Amidst a fake atmosphere of Intolerance being created in India, in the last 1 month, I owe my version of what I, a Muslim lady, living and working in India feel like. This has been due from me since sometime. Now, I feel the water has gone above the head and I too need to share my views. So, here it is.
I am a Muslim lady, a practicing dermatologist by profession and I run my own high- end laser skin clinic, in Bangalore. I was brought up in Kuwait and at the age of 18, came to India to pursue medical education. I decided to stay back in India while almost all my friends left India for greener pastures. Not even once did I consider that being a Muslim could create a problem for me, as my sense of nationalism held me back to my roots and so here I am, serving my country since the last 20 years.
I studied in Manipal, Karnataka. I lived alone like all students do. While I was in college, all my professors were Hindus and almost all the people who I would interact with were Hindus as well. There is not a single incident when anyone showed partiality towards me based on my gender or religion. Every single one of them was kind and in fact sometimes, I felt as though they made an extra effort to make feel like I was one of them. I am ever so grateful to all of them for making my life in Manipal as comfortable as it could get.
After leaving Manipal, I relocated to Bangalore with my husband. By then I had been married and so we decided to make our life in Bangalore. There is a reason, why we chose Bangalore and here is where I will talk about my husband. He is a Muslim too, with a very typical first name, Iqbal. He is an aerospace engineer with MTech from IIT-Chennai and PhD from Germany. His profession takes him to the most highly secured organizations of India, like DRDO, NAL, HAL, GTRE, ISRO, IISc, BHEL; you name it and be assured that he has visited all of them without any hassles. Not even once he has been stripped off or asked for special security clearance or any such bias has been shown towards him. And NO, things have not changed even after Modi gov came into power. Things are in fact more disciplined and streamlined even at government organizations, from what I hear from my husband. As a matter of fact, Iqbal has been completely stripped each time he traveled to US and was under secret surveillance while he was doing his PhD in Germany, after the 9/11 attacks on US. We literally received a letter from the German government that he has been cleared and is not anymore under suspicion. Talk about Muslim paranoia! Its very understandable too due to the current situations in the world. My husband is highly respected and loved by the people he works with, and all of them happen to be Hindus. None of this has changed even in recent times, so Intolerance is just a word for us on a practical basis.
I opened my clinic last year, just before Modi gov came into power. I am a law-abiding citizen and I file my taxes like service tax on a monthly basis. I have never indulged in any activities, which could put me into any kind of trouble. I am comfortably running my clinic, which is doing very well, thanks to all my patients and clients, who all happen to be Hindus. A handful of my patients are from other communities. My entire staff is Hindu, and believe me when I say that they take better care of my clinic than I could any day! I interact with bankers, government officers and with so many people on a daily basis. Not even once in the last 20 years, did I have the need to even think of leaving India! My entire family lives abroad and all that I need to do is just decide that I don’t want to stay here. I have open offers of opening clinic in Kuwait, which would fetch me huge amount of revenue and yet why should I stay in India, if I am not happy and if I am facing any kind of bias?
In Kuwait, we are considered as NOBODY. Yes, despite being in Kuwait for the last 40 years or so, my family is still considered as expatriates, with no rights. We need to renew our resident permit periodically and the laws there constantly keep changing, making the life of expatriates only harder. We have to strictly comply with their rules and laws, which is fine but we are openly discriminated. They consider Asians as third grade people, while giving preference to their citizens, Arabs and Whites. We are not unhappy there but we have no sense of belonging either. At least, I never had and never have even when I visit Kuwait now. We are Muslims in a Muslim country, and yet we are considered as Indians with no special regards. I figured long back ago, that India is the only country, where I will have a sense of belonging. You are an Indian-American in US, Indian-Canadian in Canada, Indian-British in UK and so on but only in India you are an Indian. Period. Rest can say whatever they want and defend their choices but this is a fact. You can only feel at home, in your own home. I have lived in different places and everywhere I stand out but in India. No body in India asks me, ‘Are you an Indian?’, and this is what makes all the difference.
So, what are these celebrities ranting about? An ordinary citizen like my husband and I are not facing any such issues, then what have they faced? Why is Amir Khan’s wife, Kiran Rao feeling so afraid? They are prominent people, living in posh localities, their children study in the best of schools and they have personal security escorting them at all times. I travel alone everyday and yet don’t feel afraid. I want to know as a responsible citizen, from Amir Khan and Shahrukh Khan as well, why did they make such irresponsible statements and spoil the image of the 13 crores of Muslims in India? Who the hell are they to make public statements based on their personal perception? Who gave them the liberty to tarnish the image of my country on an International level, that Muslims are not safe in India? How dare Pakistan invites them to stay in Pakistan? I feel hurt when I read the statements of my Hindu friends on Muslims. I feel afraid that they are being pushed to the limit and the tolerance and acceptance that I have enjoyed all these years, might just vanish! I feel afraid that my own people might shun me and I may get alienated in my own country, because of a handful of ungrateful bunch of fools! How long can I expect majority of Hindus to tolerate this nuisance? It’s high time that Muslims understand the value of the freedom and acceptance that we enjoy in India and if not, I pray that my Hindu fellow citizens continue to keep their patience.
– Sofiya Rangwala