Borders Redefined – ugly face of society towards old Delhi WalasThe Might of Pen
“We always think of borders as something that separates two people, but of course they unite them. It’s something you have in common, literally” ~ Don Winslow
The hometown of my parents is not my birthplace. Their hometown, which I consider, mine as well, is a beautiful small town in Western Uttar Pradesh (UP) in India.
UP that has been home to powerful empires of ancient and medieval India, still rich in natural resources and manpower, is now notoriously famous for something else. Despite its political influence, its poor record in economic development and administration, crime and corruption have kept it amongst India’s backwards states. Repeated episodes of caste and communal violence are in National News every other day.
Though my family considers the town of my parents as our hometown owing to a very deep-seated connection of generations with its soil, I am born and brought up in Old Delhi along with my siblings. Since my parents carry strong imprints of their birthplace, we siblings grew up differently than a lot of other people in Old Delhi. Well, I call Old Delhi my foster mother, and my ancestors’ birthplace my mother town. Interestingly, both of these moms have many similitudes. They both have many stigmas attached to them, and both face blatantly discriminatory attitude from others.
The last time I got offended in name of my mother town, it did not hurt me even a pinch. I was accused a good of six seven years in name of Old Delhi, which proved vaccination shots for me; they hurt but make you immune for the rest of your life to remain unswayed. Well, I am neither going to bother you narrating my personal story of stones in gall bladder; nor I adore to gain sympathy posing as the victim. However, I want to make a point. This ugly face of constant stereotypical behaviour that I faced from very close, led to a critical thought process. It raises many questions for me, both as a victim and as a culprit.
Why do the borders; physical or political lines that separate geographic areas, are dividing us? The walls and the fences that are built for the purpose of control and order are meant to be drawn on land. Then, what makes them sweep into our mentalities and perception? Do these borders actually exist on land, or they exist in our thoughts to divide the otherwise one humanity? The remnants of the wall, which was once built to lay down the foundation for a roof over our heads, has left a border that still exists. It divides Delhi in two, Old Delhi and New Delhi.
The beauty of human race is in its diversity. I approve geographical distinctions that are vital for this ecosystem. I also respect borders for political reasons, control and order. I can also not refute the distinctions based on social, occupational and economic considerations. However, what I cannot digest is that human beings within certain boundaries share certain attributes, which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable; inferior, or superior. This is blasphemy against humanity.
Here, I am not talking about racism that we think exists only in the West (and we usually see ourselves as victims). No! I am talking about divisions based on castes, mohallas, societies, cities, states. I tried to search Wikipedia for a perfect term that could describe these divisions, but I could not find. Regardless, I consider it a form of ‘racism’ only. Even if it does not fit into the linguistic definition of racism or legal parameters to call it ‘racism’, it emanates racism. The same fathers and mothers, who teach their kids not to share their tiffin with kids coming from certain other pin codes, or states (on a larger scale), give birth to kids who don’t share their tiffin with certain other nationalities. Otherwise, how racists are born?
Unfortunately, this segregation of superior-inferior is feeding on the virtual border between Old Delhi and New Delhi. Let us stop pretending, it is not. It is here, right under our nose. It fosters on both sides of the wall; victims and culprits are both the sides.
Having said that, I am not denying the contrasts in people living in Old Delhi and those in New Delhi. I strongly believe that people sharing a certain place of living on land also show shared patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding. This is how culture comes in origin. “Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.” Owing to sharing a common culture, that encompasses religion, food, language and a lot more; Old Delhi reflects a slightly different picture of life than one finds in New Delhi. What we wear, how we wear it; what we speak, how we say it; what we believe is right or wrong, how we stand for it; how we greet guests, how we are as guests; definitely emanates from our culture, and it might not fit in standards from certain other cultures. However, we need not be uniform to be united. Why can’t we appreciate the diversity amongst us?
And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colours. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge [Qur’an; 30:22]
This disease of judging others, especially those from other castes, societies, pin codes and states is real. It is seeping into our individual and collective consciousness. It humiliates a kid in school, suffocates a teenager in college, bewilders a young mind at a workplace, makes an adult misfit in in-laws, and depresses an old.