Music in Islam

I made a lot of new friends while living in Gwalior for the tour guide training and two of them were Muslims. Actually I shared an apartment with one them. He is a doctoral student from JNU. Basically he is from a very small village in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district. He did his schooling from a village school in Sitamarhi and then moved to Aligarh Muslim University for his B.A. and now finally he is in JNU doing his PhD. He works as an Spanish escort so makes very good money also. He is in love with music. A good amount of his computer hard-disk is full of music.

He would play music most of the time. I saw a big music system at his hostel room in JNU. Now he is going to get married in the coming December. His brother also lives in JNU and once I saw them discussing how they will arrange the music for the wedding. They want to have a band party for the wedding parade and music for the wedding party but Islam doesn’t allow it and his family and neighbors are very strict Islam followers. He said that nobody can even listen to the radio, not even news on the radio.

If somebody is found playing any kind of music in his village, the other people living in the village yell at him and stop the music immediately. He said that if he is found playing music then people would say that even after being educated and doing PhD, he is doing such a bad thing. Music is really a serious issue in his village. I heard him and his brother discussing about this issue for at least an hour and finally they could not find any way to have music at the wedding. I told him that change always takes place sometime in the society and maybe this is the time for him to bring a change but he said that it is kind of impossible to bring this change in his society.

I have never been to any Muslim wedding but I have seen a few from the outside and I saw music going on in those weddings so I told him about it and he said that rules are made by big people and if they break it, then nobody cares. If the same rules are broken by general people, then it always creates problems. He said that everything is allowed among the rich Muslim community, they can play music, they can have dances and they can enjoy alcohol but it is not possible for the general Muslims. I asked him what the general people think of rich Muslims enjoying music and he said that general people think that big people are out of their community.

Music has always been respected amongst most of the societies of the world. In Hinduism there is a goddess Saraswati for music and people do rituals of their music instruments. It is really hard for me to believe that there could be any wedding without music. Hindu weddings are so fun and this is what I am used to. There is always a lot of music and people dancing in the wedding. I have heard that Christian weddings are also very boring but I am sure they must have music. Music is fun and even scientific researches have shown that there are certain kinds of music which are good even for our health.

I respect people’s feeling but this issue is something which is hard for me to understand. Most of the Mughal emperors were fond of music. Akbar is a very good example. Tansen was among the nine Jewels at his court. I have noticed that in all the religions there are certain rules and regulations that are people made; it is not written anywhere in any religious books but people still follow it and even if it is written, there is wrong interpretation and people follow the wrong idea. After listening to this issue, which is definitely not an issue for me, I still don’t understand if music is really that bad…

Frustration in villages

I visited my village after being away for ten years and I saw a lot of changes that made me sad. I used to think that Indian villages were still safe but the reality was completely different. I still remember that there was a pond right in front of my village house but this time half of it was covered with clay and other waste. India’s buying power have increased a lot within past fifteen years, and now people like to buy different things but they do not know how to get rid of the waste that comes out of the stuffs we buy.

I don’t blame people for this problem; government has no plan for waste management. All these things are new to India and we do not know about it, so we need to be educated about it. It has been part of Indian culture to throw rubbish outside of the house, but the good thing about past rubbish was that it was made of natural resources. Cows and other animals have also been wandering here and there in India since India has been in existence and these animals used to finish all that trash because our trash was natural, but now our trash is made of plastic and other strange chemicals and definitely they can not finish it anymore.

People living in the villages have also started buying packed products and usually they throw all the waste in the open spaces or ponds or places like that. Same thing happened with the pond in front of my village house. People throw all of their waste in this pond and now half of the pond is almost gone. People do not know how it will affect their lives in the future. I talked about it with the people in the village and nobody took interest in it. They think that it is good to cover the whole pond because there is always water in it and it spawns mosquitoes.

Of course covering the ponds is not a good solution to get rid of the mosquitoes because they could clean it and keep it clean and then the pond will not spawn mosquitoes. I knew that there was a well near that pond and I was very interested in that well because once about fifteen years ago my brother had fallen in it, so I wanted to see it. However when I reached near that spot, I found that there was nothing like a well here, just nothing. There was plain ground. I was wondering how that well disappeared. I asked my cousin about it and he told me that they had covered that well completely.

It was shocking for me. It did not make any sense to me. I just did not understand why they made that decision. I have seen people facing water shortages and I know how important a well could be to recharge ground water, but the sad thing was that people in my village never thought about it because they did not know about it. I also talked about it with people and they told me that this well was useless for them. The first reason was that my brother had fallen in it so they were scared that somebody else could fall in it again and the second reason was that the water was not drinkable anymore.

