Satya and Ahmed

Homo Sapiens are known to be the most developed species on planet Earth. What makes them different from other living beings is their ability to think and judge. But what happens when their judgement itself gets clouded in the sky of ambitions, struggles and greed?

What one becomes, in the end, is a huge cauldron of changes and their consequences. The opportunities and choices one makes are what define them. Imagining a situation which includes two individuals who started not too far from each other but their choices and journeys resulted in them being two polar ends of civilization. Let us turn the clocks all the way back to the year 1990.

A young Satya who was in his early twenty’s had recently finished his masters from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He took a small trip back to Manipal where his love for microprocessors had begun as an undergraduate at the Manipal Institute of Technology. In and around the same time, a young boy named Ahmed from the sleepy coastal town of Bhatkal frequented Manipal with his father Zarar to sell garments.

Satya, who was at the bus stop waiting for his bus to arrive, noticed the young boy fidgeting with his toy gun. Satya looked at the boy and then at his father. “How old is he?”, Satya asked Zarar. “Seven, his name is Ahmed”, Zarar replied with a smile. Soon after that Satya and Zarar started having a conversation. The fact that Satya was a highly educated man who returned from the States made Zarar keener towards talking to him. Satya spoke to the boy’s father and then to Ahmed.

“Ahmed, why are you not in school? It is June and all the schools have reopened already”, asked Satya.

“I don’t like going to school Anna, but I mostly go with Abbu to sell garments.”

“Oh, does that mean you don’t go to school at all?”

“No, I study at a local school in Bhatkal. But I like selling garments more. Abbu says I can go to Dubai to sell garments when I grow up.”

“But don’t you think studying and getting a good education can help your father expand the business?”

“I don’t know Anna. Grandpa says it’s a waste of time and money”, Ahmed seemed confused as he replied.

“Anybody who studies in Bhatkal is often jobless and marginalised. We either need a visa to go abroad and work or an admission in a college to continue studying. We don’t have access to both of these”, Zarar added.

“So, don’t you want Ahmed to attend college when he grows up?”

“Even if I want, I simply can’t support the idea. My family survives on garment trade. There are more people to eat bread in my family than there are to work for it. Most of the boys in Bhatkal drop out of schools after 10th or 12th grade.”

“Well, Ahmed, why do you like trade so much?”, Satya asked as he turned his face towards little Ahmed.

“Abbu says Bhatkal is called ‘Mini Dubai’ because the people are obsessed with Dubai and the goods imported from there. The perfumes, electronics and clothes have a high demand there. I want to go to Dubai and start trading.”

“Are all the boys of my age in Bhatkal also into the trade?”, Satya asked Zarar.

“Yes, most of them. Some of them go on to join struggles against the government.”

Satya wanted to ask Zarar more about Bhatkal when he saw a bus coming.

“Well, I think your bus is here”, he said.

“Alright, Anna. Could I interest you in some shirts we have?”, Ahmed tried imitating his father.

“No thank you, sir. How about that toy gun instead?”, Satya said jokingly. “Goodbye Zarar and Ahmed”, he said exchanging smiles and handshakes with the father-son duo.

“Goodbye Anna, it was nice talking to you”, Zarar said as he headed towards the bus with his heavy luggage and his son holding a toy gun.

Satya watched from a distance as Ahmed and his father boarded their bus back to Bhatkal. He had heard about the struggles of Bhatkal and how it had become a breeding ground for radicalism. He understood that the town had a ghost of fickle-minded youth looming over it. He realised that he was lucky enough to find his interests and work towards becoming the best in that. Yet he was worried for Ahmed who was still very young. The vulnerability of this town and its people was truly an alarming catalyst towards discord in a democracy.

Not more than 90 km away from Manipal is docketed town of Bhatkal situated, the hometown of the founder of Indian Mujahedeen, Yaseen Bhatkal. A town synonymous to terrorism due to some of the most wanted terrorists like Yasin Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal and Iqbal Bhatkal having connections with it.

Most of us would relate this town to illiteracy, poverty and crimes. However, lately, the literacy rate of Bhatkal has risen as high as 94.12% which is higher than the state average of 75.36%. The rich population of Bhatkal has always rubbished terror allegations but the town is still branded as a ghetto of terrorists in metropolitan cities, hotels and even at immigration counters of airports. This gets us to think of how the fate of an individual and his surroundings are symbiotic and how discriminating a group of people based on their place of origin, religion, caste, creed and several such criteria despoil them of their dignity and right to live a peaceful life.

On one hand, where a bunch of extremists ended upbringing misery to their hometown, Manipal, on the other hand, saw the growth of ingenious individuals like Satya Nadella and Rajeev Suri who rose to become successful CEOs. These two places may not be far geographically but metaphorically they are like two distant worlds.

*Satya Nadella went on to join Sun Microsystems and eventually became the CEO of Microsoft.

*Mohammed ‘Ahmed’ Siddibappa founded the Indian Mujahideen and was the mastermind behind a number of bomb blasts across India. He was arrested by the Indian Police on charges of criminal conspiracy and sedition.

*The above conversation between Satya and Ahmed is a hypothetical construct.

Edited by: Nivedita Dutta
Feature Image: Vinil Tendulkar

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