ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry
Ravi Valluri, 52 years old, Telangana
To our dearest parents
Rashid and I are celebrating the New Year in a house boat as shadows lengthen on the Dal lake where we pen our finals thoughts. We understand, despite a modern outlook and liberal values, our families, religions and countries may not approve of our relationship.
Today, despite the gizmos, the global village is on the cusp of ultra—nationalism, where an ‘exit mode’ from our cherished values is on the menu card. Rashid remarked wryly that nationalism and ultra-nationalism need to be served on the platter and perhaps could have been priced at a universal currency.
Meanwhile, the two of us are caught in a crossfire between a group of ultras and the Indian army. Terrorists are spraying bullets all over the place and slicing the throats of those who do not profess faith in an organized religion. The Indian army with the wherewithal at their disposal have achieved success by overpowering the militants. I gasp for breath and now write with blood stained hands as my life too is ebbing……. Rashid lies besides me sporting a beatific smile on his face. He has met his maker. I will meet mine in a few moments……
Simran and Rashid
With no access to email, Simran from Rajouri, wrote this poignant letter addressed to her parents as well as Rashid’s. She had been pursuing Masters in English from Oxford University and Rashid from Rawalpindi was majoring in Business Administration from Cambridge. They met during an exchange programme, fell in love and were planning to get married much to the chagrin of their parents.
Photocopies of the letter along with the coffins were handed over to the distraught parents by a compassionate civil servant.
‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…….. ,
Into that heaven of freedom, my father let my country awake…..,’ wrote Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore several decades ago. The clarion call was not just seeking emancipation from the foreign yoke but freedom from rigid thoughts, which constrain the passage of visionary thought process in the apertures of our minds.
Love and compassion are two words which seem to have lost their relevance in this frenetic paced world which is now determined by indoctrination of a set of ideas and ideologies, xenophobia, religious and spiritual exclusiveness, ossified thinking patterns, a clash of civilizations, ego-centric attitudes, abhorrent dogmas, the ‘I, Me and Myself’ syndrome, the rapacious desire of man to garner more.
Economic problem of shortages, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few have taken a religious connotation adding to the woes of people like Simran, Rashid and millions of others.
‘MY’ religion, ‘MY’ country, ‘MY’ ideology, ‘MY’ traditions, ‘MY’ customs are at an exalted position as against ‘OURS’.
The pristine beauty of simplicity and goodness has been sacrificed at the altar of crass commercialization and distortion of history.
The goal posts have altered today where freedom of thoughts have hibernated in dreary deserts of stultified thinking. ‘Aa No Bhadra Kratvo Yantu Vishwataha’ – let noble thoughts come from all directions, is what the Rig Veda says. But with the erection of artificial boundaries it is well-nigh impossible for noble thoughts to permeate into our lives or societies.
It is indeed enigmatic and unfortunate that in the present age of technology, concepts and metaphors such as rationalism, multiple culturalism, inclusiveness, democratic traditions and tolerance have been hijacked by agent-provocateurs and groups of ultra-nationalists whose agenda is merely to disrupt harmony and perpetrate wanton killings in the name of rabid ideology.
These groups are positively not a happy, joyous and radiant people, but a breed who live miserable lives, trying to fatten their coffers, by red flagging existing mores of the society and masquerading their identity.
They are children of a bloody revolution, distorted by history and partition whose only ideology is spewing venom and destroying the harmonious values embedded hitherto in society.
The boisterousness and rambunctiousness in the minds of perpetrators of these grisly ideologies and those of their blindfolded followers can be countered by spreading the message of peace, compassion and love as was done by the Buddha, Shankara, Jesus, the Prophet Mohammed and Lord Krishna among others. All these epochal personalities enunciated the principles of universal brotherhood against demonic forces of bigotry and violence.
A poet statesman once famously remarked that we can change our friends but cannot alter our geographical boundaries. Seventy years have been a witness to three major wars between India and Pakistan. We are also a witness to the incursion in Kargil, Operation Parakram, innumerable skirmishes and the recent surgical strike across the Line of Control by India.
Will the children born today in India and Pakistan, seventy years from now witness a similar frostiness in relationship between the two countries, where Simran and Rashid are separated by narrow sectarian walls?Â Or perhaps fear from a possible nuclear holocaust? The sagacity and maturity of the political, military and intelligence agencies is at stake. Or else more letters and coffins will knock at the doors of hapless parents.