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« Obama's Best and the Brightest | Main | Putting Lipstick On A ... What Now? »

December 08, 2008


If not feel good of a shared culture, certainly common sense. The election outcome of five states that went to the polls, some after the Mumbai mayhem indicates that the voter was not swayed by shrill anti-terrorism rhetoric which often has an anti-Muslim edge.
People have begun to realise that institutional change is what matters not wild-eyed rhetoric and promises.
Among the 163 people who died in Mumbai, some 33 were Muslims. If the terrorists hoped to create a Hindu-Muslim divide they clearly failed. Indeed there was no Hindu-Muslim tension during or after the attack. The Muslims of Mumbai don't even want to allow the 9 dead terrorists space in their grave-yards. Why should they ?

Lovely post...thanks for sharing I had no idea that the Dutt's followed such a beautiful tradition.

Eid Mubbarak to one and all.

While I agree that the mutual understanding and cooperation between the two communities existed in the past at certain levels like commerce, politics, religion,arts and literature the previous barriers of sharing food and social intermingling among the two communities is much less rigid now. Indians of all communities now have more opportunities to interact with each other from a very young age in schools, colleges and at work place.


Would you then say that the understanding between Indian Hindus and Muslims is better now than it was in our parents' generation or even yours and mine? I am actually thinking more about all classes of Indians, not just the college educated group.

I find that within the Indian community in diaspora, intermingling is far less. The Indian American community is segregated along religious and regional lines. Groups like Gujarati Americans, Sikh Americans, Bengali Americans etc. are generally more cohesive than say, an umbrella organization like *Indian Americans* which would include people from different regional and religious backgrounds. Since the 1990s particularly, I have seen more social rigidity when it comes to religion. Indian American Hindus and Sikhs tend to interact quite freely. But Indian American Muslims are more likely to join social and cultural groups with Pakistani and Bangladeshi Americans.


many thanks for the mubarkabadis and for sharing this. i am adding an excerpt of this blog and some from yoginder sikands post to baithak along with two links that i had posted from ToI and the other from a column by short story writer intezar hussain

The interaction between Bengali Hindus and Muslims was more general and did not stay within the confines of any sect. It was broader. I come from a muslim background. Though my mother would disapprovingly murmur a comment on what was the need for her son to perform in the Arati with his Hindu classfriend during Durga Puja in the late fiftys, she would have no problems when her son---so inept in math would take his algebra book and notepad to ask Saraswati to bless.

Many thanks for this moving piece. But I would only like to add that notwithstanding the troubled times we live in, even as communal attitudes and acrimony grows, Dutt Sultans also emerge precisely under such circumstances. Basically life is simply too precious to be destroyed by human folly. Truth, goodness and beauty cannot be effaced.

What I was referring to is that while there has been a rise of strident communal politics in India, at a social level the ritualistic barriers practised mainly by the elite and the educated of both communities are breaking down.
In the Indian context, in the pre partion era the practitioners of communal politics were restricted to the upper class and the college educated. The working class,artisans and the peasantry remained largely unaffected.This has continued to be generally so even after partition though the bloodbath of the partition, and other factors like the deteriorating relation between India and Pakistan have given the oportunity to the communal parties to expand their base. The frequent communal riots, the rath yatra, the destruction of the Babri masjid, the pogrom in Gujarat are the handiwork of political parties who are still financed by the rich and the middle class. Therefore, while the communal situation is quite serious, the majority of Indians do not subscribe to the views propounded by these political parties.

Thanks, Aku. I understand what you are saying and my own take on the matter of social intermingling is similar to what you say. I am referring more to the political atmosphere in which communities (not just Hindus and Muslims) are becoming increasingly polarized and parochial in their approach. It is a very selfish way to run a nation.

My fear though is that while the majority of Indians, Hindus and Muslims, do not subscribe to the extremist / separatist point of view, the political climate of divisiveness created by the hardliners has made the "normal" people afraid to speak up. So the high profile cases of discrimination and violence set the stage for national dialogue rather than the sane voices of the moderate majority. Politics of fear has always been the modus operandi of fascist forces. India needs a bold and honest leadership at the national level around which the majority of the peaceful citizens can rally to shut up the angry voices at the extreme fringes. Until that happens we'll only see escalating violence, intimidation and alienation.

I wonder about the etymology and significance of the name "Dutt". I grew up with a Sikh friend with the surname Dutta, which, at the time, I thought was exclusively a Bengali name. Later, my mother pointed out a girl to me saying that "she had been given away in dutt" - the custom, she explained, of a couple giving away a newborn to close relatives who were childless. My Hindi dictionary confirms this with the meanings "given / made over / a gift / an adopted son / one who has 'given himself'". Was this a universal Hindu or Indian custom? Was it also a Muslim tradition? Any other interpretations?

Incidentally, my friend alienated me in middle age, a few years after the Hindu-Sikh problems, by reviling me for being a Hindu and therefore a godless person with no firm exclusive beliefs. His American Jewish wife threw in "idolator" for good measure - something I learnt was the lowest form of insult from a Jew. No wonder we cluster together defensively! I have grown to distrust the identifier "Indian" as an abstraction, and the terms "Indian-American", "Hindu-American", etc. laughably oxymoronic in comparison with say "Irish-American".

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