Thursday, August 05, 2004

Was I in any danger?

For the first time in my life, I went to watch a movie alone and felt threatened in the theatre. I have felt threatened a few times in my life. During the early days of ragging in my undergraduate college back home. While waiting for subway late at night in North Philly. But those instances were in places and scenarios where something nasty could have happened. But here I was in a theatre in American suburbia feeling jumpy but too proud to just get up and leave.

The movie in I was watching was Fahrenheit 911. I entered the theatre and proceeded to sit down couple of seats away from a couple. I felt them glancing my way, giggling and doing things couple do. Oh well, I did have my Unisys ID badge flapping about.

The movie started and I was totally engrossed in it, until it came to a scene where some moron on screen was expounding about how anyone could be a terrorist. The girl sitting near me turned to her boyfriend and "whispered"....it could even be him...meaning me. And then for no real reason I felt a chill go up my spine. A sudden irrational fear. I watched the rest of the movie with a vague feeling in the pit of my stomach. I kept thinking of bizarre scenarios where the boyfriend would call the FBI on me or would try to beat me up with his buddies. (Ha, I would have unleashed my Suio ryu techniques on them). I know this could have well been my overactive imagination but one has to think of what if the situation was a little different. In a bar late at night with the majority of the populace being drunk, can I be sure of rational behavior towards one who looks middle eastern?

It is sad that just because I have a French beard and look middle eastern I could be suspected of being a terrorist. I felt I needed some sign on me to show that I am a good Hindu boy from India and cannot be suspected of being a terrorist. Then I realized I am falling into a trap. I know of so many Muslims who are good friends of mine. Does this mean that it is ok to suspect them of being terrorists? So my idea of a sign should be trashed. (Though I think it is a good idea that woman who are not single to wear a special "something" so that we poor single suckers don't have to waste time chatting them up for a date. Of course the same goes for men too, that is if more women forget the "women should not ask men out" rule.)

I was about to write this off as American ignorance when I realized that even I come up with irrational conclusions like that couple next to me. I have a friend who says that for every Hindu death because of terrorist attacks, a random Muslim should die. I have another friend who thinks that carpet bombing the Arabs would be a good idea. Though he is a mallu he has forgotten that a number of his fellow mallus are in the Gulf. So if my fellow country men can come up with such krap, why shouldn't I give the Americans some leeway? It is after all I, on my own free will, who decided to come to the USA. But then there is a part of me that thinks that I should exercise the same free will and go back to where my people are dancing on the Other Wind.

14 comments:

Aslan said...

Ah, finally! After so many 'hit's of waiting..
Hmm.. think of it this way. S'pose an African up n' blasted our Taj Mahal wide apart. Wudn't u consider em in a different light subsequently? Mebbe u wudn't. But scores of other narrow-minded Indians wud. Thats kinda what de Yanks faced.. A sudden unprecedented attack by a member of a 'minority' race. We'd probly look at dark-skinned Afro-Americans with distaste afterward. How're we to know they've probly not even set foot on the African continent?! Think abt it.. There's more to it than just color. It cud be the underlying religion that is to blame. I swear this'd incense any Muslim. But de public just needs a superficial reason..

Mudra Rakshasa said...

The issue is not one of a religious divide. I feel everyone is entitled to practice their own faith. I am almost certain, my own forebears were probably Buddhist or Jain at some point. The issue I have is with the outlook, that says, if you are not one of us, you are less than us and you deserve to die.

Also when a large section of a society is openly hostile, its views shaped by its clergy and government, I think it is a shame to perpetrate a myth that "all is well." After all 15 of the highjackers came from this society (http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?011022fa_FACT1). I take umbrage, not so much with the land as with its rulers and the view point they promote. Just read the stuff put out by a govt sponsored research org (http://memri.org/news.html#1004015345). I cannot image such a thing in any reasonably civil society.

True many of our own people, victims of need, work there. But, from what I hear they have few freedoms and almost certainly very little protection from the law. I am conscious that our own land does not extend the security of the law to all its citizens in practice, but at least there are provisions for it.

At the end of the day, each man/woman is a product of their antecedents and my own views, extreme as they might be, have been crystallized by my experience.

sambar42 said...

Mudra, dude,
What were/are you thinking?
Do you think that all of the middle east is one single homogenous group? And you think that generally going in and declaring war on them is a good idea? Oh, oh, let me go into some country and carpet bomb it and behold, they shall all be cowered into submission.
Maybe you should try for Colin Powell's job..

Kogi Kaishakunin said...

Kuts,

If an African-American blew up the taj, I would personally track him down and make him suffer to his last breath. But I would NOT place the blame squarely on all African-Americans nor would I look at them with distaste.
Don't blame the religion for what the terrorists are doing. It's just a convienient reason for them thats all.

Mudra,
Ok, just because you saw those towers fall with your own eyes give you no right to hate all muslims and bomb the Arabs. If you want to take violent action, take it against the people who are involved. If not there is not much difference between you and an terrorist. BTW if killing all muslims mean people like Tabu, Hakeem Olajuwon, Nasurdeen Shah then you will have to go through the Suio ryu wave slashing stroke.

"Our own people, victims of need"...bollocks. They are all there by their own free will. To make tons of tax free money doing work they would never think about doing in their homeland. So they can't complain about lack of freedom. Which is why I too am stopping short in this issue. I came here on my free will and if I find things like the Patriot Act disturbing then I should cock up and go back to my country.

Aslan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Aslan said...

U say u wudn't place the blame on all Afro-Americans. Now thats where ur bein a good Hindu. Unfortly. most ppl don't think like u. Which wuz what I meant by "narrow-minded public" (read non-Hindu public).

