Shoaib, Constable 28

Shoaib, a newly appointed beat constable in South Delhi prepares a list of lonely senior citizens of the vicinity and makes it a point to visit them on a daily bases. This way he not only monitors their social security but also helps them in solving their day to day personal problems. Today in accordance to his routine when he visits Goyal Sahab (one of the senior citizens) and knocks at his door, to his surprise, for the first time a female voice emerges from inside, “Kaun hai?”. “Ji main Delhi police ka beat constable” replies Shoaib, the door is pushed open in his direction, and a middle-aged female in appears along with Goyal sahib.

This is my daughter Laxmi, New Jersey main rehtee hai America main”, Goyal Sahab warmly introduces his daughter to him. Shoaib after pressing his hands together says “Ram Ram” to his daughter. As Laxmi greets him back, her smile freezes at halfway and her eyes are stuck at his badge. “Mohammad Shoaib? Tum musalman ho?” She asks him in an astonished tone. “Ji madam”, Shoaib replies with a proud smile. “Arre tum woh skull cap nahe pehntay? Woh safeed gol toopi. Ya uniform ki cap kay neechay chupaye rakhhe ho?” Shoaib remains calm. This was not the first time he had been asked this question. Laxmi tries to save face, “Nahi matlab, What I meant was, Namaaz toh padtay hoongay tum. Five times na?” In response to Laxmi’s queries, a strange expression appears and disappears on Shoaib’s as he calmly replies, “Ji! Padhta toh hoon”. He starts his usual conversation with Goyal Sahab about his wellbeing and calmly leaves the place. 

On his way back to the police station the previous conversation with the NRI woman repeats itself in his head but it dismisses it with a quiet laugh. Back in the lawns of the Police station, a few of his colleagues are busy with the task of oiling their service weapons. Shoaib halts near one of them and after watching the colleague cop’s activity he points out towards them, “Yaar never ever put oil in the striker channels or magazine tube of the weapon! It damages them!” They all turn around, some bemused with appreciation and some annoyed at his knowledge. Meanwhile, the head-constable loudly says to the others, “Haan bhai ye toh jaankaar hoga hee, Inke gao mei bandooko ka gyan bachpan main he dhay way hai na.” Loud laughter fades-in the lawns and Shoaib silently walks inside the building. This sarcastic laughter though chases Shoaib the entire day. In the evening, he is being ordered to accompany a raiding party, which is going to seize illegal liquor in the area. Several places are being raided, gangsters being arrested and a big catch of liquor bottles seized. In this scenario when Shoaib was coming out from one of the raided places carrying few crates of seized liquor bottles, one of the constables teases him,  “Kya ray Shoaib musalman ho kar dharoo ko chuta hai.” Loud laughter emerges again. Ignoring the remark he quickly sits in the vehicle but echoes of such comments chase him throughout till they reach the police station. Holding the culprit tightly in his grip as Shoaib disembarks the vehicle accused person reads Shoaib’s name tag from a closer view and whispers, “Bhai mere bohot se doost musalmaan hain. Ek ka naam toh Shoaib hi hai.” This time Shoaib laughs loudly and pushes the accused towards the lockup. 

 

Kabir Khan, 45 Businessman

Having worked his entire life towards one day buying a big bungalow in Delhi, today was the day when Kabir Khan was finally going to realize that dream. Dressed in his best and most expensive suit, Kabir leaves to sign the papers of the property he is about to buy. His chauffeur, Deen Mohammad opens the door of his car for him with the utmost respect and care. Sitting dignifiedly in the back seat of his car and lights a cigarette as the car starts to move. Meanwhile, after glancing at him through the rearview mirror couple of times, Deen Mohammad humbly asks,  “Sir ek baat poochni thi?Hanh poochiye.” Kabeer replies. “Sir, yeh Kabeer naam hindu bhi rakhtay hain kya?” Deen Mohammad puts the question with some hindrance. Surprised upon hearing this, Kabeer asks for the reason for this abrupt and unexpected question, Deen Mohammad with some feeling of embarrassment explains, “Sir, market main kal koie keh raha tha tumahre sahib nay hindu walla naam rakha hai.”  Shocked on chauffeur’s this blunt revelation Kabeer doesn’t utter a single word in response and continues to look outside the window.

