Just two days after the Mumbai attacks, I was waiting for an auto and for the first time in all the years I've spent in Hyderabad (which is from the time I was born to date) I was in for a shock when two Muslim auto-drivers showed me the other side of the coin.
The first one I stopped said, "Tereko jahan jaana hai wahan pe koi meter se nahin chalta", when I asked him if he has the new meter or the old one, and refused to go. The second one was willing to go but when I had asked him to stop smoking - I can't stand the smell - not only did he refuse to let go of his cigarette, but was also very rude when he said, "agar tumko cigarette pasand nahi tho meter dalne se pehle bolna tha na, phir main aata hi nahin"!!!
Two rude remarks in one day?! It actually got me thinking... are these people part of the community that claims to be 'the minority group'? Aren't they very much part of my country, my city, my society, my life?
I know what it feels like to be a minority. Having experienced rude racist comments from bus drivers to homeless vagabonds in San Francisco, with no way/inclination to retaliate, I totally understand and sympathize with people who feel helpless, feel like a minority.
The minority group almost always feels like they don't belong - to a nation, city or society. They're helpless; they're isolated; they're distant; they're aloof; and they're restless!!!
What's with our Hyderabadis then? When an auto-driver whose bread and butter depends on the number of times he downs the meter can be rude to a customer and get away with it, how can people still say they are minority and they don't belong?
I can vouch for the fact that I've never before experienced this kind of rudeness from Muslim auto-drivers. In fact, people from my own community are often rude - right from bus-drivers, conductors and auto-drivers, to artisans, maids, and cops!!! Their eyes haunt, do a thorough scan, their words often offensive, and their language crude.
On the contrary, my experience with Muslim auto-drivers had always been pleasant. Whenever they saw me standing alone on the other side of the road waiting for an auto, they would take a U-turn and tell me politely, their eyes averted, or looking down at my shoes, "Aayiye amma" even before I told them where I need to go. They almost NEVER refuse to take me wherever I have to go, even if it is too much out of their way.
And it's a fact that I never felt half as comfortable waiting for a bus in Punjagutta at 7 p.m. as I was waiting alone in the bus stop in Mehdipatnam at 10 p.m. I always felt comfortable and safe in areas resided by Muslims - whether it is Mehdipatnam, Tolichowki or Charminar. I actually feel a lot unsafer and uncomfortable in places like Chikkadpally, Narayanaguda, and Nallakunta where people from my own community are predominant.
That's probably why I felt shocked. I was disturbed. And I started wondering if it was my dress, my sindhoor, and my bangles that suddenly made them aware of my religion, and called for attention, rudeness! I still don't have an answer!!!