Dear Mahesh Sharma Ji,
A Padabali Kirtan made sure I woke early this morning, feeling rejuvenated. And as I have more hours to myself today, I take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. Even though I am just a nameless commoner, I have vociferously rooted for this government of yours. It is probably no secret that I have not only voted for the BJP, but have loads of faith on the present government. I strongly believe that our Prime Minister is doing a fabulous job and if positive change must come; he has to be the primary agent of that change.
That said I would also like to mention that your current statements have been a major dampener for and lot of ‘thinking’ supporters of your party. Mahesh Sharma Ji, I do not doubt a single word of what you have said, and know that you have had the best interests of the nation in mind when you were talking. However, it is unfortunate that the words have taken wings and given the entire conversation an all together different meaning. I am not complaining Sir. All I am asking you is to weigh your words and make them straight, so that no one gets to read between the lines or misread them.
I would like to point out a few things, Mahesh Sharma Ji. And I do so only because I am a supporter of this government. Had it been anyone else, I wouldn’t have cared. I did not write to Mr. Abhijeet Mukherjee for his dented and painted remark. I did not write to Mr. Mulayam Singh for his ‘gang rape is impossible’ remark. I write to you, because I have faith that this government will listen to us.
I understand that the Nirbhaya case has rattled many of our minds. Today, even if I go to a friend’s place, my mother is worried. My father calls me. It is not because they think they rule over my rights. They call me to find out if I am okay. I do not complain. I would do the same for a younger cousin, a friend or a daughter. Times are bad, and I understand your concern for us. But Mahesh Sharma Ji, we as a nation have evolved. Our women have evolved. Our ideas and needs have evolved. So when you say night outs by girls are against our culture, you are patronizing us women. And we do not want that.
You hold a very key position Sir. As you have said ‘culture defines a nation’, you should also remember that it is 2015. A nation’s definition is also dependent on how it talks about its women. I understand that you are concerned about the rising graphs of violence and teen pregnancy. But Mahesh Sharma Ji, then why not keep the men at home? I know it is a silly idea. Because we women would be the first to oppose that! We do not want patronizing or privileges, Sir. All we want is to coexist.
There are a lot of things that are not part of our culture, Sir. I am sure bride burning was not a part of our culture. Acid attacks on women were not part of our culture. Could you please stop that Sir? I would be ever grateful if you could do that.
And as you mentioned about the great Indian Joint family, I am very thankful to you. An entire generation of us worry away about staying away from home because our cities are not safe for senior citizens- grandparents and parents.
I am sure lot of us miss those careless days with a house full of uncles and aunts and cousins. But with shrinking spaces and demands of jobs, increasing prices, the joint family is not always an option, Sir. It is not because we ape the west. It is because we are losing the race against betterment. And it is not always about young people breaking homes. It is sometimes about individual choices. And respecting individual choices is a part of our culture. That is why we have Hindus worshipping different Gods, or Gods of their choices.
Mahesh Sharma Ji, I get very irked when people take jibes at my faith. And I have fought tooth and nail and shown them their place. But Sir, when you or some of your colleagues talk about Hindus or the need to protect our culture, or to procreate more to increase our population; you make us feel terribly insecure Sir. We are a huge and vibrant religion, Sir. So many Gods, so many mantras, so much to be proud of! Imagine we are so rich that an entire genre- Hindu mythology is bread and butter for an entire industry. Why would members of our government need to defend or protect us? Isn’t our Hindu brotherhood strong enough? I do not care about the ‘rationalists’ who make distorted images of our Gods. They are nothing, Sir. Our pride is- we may study Medicine or technology or World literature; but we will come back home and follow our rituals.
So I write to you and not to anyone who wants girls to hide behind veils and headscarves. Our culture is free and spirited. Do not make us to confuse it with Victorian prudishness. Sanskrit is a great language, Sir and it is shameful of our ‘intellectuals’ to see ‘saffron’ at the mention of it. How can a language that the great Kalidasa wrote in be politicized? Your enthusiasm for it is laudable. But making Sanskrit or Ramayana or Mahabharata a part of the school curriculum is coercive. I am sure parents buy pictorial books of Ramayana and Mahabharata in any case. Why would the schools need to go about teaching the same again?
Sir, you’ve also said that despite being a Muslim Kalam Sir was a nationalist. I agree on the second part of the remark ( the rashtravadi part) and not the ‘despite’ part. That word automatically makes us look at every Muslim with suspicion. We are not a nation of Islamophobes, Mahesh Sharma Ji. We do not arrest 14 year olds for making clocks. And we cannot blame every Muslim for what some deranged people do. We cannot make these statements with these ‘despite’ words, because I am sure if a day arises that the security of the nation is at stake, Indian Muslims will bleed to uphold it. Remember Late Abdul Hamid, PVC? He was a Muslim by name, an Indian by identity. And he is just one of them.
So when you say the Bible and the Quran are not central to the soul of India ( though you have said that you respect the both; please note that only the first part will be quoted by the intelligentsia for future reference), I would want to know which India you are talking about? Because both these religious texts have come to this nation centuries back and have stayed and grown with us. What zealots and missionaries do is of course a suspicious issue. But whether we say Bhagwan or Allah or Jesus; we ultimately also sing Jana Gana Mana. Captain Clifford Nongrum, from my hometown Shillong, was martyred in the Kargil War, Mahesh Sharma Ji. He might have sung Christmas Carols, but he died upholding the sovereignty of this nation.
And why just talk about dead people. There are the people who read different religious texts but are making music, making machines and making literature – all at the end of the day enrich our country.
Culture evolves, Sir. And I still deep down believe you meant no harm. But Mahesh Sharma Ji, our souls are not ‘harvested’ or polluted. They are just a little enlarged and full of warmth. The idea of cultural pollution is alarmist. Also the moment you as a member of the government make these statements; they look like diktats. And I am sure coercion is the last thing this government has in mind. You are not the party that would ever do something as dirty as the Emergency. And that is why we love this government.
But Sir I also agree with your concerns. I also abhor this word ‘dictatorship’. Because if that was what the government had in mind, I wouldn’t be writing this letter!
As Piku’s father (of the movie Piku) Bhaskor Banerjee had put it in simple words, ‘Western culture is not the benchmark of progress’! I agree with both Mr. Banerjee and you. As a citizen of this country I will always support you in reviving art and literature of this nation.
Times are bad Sir. People are waiting for that one inappropriate word to come out of any of Modiji’s MPs. The post mortem of this will continue for months. Sir, so even if there are others who make women look as objects, write lyrics that humiliate women, share misogynistic messages on whatsapp; it will be you who will be branded the ‘patriarchal’ man. It will be Modiji who will be discredited.
So why not just let nights outs be, why not leave culture alone for a while? People have tried for centuries but Indian culture couldn’t be dismantled, Mahesh Sharma Ji. In fact with passing time we are only making it grander!
A vocal supporter and voter.