Tensions are increasingly mounting with the atmosphere methodically becoming more and more aggressive and self-justifying. A case of, `us versus them’. The grating image conjuring is, as if a camera were zooming, rather diving into a community, going blue in the face, on account of their mega-identity being challenged.
Referring here to the `Hijab Controversy’ that has erupted in Karnataka. Shan’t be stretching my mind on it, but my pen shall pause, not-so-briefly though, to use up some of its ink on this space.
Yes, our Constitution, commendably so, celebrates, unity in diversity but with the years stockpiled since its inception, India with its Nehruvian Secularism has morphed into a breeding ground of schismatic politics, as compelling as a demon’s spell. There was a time, not too many blue moons back, when one did not know that your friend, Ayesha was a Muslim or that, that very Ayesha would with the same rapturous enthusiasm celebrate Diwali at your place, and over Eid her Ammi (which you’d think was another doting way of saying Mummy) would send an extra `dabba’ of `seviyan’ for you.
And going to Church, dipping your fingers into the holy water with your Sikh friends, simply a way of life. We were all countrymen. That does not sound right to the ear, so with the blind swish of the pen, strike out countrymen and say countryfolk, right?! I need to stray for a minute, though shan’t lose my thread. A few winters ago, my significant-other (pompous and high-hat, it sounds though better than `better-half’ or the dull, tiresome address, husband!) had gone to a temple in Chattarpur, where he had offered a basketful of fruit, which after receiving the blessings of Hanumanji, returned home, telling our maid that her children would enjoy the apples, grapes and oranges.
Sunita, her real name Suzy, the rechristening of Sunita, her own voluntary doing, not even putting up a pretense of being polite on the surface, with prickly top-loftiness retorted (sneered, more like it, however) that they did not take, leave alone, eat `Prasad’. It being a Hindu matter. Seriously?! Then howzzitt that this very Same’s bread and butter came from a Hindu household?! Should she not be working for an-all Christian clan?! Was not the salary, money earned from us, tainted as well?! To backpedal.
The Hijab. Fine, it’s simply a harmless headscarf, so why then the knock-down, drag-out hullabaloo over it?! The marching protests over how dare one community believes one should not be wearing one’s religion on one’s sleeves?! If my memory still is intact, in 2011, April me think it was, when France banned the Burqa, the black robe girdling in, fencing in, the entire lady from top to bottom.
The reason: how could a veiled bank teller manning the counter assist the customer?! How would a schoolgirl sit in a class, take in the lessons curtained with her face swathed in the folds of a thick weave?! So thus, the law prohibiting the `wear’ in `the pure spirit of living together.’ Fine, in your car, as long as you are not driving, acceptable. Or in the precincts of your home or a place of religious worship of the same faith.
But…but back home, accosting this Hijab issue into having one’s religion being appropriated by the Majority Religion, thereby beating one’s chest in a `do or die’ mode?! With, in a few states, elections around the corner, this a way of maximizing votes for one party, entering into a new dark age at a sprinter’s pace?! And these flowing saffron stoles ballistically blurting out what they’ve been brainwashed to flare up over?! Whatever for?! Intend to steer this boat down another river, connected however, by the same waters.
Schools in England and Ireland as well, have their own specific uniform for the students. Here, in India, 95 percent of schools have their pupils clothed in their own established and identifiable gear—we having taken this on from the Colonial rule. And to my understanding, whoever came out with the idea of the same clothes for everyone to be procured from specific, allotted shops so that the fabric was uniform—blazers made of the same material, shoes of the same make, whether the everyday buckle or the lace-up ones or the white fleet/canvas pair for Sports periods, was quite unaware that nothing could have been more philanthropic, public-spirited! The, `top-to-toe’ uniform, the Great Equalizer.
So, it makes no difference if one comes from an affluent background, where holidaying in London is pedestrianized fare, South of France is where the cream of the crop are `seen’ to vacation or that the boy, who plays cricket, football, tennis at inter-school competitions, in all likelihood, winning a college scholarship, because he goes on to play at inter-state tournaments, is the son of a peon.
Simply put: the uniform purports that all are the same. School days, for the most of us, are indelibly etched in our minds.
Therefore, if So & So, couldn’t care less about any subject, not a dithery bone-in-the-body, had a clear-sighted, whip-smart mind but…had other things on mind with academia not falling under the ambit, then so be it! Ah, must go on high-speed reverse gear since have become hare-footed, while nearing the end, skipped by a valuable point, how we, with eyes wide open, tend to stereotype. Cannot hold against the Richie Rich lad if his parents own a Chateau in France or wherever.
He, in all likelihood, has his own set of dreams, plans on going to Wharton Business School—being a dab hand at crunching numbers. Considering, in full earnest, he’d expand the business into an Empire. Back to the present: there might be a fellow student who is pretty as Cinderella, and word may tentatively have it, that she, as in the fairytale, lives the life of a chambermaid, with the shrewish step-mä and spiteful step-sisters.
Her background known to few—so when she, clad in her uniform, is seen excelling in gymnastics, harbouring the ambition to, one day, make it to the Olympics, she cannot be type-cast as the one in her glass slippers waiting for her Prince Charming to sweep her away.
In this school uniform, in the sameness of attire, we honour our individuality! The individual, thus, a knight, a dame in shining armour…