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Secularism-it’s not a word, it’s a way of living

One doesn’t love a city just because of its scenic beauty or its malls, when we say we love a city it is because some very pleasant memories are etched to our mind-memories that have the ability to make us smile even when we feel blue, and those attached to these fond memories are who we hold close to our hearts.What makes a city famous is its history, its natural beauty, its contribution towards the economic development of the country and so on and so forth. But what makes a city great are its people. In the past seven months of my stay here in Bangalore, all I get to hear about the northerners is their lack of etiquettes and how loud and showy they are. On the other hand, the North Indians complain of the “south-indians” being aloof and not being friendly and welcoming enough. And although I know that there’s no real end to this war of words, still, whenever such a conversation strikes up, I inevitably end up thinking about a third kind of people- the Bengalis. And while many might argue that we Bengalis do not know how to live without any agendas and just need a reason to create unrest, I know that’s just because the majority of the blamers do not know what it takes to take a stand. True, we have a stand for and against everything under the Sun and the Moon and unlike the rest of India, we do not feel inhibited to voice our opinion unequivocally, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We not only voice our opinion but also stand by it till the very end, even if we end up paying heavily for our beliefs. Most of the Bongs like to think about things from a point of view that is beyond religion, caste, creed or any other bigotry for that matter. This is probably one of the many reasons that although we cannot boast of a strong economy we can boast of having a relatively more peaceful communal environment than most other Indian states.
I belong to what the Indian Constitution defines as the minority class of the population, and while many may not like it when I say that in my life I have seen and faced many issues just because of my religious beliefs, it is true. Once, while I was staying as a paying guest in Kolkata, the landlord suddenly asked me to vacate the premises on religious grounds. I was devastated because it is very difficult for a single working girl to find a suitable accommodation. I asked my friends who were staying with me if they would also vacate along with me as I felt this would serve the dual purpose of me being able to rent a flat with flat-mates I already knew as well as teach the landlord a lesson for harbouring communal feelings. The general tendency of the people being not to get involved in somebody else’s problem, I could not gather enough support. But one among them agreed. And she not only came out with me, she also had to bear a financial loss when the landlord did not agree to pay back the security deposit she had submitted while entering the premises. After this financial loss of hers when the two of us started our search for an apartment, we faced more issues, some because people were skeptical of letting out to two single working girls and others because of my religious beliefs. And while we were searching under the scorching heat of the sun getting one negative reply after the other, not once did she complain or make me realise by words or by gesture that she was doing me a favour by supporting me against the landlord. And in the end we did manage to find a place as per our liking and moved in.
The truth is that today, I really don’t harbour any ill-feelings towards those who refused to help me or who refused to let out their place to me that too because of a reason that is entirely personal to me and should not affect or concern them at all, as a matter of fact I won’t be able to recognise them should I accidentally happen to meet them on the road today, such is my indifference towards them. But I do remember this girl, and I am still very much in touch with her inspite of the distance and the hectic work schedules we have. I do remember that this particular girl helped me when none would. She who is much younger than me had the mentality and the maturity to support me not only through encouraging words but actually went ahead with me all the way, and to me she symbolises the true Bong girl-the kind of person that today’s communally torn India needs. She is the numero-uno of all my reasons for loving Kolkata.

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