Letters from a Malayali Hindu Sister to a Malayali Hindutva Sister : 2

Dear Chechi

Read your response. Was very glad to see it. Yes, when I wrote that it is better to die with the methanmar than to die in the KIMS Hospital, I was very serious. And when you said that I went to JNU and so love methanmar a tad too much, I thought I must write again.

Now, that’s plain wrong — saying that I love other people, including the methanmar, because I studied in JNU. You know perfectly well that I could have well developed that trait early, when we were children. I mean, there was good reason for me to scoff at your discovery that the only good folk are those who belong to our caste and our religion. Come on now — didn’t we all know, when we were around 13 or so, that it was impossible to get a job in a college run by our community organisation without paying an enormous bribe? Didn’t we know that despite all our claims to being educated and modern, a chap from a sub-caste who tried to propose a marriage alliance would be shooed away without much subtlety? And such sub-caste people were not likely to be invited to family occasions etc.? And did I not know, by the time I was 13, that our people loved to make snide remarks about people of other castes, make stupid jokes at their expense, etc. etc.?

Wasn’t it only natural that I wanted to escape this narrow and stagnant pool? But then, the desire to become a human being did come to me much earlier, you know, And that was through the prayers we used to chant when the lamp was lit every dusk. Remember? We used to chant aloud the work of the great devotee of Vishnu, Poonthanam, whose humility raised him higher than the greatest scholars of his times — the Jnanappaana.

Chechi, I fear that you have forgotten all that. If you hadn’t, then you wouldn’t have been glorifying pestilences, you wouldn’t have fallen over yourself singing the praise of the Modi-Shah fellows, calling them the saviours of the Hindu faith! There is no reason at all to brandish your hate of Muslims for you to say that you are thankful to be born in the land of Bharatha. You’d have known that straightaway, had you remembered the Jnanappaana! This forgetfulness is also why you have fallen for the vile promise that some people are making in Whatsapp forwards, that once the Muslims of Kerala are wiped out with the CAA, their wealth will be given to loyal Hindus. Oh, if only you remembered Poonthaanam’s words! He say that those of us born in Bharatham are fortunate because we have a greater chance of securing moksha — not because we can loot the blood-stained wealth of our brethren.

To tell you the truth — if you say that a true Hindu is the one who hangs around temples all the time, that’s an easy way to be Hindu for sure. Don’t you dare come to me with the shallow stuff they tell you.

Yes, you are right in one way. I went to JNU because I didn’t want to be the gullible good woman who they could manipulate. I learned there how to look closely and carefully at society, how to get past the tricks of the rulers through which they shove into our heads the ‘correct understanding’ and ‘true facts’. In other words, I learned how to find and tell the truth openly, courageously, more accurately. Yes, I know that your son-in-law scoffs at those of us in the social sciences. But that’s okay, because critical thinking has helped me to get past many lies, like the one about the micro-chip fixed to the new two thousand rupee note, which your engineer son-in-law had circulated, remember? But to recognise the humanity of people pushed into the avarna castes, and to see clearly that we will all die one day and so all this bluster and avarice is pointless, and to therefore avoid a bloated ego, I just needed Jnanappaana.

So — I am going to say this — it is not me, but you, who have given up Hindu goodness. It is you and others like you who have tried to defend the indefensible — like the rape of a little girl in a temple by many men over days, like the so-called living divinities who make a killing out of selling every variant of Hinduism to devotees, like the way our temples are being turned into businesses for the greedy and hideouts for haters.

It is into that emptiness that the Modi-Shah worshippers poured their poison. So please don’t try to preach to me about the Hindu faith. Alright, I can see that you are writhing in samsaara, you cannot free yourself of hate and all the passions that bind one to it. I don’t therefore blame or hate you. But please don’t peddle your state as a spiritually-elevated one.

Chechi, all I want to ask is whether we can read the Jnanappaana together again. I know that’s not in fashion. Nowadays, you and all the smart Hindutva ladies read the Narayaneeyamshudh sanskrit, written by Poonthaanam’s arch-rival for the affections of Vishnu, Melpathur Bhattathiri. You organise Narayaneeyam readings so that you can show off the latest gadgets gifted by your son-in-law, the new silks you have bought, and of course, invite the brahmin priests in fancy-dress who chant three minutes and speak to their cellphones for ten. Can’t blame them or you. This chanting is supposed to be effective as chanting, you don’t have to understand a thing, it isn’t meant to change you as a person. That’s not what chanting the Jnaanappaana does. It changes you, it widens the arteries of your heart currently blocked by the cholesterol of blind hatred.

