A general election, like a festival, is a time to renew ourselves, our faith in our country and our hopes for her success. The past needs to be put away because every community has something on its conscience. But not everything in the past should be put away. Some things are worth owning and operating. That anyway has been the burden of my song since I first began to write on ‘religion’. And like others, this is what I wish to say again:
Next time you’re tempted to share in a Muslim-bashing conversation, remember you are behaving exactly like the stereotypical ‘jihadi’ that you so detest. Because Indian Muslims are different. Don’t hold the actions of past invaders against today’s Muslims. Don’t let one bunch of crazy people today represent all Muslims.
Or all Hindus.
The truth, which we must realise at once and afresh, is that ‘We’ are part of ‘Them’. And they are part of us in ways that we should not even have to bother to explain to an outsider. Ima-gine our plight, if we now have to explain it to our own selves.
Then let us revisit Kaifi Azmi, the important modern Indian poet who died in May 2002, the year of Gujarat. He wrote poems and songs for just about every mood, as we well know. Let us recall just two. Both are songs of faith for and in India.
Take the film Haqeeqat (Reality), starring Dharmendra and Priya Rajvansh. The music was by Madan Mohan, the singer, Mohammed Rafi. Kaifi Azmi’s words:
Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon/Ab tumhare hawale vatan saathiyon/ Kat gaye sar hamare toh kuch gham nahi/Sar Himalay ka humne na jhukne diya. ‘Consecrating our lives (to our land), we leave (for war)/Our land is now in your care, friends We do not grieve if we lose our heads/As long as we do not let the Himalayas bow theirs…’
Kheench do apne khoon se zamin par lakeer/Is taraf aa na paaye na Ravan koi/Tod do haath agar haath uthaane lage/Chhu na paaye na Sita ka daaman koi/Ram bhi tum hi Lakshman saathiyon/
Ab tumhare hawale vatan saathiyon. ‘Draw a line on the ground with our blood/Lest any Ravan app-roach/ Break their hands if anyone dares lift a hand at our Sita’s robes/Be both Ram and Lakshman, fri-ends/Our land is now in your care...’
Nandita Das’s film Firaaq (Separation) is in the news now and has evoked MS Sathyu’s Garam Hawa. Rewind to the qawwali in that the moving old film on Partition starring Balraj Sahni, Farooq Shaikh and Jalal Agha. The music and vocals are by Aziz Ahmed Khan Warsi. It could be our song today, this qawwali by Kaifi Sahib to Akbar’s patron saint, the Sufi guru Salim Chishti:
Ujade hue chaman mein yeh rang-e-pairahan mein/Sau rang muskuraaye, sau phool lailahaaye/Aayi nayi bahaarein, phelaane lagi phuaare/ Ghunghat ki laaj rakhna, is sar pe taj rakhna/Aaqa Salim Chishti, Maula Salim Chishti. ‘In our wrecked garden, let a hundred colours smile, let a hundred flowers dance, let new Springs come and fountains play/Keep us shamefast, keep fast the crown on our heads; Hear us, our Master, our Teacher, Salim Chishti.’
But we first need to hear our own hearts as fellow-Indians.