(An unfinished article written about 8-9 years back.)
It is now thirteen years since I moved to Delhi as one among the ten million. A question which haunted me in the early 1991, still continues to haunt me - who am ‘I’ and why ‘I’ should be identified by my name.
Born and brought up in Tamil Nadu in secular circumstances, I was unaware about the religious discrimination that prevailed in the north. Since our childhood we, in Tamil Nadu, were never taught to identify people by their religion or caste or status. Hindus will line up before the Masjid in the evenings of the Ramzan month to receive the ‘nonbu kanji’ (a special gruel prepared for those who break fast). Masjid is located in front of a public ground where Hindu celebrations during Pongal used to take place. We were not even aware about the term ‘communal harmony’. There was no need for such a term.
The first incident happened when I had to vacate the rented accommodation within a month of occupation, because the house-owner came to know that ‘I’am a ‘Mohammaden’ (as he referred to ‘Muslim’). The second incident was similar to the earlier one. After showing a two-room-set at Faiz Road, Karol Bagh, the house owner - a Doctor by profession - offered snacks and tea and we had a friendly chat. That gentleman was impressed by this ‘young south Indian’ and was glad to rent his house to a person who has some morals and values. But, here again came my ‘I’dentity. After finalising everything, he came to know that I was a ‘Muslim’ and he politely apologised for his inability, since it was their family decision not to rent their house to Muslims. Here ‘I’ was identified as a ‘Muslim’.