 On reaching the real-estate agent’s office, Kabeer gets another unexpected news in relation to his name when the property dealer states that the seller wants him to hide his identity from the resident’s welfare association (RWA) of that upper-class neighorhood. “But why?” Kabeer protests. “Very simple sir, the RWA of this area is in the hands of some conservative people and Rao Sahab (seller of the bungalow) doesn’t want them to know that he is selling the property to a Muslim.” Before Kabeer can process and react to this, the property dealer adds, “Kabeer Sahab kuch nahi, mamooli mamla hai ye. Papers main app Kabeer Khan ke jagah apna naam Kabeer K likhain gay, father’s name main Khaleeq Khan ke jigah K. Kumar kardhain gay. Kis ko patta lagna hai? Aur haan yanha kissi ko please nahi batana hai ke aapki shops Nizamudin ke pass hai”. “Ye kyu ab? ” Kabir asks hiding his anger. “Corona sir, they say it spread you people only you know sir.” Kabeer had no idea how to react in this situation. He tries to collect some choicest words from his diction meanwhile Rao Sahab appears in the room.

 “Arey Kabeer Sahab, aapki badi lambi umar hai. Aabhi mei apne dost ko bata rha tha aapke baare mei. Aapke khandan ki tareef kar rahe thaey hum ki aap log partition ke baad yahin ruk gaye! Aap aap-logo ka desh chod ke India mei bas gaye. This definitely shows your community in a good light here Kabir Saab!”. Kabir lights another cigarette as Rao sahab continues to praise ‘his’ kind of muslims.

 

Fatima, Student 20

The moment Fatima boarded the metro she noticed a young woman’s eyebrows raised in her direction. As situations like these had become usual for her so she smiled and sat next to her, murmuring to herself “Poochle, pooch bhi lo aunty”. 

Beta tumhe ghutahan nahi ho rahe hai? Your headdress (Hijab) looks so tight na”, asked through an evidently fake smile. Fatima laughs in her head and nods in the woman’s direction. The woman continues, “Tumhare baal toh waise kaafi aache honge? Dilli 6 walo ke hotay hainh na, filmoo main dekha hai meine.” Fatima again just smiles in response to this and gets up from her seat to avoid a third question.

As Fatima exits the metro and walks towards her campus, the intrusive line of questioning from the lady enters her mind again. The inquisitiveness around her hair has not been a new phenomenon but it definitely does annoy her. Entering her examination hall, she is suddenly stopped by the invigilators. “Arey! Aise nahi jaa sakte andar! Ye sar pe se kapda utaaro. Tum log isme chit leke jaatay ho sab pata hai hummay!”. Her heart sinks at the thought of having to fight with yet another man to let her sit for exam with her hijab on.

Later in the day as Fatima orders some food at the canteen as she nad her friends gather around to discuss their question paper. “Dimri bhaiya! Ek plate chili potatoes dena” Before Dimri bhaiya could have responded to her order, a classmate of Fatima jumps in, “Chili potatoes!! Tum vegetarian khaoge? Biryaani nahee laiyee ho tiffin mei?”. Fatima laughs it off and takes her plate of chili potatoes. 

Now back on her way from college to metro station, the echoes of those innumerable remarks follow her. “Tumhare baal toh waise kaafi aache hai/chits chupaye hai kya/biryani nahi laayi”. She boards the metro searching for a seat as it is rush hour by now. A motherly looking lady smilingly gestures her to sit on the edge of her seat as she makes space for Fatima. Fatima accepts the kind offer but as she sits down the woman starts sizing up her headgear (Hijab) as well as her backpack. Fatima once again murmurs to herself,Poochle, pooch bhi lo aunty”. And the woman asks her “How long have your parents allowed you to study beta? Aap logo mei toh jaldi shaadi karwa dete hai na