With the year 2018 coming to an end, Salman Ali, beating the odds of penury, a troubled background and stiff competition, emerged as the winner of Indian Idol 10.
As should be par for the course, Salman was feted by everybody — the judges, his fellow singers, the broadcast channel’s big shots, the prize sponsors and most of all, the large mass of the audience which also had a key role in ensuring his win.
Salman Ali is India's new Idol! (Source: Screen grab/Sony)
So, a gifted Salman Ali won one of the most prestigious music competitions that has given very fine voices to the cinema and music industry in the past too. Ali is a storehouse of talent and he deserved to win.
No, it didn’t matter to almost 1.3 billion people what religion or background Ali came from.
I say ‘almost’ to discount the troublemakers, the naysayers, the doom-dealers and the politicians with their malicious intentions.
Therefore, please Mr Politician, keep your biases out of our lives, your lives and the world!
When a person from any marginalised community or class or colour wins a national competition in the West, or Pakistan, or the Middle East, Europe or Africa, it becomes an event that is talked about for a long time. Such stories hit the national headlines and are celebrated as victories of 'inclusiveness' and 'peace'.
Mr Politician, and particularly Pakistan's Prime Minister Mr Imran Khan, in the light of your recent flagrantly inciting comments with regard to the state of minorities in India, Ali’s win was a matter for us to rejoice over.
"what Naseeruddin Shah is saying today is what Jinnah realized back then"today Indian Muslims are not considered as equal citizens so we must make Pak a place where our minorities are treated equally"we've to show this to Modi's India"- #ImranKhan ???? pic.twitter.com/bR5Wlfs6Ni— محمّد علی اعوان (@Dazzzle_Heart) December 22, 2018
It didn't matter to us Indians, at least those of us who have no political liking for small-minded politicking, that he was a Muslim.
The winner could have been a Christian or an Anglo-Indian or a Sikh, and we would have been just as happy.
A common Indian will not give this a political twist. Or taint it with the hues of hatred. For us, saffron, green and white are colours we are proud to see on our national flag. They are colours we paint our lives with – in the clothes we wear, the flowers that bedeck our gardens, the foods we eat and the nature that nurtures us.
While you, Mr Politician, may bend and distort the norm and use these colours to polish your ‘politics of hate’, for us, saffron is in the places of peaceful worship, on the ghats of the soul-stirring Ganges; green is in our trees, in our Holi colours, on the domes of our mosques that we are as mindful about as the temples or gurdwaras or churches. And what can I say about white – while you rage on with petty politics and ride roughshod over our collective emotions, white brings us serenity and succour.
In India, we are determined to celebrate the beauty of every colour. (Source: Reuters)
How you contort your religion, Mr Politician. While we use it to give ourselves peace, sense, direction, reason and respite, you rake up the religious texts to stir hate, discord, create divisions, denigrate long cherished beliefs and, most of all, reprehensible personal gains.
As you go about ‘beef’ing up your agenda of hate-mongering, discussing the meat in our refrigerators and creating mayhem in our houses, slaying the unsuspecting with your swords, and beating the life out of the weak, we carry on with our normal lives of togetherness, mutual respect and inclusiveness.
It is heartening to note that more and more Hindus are beginning to relish the traditional Christmas fruit cake, drunk on bonhomie, decorating their abodes with Christmas trees.
A lot of us share seviyaan on Eid and do the ‘seva’ at langars, while partaking of the kada parsad and dal-roti cooked on the fire of love and care that glows in our hearts.
Every one is welcome to langars for kindness and kada prasad. (Source: Reuters)
As you know so well, at these langars, no questions are asked about one’s faith. The hungry are fed and wandering souls are soothed.
By the middle of December 2018, I was restless when the carol-singing group did not show up at my colony's church. A sense of calm was restored when I saw the silent evenings and nights get filled with the strains of ‘Silent Night,’ ‘The Holly And The Ivy,’ ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful!’ and ‘Joy To The World’.
Some of my other Hindu neighbours went ahead and participated in the Midnight Mass. The day I cease to be a night owl and rise with the larks, I wish to take part in the beatific Sunrise Easter Service, a desire I have had for years.
At the family farmhouse in Dehradun, I have grown up with the sound of the azaan (call to prayer) and do not mind the invoking of the holy name of Allah five times a day. I only mind it when the loudspeaker malfunctions or the maulvi has a particularly bad voice.
India values its azaan as much as it values the sound of the conch. (Source: Reuters)
While you, Mr Politician, invest your time and energy in fleshing out your animosity-fed manifesto, the immoral fabric of which is interwoven with your heinous political machinations that only serve your interest, we carry on living in harmony and without rancour, with our Ziya and Zainab, our Mark and Margaret, our Harwinder and Harsimran.
In the absence of a zeal to focus on real issues – because that involves more honesty and hard work, sincerity and perhaps, lesser personal gains – you will carry on deflecting attention from what should be the chief concern. You’ll continue to put the spotlight on your pitiable programs of national disintegration and divisiveness.
But we will go about our lives with goodwill and togetherness.
Yes, Yaqub will continue to design our dresses, Jallaluddin will make our furniture and Dr Fatima Sheikh will deliver our babies. We will still relish our evening tipple to the magical voice of both Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali. We will be delighted by the acting prowess of both Naseeruddin Shah and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. And celebrate life with an Imtiaz Ali or Indra Dev or Iqbal Singh.
We will continue to colour ourselves saffron, green or white in the richly-hued smorgasbord of our multi-dimensional lives.
We will go about our lives with goodwill and togetherness, with our saffron, white and green richly intertwined. (Source: Twitter)
So, yes, it is a big thumbs-up to Salman Ali, just as it has been to other Indian Idol winners Abhijeet Sawant, Prashant Tamang, and Sourabhee Debbarma, the female singer who won the show.
Hopefully, Ali’s win will also get the detractors to eat crow rather than flog the minority horse.
Meanwhile, here's wishing Salman the very best. Now go and make the most out of this life-altering win!