pandies' corner

Children of Nithari: A Letter to God

Narrative by Tanveer Hussain & translated from Hindustani by Vritika Thareja

Tanveer Hussain decided to not be a burden on his family at a very young age and worked while pursuing his schooling. Now 27 years old, he has worked at many places and worn many hats.  From being a polio awareness volunteer to a teacher at the Saksham NGO (where he attended the charity school and met pandies volunteers), to a typist and an electrician, he is employed as a driver today. He joined pandies’ workshops (as he started visiting the Saksham school) in 2008 and is remembered as a quiet boy who would unleash a fury of talent when asked to perform in workshops or onstage. He first appeared on the American Center stage in 2011 and has since been a consistent performer. He writes short stories and wants to  learn to write fluently in English before he gets married.

A Letter to God

Dear God,

I hope all is well with you. I wonder where your abode is these days. Are you in the hearts of billions of believers or are you residing somewhere in the beautifully carved and crafted buildings made specially in your name? Everyone I meet, claims to be an expert on you and your location, but no one really seems to know. 

Honestly, I did try looking for you under the peepul tree where many residents of my society go to pray every morning, but I had to make do with blissfully smiling photos of you. I even travelled far and wide into the mountains, thinking maybe just maybe I was misdirected. Well, there too, I was met with a bunch of people reciting your stories. Asked around, searched on the internet. Still couldn’t reach you.

Hey, don’t you think this will break my spirit, God? After all, I am devout and finding you is my mission now — even if I have to wage a war against humanity. There are one too many taking place anyway. Not that one more is going to make a difference, right?

Okay, let’s say I do find you and prove your existence. Let’s say I ensure that every last human being living on the face of the Earth bows down to you. Would I be content? Hell, no! I wouldn’t trust their word for it. Faith doesn’t come easy these days, God. Generations need to feel the impact. It’s not a fool’s game.

Well, God, I heard you can see all of us from where you are. How’s the view? Did you see how bribes have travelled from bureaucratic offices to the temples in your name? Asking favours from you has become a fancy affair? So much in the name of ‘faith’! It’s such a cute little word that means nothing to those who preach it these days, I tell you.

But the smart move was just leasing out your name to the religious preachers. Had you given them a real part of your power, I don’t know what all they would have done. I’m sure you have heard the famous saying, “You offer them a hand, they grab your arm.”

Tell me something, under your watch, after the world has been practically forced to offer bounties to you for peace and prosperity, offer you more than the taxes (or sometimes to just evade taxes), why are people getting murdered, raped, assaulted, looted? I run out of words to describe the horrors, really. I have seen people’s lives turning into living hell.

Are you okay with this? Don’t you think it’s outright unfair? People say you are watching everything and that whatever you do is for our good. I mean, we can’t see what’s in their future but apparently you do, right? So, I assume then you knew how horrible would be the future of any rape victim? But I am conflicted. In a rape case in my village, both the victim and the perpetrator suffered.  The girl committed suicide out of living with the ‘shame’ of facing the extremely moral society we live in. And the rapist, the only earning member of his family, was hanged to death. His family is now crippled for money. The government will provide monetary aid to both the families for some time. But, after that? Then how are they supposed to manage? How are the parents of that unfortunate girl supposed to ever find happiness? What about the wife and daughter of the man who was hanged? What did they do to suffer the shame and poverty that they will now? Who will take their responsibility? I thought you kept all of this in mind before you let things happen here on Earth.

Am I mistaken? Are these just stories woven too deep and wide? Maybe you can’t foresee the future. If you could, I am sure you’d put a stop to this madness.

I am convinced now, that it is we who propagate and spice up the wrongs in this society and then criticise others, assuming a moral high ground ourselves. We don’t stop and introspect for once, the impact our words and actions will have on our children, the generation that will grow up to imitate the very same deeds. A generation that can be moulded towards a more inclusive and positive future is executing the hatred we are sowing with our very own hands. Aren’t I right? After all, a knife is a knife – you can either look at it as a weapon of murder or a tool for slicing fruits – it’s a game of perspectives.

Honestly, God, I feel that we have mastered the art of twisting tales to please ourselves. And it’s not like the entire human race is incapable of being up to any good. As long as people like Kailash Satyarthi and Maanjhi the Mountain Man continue to make a difference, there is still hope. From time to time, we have witnessed people who have risen above and against the common belief to prove that walking against the wind and reading against the grain is a possibility. I refuse to believe those who affirm that destiny will always overpower a man’s free will.

God, I have poured my heart out to you. You are so patient, and I, ever so grateful for you. There’s immense power in believing that you are up there, ensuring all of us are safe and sailing smoothly, especially in times like these where covid has wreaked havoc on the entire planet.

You, the taskmaster of it all, have got it all under control.

Or at least I hope so.

Your child,

Tanveer Hussain

Kailash Satyarthi: An internationally acclaimed child rights activist who fights to put an end to child slavery and exploitation

Maanjhi the Mountain Man: Dashrath Manjhi, a labourer from Gehlaur village in Bihar who carved a path 110m long, 9.1m wide and 7.7m deep through a mountain, single handedly using just a hammer and a chisel, to create a route to give his fellow villagers easier access route to hospitals in the city.

Vritika Thareja is an advertising professional who believes that power lies in the hands of those who dare to tell a story. She has been associated with pandies’ theatre since 2015 and facilitates workshops held with other organisations including Shaktishalini Women’s Shelter Home and Saksham, Nithari.

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