Thursday, April 18, 2024

They removed my hijab

Illustration: Sidra Ali/Maktoob

Dr Zoya Ayesha

Went in for the
interview,
but didn’t face any
strict view;
my heart was leaping
with joy,
naively thinking my
Hijab didn’t annoy.

Joined from the next
day,
not wanting any
further delay;
debuted in colour
clothes with Hijab,
oblivious to the
simmering ‘inquilab’.

Two weeks went by
overtly unhindered,
But now the ready
uniform had me
flustered;
What excuse do i give
now ?
Because the Principal
for the sake of
uniformity will
disallow.

Co-ed school, male
teachers, mixed
gathering,
the innumerable
upheavals were
staggering;
a teenager stumbling
to understand her
‘Deen’,
my diffidence and
docileness prevented
me to intervene.

Avoiding morning
assemblies & spending
recess alone,
all the while aware
of both the teachers
and students drone;
some asked me, some
didn’t, some assumed,
some unbothered;
me secretly praying
to be unbadgered.

Alas! Eventually
called by the
Principal,
who conveyed that
Hijab is unthinkable.
“We don’t allow Sikhs
to wear turbans !”
Allowing Hijab will
make conformity
‘sterben’.

My Class Teacher even
met my mother,
unaware of her
‘Purdah’, her cover.
citing 9/11 as a
deterrent; hence my
Hijab becoming my
identification,
making me a target
for both overt and
covert
discrimination.

Had no one to turn
to; no elders, no
cousins, no friends,
How do I convince
them: My identity
doesn’t blend;
For me: confidence-cum-empowerment
stems,
For you: neither
your beliefs nor your
choices do it
condescends.

Nights of anguish and
days of silence,
desperate for mortal
help or Divine
guidance;
in a school where
every Friday a
passage from one of
the Holy Book is
read,
why is the
authorities so
difficult to
persuade?

Nothing helped. No
one helped. Not one
person in my entire
universe,
to help me with this
diverse averse.
I wasn’t then, in my
knowledge & worship &
faith, what I am
today,
otherwise, I would
have created immense
disarray.

With a heavy heart
and shimmery eyes,
unable to deal
further with the
chastise.
I removed my Hijab,
breaking down and
giving in to the
vibes of ‘Tezaab’.

Girls stared openly,
Boys stared
stealthily,
Teachers remarked not
so subtly.
everyone oblivious of
my overwhelmed
heart’s misery,
for every other
person derisory
enough, but for me
objectionable and
unsavoury.

Donning my coat and
Hijab from home,
removing them at
school to merge with
the monochrome.
What kind of ‘unity
in diversity’ did
they advocate?
When there was a huge
idol on the ground
floor and a school
prayer venerating
Hindu Gods, but only
my Hijab
‘invalidate’?

Wasn’t this veiled
bigotry and insincere
understanding of
secularism?
Or was this always
their undivulged
prism?

My Hijab didn’t
oppress me, the
school authorities
did;
they left me
disappointed whereas
my Hijab simply made me fulfilled.

My Religion didn’t
impose, the school
authorities did;
My parents didn’t
force, the society
did;
‘There is no
compulsion in
religion’ says Islam,
Then why is this
society devoid of
qualms?

Then I was inherently
ineffectual which
resulted in relent,
But now I am all
about informed and
courageous dissent.
What the Udupi girls
have initiated,
No amount of
bullying,
intimidating or
terrorising can
vitiate.

Religion or Country,
Hijab or Education?
Why only Muslims are
exposed to such
absurd situations?
Why do Muslims always
have to prove their
patriotism?
And that too, to
exponents of
fascism!

India’s Constitution
drafted by Dr.
Ambedkar speaks of
‘secularism’,
So we have to rise
collectively against
this extremism.
Resist
institutionalised
Hindutva coercion
today,
To prevent any
further economic and
moral decay.

“lakum dinukum
wal’iidin”- For you,
is your religion and
for me, is my
religion as the
Qu’ran says,
‘Right to freedom of
religion’ as the
Constitution says,
Stand for “Unity In
Diversity” and not
‘Uniformity In
Diversity’,
Let us join hands to
fight this
inequality,
As Tagore said,
“Where the mind is
without fear and the
head is held high..”

As Iqbal said,
“Mazhab nahin sikhata
aapas mein bair
rakhna,
hindi hain ham watan
hai Hindustan
hamara..”

Dr Zoya Ayesha is a physician and social activist from Kolkata, West Bengal.

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