For every seed of hatred sown, plant a grove for humanity

The more we allow parochial thinking to lead us, the more divided our world will be.
Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza
Picture Courtesy: Internet 
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) yesterday opposed tennis star Sania Mirza’s appointment as Ambassador of the newly-formed state of Telangana. Subramaniam Swamy, the redoubtable BJP leader, was quoted in the papers as saying: “I agree with the BJP leaders that when people have divided loyalties, we cannot expect them to represent the country or any part of the country faithfully. So, the BJP stand is well taken.” Sania came under attack from VHP and BJP because she is married to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. In fact, Telangana BJP leader K.Laxman called Sania “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law”.
Such thinking is gut-wrenching and numbing. Sania is a successful sportsperson. And Malik is another successful sportsperson. The two decide to marry. Where does, and why should, nationality play any role in this? Mercifully, both belong to the same religion. Else the self-styled mandarins may have had added more logs to the fire.
Interestingly, in October 2009, when former Pakistani pacer Wasim Akram’s wife, Huma, was being flown from Lahore to Singapore in an air ambulance for treatment for renal failure, she developed complications when they were overflying Chennai. An emergency landing was mandated. And doctors at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, treated her for a few days, before she passed away on October 25, 2009. Dr.Venkataraman, the doctor who treated Huma, is a Hindu. As are several of the fans who gathered outside Apollo Hospitals that morning to show their support for Akram and condole his loss. About a decade earlier, fans at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk, in Chennai, had given Akram a standing ovation, after he led Pakistan to a memorable win in a closely-fought Test Match.
So, in reality, the common folks, people like you and me, don’t ever get swayed by religion or by partisan thinking. Humanity and the spirit of sport – of letting the best team or player win – rules higher in our minds than anything else. Even so, the games politicians play, often for petty gains or even for demonstrating one-upmanship, are divisive. Not only should we be wary of them, we must express our secular and objective views on all such occasions.
There’s an ad playing on TV promoting the 2014 season of KBC. It shows how a boy from a Hindu family, calls his Muslim neighbor, with whom his family has been having a rift, to ask for the meaning of “as-salaam-alay-kum” using the phone-a-friend option. He gets the right answer and wins the prize money. The jingle in the background goes somewhat like this: “Jab Lahu Ek Ho, To Rang Kaise Do?” meaning, “When the blood is the same, how can it have two colors?”. I believe that the ad’s, and the jingle’s, message is something we must all hold dear in all contexts. We are just one world, one people. We have the same blood in us. The color of our skin may be different, as may be our national flags, or our religious affiliations. Even so, we have the same feelings as another in any given situation – all of us have the ability to love and be compassionate; and all of us feel pain when we lose someone we love. So, for every seed of hatred and divisiveness that is sown, let’s plant a grove for humanity. As Bob Marley (1945~1981), the Jamaican reggae singer, famously said, “The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”

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“Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.”

The more we respect each other as human beings the more peaceful our inner and outer worlds will be.
Yesterday, I was sitting with a couple from Hyderabad. The husband, a close friend, who has been living in Hyderabad for decades now was telling me that he was considering moving out to another state. When I asked him why, he replied that post the formation of Telangana as a separate state (it comes into effect on June 2nd, Monday), anti-Andhra and anti-Seema sentiments are running very high. Since he hails from Andhra, he preferred to move to a more “accommodating, neutral” city. Honestly, while he was dead serious about his impending decision, I did not think much of it. But this morning’s Hindu’sPage 1 headline shocked me. It read: “‘Andhra-domicile’ staff can’t work in Telangana: KCR”. Obviously the reference is to Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief K.Chandrashekar Rao’s (KCR) threat to people in government jobs. But I am sure, as my friend and his wife fear, these divisive sentiments can impact general public too. In fact, according to them, they can already feel the hate and the heat. 
Just the other day, a friend’s facebook status, in the wake of the NaMo wave, read: “I feel ashamed and insecure of being an Indian Muslim today.”
In an increasingly connected world, thanks to technology and social media, I wonder why are we are allowing people to play up divisive politics? At the very basic level, can’t we not insist that everyone respects each other as humans? Now, if this is how people are going to feel about being who they are, obviously there is an urgent need to reach out be inclusive as nation. And that job, really, is not to be left to the politicians or to the government. We, the people, have to make an effort in our daily interactions and start a movement that thrives on, above all, being human first.
In today’s Hindu itself, interestingly, I found an inspiration from a source where one would least expect an attitudinal change coming from. The Vithal Rukmini Temple Trust, in Pandharpur, which functions under the Maharashtra government, has decided to allow, for the first time, women, and men from all castes, to be priests at the famous 900-year-old temple. The Trust’s Chairman, Anna Dange, told The Hindu: “For the first time, a temple is throwing open its doors to everyone. We thought it was time now for us to set an example. No group should claim monopoly for serving as priests in the temple.”
I believe there must be more efforts like Dange’s and his Trust’s. Each of us has to champion the message of equality and freedom for all to everyone in our circles of influence. For my part, I would like to leave you with this quote from Clive Barker, the famous American author and filmmaker: “Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.” Think about it. Irrespective of what we wear, what we do, how much we earn, where we live, who we pray to or what we are about, we are the same within – powered by a red blood and the same source of Life! Do we need any further evidence of our equal nature?