Hindustani Musalmaan: An Indian Muslim

January 6, 2020
A man in the foreground walks toward Humayun's Tomb, partially shrouded in fog, in New Delhi
Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi. Photo by VED on Unsplash

On an evening stroll down my street,
the azan echoes, stops my feet,
reminds me it is time to pray,
but I start musing on that day:

Bhai, what kind of Muslim am I?

Am I Shia or I’m Sunni?
Am I Khoja or I’m Bohri?
From the village or the city?
Am I rebel or a mystic?
Am I devout or sophistic?

Bhai, what kind of Muslim am I?

Do I prostrate in submission
Or am headed to perdition,
Is my cap my identity,
Or the beard shaved off completely,
Recite Quranic verse, I could,
or hum the songs of Bollywood?
Do I chant Allah every day,
or fight the Sheiks in every way?

What kind of Muslim am I, bhai?
I know I’m an Indian Muslim.

I’m from the Deccan, and UP,
I’m from Bhopal, and from Delhi,
I’m Gujarati, and Bengali,
I’m from the high castes and lower,
I’m the weaver and the cobbler,
I’m the doctor, and the tailor.
The holy Gita speaks in me,
An Urdu newsprint thrives in me,
Divine is Ramadan in me,
The Ganges washes sins in me.
I live by my rules, not for you,
I’ve smoked a cigarette or two.
No politician rules my veins,
No party has me in their chains

For I am an Indian Muslim.

I’m in Old Delhi’s Bloody Gate,
I’m in Lucknow’s magical maze,
I’m in Babri’s demolished dome,
I’m in the blurred borders of home,
in poverty of slum dwellings,
the Madrasa’s shattered ceilings,
the embers flaming a riot,
I’m in the garment stained with blood

I’m Hindustani Musalmaan.

The Hindu temple door is mine,
as are the Mosque minarets mine,
the Sikh Gurudwara hall is mine,
The pews in churches also mine;
I am fourteen in one hundred,
But in these fourteen not othered,
I am within all of hundred,
and hundred is the sum of me.

Don’t view me any differently,
I have a hundred ways to be
My hundred nuanced characters,
from hundreds of storytellers.

Brother, as Muslim as I am,
I’m that much also Indian.

I’m Hindustani Musalmaan,
                                                      I’m Hindustani Musalmaan.

Translation from the Urdu/Hindi

Watch a video of Haidry reciting his poem before a crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

Hussain Haidry is a poet, screenwriter, and lyricist. He was head of finance at a healthcare company in Kolkata until he left his job and moved to Mumbai to become a full-time writer. He started his career by performing at spoken-word poetry forums in Mumbai such as Kommune, then went on to write lyrics for films like Gurgaon, Qarib Qarib Single, and Mukkabaaz and web series like Chacha Vidhaayak Hai Humaare, Yeh Meri Family, and Tripling. As a screenwriter, he has co-written the Amazon web series Laakhon Mein Ek (season two) and is presently working on the dialogues of the film Takht.

Dipika Mukherjee’s work, focusing on the politics of modern Asian societies, includes the novels Ode to Broken Things (longlisted for the Man Asia Literary Prize) and Shambala Junction (which won the UK Virginia Prize for Fiction). She has been mentoring Southeast Asian writers for over two decades and has edited five anthologies of Southeast Asian fiction. She is a contributing editor for Jaggery and serves as core faculty at StoryStudio Chicago and teaches at the Graham School at University of Chicago.

Udit Mehrotra prides himself on his diverse upbringing, which has led to an interest in poetry, food, sports, politics, mathematics, and psychology. Born in Thailand and brought up in Singapore, he studied statistics at the University of Texas and now works in Austin as a data scientist.