We are at the mid of December today
and I have started counting as I do every year. Just 10 days to go for
Christmas, as I used to mark the countdown on the big calendar hanging in our
drawing room during my childhood days.

Those were the days; I used to be really
excited about the countdown as I knew it culminated in the day that meant the
exuberant enjoyment of life. Christmas for me, not only meant the birth of baby
Jesus, but a joy of abundant cheerfulness, cheeriness, merriment, joyousness,
delight and absolutely high spirits.
Vacations for me from school, but a
lot of home work to do before the schools reopened, the Christmas Carols that I
so anxiously await and be part of provided the sense of succour to me during my
troubled times.
Those were the days when Santa Claus
used to be my hero and my Mom would ensure that she kept that exciting gift for
me under the old and fading Christmas tree that used to adorn our drawing room
for the entire festive season. 
For years I used to wonder how my Mom could
convey to baby Jesus what gift I had wished for and had whispered in her ears
before she would put me to sleep and Uncle Santa would get me that under the tree
when I opened my eyes.
Those were the days when I used to
forget that I was not born a Christian, when my parents used to send me to the
midnight mass on Christmas Eve with our Christian family friends and their
kids.
Those were the days when the
Christmas brunch for all our family friends were at our house, since only my
mother could get up and prepare all those wonderful savouries that we all would
indulge our taste buds.
Those were also the days, when the
rustic old tape-recorder in our house, which we used to proudly call the
two-in-one, used to religiously play out all the Christmas Carols and the
Hanuman Chalisa and the Suprabhatam cassettes were given their well-deserved
annual breaks.
I do not need to explain my
religious affiliation to anyone but it makes better sense to clarify before I
go any further that every festival was welcomed by me and my family with equal
fervour.
While Diwali was the time for family
gatherings, lights and lamps all around and of crackers and sweets, Eid used to
the occasion for me to relish invitations for lip-smacking Iftaars and the
mutton portions that our Muslim friends used to send us home remained my staple
dish for at least a week thereafter.
Holi was as much a merriment enjoying
being smeared in colours all over the body as much as I used to be captivated
and entranced by the chanting of the Gurbaani at the Gurudwara where my only Sikh
friend and his parents insisted that I accompany them on Guru Nanak Jayanti.
Those were the days when we were
governed by true sense of these festivities. Those were the real days of Good
Governance.
Now when I look at the calendar to
mark the countdown, I am a bit perplexed. I see the date of 25th of
December marked in red for sure, but as Christmas and Good Governance Day.
This surely troubles me. Not because
it happens to be the birthday of two leaders of immense stature, Atal Behari
Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya. Though grossly apolitical, I have reserved my
respect for these two political figures. I do not have any qualms in celebrating
their birthdays as holidays, as I am so used to even obscure reasons to do so
in our country.
It troubles me that the decision of
the Government to declare Christmas as Good Governance Day is a completely
unnecessary attempt to confuse the spirit of a festive occasion with political
symbolism. 
I do not have any objection to
celebrating Vajpayee’s life and Pandit Malviya’s memories, but I have serious
objection when a grand festive occasion spread across the country be the date
of such celebrations.
I commend the promises, if not the
efforts of the Government to good governance. If the Government is really
committed to its promise, every day in the year should be the occasion to
promote the values of good governance without being obsessed with birth
anniversaries and forcing it upon others through the unabashed and blatant use
of Government machinery.
When I say this, I am not a
Christian or a Hindu or a Sikh or a Muslim. I am just an Indian who had always believed
and would continue to believe in only one religion, that the great saints and
all the religious books have taught us, which is called humanity, and today I
feel really hurt.

I feel hurt because this is certainly
not Good Governance. It is what I would say in plain and brazen words, Terrible
Tolerance.

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I am a tolerant Indian – reminiscing 26/11
Exactly seven years ago, when we
assumed that we were all Indians, there was no talk of any intolerance and insecurity,
the secular fabric of our country was ripped apart by some so-called state
sponsored actors from across the border.


“City of Dreams”, that’s what Mumbai
is called. It’s a city where we can dare to dream and if we are lucky, we see
our most bizarre dreams turn into reality.

Living in this city of dreams, I have
many a times walked the fine line between hope and despair, as perhaps so many
other dreamers may have. I have dreamed myriad things, have seen many of them
shattered and a few of them bloom to reality too. But sadly, I had never dreamt
of being part of deadly bomb blasts or communal riots. But I have prayed.
Prayed and wished that such nightmares never happen even in my wildest dreams.

