The other day I heard a Kashmiri Muslim woman wailing, after she failed to get accommodation in Delhi owing to her Muslim name. The story is not an unfamiliar one. Many parents give names to children of hero, heroines in films or personal favorites in history or love for a language, a star or even a habit .. that can spell destiny or disaster …
But here we are talking about a community that has become suspect, in a backlash for the doings of some.
We cannot somehow blame people for how their fear manifests itself, given the present media bombardment acting as the only surviving experts in all they tread or see .
Let me give you an example of a man of Pakistani origin staying abroad who dilly-dallied over helping a fellow Pakistani recommended by an Indian.
But one gutsy Muslim woman of a poor family who worked as a domestic help found a “clever” way out of this. …..
Salma by Morning, Seema by Evening
New Delhi, in HT
TO GO from Azad Apartment to Sancharlok-two residential buildings in East Delhi—all one needs to do is to cross busy main road. But one woman has to go a step farther: she has to wear new identities.
She is Salma when she gets down from one building; Seema when she climbs into the other.
“When I was new in Delhi, I was thrown out from work several times because of my name. Then I decided to live with a double identity,” said Salma, who declined to give her full name. “Now I am a Hindu for Hindus and a Muslim for Muslims.”
It is her insurance in a city that has cosmopolitan pretensions but remains deeply prejudiced.
“There is no choice, I have four children to feed,” says the maid as she waits at the bus stop (as Seema) to pick the schoolchildren of a working mother who pays her for this substitution.
The name game continues to her children as well.
Interestingly, Salma has given religion-neutral names to her four children to avoid them the jugglery that she does. They are called Prince, Beauty, Fairy and Boby.
And she is smarter than you think:
So good is she at switching skins that she can deftly recite the ‘Kalma’ on one side and ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ on the other that she picked up from audios played in houses.
But just like the famous quote “ghar ki murgi , dal barabar” is her husband Mohammad Razzak, who refuses to play smart —and Salma believes that is why he is jobless and now has to pull a rickshaw. It is difficult to independently verify that claim…of “Cleverness”.
Still, she is not bitter.
“It’s much better here in Delhi. In my village in West Bengal, there were separate streets for Muslims and Hindus. We were not even allowed to fill water from the same taps,” she said.
LOKI KENDE NE :—Better to be ‘clever’ than a ‘loser’.