Dear Papa, hope you don’t misunderstand this, if and when you do read this.
I had always thought it was Papa’s ‘over-protectiveness’ that made him dislike the idea of me talking or befriending any boy. I say ‘boy’ because the first memories of Papa reacting adversely to any male company around me goes back 20 years…
I was 9-years-old and the said boy was 12. We were stationed at Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh), one of the cities where any Ordinance officer will spend a considerable part of his tenure. This boy was a visiting relative of one of our neighbours. He was about two inches taller than me, had nearly blonde hair (called it ‘English’ hair back then) and very, very red lips. So he would play with us and we became playground friends. Till the day he pecked me on the cheek for some reason and there was “scandal” amongst the kids. I promptly reported the transgression to the Aunty whose house he was staying in; who in turn ‘apologised’ to my mother. That should have been that, only that Papa decided to have a mini-talk with me (over the years the length of those chats grew, much to my alarm).
The only thing Papa said was, “You stay away from that boy, he is not a good boy. All these Punjabi boys.” After that I stayed away from ‘Punjabi’ boys for a long time. Till Papa found that one of my closest friends was a Tamil boy. Then he said, “All these Tamil boys…” and then it was “All these Jat boys…” and ‘Nepalis’, ‘Sardars’ and ‘Christians’ and so on and so forth. Towards the fag end of adolescence I realised that Papa perhaps just did not like boys. Or boys who were my friends.
It was confirmed when I heard him telling Ma, “Ei je mein, ekta jhola-pora Marxist dhore aan be… nahole tattoo-kora Panjabi ke” (This girl will either get us a jhola-clad Marxist or a tattooed Punjabi boy) When I was getting close-to-marriageable, Ma said, very concerned, “Whatever you do, don’t bring us a Christian, Muslim or Sikh.” I pointed out that given Papa’s restrictions and now hers added to it, there wouldn’t be any/ many men left to marry. I had suggested a Nigerian and a horrified mother had said, “Bachcha gulo koto kaalo hobe”. (The kids will be so dark). Funny because I am bloody dark-skinned too. Back then, it was a joke.
My father also had a gun (two actually, licensed) and would often say that if I got him a “bugger” he didn’t like, he would use it freely. Papa never used that gun (or perhaps I was smarter). But many fathers do use their guns. Or hire thugs and policemen to yield their guns. They kill Jat-Sikh boys for marrying a ‘Pappa-Sikh’ girl — I still don’t know the difference but three years in Amritsar taught me there was ‘some’ difference. Or a newly-wed couple because one of them is a ‘Dalit’. Or a Muslim, Calcutta-based graphic designer called Rizwanur because he married a girl called Priyanka, Hindu.
Sometimes these MURDERS are called mob violence. Sometimes Panchayat justice. Sometimes they are labelled honour killings. It is supposedly honourable to slaughter your child. Wah. Sometimes — like in the case of Rizwanur Ahmed — the Police Commissioner (Calcutta) calls it a suicide. It is not about the poor. The more money you have, the more you seem concerned about HOW you appear to society. The more you have to protect your ‘honour’.
It is not even about people falling in love. It is about Hate. You just hate if someone wears a patka, or a skull-cap or a janeyu. We hate the “spineless and loud” Bengalis. We hate the “crude” Jats. We hate the “dosa-loving Mallus”. We hate the “converting” Christians. We hate the “bloody uncouth” Biharis. We hate the “stingy-stinky” Maharashtrians. Wherever we can find ANY reason, we hate. And we murder.
And the lawmen of this country, the protectors’, they commit these murders. Sometimes the police reach the site late. Sometimes they don’t find witnesses. Sometimes they drag people behind their motorcycles. Sometimes they watch many being massacred. And in Rizwanur’s case, it seems the policemen, the protectors, are the murderers. WHY? Because a poor boy loved a rich girl… or a Muslim boy loved a Hindu girl?
Our attitudes are so clear. Team India whopped Team Pakistan in the T20 series. I got two messages on my cellphone. One read, “Chak de India, **** de Pakistan” and the other… The other commented on certain anatomically missing parts and how “we” took care of the rest. Wonder what Zahir Khan and the Pathan brothers have to say about it or if they are lesser players for missing anatomy.
And yet, no posts will bring Rizwanur back.