Salma by Morning, Seema by Evening

Editor’s thought:

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

Naziya Alvi

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’.



4 Responses to Salma by Morning, Seema by Evening

  1. paigekepple says:

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  2. Vishal says:

    Right said…
    This is everywhere now a days where we have to change our names or even identities for eg.
    In call centers if you are Kritika your name will be changed to Kitty so as to give the assurance to a client that call is landed to his own country though 70% of the people know that call is landing to either India or Philippines.


  3. saanjh says:

    Well Said ….discrimination in our country far outnumbers the stray cases that we have heard about in the world.
    We have never set our own house in order but are banking on other developed countries who have recognized this problem and made adequate arrangements call upon their laws to settle our grievances.
    In other words we have learned to live with these discriminations and give them a free flow in our own country towards foreigners as also in other countries we tend to visit .
    I fully share the pain of those whose children have been targetted in Australia but what have we done in our own country to check this discriminations. India needs to introspect about its own social behaviour for a viable comment on protection of its own in other countries

  4. simply61 says:

    The entire illegal Bangladeshi community in NCR (Delhi and around)lives this kind os a schizophrenic life.The house maids all wear sindoor and Bengali red and white bangles to get work in houses as maids and they go back to their Muslim names when the local politicians offer free bies to them (like ration cards and other legalising documents).
    They have precarious existence anyway so who can blame them for doing what it takes to make a living.

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