Thinkers Academy Journal, June 1993
Dr. Ajai Singh and Dr.Shakuntala Singh
In this land
called India strange things never fail to happen. A Hindu pandit and a Muslim mullah were good friends.
said the mullah, as he dropped in for tea at the pandit’s house.
The pandit continued telling
his beads ‘What for?’ he asked, after he had finished his round.
‘You won this time
said the pandit, neatly folding his charpoy and placing the rosary in its place.
Your friend Rajiv has banned
‘But why congratulate
me? I thought congratulations were due from my side; said the pandit, offering him tea in the cup kept separately for all
‘What does it matter?
My victory is yours isn’t it?’
Ha! That’s friendship
‘You know how felt
when you could not get Tamas banned’, continued the mullah. ‘I know
it rubbed you the wrong side. They tried to rub us too, but it only tickled us. But my, what an uproar! Your people were all
really worked up – What shouting, what support, what human chains defending the telecast. Even the court performed its
act. They really did you in, isn’t it?’
said the pandit, ‘we wanted them to do their shouting’.
The mullah raised an eyebrow.
‘It’s a good
exercise for the local cords for one thing . We are always the ones for physical fitness’.
‘Bah! what non-sense,’
said the mullah. ‘I know how glum you’d looked when they showed the initiation of the Hindu boy into killing by
cutting the throat of a fowl. And then the murder of the Muslim beggar. You were hopping mad, then!’
‘Yes I was. But that’s
exercise for me. We all do our bit to keep this place lively. So what’s
‘No. But why talk
of Tamas here?’ said the pandit, refilling his friend’s cup. ‘I’m really happy for you’.
‘Oh we’re so
used to it. No hassles getting anything banned here that hurts my community. Family
planning, personal law, music before mosque, portrait of the prophet. It gets
to be so boring really. Can’t you all allow us to be different for a change, You’re so ready to fight our battles
‘Yes, but that’s
what a Hindu prides himself in. Ever tolerant, accommodating’.
‘Cut the clinches,
friend. I know you better than the rest. You’re a pretty damn smart lot’.
smart about all this? I think its we, even though the majority community, who are always legislated upon, told to behave ourselves,
exploited!’ The mullah exploded. ‘Your people can openly call a Shankaracharya
a mad-cap, your swamis can revolt against him and challenge him to shastrartha, your women abuse your greatest law
giver Manu with impunity. They stand up and demand their rights and snatch them from your men.
They fight men in getting jobs, in careers and industry. Its a very subtle
combination, come to think of it. The priests play their part by invoking tradition,
the modernists plays theirs by constantly challenging it. So you take what suits
you and adapt. You are the ones who are growing’.
‘So you congratulate? You think its my success? This banning?’ asked the pandit thoughtfully.
‘Exactly. A fine scheme you guys have worked out. You carry out all the reforms in your set-up. Then create conditions
where we protest any reform in ours’.
‘But our friend Rushdie, Isn’t be trying what you call the Hindu way? Why don’t you stand up and
‘How can I?’ asked the mullah, exasperated. ‘Tell me
how can I? I wish I could but how do I do it? You guys have gone around creating perfect conditions in which I can’t
do it. They’ll ostracize me. They’ll remove me from my position.
They’ll call me a kafir, a Hindu. They know of our friendship. This will
be the last straw’.
The Pandit sat with knitted brow. “I don’t think I have any solution to offer’, he said finally.
‘Exactly so. The situation is perfectly set to perpetuate itself. There
is no escape, no alternative’.
‘Why don’t you produce a few more Salman Rushdies ?’
‘That will only produce a hundred more Shahabuddins But that isn’t exactly the problem. It will produce
a thousand more Rajivs. That’s our problem’.
‘Like true iconoclasts, you break down your idols and don’t allow us to break ours. Or even look at the
cracks there. And its we who pride ourselves on being iconoclasts and call you
butparasta. What a parody!’
He pandit was silent A long pause followed ‘Tell me, my friend. Don’t you reformists meet you, some times?’
The pandit remained silent
‘Talk my friend. I can’t bear the silence. Something like a solution appears so near me and yet eludes
me. Say something atleast. Help a friend’.
The pandit remained motionless for a long time. Then nodded.
The mullah got up silently and entered the mosque to give the azan.
The Hindu pandit and the
Muslim mullah continue to remain friends.
Stunned after the Ayodhya
Kar Seva and demolition of the Masjid the pandit rushed to the mullaah’s house.
He gently pressed the mullah’s hand.
Both sat silent for a long time. The mullah began, ‘Has there been destruction of houses after the demolition?”
The pandit nodded. ‘But
I thought you’d be more concerned with the destruction of the structure itself’.
‘Not that I’m not. But there wasn’t any worship of allah
there anyway. It’s the worshippers of allah that concern me more’.
‘Sheer mob frenzy’, commented the pandit.
‘I am not so sure’, said the mullah, with knitted eyebrows. ‘Those who don’t learn from history
are bound to repeat it’.
A pregnant silence ensued.
‘And History comes back to us in guises’, added the pandit.
Only one must remove the blind-fold. Or avoid seeing that which must be
seen uncovered’. The pandit continued.
‘What now? Where do you think we’re headed?
‘To create History, what else?
‘Meaning? You justify what has occurred and what is to follow?’ asked the mullah.
‘It’s not a question of justification or explanation. That
follows action. History as action itself’.
‘Let us be more specific, friend. You mean...?’
‘I mean events have a certain way of perpetuating themselves. Wrongs
has a certain way of getting righted, the right has an inevitable propulsion towards turning wrong. Call it destiny, fatalism, determinism, whatever’.
‘That’s a new dimension to you, my friend’, the mullah commented. ‘You were never the one for
‘I’m not. I’m neither passive, nor a spectator. It’s only that events and people are propelled
in certain directions. In such cases some propel, some are the propelled, and
some watch. All the rest, well, they do their bit, either for or against’
‘But don’t they matter?’ asked the mullah after a long pause.
‘Who says they don’t. They do matter, but only to be rendered
‘What? You mean, Muslims and other minorities don’t matter, er... are inconsequential to India?’
‘Understand the point, friend. In shaping events, people always matter.
It is viewpoints, ideologies that may or may not matter’.
‘But it is secularism that is at stake here. The constitution, democracy,
our institutions which we accepted with reverence as the foundation stone of our polity are at stake here? Aren’t they?’
‘No doubt they are. But the stakes are higher still, or rather deeper’.
The pandit remained silent for a long time. The mullah persisted with
‘Let me put it this way. The search is for an identity. To a people with an identity you can apply institutions, not the other way round. Whenever institutions
are supplanted on people without an identity, or in search of one, the institutions will be tested and retested for their
relevance again and again.
‘You mean such clashes, such frenzy, said demolitions and so much spending of precious energy will continue?
Is there no end to it? No solution?’
The pandit closed his eyes and started telling his beads.
‘Look within’ he breathed at last.
The mullah too closed his eyes. Two drops fell from his eyes and his lips
trembled as if to speak.
But he spoke not
He got up to redeem History
The pandit too got up to create it
Their friendship survived the onslaught.