Other religions indoctrinate their 'followers' (we don't really 'follow' a religion) that infidels MUST suffer. Luckily for us, only the extremists take action. n' for our continued good, let us pray that their 'tribe don't increase'. Not that our secularist outlook [these days getting too common for our good] n' their policy of converting us barbarians are gonna help.. :(

Aslan said...

ideology : An orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation Guess this what Mudra was referring to in the 2nd para of his comment. I second that.. but I bet he doesn't have a Buddhist/Jain among his forefathers. BTW, Anyone read the book "The Myth of The Aryan Invasion"?!n' Kogi, notice thats its always us Hindus who're so secularist?! Speaks volumes about Islamic ideology!

Space Cadet said...

I am humbled. Thanks for sharing that experience, now I realize that men must face more racial profiling than women and it's not fair. And I thought that an audience that would go see Farenheit 9/11 would be more open-minded but by your post I realize that it's not true.

But you can't let stuff like that get you down..... there are many ignorant fucks in this world. Many people who make racist comments like that have never been discriminated against themself, and therefore don't even realize how it feels.

There have been times when I felt so shitty and hurt after hearing some racist comments but then I would remember how after Gandhi got educated and became a lawyer there were STILL racist barbers who refused to cut his hair because he was Indian. But he used that experience for more momentum to do what he wanted to do.

So let this experience make you a stronger person, not a bitter one.

That said, whats up with your "women should not ask men out" rule? That rule sucks. Why are dudes so god damn intimidated by a woman who knows and goes after what she wants?

Kogi Kaishakunin said...

Devalina,

Thanks for your comments. It is much appreciated. But I still have to say that I will think twice now before I go alone to the "Epicurean" bar near my place to have some Hoegaarden off the tap on a late Sunday night.

"women should not ask men out" rule is not mine. It is a rule that many women I know follow. It almost seems like it is a universal phenomenon. AND I HATE THAT RULE :-) which is why I want women to forget that rule.

Mudra Rakshasa said...

OK! So at what point did I become the target?! Besides, I believe, I have a right to cultivate my own view. And I did not "just see" the Twin Towers getting hit... I was damn near burried under one of them. Anyway, the point I make is not against a religion or faith. It is grounded in realpolitk - terminate first that which threatens your existence, be it right wing hindu-types, left-wing reds or radical islamists. Leave me alone and I am quite willing to leave you to your own devices.... Now where are my khaki shorts...

sambar42 said...

Mudra,

I had a long discussion with a friend of mine on this very topic recently and that set my thoughts straight(or maybe straighter? :-) ) on a few things. I think I understand your position a little better now.

The issue I have is not so much with people who say that militant islam is an enemy and must be tackled. I agree that any ideology that preaches that anyone who doesnt agree with them must be killed is a problem in today's multi-cultural world.

However, I have an issue with people who make remarks like 'burn 'em all and let God sort them out'. Or, 'These uppity muslims must be taught a lesson.'.

The problem here is in assuming that muslims (or even Arabs) are a homogenous group of people. Interestingly enough, acting as though they are a homogenous group ends up uniting them under the extremists. This has happened over and over again and the latest occurence has been in Iraq.

Shiite extremists are working together with Sunni extremists and Saddam's former army (all three of whom used to be at loggerheads under Saddam) because of the policy decision that said 'These Arabs must be taught a lesson, let's invade Iraq.'

It is this kind of extremist reaction to extremism that must be avoided. The way to bring down militants in the present-day world is not to react with brute force but with Chanakya-tantram :-)

Just as a data-point, just imagine what would have happened if the Indian government had decided to exterminate Sikhs during the Punjab militancy. The government instead co-opted Sikhs who didnt want the militancy either and thereby put the militancy down. It wasnt done by handling them with kid-gloves, to be sure, but it was indeed done intelligently.

Your earlier pronouncements have led me to believe that you believed in brute force therapy. If I misunderstood you, well, then I was wrong. If not, I would ask you to reconsider your stance.

Mudra Rakshasa said...

Right you are!

Yes, I have a problem with the Arabs (and by it I mean the same lot who highjacked the planes and flew them into WTC, the same lot that fund violence across the world – be it Kashmir, Chechnya or Philippines). I resent people who perpetrate violence against the unarmed and the helpless in the name of religion.

I have the same issue with the Congress government that ruled through the 1970s and the 1980s in India. They perpetrated violence in the hope of making political capital. The Sikh militancy was a problem entirely of Indira Gandhi’s making. Had she never sought to undermine the growing popularity of the Akali Dal, Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale would never have become the force he did eventually. He was cultivated and nurtured by the central government to counter the Akalis. It is a testament to the right-minded Sikhs that Punjab did not go the way of East Pakistan; not even after the pogroms in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Along the same lines, I think Mrs Gandhi received her just rewards.

I don't say that men can co-exist without strife. I admit that some conflict will persist. We are only human.

“Itna to zindagi mein kisiki khalal padey
Hasney se ho sukoon na roney se kal padey”

That BTW was written by Kaifi Azmi. I care for my versifiers too much to be a zealot.

wenerd said...

my two bits on the topic.

all violence is crap and cannot be justified. but cant be avoided, right? an eye for an eye and all that- its simple then := there will never been any ending to it. there will be fear,insecurity etc. such is life.

saw fahrenheit 9/11 the other day. and what struck me was: god save the nation (and rest of the world) that re-elects a nutcase like george bush.

Aslan said...

here's another who HATES that "women shudn't ask men out" rule! as u say, yes, here in india, ALL women follow that rule! (sob! sob!) as for wenerd's comment, gandhi once said "if its an eye for an eye, the whole world wud be blind!" guess thats his equivalent of the jesus mentality of "turnin' the other cheek". pfooey! to both those. i don't advocate violence either, but there has to be an alternative.. u can't just lie down n' take the beatings of those innumerable insufferable fools out there.