Aren’t we all getting old, Chechi? You are 60; Chetan is 65. Not much time left on this earth, relatively speaking. Is it not time to make the best use of birth as a human being? Don’t we believe that we are born human only after many thousands of births, is it not the only chance we have to escape the cycle of rebirth and sorrow altogether? I tell you, these days, I take relief in the Jnaanappaana. When I see our leaders thump their chests, wipe their mouths in a vile gesture of hate, and smile grotesquely, gloating in the evil they do to Muslims and dalits, I just close my eyes and think of what Poonthaanam wrote: Kripa koodaathe peedhippikkunna nrpan/ Chathu krimiyaayippirakkunnu [The King who tortures without mercy/Perishes, and is reborn as a parasite, a worm] – and instantly feel sorry for them, Modi and Shah.

Why don’t you try that? You’ll have peace. Knowing that it is okay to shed hatred and embrace love. You don’t need JNU for that, trust me.

We believe that everything will end in a great deluge. Oh, that does look possible — all our hypocritical Hindu posturing as well as the ugly temples to wealth our Gulf-based sons-in-law build, all of it may be taken by the floods in Kerala. No use, tiling over the muddy path all the way to your son-in-law’s monstrous dwelling. Because the more you cover the ground, the greater the chance of flooding and water staying there. The flood will come again, and only then will you realise that we are living in times like those described in the last chapter of the Bhagavatham, when Dwaraka is destroyed by Nature’s fury and the complete irresponsibility and wantonness of its rulers. I pray that you will see then that the people who you admire are like the foolish, hubris-filled men of the Yadava clan that sealed the fate of Dwaraka.

With regards

Your loving sister

Devika

Letters from a Malayali Hindu Sister to a Malayali Hindutva Sister

From today I will be posting of a series of letters I write to a cousin of mine who was persistently sending me the most bloodthirsty Hindutva forwards on Whatsapp. I am not on family Whatsapp groups and this person is really a distant cousin though we have indeed spent some happy times together in our childhood. It is this correspondence that convinced me that upper-caste-born Hindus of privilege, as well as those of the privileged middle-castes, need to really start taking an open, persistent, unafraid stand within their own groups against Islamophobia. The people being steadily injected with this poison are strangely disconnected from the mixed neighbourhoods where they live. Until now, relationships there among people of different faiths have been friendly, even intimate, by and large.

I posted all the letters I wrote in Dec 2020 on Facebook. She did not respond to me directly, but did make some cursory remarks on my letters in intimate circles, which reached me. I wrote four letters to her in Malayalam. I will be posting them as four different posts, with an English translation. I continue to write in response to direct and indirect communication and intend to keep this going in public.

I think these are important because they convinced me that one must indeed stop thinking that public debate and rational argument will solve everything. We need to go into the most intimate circles, scour the corners of ourselves.

THE FIRST LETTER

Dear Chechi

I have been reading all the stuff that you forward to me about how the Hindtuva fascists have been doing all sorts of good for us Hindus, how they are true Hindus, how Muslims are all demons etc. etc. Chechi, you know perfectly well that I don’t share your views. So I don’t know why you have started bombarding me with these forwards on Whatsapp — but anyway, it may be good to talk about these things openly, so I thought I will write this letter.

Not blaming you, ok? I know that this sort of venom was lying quiet in our family waiting for a chance to spread. Remember, when we were kids, how many of our elders couldn’t stand the Ezhavas? They were the people who used to buy our fields and garden land too. Remember, it was with the money from such a sale that made up your dowry, so that you could get married to Chetan, a government clerk!! Ah, I remember how we had a bash spending all that money for a wedding far bigger than our means actually allowed, how we slurped and burped at the sumptuous feast and then proceeded to insult the Ezhava family that bought our land, calling them chovans [a derogatory name for the prosperous but reviled Ezhava caste — they were avarna, but became prosperous and educated in the twentieth century] and other such bad names!

I also can’t forget how all of you used to call Sreenarayana Guru such horrid names — ‘Cement Naanu’ and so on. But the lady in their house used to be so kind to us children. It was in their house that I first read a book which had the Guru’s ideas, at the age of eleven. That house was so clean, so nice, unlike our houses which were so untidy. Honest truth, I have never been able to get over the distaste I felt for us at the age of eleven.

