Growing up Muslim

Disliking, downright hating or being generally a bit suspicious about Muslims is nothing new in India, even if its more pronounced now (“‘I hate Muslims’: A book uncovers the bullying faced by Muslim children in many Indian schools”). As a Muslim child growing up in suburban Mumbai in early ’60s I clearly recall sensing this feeling being always there under the surface in the minds of many of my non-Muslim friends of those happy childhood days. This was decidedly more apparent among my upper caste, middle-class Hindu friends who were the bulk of my friends then.

Me and my brothers still recall and laugh about an incident when, while we were playing cricket in the neighbourhood open space, we all trooped to the house of one of our upper caste friends to drink water. Our friend’s mother served water to all our Hindu friends in brass glasses, but gave my brothers and me a tumbler lying in a corner of the verandah. We realised even back then that the tumbler (made of a ghee tin) was the same one that the family used when going to the community toilet of their tenement house.
After this memorable drinks break, we moved right back to the game, unaware and perhaps unmindful of what in hindsight was decidedly a dreadful case of discrimination. This and many more such instances of public humiliation did not seem so scandalous then as today’s awakened generation makes it out. It’s not that we were naive and ignorant of the discrimination we faced while growing up in cosmopolitan Mumbai. It’s just that the environment was not as toxic then as it is now. We all believed and truly felt one as Indians. We sang the national anthem at school parades and spent our leisure time discussing the next big Bollywood release of Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar or Dev Anand.

To top it all, many of us grew up with a strong education and got into respectable professions. Some even had inter-faith marriages and raised families. – Zafar Edroos Inamdar


This is a wonderful article. I know the pain. I faced similar situations during my school days and I would react. Ultimately it reached a point when all students were against me and was had no friends. I would cry and not be able to concentrate on studies. I was teased day in and day out and had no support. Eventually, I had to leave the school. It was the darkest chapter of my life. – M Shah


The opinion expressed by the author may be true in isolated cases but you cannot generalise it. finds something or the other to show majority community in a poor light. Instead, you can publish real situations where all communities are working together and there is no discrimination. If your story is to be believed, one can imagine the opposite situation in Muslim-majority institutions also. Someone can write about issues in such a scenario too.

With regard to the claim that minority-community students are not able to mingle with the majority community, such interaction depends on many factors. In South India, students from the North tend to form friendship with other Hindi- speaking students and the similar thing may happen up North. This may be happening in the case of minority-community students too, but there are many examples of inter-religious interactions

Please do not try to create new walls when already there plenty of barriers to worry about. – Vasu Deva


What a shame. We experience this in different shades but its prevalence even among school children shows how toxic and cancerous majoritarianism has become. – SR Mahajir


Is bullying going to be segregated on religious lines now? It happens, kids bully. They sometimes imbibe these prejudices from their parents. It could be prejudice between people of different sizes, skin-colour, regions or religions. Many parents are ignorant or bigoted in some way.

You cannot wrap kids up, and make them live in a bubble. This is what happens in the real world. If they don’t face it in school, they will face it at university. If not there, then the real world. What’s worse, they will not be equipped to deal with it. Kids need to be taught to be mentally tougher, no matter the circumstance. We need to stop mollycoddling them. – Nivas Lakshminarasimhan


I was very happy to come across this article. I often wonder why our Muslim brothers and sisters do not express their point of view on the burning issues. I am thankful that you dared to say something on the issue. – Fauzan Faiz


I wish teachers, school authorities and parents could be more alert to such discrimination and take a step to stop it.

I work at an international school in Saudi Arabia and I can proudly say we have 44 nationalities studying together who respect respect each other as we believe in creating compassionate communities. – Neena Bali


It is shocking to read about the author’s son’s experiences. I am a Hindu and have not experienced such discrimination and bullying. It is a pathetic situation that the government of India needs to step in and tackle. – Purushothaman R


I was born a Hindu but I’m deeply ashamed by the new ideology in India, where teachers of international schools have to tackle questions of racial and religious discrimination. Shame on these schools. These children should be protected and encouraged to mature into intelligent and compassionate human beings. I weep for the country of my birth. – Shakuntala Livneh


Such discrimination happens in the South too but is more prevalent in Noida. The so-called cow belt seems to have been more affected by the prejudiced propaganda of the Sangh Parivar. There are two dangerous angles to the prejudice against Muslims in the country.

One is the assumption that Muslims are terrorists and the second is that they are not loyal to India.

These two misgivings which have been planted deep rootedly in the minds of the generations of Hindus is at play.

It is high time that the right thinking people of the society came together to save the country from a handful miscreants. – SM Mallick

Women on the front

I applaud these women who have already chosen a difficult life by serving in the armed forces (“Why 1,000 female paramilitary soldiers have no last name, and why that matters to India”). Regarding the point raised by the author on the decrease in women in the workforce despite increased literacy, this could be because more women now have the option of working from home. Also, more women professionals now take a break after childbirth and resume after their children are old enough. This option was not available to women earlier. – Padmaja Dutt

Troll attack

Mammootty is a great actor but his remarks on women in Kasaba were unwarranted (“‘I truly hope others will follow suit’: Parvathy on calling out misogyny in cinema and beyond”). Parvathy was right to air her views. Mammootty’s fans are biased and wrong to insult Parvathy. She has proved time and again in her movies that she is a great actor. Nobody can tarnish her image. – Vishwanathan

Timeless words

I am at a loss to understand why he, of all people, has been picked at this time of turbulence, when he was needed the most (“They don’t make poets, translators and performers like Anwar Jalalpuri (1947-2018) anymore”). It is difficult to find someone with such magnitude who is capable of diffusing the trickiest situations with his incomparable humour. I, for one, will miss him always. May his soul rest in peace. – Ajit Sambodhi


This is a very nice tribute to the poet Anwar Jalalpuri by Rakhshanda Jalil, one of our finest literary critics who, like Jalalpuri, is steeped in India’s composite culture. I heard Jalalpuri live at a mushaira in Mumbai last year. He was certainly one of the best anchors of mushairas. I interviewed him on the phone recently for a story in the Times of India on Anup Jalota’s concert in Pakistan. He enchanted a crowd of around 50,000 in the Sindh province with songs that Jalalpuri had translated into Urdu from the Gita . Jalota has recorded over 1,000 couplets from Jalalpuri’s Urdu translation of the Gita. A proud Indian and a patriot to the core, unlike our hyperactive, self-declared nationalists, he never flaunted his love to the motherland. He simply articulated his undying faith in India’s famed syncretism through his couplets. The connoisseurs of Urdu poetry and all those who still believe in India’s multiculturalism and its secular ethos will miss him. Rest in peace, Anwar Jalalpuri! – Mohammed Wajihuddin


I was fortunate to have been present at many mushairas presided by Anwar Jalalpuri sahab, including his last Shankar Shaad mushaira in Delhi. In his Nizamat of mushairas, he was undoubtedly numero uno . Urdu lovers and believers of Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb will miss him for a long time. – Sunil Jain

Food for the soul

What a lovely piece! I read it twice and sent it to many friends, only to learn that she passed away later the same day (“Zubaida Tariq: The grandmother Pakistan turns to for recipes, household tips or just plain comfort”). This article sadly serves as her obituary too. May she rest in peace. – Ghazala Akbar