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Yes, to remember Dec 6th is important, for me! How the Babri incident changed my world, etc

Each year on the 6th of December, newspaper editorials remind us of the Babri Masjid episode in Indian history. I can hardly believe two decades have gone by when I watched the TV screen in utter horror and heard the mixed opinions of the adults we knew and trusted. I grew up in Lucknow and my family was very much liberal and rather left of centre in their political leanings, though never directly involved with anything political. I was brought up in the post-independent ethos of secularism and socialism and held these two as non-negotiable values of life. For the most part, I still do.

The demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Ram Janmabhoomi movement burst my ‘the world is a good place’ bubble. For the first time in my life, I realized that there very radically different belief systems at work even in my little world, that these were contradictory in nature and could create confrontational and tremendously uncomfortable situations.

I was aghast to find that ‘uncles’ and ‘aunties’ who I thought of as harmless and ‘nice’ were capable of unleashing a diatribe of hate against Muslims. That they had been silent so long and felt empowered to speak after the Babri Masjid incident perplexed me no end. I kept thinking whether I had simply not been exposed to that side of them, or had chosen not to see it, or had they developed these opinions overnight. I didn’t realize that this was the subtext of many conversations to come in the future, that this would test my own beliefs repeatedly, push me against the wall and take me far, far away from God as propagated by religion, any religion.

I remember watching that inflammatory CD that did the rounds at that time, the one that clearly shows BJP leaders egging on kar sevaks, and bodies being dumped in the Saryu. The inane jubilation and naked hatred, the meaninglessness of it all. The sense of jubilation around the room and the sadness in my parents’ eyes.

Life changed after Bari Masjid. No doubt about that.

So many visuals flash past me from those few weeks. No school. My attempt to visit a friend, only to find her street cordoned off by the police, curfew declared and spending many hours worrying if she was safe. The policeman ushered me away urgently and I could literally watch the tension on the other side of the barricade.

The confusion of other people my age, our hesitation in discussing any of this, not knowing what belief system the other follows. The silence. The subsequent breaking apart of a city that had lived in relative harmony for centuries. The segregation of religion, but also of class. The search for security. The changing definition of security. My people, my own, keep out the ‘other’. I wasn’t aware of all this before. I still live in acute awareness today, hoping against hope that people will rise above this and find a more meaningful way to view their lives, their world.

Invoking Saraswati on a Gurgaon terrace! Jan 28, 2012

In the true spirit of Basant Panchami, the sun God shone bright today as a group of us gathered on the terrace of our music teacher’s home to pay our respects to Goddess Saraswati. A simple set of activities that involved a puja, some cooking on the terrace, dishes brought in by members of the music group and the rendition of some short music pieces made for a morning well spent. Smiling, radiant faces were what we had to show for and and immense sense of satisfaction. The adults present compared rituals and reminisced about how these occasions were celebrated in their childhood. I was particularly interested to see the children sit out patiently through a two hour puja to receive blessings from the Goddess and their guru at the end of it. Aadyaa’s formal initiation into the world of letters was an unplanned bonus. Here are a few pics!

Ma Saraswati, we hope, will grant us better music, better learning this year

An enthusiastic bunch getting set for a puja surrounded in a typical Gurgaon-esque urban setting

The kids had a different sort of fun experience

Aadyaa was formally initiated into learning- she, of course, thought she could teach us a lot!

The yellow saris and beautiful voices added some extra zing

Some of us had our mind on the food being cooked, which ultimately was consumed with great satisfaction!

Going back to learning music has given me friends, purpose and a better bonding with my family

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