And now you cant’t stand the Muslims who you deride, calling them methanmar [an insulting term to refer to Muslims] etc. And it is precisely that methan family who saved you by buying your plot of land when your daughter was to be married. It is an open secret that Chetan is no mean player when it comes to pocketing bribes — the buzz in the family is that the fifteen heavy necklaces our girl wore for the wedding were from that money. But when you had to get that new car and flat for the boy as well as money for that aircon-hall and the feast and the gifts for the mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and others, you decided to sell that paddy field which was anyway weedy and neglected. Didn’t we tell you that one of us could buy it, just reduce the price a bit? Did Chetan listen? No! And that mappila [a way of referring to Muslim, not derogatory] gave you the price you wanted, and didn’t you blow it all up then? And now you go around saying horrid things about the mappila and muslims in general, is that even fair?

My dear Chechi, these Modi-Shah fellows, after all they aren’t our neighbours or something? When Chetan had that chest pain some time back, who was there to help? Not your stuffed-up son-in-law who was in Chennai? Not your daughter for sure? It was that mappila boy next door who rushed him to hospital in his car, remember? Not that silly uncle of ours, the case-less lawyer who’s hovering around the BJP and offering to print Chetan’s awful poems in the Kesari? [the journal of the RSS in Malayalam] And definitely not that leech-like man — the retired chap with the sandal-pottu on his forehead? I forget his name — used to be an engineer in the KSEB who hung on to the CPM’s union till his retirement to get everything done for him, and is now planning to milk the ‘Hindu’ cause dry? Of course, they came. But they are not your neighbours, are they? After all when you screamed the place down when you saw Chetan gasping and choking, you weren’t screaming, “Hindus alone please help?” You were surely saying, please anyone nearby, please help! When the mappila boy rushed to help, and actually did everything a son would have done, what makes see him only as a methan? Shame!

Chechi, listening to these people who make you hate your neighbours is going to make things really hard for you. I am not blaming you, after all you got married right after school, to a man from our community chosen by the family, you just raised the kids, watched TV, went to the temple, then did more of the same every day. You were among people who told you that only people of our caste are good, and now you follow them when they tell you that only Hindus are good.

So I am telling you. It may be okay to be continuing this way, i.e. spreading this poison on Whatsapp etc. as long as Chetan gets his pension. But the economy is looking horribly sick, so we don’t know when we all will have to depend on our sons-in-law etc. And now there is this thing called the Citizenship Amendment Act, for which we have to dig up our ammumma’s documents. That IS going to cost a lot! It’s going to be a lot of paperwork, but worse, the local tahsildar and other fellows are going to have a lot of say and Chetan’s old contacts may not be enough. Don’t think your Modi-Shah fellows are going to save you — our case-less lawyer uncle is already salivating thinking of the money he’s going to make doing our paperwork. And you may remember, he’s always had an eye on your ten cent-plot by the new highway! Be careful, otherwise the children may have to come down from Gulf and Chennai. The SNDP people might help, but I know that you’d rather die that be helped by the Ezhava people.

But if they are going to actually stuff the CAA paperwork down our throats, don’t look for me because I will go to the detention centre with the methanmar and others. Actually, it isn’t so bad, come to think of it. There won’t be comfort or cash or the hope of getting out, but there will be warmth and affection. We’re all getting old, and that’s what we really need — some love! Better than dying in some god-forsaken super speciality hospital with tubes in every orifice. Think about it.

Much love from your younger sister,

Devika

Many Ways to be an Ostrich – Why we should give them up

Since about a week, I have been trying to write to and speak up many people who I thought would be interested in an offline campaign against localized and intimate forms of islamophobia. It taught me many things.

First, it made me seen, again, that many better-off Hindu Malayalis — progressives — are in denial. They know all the facts but somehow still believe that the terrible social rot that has beset north India will not affect us. I think that this is not just dishonesty and laziness, but also a reaction to the unending flow of bad news which activates psychological defences which lead to denial.

All the more reason, I’d say, to start an offline campaign against islamophobia in Kerala, one that is positive, enabling, warm. I mean, too many anti-islamophobia voices may be provoking just the opposite of what we wish to achieve: their angry attacks (justified, no doubt, but still) may be producing exactly the opposite of what they want to achieve. The general rise of anger and violence all around is probably pushing more and more people, especially those of us who are Hindu but are terrified and heartbroken by what Hindutva has done to us, into psychological denial. If so, a campaign that lays emphasis on love, sharing, trust, and working together with demonized people is exactly the cure that we need.

