What were you like, Junaid?

        In our rural management classes in my MBA programme, our professor told us that — in terms of product features, packaging and marketing — what works for India may not work for Bharat. India. Bharat. Hindustan. So many names for the same country. Why? Because there are many different kinds of people, cultures, faiths, religions? Exactly my point. There are many different kinds of people in India. Thats just the way it has been. Thats just what we are as a country. Thats just India, meri jaan. You cannot change it. You should not want to change it. Period.

       So when I open the morning newspaper and read about a fifteen year old’s father’s plight, all I can think is, “Whatever the hell is wrong with people?!” The kid’s name was Junaid. But does the name really matter? Because from where I stand, all I know is that a fifteen year old kid was killed for the choice of meat he (supposedly) ate.

So lets see…was Junaid only about the meat he ate? Was that what consisted of him being Junaid? I mean was his choice of meat the thing, the only thing that defined him? So when this question comes to my mind, the other thought that rather quietly sneaks up on me is, what he was like. Yes, I wonder what Junaid, the fifteen year old was like? Was he a shy boy or was he confident and forthright, bubbling with youthful effervescence? Did he play much? I wonder what he would have been doing on a Saturday afternoon — would he be out with his friends engaging in light banter or reading quietly in some corner of his home? Or maybe he would just be out playing cricket?  

I wonder what he liked to eat (other than the “holy cow” meat he was stabbed for of course!). Did he like junk food like teenagers his age? Cold drink and potato chips? Iced lollies and golgappas?  Did he enjoy the rains? Maybe he liked to play football in the rain? 

Which one of his brothers teased him the most? Did he have a favourite amongst all his brothers? Did he like watching movies? Did he watch TV at all? Was there a favourite sportsperson? 

The questions could be endless like — was he good at studies? Which was his favourite subject? Was it literature or was he the Mathematics type? Did he enjoy going to school? And, the most frequently asked question to a teenager — what did he wish to be when he grew up? I’m sure he had been asked that question many times over. I wonder what Junaid’s response to this question was. Was there something in particular that he wanted to be? A doctor? Engineer? A sportsman maybe? A cricketer? Or maybe he liked some other sport, hockey or kabaddi? Maybe sometimes his imagination took wings and he could see himself becoming a pilot or an astronaut?! I know he was from a village but then, there are no geographic or economic restrictions on dreams!

So, there was much more to Junaid than his meat eating habits it would seem. And in such little time. A mere fifteen years he was allowed to have by the self proclaimed judgement deliverers of our society. And you know what is more infuriating? That we let them. We let them sit judgement on our predicament. After every such incident, they seem to grow in stature in the eyes of their own fellow judges and the predicament seems to get more gory.

So yes, I wonder what Junaid was like, this teenager who had come to be known as the boy who was killed on the train. The train that was taking him and his brothers home after Eid shopping. I ask those proud Hindu murderers how they would have felt had one of their own been killed on the way home after Diwali shopping? Would Diwali have remained bright any longer? Would Diwali have remained that loud any longer? No, it wouldn’t. It would have been shrouded in the quiet darkness that overcame Junaid as he closed his eyes for the last time. As dark as the black space that surrounds you behind your eyelids when you drift into heavy slumber (and God knows Junaid had drifted into the heaviest sleep of his life!). As quiet as the flow  of the blood that oozed from his wounds and trickled down his body. This silence is deafening, as is the darkness blinding. But then, how would we know? Because we have all closed our eyes and turned a deaf ear to it all long ago. So there was no way that Junaid’s cries would have reached our ears or the sight of his brother’s white kurta soaked in his blood reached our eyes.

So I wonder what the boy was like. Junaid. Soldier. Warrior. Thats what the name means. But this soldier lost his battle early on, to a mob of hate mongering monsters calling themselves faithful to a religion. But lets just get this straight. These monsters are not faithful to anyone but themselves. The faith, religion, this is all just an excuse to give a vent to their monstrosity. If not in the name of faith, they would’ve found some other way to be violent and then too some innocent Junaid or John or Jagat would’ve fallen prey. Yes, the name could be anything. Today it is cow-lynching and a Junaid has fallen. Tomorrow a Jagat will fall somewhere in retaliation of Junaid’s death. This vicious cycle has no end. This saga has gone on for decades and people are still none the wiser. Still blind and deaf. And monsters still lurk in every dark alley.

And amidst all this, I wonder what Junaid’s plans for Eid for. I wonder what he had in those shopping bags. I wonder if the soldier is at peace or still restless for fear of his brothers meeting the same fate on some other train, at some other place.

I wonder if Eid will ever be the same again for them.

It  is a lot of wondering. And you know what the best part about this is? For all of this wondering out loud, I will be branded anti-Hindu, and the next time,  anti-something else. 

But who cares? 

I am of all religions and then, I am of no religion at all…


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