The first step in trying to solve any problem is to admit that there is a problem.
When we saw last year’s Durga puja smeared as a massacre, the celebration turned into a shout, and it’s a relief that this year’s puja can be held without any major events. It’s important to note that none of these are random acts of violence. Accepting that as a nation and a culture we have a problem that goes back a long way and is gaining power year after year, no matter how hard it is, is the minimum we can start to heal those wounds. Retreat to a safe corner by claiming “this is not the country we see burning in front of us” shouldn’t be an option, at least not at this point.
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There is a poem by Nabarun Bhattacharya, “Ei Mrittu Upottoka Amar Desh Na”, which is widely shared whenever something like this happens. I’m tired of seeing this – all the well-meaning people give up the version of the country they’ve seen before. I think it’s been long enough and enough bloodshed. There must be a reckoning, I’m tired.
And this Death Valley is my country,
The stage of the executioner’s madness is my country,
This burning earth is my country,
This bloody slaughterhouse is my country.
It’s easier for me, and I’m honored to be able to say I’m tired. After all, I was born Muslim in a Muslim-majority country.at Arundhati Roy’s Bliss, the first-person narrator, Biplab Dasgupta, a senior Brahmin bureaucrat in the Indian government, said they also had trauma because they had to look at it, they—the rest of India, they had to look at what they were doing. As I write all this, there are also some concerns that I hope will not become weak. But there should be a real concern when writing about a tragedy that’s not your goal. Worryingly, it could become exploitative, voyeuristic and arrogant.
I hope it doesn’t.
So be it.
First, we can’t just hope things pass, we can’t deny parts of our culture and country because they don’t fit our particular ideals. It is an escape, an easy way out, of claiming that we are primitive and the dirt lives elsewhere, claiming that we are saints and that it is not our sin.
That is our sin. The longer we deny this, the longer we claim this is not our country, the stronger the threat will be. We cannot map the country as we see fit. Our own liberal bubble is not the whole country. It’s sickening to see people “waking up” handing out belts to each other in self-engagement and self-indulgent posts on social media platforms, sharing paranoid versions of their country.
Even if a person lives a very secluded life, it is expected that at some point in their adult life, they will look beyond their personal experience and see the country for what it is. This begs the question, why collective denial? Is it to soothe ourselves to sleep and make our reality less painful and painful?
Anyone who has grown up in this country and culture should not forget the countless daily hatreds and sneers reserved for minorities. Words like “lal pipra”, “malaun” are learned by children at home, at school and on the playground even before they fully understand the meaning of the words. Children learn such hateful rhymes before even understanding the full consequences and repercussions that now, as an adult, it makes me sick to remember them.
I attend a girls’ school so I don’t know all the colorful ways a Hindu classmate can be fired and bullied. At our school, there are Hindu classes, so none of my Hindu classmates have to jump over a hurdle and sit in the corner while the Islamic class continues. It’s crazy that I have to mention this. Because that’s the absolute minimum a school can do. I know rhymes too, I’ve heard them a lot.
Following the 2016 election and Donald Trump’s victory, the African American community and all the hyphenated citizens of the country were curious to observe how liberal America was aware of the fact that America was racist. It’s almost laughable considering how much oppression and police brutality there is still. They shouted, “This is not America!”
Liberal bubbles are very similar all over the world and they can be so ignorant of the culture they live in. Last year’s Durga puja event reminded me of a Muslim family in India who was attacked on suspicion of beef in the fridge.
This is our country, and once a day, she is stripped of her color and vitality. She is starving and forced to deny her children’s rights. If we ever talked to all our relatives, looked at our classmates, and went back to our village, we would know that this land of fire is our country.
Those who put the Quran in Mendir know the country. He and the people behind him knew what the knock-on effect would be. He knows how much push people need to wreak havoc on someone belonging to another religion.
While calling for a proper trial of the perpetrators, we should also ask: why do we need such a little push, an excuse that almost wreaks havoc on our fellow Hindus?
Old sins cast long shadows. Old sins have genealogy, history and heritage. Old sins are passed down from generation to generation. During raids and raids, when the name “Noah Hari” appeared in other place names in the country, I was reminded of old sins. This is where the feud in the community burns during the division year.
Hope can coexist with acceptance. Good memories can be remembered without delusion. Hopefully there are enough people in the opposite range too. There are enough parents and grandparents in the family who not only preach, but show future children how to coexist, love and respect. There are enough inseparable teachers in the classroom and enough friends in the playground who support each other and recite only the rhythm of surprise and sweet mischief.
Although I forced myself to stay on the ground and not float away, romanticizing the past, I did float away. I drifted into childhood and my mom talked about her governess, Kanon Devi, who came early in the morning and called her “Dolly moni”. She was wearing sandalwood powder, and I saw the love in my mother’s eyes, saying that was the smell of her childhood mornings. Lying in bed with my five-year-old head dangling outside, I could smell it in the fleeting autumn colors. I remember the puja time in my community was rushed, the whole Mymensingh was in anticipation, and everyone had a festive feeling. Saraswati puja at my school and university, saw the mandap, then went to khichuri to a friend’s house. A five-day marathon of proshad, para mishti, chana shondesh, lots of tea and maddening laughter during Durga Puja.
The reality is pretty scary. But I hope it doesn’t get weak. What we’re seeing right now has been there in our country, and it shouldn’t be news. What is changing and may reach a tipping point is how much of it becomes stronger and the balance has tipped towards intolerance.
“But hope is something with feathers,” says Emily Dickinson. So I hope Nabarun Bhattacharya’s poems don’t turn into fashion statements again and again to take it easy. I hope we don’t become Biplab Dasgupta and delusion that it’s just too late to realize what happened. We make things happen. But we’d rather be Guih Kyom, the dung beetle of Arundati Roy’s house Bliss. The “turn the tide” dung beetle.
Sumaya Mashrufa is a person trying to be a person. More formally, she was a translator and wanted to be a good typist, transcribing the stories of the people who lived in her mind.