STORIES BEYOND BORDERS: 8. The Mosques On The Banks on the Banks of the Ganges: Apart or Together?!

The Mosques on the Banks of the Ganges: Apart or Together?!


In my small hometown, Motihari, in Eastern India, where George Orwell saw the light of day, and where, in 1917, Gandhi started his Satyagraha movement3, the Muslims are in a minority. And in my childhood and youth I, a Hindu, had an interesting relationship with them. We went to school together and they were my playmates.

Every now and then, however, conflicts did take place between adherents of the two major religions of India, between Muslims and Hindus. Special security measures were adopted during those tense days and weeks. Parents forbade their children to go into areas where mosques were situated.

There was a small Muslim ghetto, about as large as the northern part of Kassel, called the agarwa 4. In this area lived a large Muslim joint family. My father, a Hindu, was related to this family. Yes, ‘related’ is the correct expression, as my father, a strict disciplinarian in his own family, was looked upon in that Muslim family as the most beloved and generous of uncles. The children of that family told me that only as young men did they get to know that my father was neither a Muslim nor a blood relative. He spoke excellent Urdu5 and in his wardrobe one could find several well-cut sherwanis 6.

But we children belonged, on the one hand, to a Western-oriented era, and simultaneously to modern, progressive India, in which Pakistan and its Muslims were considered arch-enemies.

My brother and I were particularly fond of Muslim festivals, especially on account of the delicious sweets prepared on these occasions. My mother comes from a strictly vegetarian Hindu family, and at home even today no meat is cooked. But we brothers had early on discovered the joys of eating meat. At such functions the Muslims prepared for their Hindu guests and neighbours dishes made from goat’s meat. Just thinking about them even now my mouth starts watering. I can well remember the day when we visited the family late in the evening on Eid-ul-Azha 7 and the meat had all been consumed. I was upset and both my brother and I wore downcast expressions. My aunt realised why and immediately asked her daughters, or her daughter-in-law, to prepare a fresh meat dish just for us. I was overjoyed!

3 Satyagraha: civil disobedience for the sake of truth.

4 Agarwa: a foreign, Urdu-Persian term for the Hindus who account for 81% of the population.

5 Urdu: official language of Pakistan, also spoken in large parts of India. It is related to the Indian national language, Hindi, but contains more.

6 Sherwani: a long coat for men with the collar buttoned at the neck in Mughal fashion.

7 Eid-ul-Azha: The second most important festival of the Muslims.

(This is an excerpt of the essay in nearly 1400 Words. Translator:  Prof. em. R.  P.  Jain, Centre of German Studies,  Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)

The original text in German “Die Moscheen am Gangesufer” is in the book “Indien II : Sauer (Dienheim 2006)”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Mehrseitiger BLOG / Please Scroll Further!!!)

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