Muslim Talk – "Ammi was Shocked to See Half-Naked Girls in Barista"
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Chatting with two Muslim ladies in Jamia Nagar
[Interview and picture by by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Mrs Falak Khan is a young wife with two children. She lives in South Delhi at Gaffar Manzil, Jamia Nagar. The interview was done in Hindi.
Falak, what’s the meaning of your name?
Aasmaan. Sky. It is an Arabic word.
You are an Indian Muslim woman. Do you feel victimized in this city, in this country?
Don’t you think that there are occasions when you are discriminated because of your name … because of your religion?
Never. My daughter, Aital, is in the IVth standard. She was earlier studying at Summerfield School. I wanted her admission at KR Mangalam World School which is one of Delhi’s best. Aital was a topper. She was instantly admitted to Mangalam. I know this happened because she was very good in her studies. We didn’t resort to any bribe or depended on any sifarish by any influential person. Aital is a Muslim and there was no trouble.
So, you feel Muslims are not discriminated?
Mayank, in India, if you are good, nobody can stop you. Isn’t filmstar Shahrukh Khan a Muslim? What about (India’s former cricket captain) Azharuddin? He too is a Muslim.
Then why are Muslims so backward and uneducated?
Because they don’t study much. Schools are there but they don’t send their children there. They are also very poor. They are tempted to put their children into work for extra income. Since parents are not educated themselves, they do not realize that a good education could change the lives of their children.
Falak, tell me about yourself. About your family, your husband, your childhood, your education.
(Smiles) …From where to start? Ok. I’m from Kaimganj. It is a small town in North India. Papamian, my father, is a landlord there. Our great-grand father’s grand father had come from Afghanistan and had settled there.
You are from Afghanistan? Exotic!
Excuse me, I’m from India. So I was saying that there are about two dozen Pathan families in Kaimganj. India’s former President Zakir Hussain too hailed from Kaimganj. We are the two most renowned families there. We are distantly related, too.
I did my schooling in Kaimganj itself – in a girls’ school there. Later, I did graduation in Political Science and Sociology from Aligarh Muslim University.
Being a young Muslim girl, do you think you had to face restrictions? How did your father let you live in Aligarh? Away from home?
There was no problem. Papamian wanted all of us four brothers and sisters to have good education. And then I lived in a girls’ hostel in Aligarh. But now, when I remember, there indeed were restrictions for being a Muslim girl. There were pachaas advices of what-to-do and not-to-do. We weren’t allowed to visit the homes of our girl friends there. Dupatta was very important. We just could not go out without a dupatta. Our lives revolved around it. However inside the hostel, we were relatively free. We could even wear jeans!
Your description sounds so normal. It could be the life of any Indian girl. The general impression among the non-Muslims is that the Muslim girls live behind black burqas and that their life is very tough. Perhaps you are an exception.
Well, I don’t know. But yes, there are problems. Sometimes our religion comes in between. It restricts us. Sometimes there is confusion. We get scared if we could be doing anything wrong. That it might be at variance with our religion. My younger sister wanted to be a dancer. She even wanted to become an actress. But Papamian didn’t allow it.
What about purdah?
It’s a religious thing. But we aren’t forced to wear it. My husband has no problems. I go to gym, exercise on treadmill at home, and go for evening walks. It’s fine. But when we go to Kaimganj, there things are different. If we go out there, we have to wear a chaddor. However now customs are relaxing. You know what, Mayank: In Kaimganj, we do not feel comfortable outside without a chaddor…
Was yours an arranged marriage?
Yes, of course. (Laughs)
But were you consulted?
Yes, if I would not have liked Avsaar Mian, my parents would had dropped the idea and looked elsewhere. But I liked him. He is very nice. I can shout at him for ever and ever but he has never raised his voice at me. Inshaallah.
Your life is different, perhaps because you come from a wealthy family. But what about the general condition of Muslim women? Do you know, a few years ago, a magazine survey has revealed that only one in 101 Muslim women in India is a graduate?