They could have used a screen so that rain water could pass through it but they decided to cover it completely. I saw each and everyone in the village using plastic somehow in their daily lives and they throw all these plastics somewhere out of the house. They just do not know anything about plastics. It is still not too late for the government to control all these bad things and they can do it by introducing environmental studies and making them compulsory for all students.

Villages are also getting huge problems now. The quality of education has decreased a lot, and actually I would say there is not education at all in the villages. Students just go to schools, pass time by massaging the feet of their teachers and finally get a degree, its true. Finally they go to cities to get jobs and find that they can not have a job because they never learnt anything. They find themselves far away from the city life. They can not socialize, can not make friends…

And when they see girls wearing short skirts it increases their sexual frustration. They also want to have sex but in fact they can not have because they can not get integrated. So finally they reach brothels and since they are not aware of the use of condoms, they contract HIV and all other kinds of dangerous sexually transmitted diseases. When they come back to their village, they pass it to someone else. Young people living in villages like chewing gutka a lot which has become the biggest cause of mouth cancer in India. I noticed that most of the young people were chewing gutka.

People say that a third world war will happen for water, and after seeing things going on in India nowadays, it seems to me that India will be the first country to start this war because we will have largest number of people in the whole world. We have killed all of our rivers, have cut down 80% of the jungles and now we have started killing our ground water. The pesticides that have been banned in Europe and America can be easily found in Indian markets and farmers use them for agricultural purposes because they do not know how harmful those pesticides are.

The Indian government seems to have no control over India, over Indian people or over anything and these things will explode in the future like a nuclear bomb.The whole world is doing research to repair the damage we have done to this planet but India seems to be the only country of the world where we have been destroying the planet for years and it doesn’t seem that it will stop soon. If the environment has anything to do in terms of setting quality of living, then Indians will have the worst quality of living in the whole world within next fifteen-twenty years. I don’t know if the Indian government will ever wake up, but Indians will wake-up someday for sure but by that time it will be too late.

Interview with Musahars in the village

Mushahar is a caste of Hindus. I got opportunity to meet and spend sometime with them when I was working for Financial Times in Varanasi. Mushahars are still considered untouchables in the society. Their traditional job is to pick up the long pepper (Pipal) leaves, make bowl of it and sell it to market.

We went to a village of Mushahar community near Mehndiganj, Varanasi. They still live in huts made by clay. Interviewee was a 24 years old married woman whose husband was a rickshaw driver. She had 6 members in the family including her husband, father in law, mother in law and 2 daughters. None of their daughters go to shcool. Her husband makes only Rs. 25 (50 cents USD) per day. No local person wants to sit on his rickshaw because he is a Mushahar.

Mushahar community get some job during the harvest time. They work on other people’s land to cut the grains. It was funny to hear that people eat the grains which got cut by them but they do not sit on the Mushahar’s rickshaw. Even though they work so hard on field during harvest time they don’t get paid in cash. Their wages is 5 Kgs or grains per day. So if they work for 1 month in a year they make 150 Kgs of grains which is worth Rs. 2000 ($50) per year. Their traditional job is good enough to make them happy in their life but since India is going through huge change in society people have adopted plastic bowl now which has put Mushahars in trouble. I don’t see any shop keeper using leaf bowl in big cities. Cities like Benares still have this tradition but it is also changing.

I remember after completing the interview interviewer gave Rs. 500 to interview because he was shocked to hear that their per day income was only 50 cents. We had a local to help us meeting the people and she said us to tell the villagers to divide the money. Then interviewer gave Rs. 500 more and said to distribute the money in whole community. But it became a big issue for them. They all started fighting. Interviewee was not agree to share her Rs. 500 but villagers were telling that her money should also be distributed. She wanted only rest of Rs. 500 to be distributed. Finally we had to run away because they had became so violent.

This Mushahar village where we went to had only hand pump and one well. Since this village was near Coca-Cola plant, they had huge problem of water. Their hand pump and well both gets dried during summer time and no one, who knows that they are Mushahar, let them take water from their resources. So during summer time they have to walk for at least 2-3 Kms to take the water. Since it is women’s responsibility to collect water for family in Indian villages, it makes Mushahar’s life much harder in Mehndiganj.

When we reached there they brought a Khatia (bed kind of thing made of ropes). I wanted Mushahars to sit with me and as I told them they asked my caste. When I said that I am a Bramhan they refused to sit with me on Khatia because they are a different caste.