On Mourning and Memory: Sameer Khan
Guest Post by Sameer Khan
It was an amazing sight to see Bal Thackeray draped in the National Flag like a decorated war hero on way to his funeral among the sea of followers and curious onlookers. More surprising were the news anchors, media persons and other flag bearers of our proud democracy, singing paens and eulogies on Prime Time TV for two days. I wondered at the reason for this laudatory outpouring from the news anchors, some of whom had been, not too long ago, at the receiving end of the fury of the deceased man
As a person belonging to a minority community who grew up in Central Mumbai in the 80’s, it was extremely painful for me to listen to the news anchors as they heaped praises on the dead cartoonist. It was a shocking sight for someone who had witnessed the searing effects of the policies and the politics of the man that had targeted not only my community but many others, and had also eroded the secular and multicultural society in the city of my birth.
I wondered if I have a stronger and sharper memory than others, especially the news anchors, many of whom older than me, who seemed to be suffering from a strange amnesia. Did they have no recollection of how the Muslims working at the Mazegaon Docks were prevented from entering the docks during the killing and arson that followed the demolition of Babri Masjid? Had they totally forgotten the Maha Aartis that were organized all over Mumbai to produce an atmosphere of fear and intimidation of Muslims? Did they not remember the famous remark of “Opening the Third Eye of Shiva” in 1993, which opened the gates of hell and led to the deaths of a 1000 citizens of Bombay, most of them Muslims, and set off a chain of events culminating in the bomb blasts that led to the deaths of 250 citizens, most of them Hindus?
How do I remember all this, when no one else seems to, am I hallucinating, do I have a psychiatric problem ? How could I have such incredibly detailed recollections of events on such a large scale that no one, especially the news anchors and defenders of Freedom and Democracy seemed to remember?
I remember that the Gentleman had protested against the Green paint on Andheri Station because according to him it was the colour of Pakistan. I remember that film director Mani Ratnam organised a private screening of his film Bombay for the man in 1995 and was allowed to release the film only after carrying out the changes that BT wanted. I also remember that Mani Ratnam ignored the protests of the Muslims about the way they were depicted in the same film.
I am sure these are hallucinations. All news anchors could not have simultaneously developed selective amnesia and forgotten the same set of events connected to the man.
I woke up in the morning with flashes of Manisha Koirala visiting a leader with a huge Tilak on her forehead protesting that her nude scenes have been used without her permission by the Director. There were protests and some men tore down the posters and threatened the cinema owners. And then the protests are withdrawn as suddenly as they were mounted. Was it just a dream? I am not sure, but in my dreams I also saw some men, in their undergarments, dancing outside the residence of the legendary Dileep Kumar, they were doing this because Dileep Kumar had dared to support Deepa Mehta for her film Fire. I am beginning to wonder if I have actually witnessed these events or if they are figments of my imagination.
I shrugged off all these thoughts and took a sleeping pill that night. To my horror, the nightmares returned, I dreamt that the same person was urging his community to form Suicide Squads.
I met the shrink in the morning and I narrated what I had been going through for the last few days. The shrink did not look into my eyes. He too like the news anchors did not remember any of the events that I narrated to him but yes he did remember the recent image of the sea of people and the Tri-Color proudly draping a great Nationalist.
He concluded that I was suffering from Excessive Memory Disorder. What a relief. The problem lay with me and not any of the news anchors. He has prescribed some pills which I need to take from time to time to keep myself normal like the majority of the people.