By Jyotsna Khatry
HAVING GROWN up in North India in Jaipur, Rajasthan, I did not think twice before condescendingly asking my friends, who were studying filmmaking with me in Bengaluru, “You do not know Hindi? What a shame!” I received my first reality check then.
Joseph, a friend of mine, pointed out that Hindi was not our national language. How ridiculous! Of course, that was not true. I was not ready to take my staunch Tamizhian Christian friend at face value. He always held the belief that north Indians tried to assert themselves when it came to race, food and language.
I immediately checked online and realised that my friends were right. How then did I get that idea into my head? I checked some of the primary school textbooks. None of them proclaimed Hindi to be the national language. Then where did I get that idea from?
It was during the same time, in 2007, that I was introduced to the idea of Hindutva, when I read an issue of TEHELKA. That was when I first heard about the Gujarat carnage. I had remained oblivious to the 2002 riots in Gujarat till then. That is how ignorant I was.
Isn’t Hindutva the same as Hinduism, the religion my mother taught me to follow? I realised that it was not. Curious, I read more about it. I came across some pictures of men clad in khaki shorts. Wait a second. That is what my Nanaji (maternal grandfather) used to wear sometimes! What did that uniform signify? How is it related to Hindutva? And, most importantly, why was my grandfather wearing it? He possibly could not have anything to do with it. I had to ask him about it.
Nanaji proudly told me that we belonged to the Sangh Parivar. He told me a lot more, which I find hard to absorb even now. He expressed his hatred for the minority communities, especially Muslims. They don’t belong to this country, he told me.
My Nanaji was a strong supporter of the BJP and had worked with the RSS chapter in Adipur in Gujarat, where he lived. I began to understand the importance of the geography of it all as well. Adipur was one of the places where resettlement camps were established during Partition. The horror stories that some of the Partition survivors had brought back could easily spur right-wing Hindutva ideologists like my grandfather.
Our elders usually want us to follow the same ideology that they believe in. We are often not allowed to take a different stand. But I could never bring myself to follow in my Nanaji’s footsteps. I could not cultivate that hatred.
After finishing my studies in Bengaluru, I went ahead and interned with a minority rights organisation based in Delhi, and later joined them as an employee. This, of course, shocked my family. My uncle even called me a deshdrohi (traitor). They asked my mom to correct me. But fortunately, she angrily told them to keep their ideologies to themselves and let her daughter be. Since then, I have worked with a lot of minority rights activists and also assisted an excellent filmmaker working extensively on minority issues.
It has been four years and I am still in the process of understanding the hatred that stems from both region and religion. As for me, it is in Bengaluru that I felt a sense of belonging, which even New Delhi, where I now live, did not give me.
Joseph is still one of my best friends despite his dislike for north Indians and Hindi. It perhaps does not strike him that he is friends with one of them. He, like me, perhaps does not realise that even all of North India does not speak or even like Hindi. But I still wonder how the idea of Hindi being my national language got inside my head.
Jyotsna Khatry is 26. She is a documentary filmmaker based in Delhi.