They Made Me Muslim

Social Commentary

They Made Me Muslim

Illustration: Akshita Monga


was born human. Or so I thought. The family I was born into is Muslim. They pray and fast during Ramzan, and the women cover their heads in reverence to the strains of azan emanating from the mosque. Growing up I hated the azan. It reminded me of the cold, Ramzan predawn, being shaken up for an enforced early-morning sehri, when all I wanted to do was sleep. Some childhood responses last a lifetime, and even though I can intellectually acknowledge the musical beauty of the azan today, I have never been able to appreciate it like I do the Gurbani, that came to me via Bollywood, without religious baggage.

The language of the Quran, a squiggly gibberish Arabic, alienated me further from the religion of my parents. I protested by feigning my own version of dyslexia. I had discovered other literature, better literature, mostly in English, for the loss of the Arabic alphabet, also meant a collateral loss of the Urdu I had inherited from my mother. Later I would discover that the Quran too had its good parts. Back then I was sure – I was not Muslim.