So, friends, all of you who are quiet, who look away when I pass, please leave behind your fear; please break out of the shell of denial.

Secondly, there are many who asked me if we should not oppose all forms of religious violence and bigotry. Yes, I say to them, but then do not forget that violence and bigotry have no religion, they are as much at home with nationalisms as they are with religious faiths. But even more importantly, I am trying to attract our attention to a very specific community being threatened with extermination — can we attend to that first? Should we not do that? If you are drowning and someone on the shore is calling for help, what if the people on the bank tell them, ‘oh, but we ought to save all people who are drowning!’, how would that sound? I think you who are drowning should be first rescued and then we can and should surely see how all people drowning can be rescued and how it can be prevented in the first place.

Those who advance this argument — I can see that many of you are agnostics who find all religion ultimately unfair and distasteful — but we are talking here of standing with living people, not abstract faiths. Can we become human enough to see that just because someone is an ardent believer, they do not cease to be human like us? Can we, for some time, stop thinking of our own insecurities about religion and its potential menace, and focus on real people, can we stop being scared of ALL believers? Really, everything hangs on whether you can come out of this bubble of disbelief or not.

Thirdly, many were sceptical because they thought that I was trying to initiate (1) a rational dialogue with the Hindutva supporters or (2) tell people the ‘truth’ about Muslims, that they were peace-loving citizens of the nation.

I must clarify to you that I am doing neither. I think the ability of rationalism to influence people’s opinions is highly overrated; I also feel that we live in times in which the meaning of the word ‘dialogue’ has collapsed into polarising debate, which only exacerbates the differences.

Rather, I dream of building a large community of people who will openly, unambiguously, non-belligerently, insistently, courageously, declare their determination to offer love, support, and friendship to our brethren who the Hindutva evil threatens.

A community that develops a thousand creative ways in which we keep on expressing it, in and through language, literature, art, public speech, organizing, socialising, teaching, and building relationships.

A community that will be willing to throw itself nonviolently before evil when it seeks to harm our brethren. One that will rebuild and reinforce neighbourliness through a thousand everyday gestures of goodwill and bonhomie.

Yes, I am indeed trying to reach out to Hindutva supporters, but not to offer new facts or theories. I am trying to see if we can develop ways of reviving their deadened imaginations and moral sensibilities. Rational dialogue, I am afraid, cannot achieve that. I think we need to talk — not just among us, which is what we are all doing mostly. We need to rather turn towards them – the supporters of Hindtuva in our circles — enter the intimate spaces of social media groups, Whatsapp collectives and so on and keep speaking against violence, keep refusing indifference, keep crying out against evil, invoking the traditions of critique, compassion, and justice that are very much part of the Indian tradition. This may annoy them and there may be attacks on us, but we must persist and be relentless. Evil needs tremendous energy to sustain itself inside individuals, and we must wear it out.

As for revealing the ‘truth’ of Muslims, that would be the worst condescension ever. I am sure we all see by now that no matter how Muslims may change, they will still be targeted by the Hindutva evil. It is really not a matter of Hindutva-infected people not knowing the ‘truth’ about Muslims, it is a matter of curing them of their own insecurities, the stunting of their moral sensibilities.

We have to stop behaving like ostriches with their heads in the sand. The desert is becoming hotter than ever before and our faces are going to be scorched too.

Seeing in the dark

[This is a letter I am writing to a dear friend’s sensitive young son who is deeply troubled by the growing violence and the atmosphere of hatred around us]

Dear G.

Your mother tells me that you have been lately very tense and uneasy about the violence that is being perpetrated in the name of Hindus around the country and more recently in Delhi. I connected instantly — despite being older and unfortunate enough to watch the descent of evil leading right up to the trampling of all decency that we witness together today — and I wanted to write. This is not ‘advice’ of any sort. As a generation that failed to protect our children from these menacing fangs, what advice can we possibly proffer? I just want to share how I cope.

I went through the same emotions and exertions in the wake of the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act. It was such an assault on the India that shaped us all and that gave us some reason to be secure and even proud. To think that our citizenship has been put on hold and that the onus to prove it is on us is to also open ourselves to the possibility of being stripped naked before the unbridled violence of power.

Yet, after a few days, I began to feel a strange sense of contentment, strong enough to make me feel thankful to our oppressive government and its supporters. This is because I realized that this was, finally, a chance to confront life and society without hypocrisy; to use language that you probably do not approve of, a chance to purify one’s soul.

