Boat Of Loathing
Boat Of Loathing8 mins 315 8 mins 315
I saw Sanjay at the tail end of the long queue. He was still handsome as ever but his towering personality seemed to be bending and there was some nervousness on his face. The sweat droplets on his face were telling the story of his tiredness and anxiety. He was the son of my neighbor and childhood friend who shifted to a foreign country along with his wife long ago in search of better life and good opportunity and settled there permanently. Sanjay was born and brought up there and got the citizenship of that country however he visited our village several times along with his parents. Five years back when his father died, he returned to the village to sell his ancestral property. I went to see him out of affection and considering him the reminiscent of my beloved friend and thinking to persuade him not to sell this as it will provide him an excuse to visit his relatives and help him stay connected to his roots but I did not get the kind of attention and respect I expected from him. He was just like my child but I saw the waves of hate in his eyes and his rudeness conveyed clearly what was going in his mind. I was aware with current prevailing situations in the society and knew how some politicians have been spitting venom against my religion just to reach the power riding on the boat of loathing, but it never came to my mind that this disease would have been traveled to my fellow countrymen living abroad as well and this young boy also would be thinking in the same direction. I returned to my home feeling hurt and sat on the charpoy shocked for hours. For the next few days, I kept on pondering whether I should go to him and talk once again and try to strike a chord with him or just let him think the way he thinks. After a lot of thinking, I finally decided to talk to him and give it a try.
It was Sanjay’s last day in the village and he was supposed to leave in the evening. After having my lunch, I told my son to lay the charpoy under the cool shade of neem tree and prepare huqqa for me, and then I headed towards his house. I saw him sitting among his cousins and just called him by his name. He walked over to me unwillingly, and when he reached me I just held his hand and brought him to my courtyard. Asked him to sit on the charpoy and after taking the first smoke from my huqqa, I had a look at his face, he was just two copy of his father, and this made me nostalgic, I addressed him, “Do you know? Whenever I use this Huqqa, this reminds me of your father, and I use it every day at least twice. This neem tree is the witness of my and your father’s childhood? We played here for hours together resting under this tree in summers. We would use its tiny branches as toothbrush and we would collect its soar fruits to pay for chaat in the biweekly market of our village. We used to buy two leaves (two plates) of chat together and eat sitting on that high mound where you can see a huge tower of water tank standing now.” While talking to him I found myself getting engrossed in the reminiscent of good old days of my childhood, one interesting memory after another flashed through my mind and I just could not control my smile as I asked him, “do you know Shubrati chacha?” And without waiting for his response I continued talking, “Shubrati Chacha was one of the two-three farmers of our village who would sow gram seed, the best thing was everyone liked to east its green leaves with chili sauce and its raw and sweat green seeds after roasting them on fire. I and your father would tiptoe into his filed to pluck few branches and whenever we heard him asking “who is there?”, “We would just run. He never caught us and we never plucked more than what we needed.” I just looked at Sanjay; he was all ears to me and then I continued. “There are a lot of memories we both share together one of them is related to our playful days during the winter season. A Kolhu (sugarcane crusher) used to be set up behind the Eidgah of our village; you must have seen that white large and old walled square at the eastern end of our village. The bullocks would move in circle throughout the day and night and a big pan was put on fire in which fresh sugarcane juice used to be boiled to make jiggery. It would be a kind of fair for us as we used to enjoy a lot.” I turned towards him and found him engrossed in thoughts. I had opened up to someone after so many years and felt so nostalgic, he also appeared to be taking interest in what he was hearing from me, after all, I was talking not about myself but his father as well. Now I thought to come to the point. I addressed him directly saying “when your father visited the village last time he talked about you a lot. He told me that you have been in the forefront and very protective and highly combative about the rights of Indian diaspora there. I felt very happy about that as I realized that you love the Indian culture and traditions. But when he told me about another activity, he was very concerned and I also got very disturbed.”
What did he tell you?
“He told me that you have fallen prey to an extremist chauvinist organization that does not believe in the diversity of this nation. It seeks to treat people discriminately on the basis of religion and race and plays the majoritarian politics through bashing religious minorities in our country all the time. He told me that you donate a good chunk of your salary to that regularly.”
Sanjay had a look at me and then started staring at his feet and said in a bit louder voice appearing to be indifferent, “yes uncle I do.” He stopped for a moment and then continued “I want my religion to be the supreme and rule not only this country but the whole world.”
Does this mean you or your organization should hate others? Do you think it should be done by robbing others of their rights?
“Uncle my coreligionists are being harassed and oppressed in our neighboring countries.”
“My son, I will not go into details whether what you said is really happening or nor but Does this mean you should do the same here in India as well? Don’t you think you are doing two contradictory things? Being a minority diaspora there, you are fighting for your rights there and getting them too but at the same time, you are supporting those who want to strip the minorities of their rights here irrespective of the fact that here the minorities are not a diaspora but the sons of this soil. Let me make a point here. If you have a look at our genealogy tree and go ten generations back you will find that our ancestors were the same, and this applies to others as well.”
“Uncle, there was so much oppression during the Medieval period.”
“If there was violence, then should we continue the same? I think if it was so, then we must learn the lesson, must not repeat the mistake of the past.”
“Uncle I don’t want to argue, I will have to leave as I don’t have much time.”
“My son, I myself don’t want to argue, I just wanted to make you understand that ours is a very diverse country in terms of religions, race, culture and even languages. Hate mongering of racist organizations will only harm its peace and harmony and destabilize it. The only thing I would like to advise is that whatever you do should be based on righteousness.”
And then he left and after that day I never saw him again. From time to time I got the news of his success, wealth and his monetary support for that extremist and racist organization that grew day by day till its political wing reached at the helm of the affairs in our country after much propaganda and then started creating mayhem through passing draconian laws and profiling people on the basis of religion. Two months back, in that foreign country where Sanjay lived, the government started hunting down people who support racist organizations as they realized that they had been successful in keeping the fringe supremacist and extremists of their own race at bay but could not keep the people who came to that country from outside in check. When I saw Sanjay standing at the tail end of the queue I knew what would have happened there as he was very vocal about what he thinks.
“Uncle show me your documents” these words of the clerk brought me back from the ocean of my thoughts, and I realized that now it’s my turn. I handed over my papers to the clerk and after getting everything verified stood aside in the shade of a peepal tree where some children were drinking water from the hand pump. I waited for Sanjay to submit his papers and when he was done, I called him to inquire about his wellbeing but he shrugged off and I knew that the communal hatred has reached the point of no return.
I came back to my home, sat on the charpoy thinking about what kind of India we had got from the British, how it was patched little by our founding fathers accommodating the diversity of region, religion, language and culture with due respect for each and then how we grew and developed facing different challenges and finally how a hateful environment swept the whole country creating a deep divide on religious lines and crushing every dissent and silencing every voice.