“I was in my early teens during the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots in the country. I had a close Sikh friend, who would come home to visit me. A few weeks after the riots, one of my security guards told me not to be close to him because they’re ‘unsafe’. As a child, I didn’t understand what he meant, though I noticed that things weren’t fine in my surroundings, especially against the Sikh community. But it took me quite a few years to really understand prejudice and affects of it. When I moved to the US for my graduation in 2001, 9/11 happened. For weeks to follow, every person with brown skin was seen as a potential terrorist. My girlfriend, who was white, broke up with me because of all that she was facing for having a boyfriend of colour. That was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. It was only then that everything my friend earlier faced resonated with me. As a teen, I noticed things but I never processed them. Stories like these influence and inspire my writing. While one of my novels is about a family’s struggle during the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the collection of my short stories are inspired by personal experiences. I remember one of my friend’s mother writing letters to him pretending to be his father, because she couldn’t break the news of his father’s death in the Anti-Sikh riots. This tale went on to become one of my short stories.
More often than not, we ignore the psychological consequences of a riot or war. While there is undoubted physical damage, the memories of a war scar families for generations. It’s a story that’s passed on, with or without a choice. Today, prejudice is once again being used in a constructive manner in the country. India is a heterogeneous state and one ideology alone ruling over the others is never a peaceful option. Tolerance is something that needs to be inculcated in children at home and in schools. I have tried to talk about a lot of these issues in my fiction stories and books. However, I wish it was adapted onto an OTT platform or into a film. Given the political content it deals with, people shy away. For how long can this continue is the question.
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