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November 4, 2000
Thank you, Mr Nandy, but...
'So much for all those who believe that only Hindus back the Indian team and Muslims root for the Pakistanis. Nothing can be further from the truth. All Indians out there, be it in Sharjah or Dubai or anywhere else in the world, irrespective of their religion, caste and community, are first and foremost Indians. They stand together as one community under one flag. That is what has built the Indian diaspora. That is what explains our huge success overseas'.
-- Pritish Nandy, 'Lessons from Sharjah', rediff.com, November 3
Mr Nandy reached this conclusion after meeting a 'young Indian Muslim taxi-driver', who 'was furious that we [Indians] were losing so shamefully to Sri Lanka' and two 'Bihari [Indian] Muslims, 'ardent supporters of the Indian team', who were 'in tears criticizing the way we played'.
As an Indian Muslim, how should I react to this column? Should I thank Mr Nandy for giving a certificate of patriotism to Indian Muslims (well, NRI Muslims at least)? If not for his column about these chance meetings with three 'patriotic' Muslims, we may never have known that 'we stand together as one community under one flag'.
But his column also raised some questions. What if he had not met these three guys? What if the Muslim taxi-driver was not a cricket fan? What if he had not discussed his 'anger over the shameful defeat' with Mr Nandy? What if those two Biharis were not with Mr Nandy when they were 'in tears criticizing the way we played'?
Frankly, I was amused to read the column (as I always am, whenever the media takes up this 'Indian-Muslims-are-as-patriotic stance). What was so great about the taxi-driver from Uttar Pradesh supporting the Indian team and expressing anger at our shameless defeat? What is so extraordinary about the 'tears' of those two Bihari Muslims? They are Indians. It is but natural for them to react the way they did.
But a columnist of Mr Nandy's stature would not have written a column on this subject unless there was a point. And the point is, what else was expected from the three Indian Muslims he met in Dubai?
To be fair to Mr Nandy, I do appreciate his column. However unpleasant, it is a fact that a section of Indian society raises doubts about the loyalty of Indian Muslims every now and again, especially during cricket matches. I have myself faced such unpleasant comments.
I am a regular on Prem Panicker's live commentary and chat during cricket matches and every now and then appears a comment or three in the chat room which is unpleasant, even insulting, just because my log-in name is Sajid, which indicates my faith. I normally ignore them. And what happens immediately after is the pleasant and reassuring part. For each such comment, 10 comments appear immediately, mostly from Hindus, in my defence.
But what amused me most in Mr Nandy's column is this: 'The fact that NRIs, irrespective of their faith and caste, stand up as one and yell for India. Now, if only we could do that here, imagine how much stronger we would be as a nation'.
I happen to be an NRI, so I am pleased and happy to get a certificate. I am even feeling great for 'standing together as one community under one flag'.
But wait a second. What does this imply? Doesn't this raise a question? 'Now only if we could do it here [in India]' -- this implies that Indians residing in India 'are not doing it'. Isn't that a question mark on the patriotism of Indian Muslims residing in India?
So what should Indian Muslims do to get a certificate of patriotism? I suggest the following:
I was thinking of sending your column to my parents and, more importantly, my uncle who does not like to miss a moment of TV coverage when India plays a cricket match, and who, unlike me, are Indians residing in India. This was to make sure, though I know that it happens, that they clap when Tendulkar hits a boundary or Zaheer Khan yorks a batsman. To make sure that they become 'furious' when India loses shamelessly. To be in 'tears criticizing the team' whenever they play badly.
But I am not sending it. Because I know what they will do: they will tear apart the column and throw it into the dustbin.
And no, there is nothing extraordinary if they do that. Nobody likes it when someone questions his/her loyalty to his/her country. Nothing fantastic here. It is just as it should be.
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