As India’s privileged middle-classes, we are so unused to confronting the ugly immoral face of the state. Till recently, that was the fate of the marginalized and oppressed people — dalits, muslims, adivasis. This violence aimed at human dignity itself that we face now, in other words, is something these people have known since long. This is of course a fact I have known for long as a teacher and researcher; it is probably something you know well too. But it is one thing to know; feeling is quite another.

The other day, I was cleaning up the kitchen at night, and I am rather obsessed with keeping it clean. So the sight of a cockroach creeping around the sink made me pick up the broom instantly. But I can never get myself to hit it. The sight of it cowering in a corner makes me me flinch. This creature is harmless I know, and that it had entered my kitchen hungry perhaps, looking for some titbit. This knowledge takes a moment usually to turn into compassion but this time it was instant. Why? Because I saw that this may be the future for us — all of us who have no other intention but to live decent lives now face the violent thug who wields the cruel broom in the name of cleansing the Hindu nation — if we sink into despair. Surely there is the moral force that drives us: I think we are all determined to live lives that are human — far richer than that of an insect. Hope comes easily to those of us who retain the notion of a higher force, called God or some other name. It can also come to those of us who believe that we are driven by moral force.

So let me ask: would it not be possible to look at the present as an unparalleled opportunity to raise ourselves as human beings? Hypocrisy is a luxury that is available to those who power smiles upon. Now that we are not favoured thus, will it not be possible for us to turn our attention within, to strengthen ourselves to resist evil? It is no coincidence that Gandhi could not stress enough the summoning of inner strength to gather up the courage to face a pitiless and blind oppressor. I find this possibility exhilarating.

So I find it comforting to be vocal and open in my support to the victims and condemnation of the oppressors. Yet I keep searching for ways in which I can heal the divides and avoid replicating the violence of the oppressor, dressing it up in ‘progressive’ colours. This way I manage to keep despair at bay.

There is a second way I have found effective in fighting off debilitating despair. That is to relentlessly pursue knowledge, keep at independent and truthful creative pursuits.

I often see during meditation an image I must have seen a long time back. This is a painting, of a medieval scene. In the painting we see the insides of a small cell in a monastery tower. A monk is in the foreground, busily copying the classics, totally absorbed in it. Behind him is an arched window, from which we see armies butchering each other below. In the extreme background, a town is in flames.

Recently, this image comes back to me almost every day. I know it is telling me what to do. To continue the independent pursuit of knowledge, to preserve the best fruits of civilisation, instead of letting myself get stupefied by the violence of armies bent on mutual annihilation. The armies in the image are not Hindu and Muslim. They are the many political parties we have; the battlefield is Indian politics. Theirs is a fight to death in the background of the burning city – our society – which they do not care for. The monk knows this. So he turns his back to the meaningless violence and focuses on preserving knowledge for the future. He looks at the future, the long-term, instead of the present, the short-term. We must all look at the long term, perhaps, even as we resist the demonisation of Muslims and others in the name of Hindus.

But, you will probably argue, that long-term is like a terrible, craggy cliff which we are forced to climb down; it makes our head spin, and I have to agree : Oh, G., it is indeed a Kafkaesque nightmare! We are travellers – a caravan – on a journey trusting leaders who many of us have full faith in, but very soon we realise that they have decided to make slaves of us all. Our voices of protests are drowned by those of us who are convinced that accepting slavery is the best. These leaders have made sure that we do not escape by digging up the way ahead into a deep trench, by taking away everything that would have ensured our safety on the road. Worse, the other aspirants for leadership among us who challenge these slave-drivers seem no better, and their battles only further maim us. Ahead of us is the steep wall of an abyss which we have to cross if we are to reach a future.

Once we have turned our backs on short-sighted people fighting for petty gain and engaging in strategy to that end, we must once again consider taking the challenge of the long haul in short steps. Is it not better to take the risk of descending it ourselves, instead of getting pushed into it as we try to dive for cover exposed to the cynical battles that our politicians seem to be waging? But you must protect yourself from vertigo. When we descend a steep cliff, we must not look at the abyss below, only at exactly the next step or few steps. That way, we conserve our energy and our confidence, and avoid fear.

I know that it is easier to think in metaphors than devise action. But once we see that we may rise higher, that these times may indeed make humans of us all, it will be less daunting. I pray that you and all other sensitive, humane young people, will guide us towards this.