Is it so? Very bad. But Islam doesn’t stop women from doing all sorts of things. Take that famous bar dancer from Bombay – Tarannum. And then there is Tennis star Sania Mirza. And take me , a house wife. We all are Muslims. Look, it’s not your religion alone that decides the life you chose for yourself.
What do you feel when you hear about terrorist attacks? It is alleged that the Delhi bomb blasts were carried by a Muslim fundamentalist group. In fact, there was a terrorist encounter right here in Jamia Nagar following the blasts.
I feel very bad. When I see all those dead bodies on TV … Mayank, how can you distinguish a Muslim or a Hindu from those dead bodies? I feel terrible. That somebody somewhere must had been waiting for those dead people … it is horrible.
I still remember Rupin Katyal. You know him? He was a honeymooner who was killed during the plane hijacking by Muslim terrorists. I cried when he was shot dead by the hijackers. I know if I would have been in that plane, I would have prayed, pleaded, and impressed those terrorists with my knowledge of Koranic verses and would have bought the plane back with all the passengers alive and safe. My heart still bleeds for that poor man, and his parents and widow.
When terrorist events take place, what is your first feeling? Do you think that “Oh now we Muslims will again be blamed”, or something on those lines?
I just feel sick. Kasam Khuda ki. (I swear on Allah) My only plea to terrorists is to please stop all this. We are scared. I’m afraid even while going to PVR multiplex in Saket. What if something happens to my children? How could a bomb planted by Islamic terrorists know that my son is a Muslim?
[After a pause]
Everytime a blast happens, accusations are pointed towards Pakistan-based terrorists, and then it is the turn of us Muslims. Why are we accused for their actions? It’s so insulting. I feel humiliated.
Hundreds of Muslims were killed in the Gujarat riots of 2002. Some people say that terror attacks were a reaction to it. Muslims were not gett
ing justice. So they were humiliated and they took revenge by killing Hindus.
Mayank, tell me how could you imagine that I might get any satisfaction by watching the dead bodies of Hindus on my TV?
My son’s best friend is a Hindu. His name is Ankush. He makes our life terrible by calling Arbaaz at all the odd hours and talking non-stop for hours and hours. Can I derive satisfaction if Ankush is killed in a bomb blast?
How could I be happy by the killing of Hindus? What sort of a question is this? My best friend till the Vth standard was a Hindu. Her name was Anita. I still remember her. We were very close friends. I even used to get her clothes stitched from our family tailor. How can I hate Hindus? How can I get pleasure by Anita’s husband being killed by terrorists?
[Here we are joined by Khaleda Begum, Falak’s mother, who is visiting from Kaimganj]
Falak: Mayank, here is Ammi (mother). You must talk to her. Her youth was very different.
In what way? Were you discriminated? Were the rules harsher in your time?
Falak: Mayank, she was very beautiful when young. A real diamond!
[Khaleda Begum laughs]
Khaleda Begum: Son, if my parents were not my own mother and father, I would have gone on cursing them till the end of my life. They did not let me study. All I wanted was education. But even to mention the word ‘school’ in front of our father was haraam.
Oh, tell me about your life. How were you raised?
Khaleda Begum: It was very bad. We were locked inside purdah. We could not go out. We had to stay home all the time. Even if we had to go to meet relatives, which was rare, we had to go in a tonga that had a purdah draped all around it. It was terrible. All we did was stay at home and talk about wedding proposals.
Did you see your husband before marriage?
Khaleda Begum: No. We were not allowed to.
Oh, that’s sad.
Khaleda Begum: But he was a distant relative so I knew about him. It was not bad. I’m very lucky.
Tell me more. What did your parents think of Hindus? That Hindus are bad people? One must not sit with them? One must not mingle much with them? That they were Kafirs?
