Sunday, 30 November 2008

Lovers, Religion and Inhumanity

Amanullah De Sondy
BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Monday 1st December 2008

‘Porridge for my breakfast and Dall for my lunch, I’m a typical Scots-Asian’ said the main character in the Glasgow adaptation of the famous Punjabi love story, Heer Ranjha. I went to watch the play at the Tramway in Glasgow at the weekend. It’s an interesting and tragic tale of a rich Sikh girl, Heer, and a poor Pakistani Muslim boy, Ranjha, who is given a job in one of Heer’s father’s Indian restaurants. Ranjha cannot be accepted by the Sikh family, because of his Pakistani Muslim roots, and he’s taunted by the Sikhs around him.

In the end, Heer is forced to marry a famous Bollywood movie star, Sikh of course, but at the final moment Ranjha re-appears and is killed by her uncle. In a tragic finale, Heer kills herself so that she can to be with Ranjha.

The play raised the issue of how the identities of the new generation of Scots Asians are continually being defined and challenged. It showed how ethnic roots are hugely important in shaping the lives of youngsters. Heer Ranjha’s love made me realise that racism is not a one-way process between the white and non-white communities, but that the ugly disease of racism can also be seen within.

But I think the most powerful message of the play was that race, religion and cultures can make us lose our humanity. The love between Heer and Ranjha was beyond race and religion, yet no one seemed to realise this until after their deaths.

The terrorist bombs in Mumbai have also jolted the international world to yet another form of human hatred. Where relations between India and Pakistan were looking positive recently, in a matter of days there has been talk of war between them. Fear and recrimination have rushed in again. Love is not simple; love comes out of a mixture of emotions and events, hardships and successes, good times and bad. Love has to struggle against hate, bombs, revenge and inhumanity. For after all it’s an eternal struggle.

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