Unfortunately dreams are so far from
reality. Time and again, I have witnessed my city overcoming tragedy after
tragedy, giving rise to the maxim, “The spirit of Mumbai”.


Seven years ago, this very day, the 26th
of November, 2008, the resilience of Mumbai was tested like never before.

A night, we all would wish to forget,
but has been etched in our memories for ever, a bunch of ten youths from across
the border, brain-washed in the name of religion converged
into this commercial capital of our country holding under siege two major
five-star hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi Trident for almost three days and
waging a terrorist attack on several other important landmarks of the city, thus
converting Mumbai into a war zone.


It has been precisely seven years now,
and the physical damage of the gruesome attack has perhaps long been swept
away.  But let us candidly admit that the
psychological scar still remains to be healed and can be felt to this day.

The hotels repaired the damages and renovated
their structure almost immediately and the bullet marks left on the walls at
all those places, where close to 200 people were killed and hundreds of others
injured, have long been plastered and painted, but the city now moves ahead
with a feeling of diffidence, insecurity and timidity, the sensation and
sentiment of fear and an emotion of dominant and paramount admission that we
are vulnerable.

The Spirit of Mumbai may perhaps still
be persistent, but surely not with the same bravado and audacity that it used
to show earlier. I can see the spirit just lingering on with an extreme sense
of caution and vigilance and an acceptance that the next attack may just be around
the corner.


The earlier part of these seven years,
whenever I saw armoured vehicles patrolling tourist hot-spots where once upon a
time we could casually walk around, whenever I see curious on-lookers
clamouring to have a glimpse at the few walls where the bullet marks have been
retained as a tourist gimmick, I have felt a strong urge.

I have honestly felt the urge to move
to some other country where I can live safely with my family, if given a
chance. I felt that urge because I felt vulnerable here, but not for anything
else.


I did not feel the urge to leave this
country for the reason that I was intimidated again and again; several times
over the years by someone who thought he was fighting the battle in the name of
his God. But I stayed back because I was tolerant.

I swept away my fears and my worries
in the Bollywood super-hits my city of dreams produce. I have cried, my chest
had puffed with pride when I have watched my Bollywood heroes being patriotic for
my motherland. 


When I did, I never differentiated between Hockey Coach Kabir
Khan in Chak-De India or ACP Ajay Rathore in Sarfarosh. I never differentiated
between Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi in Bajrangi Bhaijaan or Bhuwan in Lagaan.


When I watch my favourite movies to
wipe away my sorrows, I never differentiated between Harilal Jethalal Jariwala
and Mohammed Yusuf Khan. I just watched them on screen as Sanjeev Kumar and
Dilip Kumar.


I am tolerant because I know that
these people who wage these mindless attacks may have a religion but they
certainly do not have a God.

I am generally tolerant because I know
that I am secure in this country. I may become a bit intolerant at times when
someone keeps burning my city and my country in the name of religion, or when
someone appeals for mercy to be shown when a terrorist is punished, or when
someone feels it necessary to attend the funeral of a hanged terrorist.


Till then, I am tolerant and so is the
over 1.25 billion of my brethren in this country, save a few misguided souls.
May God forgive them for they know not what they are doing!

Epilogue:


Religion still provides hope to people
in a world torn apart by religion. How Ironical!

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Replies: 7

May I sleep for a year, dear Country?
Dear my beloved country, India,

It has been more than one full
day that I have been awake.

Yesterday, I went around with your little flag stuck to my chest, and also attended a hoisting of the bigger version of the same.sung your national anthem, talked and listened a lot about being one of your true citizens.


I heard about what we should do
and what we should not, but I am extremely sorry, I could not remember most of
it.

I listened to a few songs
praising our people who I understand were instrumental in “freeing” you. I even
watched a couple of movies on their lives too.

All these activities had been
really tiring, more so since I am not used to doing it regularly.

May I request you now that I
may be allowed to sleep? Kindly ensure that I am not disturbed for any reason
while I am sleeping.

I would keep an alarm to get up again next year, same day. In case I miss the alarm, kindly shake me up a bit to wake me up from my slumber for another such show.

I assure you that I would
actively participate and put up such show every year to amuse you.

Yours faithfully,
My false patriotism
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Replies: 6