Khaleda Begum: Rubbish. Nothing like that. I never heard any bad thing being said about Hindus. My maika [mother’s home] is in Lalpur. We used to live, and still live, surrounded by Hindus. We have some close relations with some of the Hindu families there.
And what is this about not sitting with Hindus, Mayank son. Aren’t I sitting with you? My sister-in-law is a Hindu. Many years back I had certain silly notions about Hindus. But when (sister-in-law) Rekha came and when she started drinking water from my glass, I gave no second thoughts of using her used glass, too. Where’s the difference?
Khaledaji and Falak, what do you think about the present environment? Hasn’t it grown ugly? Isn’t there a deep divide between Hindus and Muslims, now?
Khaleda Begum: It is all because of the politicians. They all are bad.
[After a pause]
Falak: Mayank, the problem with Hindus is they do not think deep. They think every bearded man with a skull cap is a terrorist. They do not understand that these are merely the symbols of our religion. Do you look upon every turbaned Sikh as Khalistani supporter?
Falak: Then why is it with our case? Hindus just do not know anything about us. Mayank, I know everything about Hindu rituals. I’m familiar with every little ceremony in their marriages. But I’m sure that if you query Hindu women about rituals in nikah (Muslim wedding), they would be tongue tied.
Khaleda Begum: I really like some of their festivals, like Raksha Bandhan. It has nothing to do with Hindus or Muslims. It is all about heart.
Falak: If only Hindus know more about us, they may change their opinions about us.
Khaleda Begum: But Mayank son, you must also write that I don’t view people as Hindu or Muslim. If I’ll see a Muslim bachha and a Hindu bachha falling off from a cliff, I will rush to save both of them. I won’t go first only to the Muslim. I will save them together.
Why, every time I come to Delhi I take Arbaaz’s and Aital’s old clothes and give it to Bhurbhuriyas [Rajasthani gypsy tribes] living in our Kaimganj farm since 5 years. They all are Hindus. So what!
Now a sensitive question: do you cheer for Pakistan, or know anybody who does so in India-Pak cricket matches?
[Both burst into laughter]
Khaleda Begum: Save us from such questions.
But really, what do you think of Pakistan?
Khaleda Begum: We are better in all the respects than Pakistan. There are so many restrictions and control on women there. India is a much better place. Allah be grateful for making me born in India.
Falak: I think their women are too much into makeup and hair-dye. Too modern.
Khaleda Begum: Falak, the place where you took me yesterday evening! Tell that to Mayank.
Falak: We had taken Ammi to Barista coffee shop. She was so shocked to see the girls there.
Khaleda Begum: They were wearing almost nothing. No clothes. No looks. And no clue about education!
But the world is changing. Your grand daughter will roam around in micro minis when she grows up.
Falak: Mayank, in Islam they say: Aurat wohi bakshi jayegi jo sharamgaho ko chhupakar rakhegi. [Loosely translated: Only those women will be rescued who will carefully hide their assets from public gaze.] We believe that those Muslim women who expose their bodies will burn in hell.
In that case I’m nervous for the afterlife of your grand children, Falak.
[We all burst out laughing]
Khaleda Begum: We Muslims say that during the time of resurrection, buildings will be so tall that just looking up will make your topi fall down from your head…
Falak: And each boy will be surrounded by four girls…
Let me change the subject. I see you have a Honda City car parked in your yard. You seem to be very wealthy. Then why are you staying in this locality? Do not misunderstand me please, but when I was coming here I had to cover my nose. The drains are open. It is stinking outside. You can afford to live in a better place. Why here?
Falak: I understand your point. But after so many communal riots we are just too careful. We want to live amongst our co-religionists.
My husband is a builder. Many wealthy people returning from Dubai and Saudi Arabia come to him looking for houses. Their only condition is for a Muslim locality. They have money to buy apartments in posh areas but nobody feels safe any longer.
Falak, any last word you would like to say?
