rd. True. Scale it up – Hindus got 2 parts, Muslims got 1 – it sounds worse, doesnt it? Now multiply by 10. Hindus got 20, Muslims got 10 – even worse? What’s the point of the drama, really? It’s clearly meant to shock and provoke.

        • I am afraid I must disagree. We’ve got to stop blaming others for our faults. Sometimes the politicians and at other times the media. Surely we should have the decency and restraint not to go around looting and plundering? Why is the media the only entity called upon for restraint? It’s not always the media’s job to recite dull facts, but also to ask pertinent questions – and in fact in this case, they ARE stating facts and well within their rights. I’d be totally on your side if they overstepped their limits and made a false claim or showed something untrue.

          and its not just Muslims. I know Hindus who are upset too, that they didnt get the whole thing.

          • The media is definitely not the only entity called upon for restraint – as the same media showed, the people of the country were repeatedly asked by everyone, to keep calm. And the people did, no thanks to the media. I saw one very re-tweeted tweet that went something like this – “i’m not worried about the people of the nation acting responsibly today, it’s barkha, arnab and rajdeep i’m worried about”

            • And I am glad people did. But in this case I think the media did too. I for one, wouldnt want to be part of a media that mutely accepted and didn’t question everything sent our way. in this case i feel the media did the right thing by raising pertinent issues. its always uncomfortable to have to hear such things, and yet, they are food for thought.

            • MM, I don’t agree with the media reporting the facts. I found the TOI headline in bad taste too.. it may be a fact but that’s the most crude way of presenting the fact.

              Also, I do feel that while nobody benefits from a mute media, it’s equally necessary for mediapersons to be sensitive about timing and emotions. Sensationalism and the race to be the first to report kills this sensitivity, and sometimes even the accuracy. I feel that they made a mockery of the way the verdict was being reported.. practically asphyxiating the already breathless laywers and then speculating on what it could mean for either side.. even putting words in the mouths of their guests. All that’s needed to trigger riots is for Shiv Sena to refer TOI’s article in Saamna and then, who should take the responsibility? If the lowest common denominator in our country had the knowledge or the openness to form their own opinions, this made sense.. but where newspapers practically shape thinking, it was rash. Sad!

            • sure, there are lines to be drawn – but i wouldnt blindly blame the media for everything, all the time. What was the TOI headline again?

    • I think it was the Times of India who had that rather provocative headline. From what I saw and read of the news that day and the next, most Indian media were being quite responsible about the whole situation.

  19. Firstly, Happy Birthday (read someone wishing you that…..so, belated if it has passed or in advance, if it is yet to come……

    You know MM, biggest problem in our country is complete absence of leadership or for that matter absence of a capable leader- all we have are politicians with permanent interests that need to be preserved at all costs….Ayodhya, Delhi Sikh Riots, Killing of Christians etc are nothing but those costs that people like us pay…… BJP, Congress,Left, Regional Parties etc are all part of the same problem- none of them is above board and have blood on their hands on different ocassions.

    The other problem is that in India religion or for that matter secularism is identified as a problem. Whereas, western nations or nations in the east (with the exception of middle east for obvious reasons of complete absence of democracy)feel proud of their religion and have a line that separates polity from religion and vice versa. America is a deeply secular nation (few might not agree to that in the post 911 era) and at the same time is very proud of its Christian heritage and Japan for that matter of its Buddhist heritage. On the other hand, talking about his/her religion is considered as communal in India due to complete absence of that much needed line between polity and religion with the result that we let politicians milk the situation to their advantage. My religion shall never come in way of my respect for other religions and also for respective practitioners……

    Last but not the least, just returned from Bihar and trust me I am still under shock…..I visited the most impoverished regions of Jehanabad and trust me, all I can say is where is the time to talk about religion….I mean people are still struggling for their two square meals even after 63 years. Actually, we as a nation have failed miserably in pockets where it matters most…..It pained me to carry my stock of water bottles for 3 days after I heard about the lack of potable drinking water……had to use solar panel to charge my phone as electric wires didnt carry any current for 3 days of my stay…..And, trust me people say that their life has improved greatly in past 5 years- even my friend who visited his village after 18 years felt so. They think that their government is responsive to their needs and they feel this is their first such government post independence- people who I spoke to cut across different caste lines and religions……I felt great hearing that but it proved to be short-lived as soon as I heard their answers to my questions about their voting preferences-mostly, on caste lines…….Sad….very sad! I just hope that better sense will prevail..If not, I think it will be prudent to say that Bihar deserves it as its choice.

    What Bihar is doing on caste lines at regional level, we do it at national level- be it on caste, colour, dynastic, language etc etc lines…..And we deserve the state we are in.

    After my Bihar visit, trust me I have also learnt to respect sight of a foreigner not trusting the quality of water in our cities or their ability to spot filth in apparently cleaner environment………For them India is no less than a Bihar……

    I shall end this comment with a Gandhi quote-“there are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread”…..so true as evident in the comment of that Muslim chikan kurta seller or that Hindu massseur or the Christian writer of this blog or for that matter this Hindu commenter’s view!

  20. Absolutely heart-felt blog .. keep going MM. This is exactly what will keep us all sane along such times.

    p.s. Just don’t migrate yet please.. kinda heart-call to each one of us

  21. Hi MM,
    I am Seetha and I read your blog every now and then. Love your writing style. Anyway u keep mentioning about your knee problem, is it like an ache in your knee joints? The reason i ask is I had aching joints when my 1st born was 18 months and my doctor checked my Vitamin D levels and they were extremly low. It usually shows up right after I stopped nursing my kids. I recently had the same issue after my 2nd baby as well. Just thought of asking u, if u had checked for Vit D levels recently. If that is the case, it seems to easily solve the problem with VIT D pills and 15 in exposure to Sunlight. Sorry to be hogging so much space here. I wanted to email u but did not know the email address.

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