To the young readers born on
December 6, 1992,
Happy belated 20th birthday. I hope your first steps out of teenage were as unsteady and as reckless as I imagine them to be and I sincerely wish your life turns out to be as interesting and as eventful as you would like to portray it on your Facebook page and your BBM status updates.
I am told you are no longer interested in reading newspapers. I am told that your attention span is falling by the second; that all you are ever interested in is consuming anything that catches your eye; that success isn’t important to you unless it’s achieved via the shortest possible shortcut; that you are not interested in politics unless it’s about reservation.
Trust me young reader when I tell you that when it comes to you, I don’t believe what I am told.
You are no longer a teenager which is why I expect more than plain angst after you are done reading this piece. I expect some honest reflection on what it means to be an Indian, what it means to be a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh, a Christian, a Jain or a Zoroastrian. I expect you to be rattled and perhaps overwhelmed by the hand fate dealt you. I expect you to ask the right questions without expecting any right answers because as far as I can say expecting right answers only makes a young person vulnerable to lullabies that forever put the questioning mind to sleep. In short I expect nothing less than a revolution and I am prepared to know that you failed trying but did not think of giving up.
I hate the digit 6. I hate it because I am afraid of it. I went to study in a Catholic school which is why I have always associated the number six with the devil though I must confess that nothing I learnt at school ever hinted at 6 being the number of the devil or something I should be afraid of.
Perhaps I watched way too many horror movies when I was a child or perhaps I am just making this up to make you feel as if you were unreasonably (and unpardonably) afflicted by a congenital deficiency being born on the sixth day of the twelfth month (which is doubly frightful considering it carries the weight of not one but two number 6s) of the year.
The day you were born India lost something. I am not sure what that something is because I was too young to understand what was going on then and am too traumatised to figure out now what happened then, but I am sure you would be able to do justice to the events of that fateful day by someday telling the nation what was it that we lost.
The Babri mosque was demolished that day, many of you may retort. In response I will only say that I did not ask you what was demolished or who demolished it or how many years it will take for us to bring the guilty to justice or whether we are likely to see the guilty brought to justice ever. Let me repeat the question: India lost something extremely precious that day and I would like you, the bright 20-year-old born that day, to help me find what that something is.
Why am I asking you and only you to help me? Good question. But like all good and pertinent questions this one too doesn’t have a good answer. Perhaps like Saleem Sinai, delivered, on the fateful midnight of our Independence, by Salman Rushdie, you too are handcuffed to history and must find your own freedom. And when you do find yourself unshackled I am confident you would be able to tell me what it was that India lost on the day you were born.
Perhaps by naming what we lost on the day you were born we shall take the first step towards discovering who we really are and how we found ourselves here, in this dangerous and fractured terrain, and perhaps then our collective journey towards healing will begin. It will be a slow journey and painful by some standards but a peaceful one. A journey you and your children will never forget.
Mayank Tewari is a writer