Mayank, I’m proud of being an Indian. I think Indian Muslims are the best Muslims in the world. We are the most forward. Our former president was a Muslim.
Please tell your readers for my sake that I do not have any soft corner for Pakistan. Neither have I any desire to go there. I love the freedom here. I love my India.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
This is really good 🙂>My first ever best friend was Muslim,poor thing passed away when we were 10,she had kidney failure.>My present circle of friends ,has a Muslim lass,(even she stays in Jamia Nagar) and to even think about any sort of divide between us is a total BullShit thing.>I just feel pathetic(sic) after hearing the regional/racist divide all around here.>We are all the same blood inside,So why to FIGHT?
Good interview, Mayank.
Hey Mayank, >>Perhaps you knew the right answer from them about Pakistan perhaps,just wanted them to say which they might be scared or shy to say straightly. 😀 I have had many indian friends (I am Pakistani to mention for others) among which there Muslims too. And I asked the same question to them and I got the expected honest answer 🙂>>I won’t be surprized to see any kind of sympathy from a Indian Muslim even if he never visited Pakistan or even knows little about Pakistan due to a number of reasons or even if knows this sympathy can’t benifit him any way and could only create problems while being in India. >>a) It is a universal human nature of selfishness or foolishness not to be honest or do the justice some time or often on some or more matters. I know perhaps these women would have a wonderful life in India but still they might have a sympathy towards Pakistan because of religius affection which is no surprizing. It is same like asking any Jew living in Iran if they like Isreal or living any Christian in any Part of world if they like Vetican. The true answer is obvious. If somebody says otherwise I would question that person’s knowledge base of world or of his origin or religion. >>b) Human in nature, like to have relations with others when they feel being isolated. They try to discover relations with others as much as possible. e.g. I have a very interesting example. In Western countries, there are many forigners among locals. All of the forigners have a sense of being forigner and being left out and they dont feel much being that accepted among local population, very often if not always. Now what happen is that all those forigners try to find relations with others. These relationships could be for example:> – Being a country fellow of another person is one the best even in that country may be that person belongs totally another ethinicity and that ethnicity may haev bad relations with his ethnicity in his country but it will still be a strong relationship. >>– Being of same continent or same culture. In abroad, when we can’t find our country fellows, we love to meet our same culture’s peope, e.g. following categories find close to each other: Pakistanis,Indian, Bangladishis, Sri Lanken, Nepali, Afghani, etc. When this category is not available, it opens up to broader, e.g. to Asia Pacific, or Middleast or America etc. Even lastly being to have a relationship of a forigner to forigner works for all forigners with each other as they share a common set of problems and issues. >>c) Last but not least. Religion is a strong relationship. May be unfortunate but all or most of the religions have some kind of discrimination embeded in it. E.g. Muslim to Muslim, Christian to Christian, Hindu to Hindu, etc. This is true even if some body likes it or not or accepts it or not. >>Comming back to these women. I think this no hidden truth that there is an sense of enemity exists between the majority of Hindus and Muslims, if some body likes it or not accepts it or not. This could be seen from creation of Pakistan itself, Pakistan-India conflicts. Inside India religius riots, etc. This is a total different debate to see how this enemity developed into the minds of majority of a whole community to one another. >>What I don’t like mostly in most of these kind of debates for Indian-Pakistan or Hindu-Muslim kind of debates is either people dont accept it try to portray if every thing was like paradize it is just very few elements are jeoperderizing it, which i think is not the reality. The reality is that there is sense of enemity among majority which is not little but alot and is quite strong. This could be seen like if in Pakistan if some body is to be mailigned or proved as evil it is portrayed as strong sympathizer to India OR denier of Pakistani national idealogy which automatically is translate that to that of true indian idealogy(i.e. being falsehood of two nation theory of Hindu-Muslim). Similarly in India, if some body is to be proved evil, he could be called a Pakistani. Especially, for indian muslims, they have to show hatred or no soft corner for Pakistan in order to prove them being a Patriot Indian, this is some thing which is unfair, unrealistic, not helpfull to reduce this problem. >>Saying this question to some indian Muslim that what he thinks of Pakistan would be perhpas, irrespective of the answer, like saying : I want you to say you have no soft corner for Pakistan and you are patroit indian and you have no other option. >>I have seen and still see a lot of Indian politicians/actors/intellectuals saying to Pakistanis that ‘We are the same nation, same culture why not lets become togethor, we will more stonger?’ Infact they deny totally the ground realities and this even further fuels to against what they actually may want, i.e. harmonity between the two countries. Saying this to some Pakistani could be and would be pretty offensive. It would like saying If could finish up your country which you got and retained after a lot of troubles. >>Long post.. I have my opinion that all those people like me and Mayank from both countries who want to bring a harmony between the two countries or the two religions is that>>– Please accept the ground realities. Please accept that this enemity and hatred exists in the majority of minds of people on both sides of the line of border and religion. This will make the the rest of work a lot easier and smoother.>>– Now after being accepting this reality, please target that hatred or enemity. This could only be via awareness and removing a lot of ilitracy that exists on both sides in terms of general education and ethics in general. >>If I meet some Hindu living in Pakistan firstly i would not ask this question of what he thinks of India. Even if I will ask him, the most probable answer that i would accept as honest and nice would be that he or she says:>>Yes, I like India, I wish prosperity of India because a lot of my religius shrines and places are there and a majority of my religion fellows lives there. But at the end I am Pakistani since I borned, lived, brought up, studied and having a good life in Pakistan.. I stil love my country they way it is like …….For being a patriot Pakistani it does not have to be an enemy of colorfull India. Even I would not mind listening and would find honest if he says, actually I like India, it was a mistake not to move to india at the time of pertition as my life could have been much better due to many problems that I have faced here (accepting the realities that the life for a Hindu living in Pakistan’s some areas would be pretty difficult than of a Muslim). >>Thanks Mayank for anticipation to this sensitive and hard issue 🙂
Great post Mr Soofi.
Hi Tahir>>I have read your comments about the interview of our muslim ladies. I completely disagree with you that the ladies were not honest about their feelings about pakistan. Well you have compared it with asking a Jew living in Iran about his feelings for Isreal and a feeling of a Christian living any part of the world about Vatican and what will be their obvious answer, but I feel that this is not the case with pakistan. In today times who will like to go and live in pakistan. The conditions are different in Isreal and Vatican, we cannot compare them with Pakistan. I am myself a Christian but I love India more than Vatican and I am a Indian first then a Christian.>>Hope you will understand and will think twice before you write about the honesty of our muslim ladies about their motherland India. >>Vikas
Hi Vikas, >>Thanks first of all for reading my long post, giving it worth to read. >>Now coming to my opinion, at an individual level, perhaps i could be wrong in my assumption about these ladies. They might perhaps have no ‘soft corner’ about Pakistan. If this true,i would still question that,,why they don’t have one? The reason for asking this question is perhaps no hidden truth and makes sense. And this is obvious that this is likely to happen and would be worth to check it:D>>Perhaps you are also write, that the comparison I’ve made perhaps might not hold as Jews to Israel or Christian to Vatican. But this sympathy would and still should hold. Similarly in general to any muslim if you talk about US or Iraq or Afghanistan,, they or majority of them will have a similar opinion, i.e. US is evil and invading to grab resources,etc. (Though perhaps I dont agree with it). >>Making it a shorter, I would question, Why this questions is asked at first place to Indian Muslims? If there was no reason to do that, i don’t think it would have made sense. It does make sense to ask and get a whatever answer due to the reason i explained. >>This is also write Pakistan is not a place to prefered to live due to insecurity and terrorism, even though I as a Pakistani would not like but this does not reduced or finishes my affection or love with the country. This situation could hold many other countries or even some parts of India too. >>And lastly, i do believe, perhaps you have wonderful life in India and why you should not like the country of your origin but would you say, you have no soft corner for a pure Christian country? A soft corner means, you don’t consider it as devil’s country.
