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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Enemy Under My Roof!

1990 AD: The times were turbulent, the early 90’s. As a young man taking baby steps towards building a career in a city which Rajiv Gandhi once famously called the dying city. The life of a Salesman in a market which thanks to decades of imperialism of the Left Front was tough, very tough. As a youngster trying to transform my life hoping the Govt of the day in Calcutta or the one in Delhi would drive growth and opportunities, all I got was a potpourri of political turmoil caused by corrupt politicians, self seeking messiahs of the backward castes, people peddling Revolution of the Proletariat.  And jumping right into the cauldron were yet another set of ‘desh bhakts’ who insisted on ‘Mandir wahin banayenge’!

Mandir Wahin Banayenge!

I was then living in a locality which was physically divided right down the middle between the Hindu side and the Muslim side by the great G.T.Road.  It was easy for my young and impressionable mind which was reared on poor order-books and pressures in the business front and the sheer squalor and filth that one saw in the hugely populated ‘Muslim basti’ to volunteer and donate hundred bricks to an organization  collecting the same to build the grand temple for Ram in Ayodhya. The unchecked infiltrator from across the eastern border being the primary reason for all that was wrong with my life and the country.

Drishti pariharam Taaveez
1998 AD: My daughter was a sickly child. Once she was born my donations to temples and other causes close to my heart dropped drastically as all the spare cash and some more were donated to the well being of the neighbourhood MBBS. As multiple visits to the Doctor and the variety of concoctions that he prescribed failed to give any permanent cure, I was at my wits end. That is when I was prescribed an age old treatment in practice in many villages of Tamil Nadu. The man who donated bricks to build temples in a disputed area walked into the nearby Masjid dutifully to conduct a ‘drishti pariharam’ on my baby! And walked out with a ‘taaveez’ tied around her midriff.


2000 AD: He was a Muslim, a Malayalee, from Bombay. I was a Hindu, a Tamil, from Calcutta. And we met up as colleagues in Bangalore! Circumstances then threw us together and we ended up temporarily sharing the same house in Chennai. And as you would expect the scenario was one of immense dichotomy. A Hindu thrown together with the ‘enemy’ Muslim. Was it vice-versa too? I don't know, he never gave me any clues. A strict vegetarian sharing kitchen with a beef eater.  A teetotaler (he) breaking bread with someone who enjoyed the occasional drink (me). A Mallu and a Tamil under the same roof! Facts are stranger than fiction as they say. Thrown together in a city that was then friendless and unknown to both of us!  Circumstances threw us together and who could fight circumstances. The first thing that broke the ice between us was Marlboro! We were both smokers! And when not on work, we spoke the same language, Hindi! From then onwards, me waiting outside any random Mosque in Chennai till he finished his prayers or he being dragged to a pure vegetarian Iyer Mess took just about that much time. A new Sunday routine was also established. I buying him non-veg food and he buying me my weekly quota of beers. We shared our rooms for about six months or so till I shifted to a new house with my family. It was around the time of parting that I realized that the man who donated 100 bricks to build a temple to spite the ‘enemy’ was long dead! And the ‘enemy’ to date is one among my best ‘friends’!


PS: Once while travelling together with him by train from Mangalore to Chennai, he would speak to other people in Malayalam and I in Tamil. A curious co-passenger was annoyed that we were however speaking to each other in Hindi. How was this person to know that while my friend spoke no Tamil, I spoke no Malayalam! Mera Bharat Mahaan!

Desh bhakts : Patriots
Mandir wahin banayenge : Will build the temple right at that spot
Basti : Locality
Masjid : Mosque
Drishti pariharam : Ward off evil eye
Taaveez : Amulet

Mera Bharat Mahaan : India is great


  1. What a beautiful narration of what your mind went through over the years.
    Congratulations to you for your well articulated thoughts.
    From my childhood, my father a conservative Brahmin , use to educate us that,
    Humanity is beyond religions.
    Your writings made me to recollect my memorable experiences with friends
    Who belong to all the religions in the world.
    Proud of you.

    1. Thank You Sir. Yes! I evolved and fortunately for the better. Only with experience I realised that it was no big deal. We Indians are like this only, believers in the dictum of Yemmadamum Sammadamey!

  2. You brought a smile to my face (as always) wonderful days wonderful memories love u bro

    1. Ditto Bro. And I owe you one for making a human out of a monkey!

  3. That was excellent Anand. But, I feel lot of inferences may have multiple facets. I look forward meeting you again & discuss this in a great adda :-) But, thanks for such a nice write up - Shubhadro Das

    1. Thanks Dada. Nothing is a clear like black and white. There are 50 shades of grey in between as we are often told. Look forward to the 'adda'!