Nazia Erum’s brilliantly written book captures the moments of agony and pain Muslim mothers experience in the process of rearing their children, particularly at a time when our society, because of the ugly politics of majoritarianism and its implicit biases and prejudices, tends to suspect and stigmatize the Muslim identity. The New Leam is happy to publish an important excerpt from the book for its alert and sensitive readers.
Sameer was now at the prestigious IIT Bangalore. his mother says,’There he lost sixteen kilos in the first year as he could not get used to the mes food. So we asked him to buy a bike so that he could travel to the main city for food.
Their family is like any other middle-class family that comes from a government service background. Asma’s father as well as her husband had worked all their lives in BHEL. The family is filled with doctors, engineers and information technology (IT) professionals and there is an emphasis on a no-frills upbringing of the children and on good education.
So the decision to get Sameer a bike was big, even extravagant, one. Like any college-going young man, Sameer was thrilled with his new possession. It was a simple model, but nevertheless it gave the nineteen-year old the freedom that he needed from his rigorous studies.
The young man needed to register the new bike, for which he needed a local address for a hostel student this meant certification from a college authority. When he went to the college registrar, he was told, ‘Why should I give you a local address certification? What if you put a bomb on your bike?’ Sameer stood still in shock, not believing that this had just been said to him. ‘He was so hurt, he called me crying. It badly shook him up. Even if you are a topper and have own the best scholarship you get boxed in the category of jihadists. Sameer could not comprehend why. And I didn’t know what to say to him. “Why me?” he kept asking.’
But Sameer’s friends supported him and raised their voices against the registrar. Later the hostel warden gave him the certification. The registrar went on to refuse all students address proofs but didn’t cite terrorism as a reason for anyone else. ‘It kind of shakes you up. it’s demeaning, insulting and makes zilch of all your efforts in life. I always told my son that you can shut their mouth only with your result.You have to be extraordinary–there is no choice. today my son is the only one from his batch who has been offered a full scholarship in Germany and his university is extremely proud of him,’ says Asma.
It as a mini victory over bigotry for the mother and son but they came across it from another quarter later. When Asma applied for Sameer’s passport, a local police officer came to their home for the official police verification of address. as Sameer was not at home, Asma requested the police officer to return later. The officer replied that he would and said,’Ma’am a Muslim boy requires double enquiry and verification of credentials,’furious, Asma took up the mother with a friend who was a senior officer and action was taken. The officer apologized for his behaviour and issued the clearance when Sameer came. ‘But what if I did not have friends in an influential position?’asks Asma.
With the passport in place, Sameer booked his ticket for Germany. He tried reaching out to other Indians in Germany for a shared space to live for the duration of the internship. Many leads ended up in dead ends. A dejected Sameer shared his worry about not finding accommodation with his younger sister, who studies at NID and has bagged a campus placement at IBM. She recommended that instead of writing his full name ‘Ahmad Sameer’ perhaps he could write ‘A Sameer’ and that the non-religion specific name would probably get him the response he was looking for.’So, yes, they are constantly thinking about it in the back of their minds and are constantly working around their identity,’ says Asma.
SOURCE: Nazia Erom, Mothering a Muslim, Juggernaut, Delhi, 2017