Video Producer: Zijah Sherwani
Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj
My life is not an anomaly. It is like the basic fabric of India, different kind of people will love each other and become friends and family. Who are you to object to my idea of India?
My mother, Shama Dalwai, is a Saraswat Brahmin, and my father, Husain Dalwai, is a Muslim from Konkan. They were both socialists who belonged to the Yuvak Kranti Dal, a young people and students’ socialist organisation in the 1970s.
After marriage, my mother continued to be a Hindu. She is not a ritualistic or an orthodox Hindu, but she started wearing a bindi after her marriage to assert her identity – that she hadn’t converted to Islam though she was married to a Muslim.
‘We Were Hindu And Muslim Both’
We had good relations with both our parents’ families. So, neither of my parents had to leave anything behind to join this union that they created.
I was raised in Mumbai amid a group of people who were socialist activists. There were a lot of mixed families, a lot of children who were of mixed heritage – of caste, of religion, of languages. We all created a world that was an alternative to what this India has now become.
We learned English later, and primarily spoke Hindi, Marathi and Konkani. We celebrated Eid with gusto, we celebrated Diwali the way Maharashtrians do, we celebrated Christmas, New Year's, and even Ambedkar Jayanti and Leningrad Day. It was all part of the festivities. And who doesn’t like to get dressed, eat delicious food and have a party, right?
...But It Wasn’t Always An Easy Ride
In 1992, after the demolition of Babri Mosque, Mumbai burnt during the riots. The mainstream society became increasingly communal and that affected us as a family. We faced the hostility of the people around us which made us feel tremendously vulnerable.
We lived in a colony called New MIG Colony in Bandra East which was in the middle of Khernagar (Shiv Sena-dominated chawls) and Behrampada (Muslim-majority slum). It was a prominent site of the riots. Eventually, we had to leave our home.
As the atmosphere around us was changing rapidly, our parents witnessed the world around us collapsing and they grew concerned for us. They were worried how we will cope under these circumstances.
Us being children who belonged to neither community, many questions constantly bothered them. How will we live in such conditions? Who will be our partners? How will we make families?
My brother and I travelled abroad and saw a different world, one our parents could not imagine. We got our PhDs there, and we studied and met a lot of people like us. We created and built friendships with kindred spirits. And then, in time, got married to people that we loved for not their religions but for who they were.
My brother married a Chinese girl from Hainan and I married a Telangana Reddy. We both had biological children, and I also adopted a little girl from Nagaland.
And today, when all the three children – my nephew, the half Chinese boy, my daughter who is half Marathi and half Telugu, and my little Naga warrior – play in public parks, people look at us in wonder. All we do is smile back at them.
One of our greatest thinkers, Mahatma Phule, spoke about a Vaishvik family, a global family. So, who are all of these people who are objecting to my India? The beautiful cosmopolitan composite culture that we are?
Are you objecting to Muslims? Are you objecting to your own women's choices? Or are you objecting to the idea of India?
Our lives are an answer to all the people objecting. My family, my tribe and we live with pride, with love. We are not afraid.