Before all this talk of India and Pakistan, of hindus and muslims… I’d like all of you to watch this documentary and decide and then decide which side you are on….>>About me: I am a Proud Indian, I worship Jesus Christ, and I love Pakistan.
Oops here’s the link:>>http://www.veoh.com/videos/v14145493Bma8gCJW
Mayank, >>I wonder if enough people are reading your blog or talking to Falakbibi… >>About forces that divide people, I sometimes feel that it is all poverty driven, be it anamat/mandal andolan, be it caste/religion based politics or be it language based. Till poverty is not alliviated – nothing can be solved.
All problem is in poverty and then illitracy.
It also would seem that competition for limited resources, be it real or perceived, in addition to fear create forces that divide people. Of course, this places poverty and lack of education as prime candidates for violence. We cannot build ourselves up while pushing others down. I enjoy reading the discussions here as it helps me broaden my understanding.> I am an American, living in the midwest (small farming towns). My first exposure to anyone remotely different from myself was my neighbors across the street who were from India. This was in the 1970’s, so you have to admire their spirit to move to another continent, different culture/language to build a life for their family (they were the only Indian family in our town of about 20,000 residents- talk about a minority). Anyway, the men & my father would compare notes on the best peppers to grow, and the women would bring over wonderful, tasty food (I adored the samosas). I remember how spicy their home smelled, and taking my shoes off before entering their home. The women wore long gowns and the men kept their hair wrapped in turbans (I don’t know if they kept it long- I never asked). Anyway, they were very kind and I learned that you can care about someone else even if you’re not alike. >Now , I live in a large city, am in the healthcare profession, and work with Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews (ranked in order of prevalence in numbers of where I live). We share so many common goals- service to others, providing for our families, raising children, working hard…more similarities than differences.
No offence Mayank, but this post was really lame. All the questions you asked Falak bibi and all the answers she gave you..showed how clueless you and her are about islam and muslims. >>I think you could have done a bit more research and been a little more professional. >>>MJ
First some rebuttals:>>Dear Tahir,>>I don’t think, differences between Vatican or Israel and the Arab world or Persia are good examples.>>As a Muslim you know that differences between Islam and the other religions of the Trinity are cast in faith.>>While Pakistan and India ummm are a different ballgame.>>I think, to like a concept, or to dislike it, is a matter of personal choice, and Falak and Khaleda Begum are not alone in not siding with Pakistan, to your chagrin let me tell you there’s lots of us here that don’t subscribe to the politics that Islamabad has indulged in.>>Contrary to your belief, and you have no choice but to accept, as you have no first hand information on the subject, it is people (Indian Muslims)that have not visited Pakistan that root for it.>>While those that have had visited your country, know all about the two sided moralities and hooch selling pan shops.>>As for Soofi’s question about sports, I don’t think that’s cricket.
your views about the policman photograph show your mentality,it seems you are muslim.how you can say a poice man thulla.you bastard.first mind your langauge and then talk about these bloody muslims.have you forgot partition, what happened to punjabis in pakistan…..
redundant interview as with the times,your questions should change mayank, not stay stuck in my par-nanis generation !
still enjoy your column when i come across it, sometimes you dont do a half bad job…
Falak means darkness in Arabic.
I really enjoy your interviews and posts, they have a very candid nature, and dont feel like they are being forced, or a set of written question but more like a real conversation. Which gives me a nice warm feeling in this disconnected digital world.(yes i know i am reading this blog online).
They are a couple of things that bother me, and it is how easily people rest behind a banner of being anonymous a critize and type out half thought inflaming remarks. I guess if they feel they can do better than they should, and post a link to it, in a way being constructive about their criticism.
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