Much warmth,

D.

By way of introduction …

Like most Indians whose life is also a moral quest, I am heartbroken by the terrible destruction in Delhi which began in February 2020 and is still ongoing.

Not that I am surprised. We are the unfortunate generation which witnessed not just the triumph of evil, but also the silence of the good. We knew where this was all headed.

But what leaves me despondent now is that this is no ordinary riot. It is less fixed on killing people than killing neighbourliness. That undermines the very basis of social life.

All of us are tied to the religious communities we were born and raised in; with the caste identities ascribed to us. We have no choice; we can leave only through conversion. And many of us are silently resigned to these as primary identities, more or less. But who among us will deny the fact that our living social space is indeed the neighbourhood? Who can deny the reality that when we are in need of help, we cry out to those in our near vicinity first?

Destroying such ties is the first step towards rendering all of us, Hindu, Muslim, whoever, helpless and vulnerable to the elites. And that is being done with ruthless precision.

All of us who cannot make peace with this evil are groping in the dark, sleepless and worn, trying to find a way of standing up to it, refusing its indignities.

I write from Kerala. That’s far away from Delhi, many think, and a haven of peace. That is false; it is just that the infection is taking time to manifest. Yet there is a legacy – not of real conviviality between human beings, but of a dream of it, given to us by the seer and thinker Sreenarayana Guru, in the early twentieth century.

The Guru is known as a reformer of Hinduism. But that is an understatement. He, rather, gathered together resources from the diverse sources we now bundle together as ‘Hindu’ to cut open a path out of the terrible labyrinth people were caught in during his time: that of the caste order –janma-bhedam in Malayalam, according to which people were placed in hierarchies determined by their birth. This path, however, did not necessarily lead one into other labyrinths, such as that of nationalism. The Guru’s path led one into spiritual self-awakening, towards a self capable of refusing the seductions of safe abodes — of caste-communities, nations, races. Thus it is a tragedy that his legacy is now buried in the clamour of a thousand claimants, all of who seem determined to violate it for their ends.

To get back to neighbourliness: perhaps it can be claimed that the neighbourhood is the prime social space implied — as something to be actualised by human spiritual self-awakening in the future — by the Great Opening made possible by Sreenarayana Guru. As Malayalis woke to the Guru’s message to various degrees, so did neighborliness become an important value among them. Neighbourhoods in Kerala were mixed, and though we now see exclusive housing projects for ‘true’ Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, they are still mostly mixed. This is something we need to protect.

How then to resist hate and evil that destroys the very basis of human conviviality? That is what I wish to do in this writing.

It is true that we must resist all ways of marginalizing and excluding living beings, and surely that is the very aim of my life. But right now, we see that Muslims are being attacked at an unprecedented scale; they are being demonised in proportions that can only signal the beginning of their extermination, even. And it is through poisoning of the hearts of non-Muslims that the consent for this is achieved. What can we do to resist this?

The moment I say this, the progressive person sometimes responds — ‘oh, but Muslim communalism is equally bad … To this person I say — the issue is no longer that of Muslim communalism; it is about whether Muslims have the rights to have rights, even whether they may stay alive or not. Perhaps we must introspect about the instant derision felt towards the burqa, and the relative ease at the sight of the mundum-veshty or the sari.

When I say ‘we’, I am obviously referring to the non-Hindus, specifically, upper- or middle-caste-born people – including the middle-class ezhava of Kerala – with some privilege.

Too much of such resistance takes aim at the people who are overwhelmed by the evil and not the evil itself. I am sick and tired of ‘progressive’ responses that respond to evil in the same coin. That leads only to a deepening of distrust and dislike. On both sides, anger and hatred keep winning.

Such divisive exchanges are easy when it is in public, against people we do not know. But the rot runs in our most intimate spaces, in families, among old friends’ circles. Many of us refrain from engaging with our relatives and friends who side with evil even as we write and speak against us in public.

In this space, among other things, I want to share my exchanges with members of my family who are supporters of the deepening evil, who justify their vilest deeds. I dream about conviviality — which refers to happy sharing of pleasure and bonhomie, the relaxed state when we let down our guard to welcome the other. It is not merely the minimal tolerance of the other.

I want to connect with other wimmin (I love this term, its cheekiness, its inclusivity) who do the same, and perhaps if I find other such friends, we can find ways of working together to speak up against Islamophobia and all other phobias directed against marginalized people of different kinds.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.