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Information for Social Change

Information for Social Change

"an activist organisation that examines issues of censorship, freedom and ethics amongst library and information workers..."

ISC 15. I have a dream

Jameela Siddiqi *

The Dictator's dream was announced one morning in the main national newspaper. God had appeared in his dream and had ordered him to expel all the Dukavallas - Asian shopkeepers that is, and then, and only then would Pearl be truly liberated, and God's mercy would smile on the fields and flowers....and.... er...the shops.

The announcement put Pearl's God-fearing Indian Dukavallas in a very difficult position. How to argue with God's dream? If that's what God wished, then it would have to be obeyed. Which person in his right mind could disobey God?

But was it indeed God who appeared in the Dictator's dream? Well, who was to say that it wasn't? That was the nature of revelations. If you claimed to have had something revealed to you from the Divine, then which God-fearing person would dare dispute that? That would be tantamount to disputing the existence of God himself, and declaring oneself an atheist. And in God-loving, God-fearing, ultra-musical Pearl, atheism was second worst only to mixing up crockery between the races.

There were, nevertheless, those who timidly dared to suggest that the God who appeared in the Dictator's dream with this fearful message may have been some other god, not their God. But how could that be? God was only One! There was only one God, no matter how many dreams he showed up in. And the same God could go from dream to dream with the relative ease of one who was popping in and out of high street shops. So, there was no question of challenging the legality of this drastic order, leave alone crying for outside help, or appealing to rhyme and reason. It was no use.

"It's not my idea," said the Dictator, half-apologetically, in a resigned-to-fate sort of way. "God says I must do it. Believe me, I don't want to...but God's wishes have to be obeyed. Sorry, folks."

God had become very important for the Dictator - more so since becoming the compromise leader of the coup. That spirit of compromise had also necessitated the Dictator's conversion to Islam as a gesture of neutrality and fairness.

Pearl's Northern Province was largely Protestant Christian, the southern Province predominantly Catholic, and coming from the rather small and insignificant Western Province himself, the Dictator decided that taking on a completely different religion would be the best course of action. Just in case the Northern and Southern colonels took their cue from Northern Ireland and found another reason to hate one another. No, don't take risks. Convert to a good, simple, straightforward, peace-loving religion. Safest thing, become a Muslim. That way, neither the Protestants nor the Catholics can get too big for their boots.

Both North and South were thrilled at the conversion. Good move. That way neither Christian sect would assume any unnecessary importance. Pearl was another word for compromise - in all matters, except where God himself intervened and ordained that things should be a particular way. Then there could no compromise. Orders were orders. The Dukavallas would have to go.

What about the others? Not all Muhindis were Dukavallas. The ones that occupied the biggest and best houses were teachers, and doctors and....

No, no, not them. They stay. Only Dukavallas go.

The non-shopkeeper-better-educated Urdu-and-Bengali-speaking Muhindis heaved a sigh of relief. They would get to keep their houses and their gardens and their mosquito-servants. They could hang on to this idyllic climate and their lavish life-styles. Their Brahmin kitchens. Separate crockery for the servants. Spacious servants' quarters rented out to poor Black families. Martini on the lawn. Pimms and Croquet. Chicken sandwiches at sun-downers. Cricket. Bridge. Poetry.

The Martini and cricket set of Muhindis immediately threw their weight behind the Dictator and proclaimed his dream an authentic revelation from the one and only God. Yes, these bloody Dukavallas had exploited the poor Blacks long enough. Wretched Marwaris! Bloody kanjoos-makhichoos Banyas! Serves them right! Kick 'em out!

God was quite considerate, really. Or, he would have been, except that three days later, there was another dream. Again, it was the Dictator's dream, and once again it was on the front page of the morning paper. God had appeared again and added a footnote to the previous dream: The footnote read: "The word Dukavallas, used in this sense, is a synonym for ALL Asians."

From the novel The Feast of the Nine Virgins published by Bogle L'Ouverture Publications, London, 2001.


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