I wasn’t feeling too good about my life that day. I felt dull, lazy and gloomy. We’d slept a little late the previous night, so I’d been yawning since morning and the yawns were getting embarrassingly frequent and loud by late afternoon. A whole cup of strong coffee did not help much either. This was not a good time to slack off since there was an important release coming up at work that Friday with lots of ground to be covered before then. And my sister-in-law and family were visiting us for a two-week vacation that weekend and I really needed to spruce up the house before their arrival.
Then there were some constant niggling worries – the feeble weight-loss efforts I’d been making for the past couple of months hadn’t yielded much results so far, I really needed to buck up on that front. It had also been quite a while since my parents had sounded cheerful on the phone and I had no idea what made them sound so dull and tired these days. The depressing headlines in the papers weren’t of much help either – US recession, stock market tumbles, rising oil prices, global warming… the list of woes was long and worrisome indeed. So yes, I wasn’t feeling too good about my life that day.
And then the husband and I watched a movie that night. Parzania. A movie about a simple family in Gujarat, loving parents, two adorable kids, not much money but lots of love and laughter, bedtime stories, banter at the dinner table, pranks at school and picnics in the garden. Then comes the horror of Godhra and the ‘revenge’ riots that followed and their happy world is broken apart, never to mend again.
Trapped in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood attacked by Hindu mobs, the hapless Parsi family loses its son Parzan to the mindless violence, perhaps forever. Women and children attacked with swords, a pious elderly man hacked to death, insinuations of state and police complicity in the riots – the horrors, as someone rightly pointed out in a review, would seem absurd if only we weren’t told at the outset that this was a true story.
The husband and I looked helplessly at each other after the movie ended. We were at a complete loss for words and barely able to get up and walk to bed. My knees felt weak. I jumped at the slightest sound and screamed at the headlights from our neighbor’s car streaming in from the kitchen window. ‘Who’s that outside?’, I asked, my heart beating wildly. ‘Ssshhh, it’s just our neighbor parking his car, doesn’t he come home at this hour every night?’, the husband tried to reassure me. We snuggled under the bed-covers, reaching out to each other for comfort.
I’m probably the textbook definition of a non-insomniac, falling asleep the minute my head touches the pillow. But not so that night. I tossed and turned for a long time, unable to comprehend the horror of what I’d just seen. The tears came much later. ‘Why? How? What for?’, I sobbed, but the husband had no answers for me either. Perhaps there is a reason, too complex for my comprehension, I tried to convince myself. The idea of such a thing happening without any reason was too horrific to contemplate otherwise.
Now I am no expert on history or religion and I understand very little of politics and its power games but deep down in my heart I feel convinced of one thing. Surely nothing – no religion, no ideology and certainly not anybody’s concept of revenge (An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, remember!) – could justify what had happened to these innocent people and their idyllic world that fateful February day? (And never mind their religious affiliation, innocent is the key word here!)
The next morning dawned bright and cheerful and I woke up with a smile on my face. I felt blessed to wake up in the familiar warmth of my bed and within the comfortable cocoon of our home, safe and sound in the arms of my loved one, my parents but a phone call and a plane ride away. There was food in the refrigerator, money in our wallets and friends and interesting work awaiting us in the office! Some more diligent efforts and my extra weight would probably come off too! There were still some problems, yes, but the basics were nicely in place. Yes, I felt really good about my life that day!
Note: Parzania is a wonderful cinematic experience and a very well-crafted movie. The performances, especially Naseeruddin Shah’s, are simply outstanding. But it’s story and backdrop are so powerfully dramatic, that the other points pale in comparison. I put off watching this movie as much as I could, dreading the effect its depressing story would have on me. But now that I’ve seen it, I realize my mistake. This is a movie that every Indian must watch. It is dark and hard-hitting no doubt, but after the trauma that so many of our countrymen and women have gone through, shouldn’t the rest of us take out at least a few minutes to think and ask ourselves – WHY?