हमीद दलवाई

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Hamid and I

- Vijay Tendulkar

Vijay Tendulkar
Vijay Tendulkar, one of India's finest playwrights, had written an article titled 'The Prejudice' in the monthly magazine Communal Combat. The article is also available on Rediff in three parts.
In the article he recounts his personal experiences of growing up in a Hindu family and elaborates the complex Hindu-Muslim relationship in the country. He also writes about how at different junctures in his life Muslim friends built his understanding of the religious complexities. This post includes Tendulkar's personal memories of his friendship with Hamid Dalwai.

After Amar Sheikh, I had the good fortune of having Hamid Dalwai, the Muslim reformer of the '60s in my life. We became friends much before he plunged into the Muslim reform movement. He was a creative writer. He wrote short stories. I was the editor of the monthly magazine in which they were published. I published his short stories. I was one of the first readers of his writing. He wrote about his community. His childhood. He wrote with anguish about his mother who was the third wife of his father. About communal riots. He wrote with a searing insight about his community, the Muslims.

My days with Hamid taught me the real lessons in understanding Muslims in my society. The working of the minds of the Muslims, their upbringing, what they were taught about us, Hindus, in their early formative years and the biases they were injected with at an early age. All this realisation came through Hamid. Through our long evenings and nights of intimate conversations.

Hamid had come to learn about my Hindu world more or less in the same way as I came to learn about his: through whatever little contact we could make with the 'other' world, the other side of the communal divide, by going out of our way in our adolescent years to know things by ourselves. His father was a Muslim Leaguer. A local leader of the League and a Hindu-hater. Hamid had grown up as a boy in this political climate. He grew out of it later, at a fairly young age.

When he worked for a better understanding between the two communities and propagated progressive social reforms in his own community particularly concerning the state of Muslim women, he was branded a traitor and a heretic by the majority of his people -- especially the diehard, conservative men of his community. He was simultaneously seen as an exception and a freak within his Muslim community by the Hindu intelligentsia.

I still remember. One of our senior writers who proudly proclaimed himself as a Hindu revivalist once advised Hamid with genuine concern: "You will always be an outsider among the Muslims. Why don't you become a Hindu? After all your forefathers were Hindu. You have Hindu blood in your veins. Come, I shall arrange for your conversion to Hinduism."

Hamid laughed heartily every time he heard this.

But he did say to me once in his introspective mood: "We Indian Muslims are a peculiar lot. Our forefathers did not come from across the borders of the country. They were not invaders but the invaded like the Hindus. They were Hindus. They were converted to Islam mostly under pressure; even by force. If this is true, then we belong here. We have Hindu genes in our system and a Muslim upbringing, a Muslim bias. We are a product of a mixed or hybrid culture which makes us an isolated lot; removed from the general reality, the general ethos. We belong nowhere. Not to the Muslim world outside nor to the predominantly Hindu world of this country. We have no roots to claim. And our loyalties will always remain questionable in this country. Not necessarily because of what we do but because of what we are expected to do -- as an alien race whose interests lie outside of this country. It will be presumed that we do it, that we have done it though we may have not. And we must not. Whatever happens to this country happens to us. Our fate is tied up to the fate of this society which may never accept us as its natural, integral part."

My friend Hamid died prematurely of kidney failure.

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