Diary Entry – 18/04/2036
A political rally, a mob really, just passed my window. 2 minutes ago, my mother came rushing in to close all the windows tightly and reminded me to keep quiet until the mob left. I knew my mother wouldn’t let me out all day now out of fear that they would still be around. To be quite honest, the rallies don’t scare me anymore. Being born into this surely desensitized it for me. My mom, however, likes to reminisce about what times were like before our country was submerged into right-wing politics with a tyrannical government at its head. According to my parents, it was a gradual start but before people could realize this, everything worsened quickly, and the current regime was installed. I do not like the look on my parents’ faces when they talk about our country. I’ve seen enough to know what happens when complaining. They pretend to be acclimatized and expect me to stay compliant too. There was a time when I thought I would never come to understand politics. It always sounded so serious when adults discussed politics. But that changed a couple of months ago when I found some books that my parents somehow hid in the house. These books, I couldn’t help but notice had similar dictatorial authorities who were overthrown by the end. Simple story but unfortunately very fictional. While my parents wouldn’t have stopped me from reading more, they would certainly be paranoid that I might reveal this to someone. I may be desensitized but I am not naive. I live in Hyderabad. A city that, according to my parents, was inclusive, vibrant and full of life. I would still use the same adjectives to describe Hyderabad, but my parents have stopped seeing Hyderabad the same way at some point. Hyderabad is one of the major hotspots for the political rallies. The reason being its history, culture and society. Hyderabad was a diverse city with a huge Muslim population. Its history is steeped in Islamic culture and the society was very inclusive. Hyderabad celebrated this with pride. It wasn’t a city without any religious trouble, but Hindus and Muslims shared the same city almost harmoniously for centuries. Around the time I was born, 15 years ago, the ruling party had all but declared war on the non-Hindu population of the country. Ever since this period, the party grew more powerful and tyrannical and is now uncontested and unchallenged. Social media and mainstream media were being monitored heavily. There was no space for the general citizens to voice their outrage and indignation. This was not a democratic nation anymore. All of this isn’t news to me. Knowing this doesn’t upset me. However, these tales of nationalism reach a little too close to home sometimes. The National Party declared that they had plans to remodel Hyderabad. They plan to demolish some of Hyderabad’s heritage sites. They plan to give it a less Islamic name. They plan to ban its regional language- Dakhni. They plan to saffron-wash Hyderabad and its culture. I confess I feel helpless. Yet, I don’t see adults actively questioning this.
Diary Entry – 22/08/2036
I always knew that there was something about my teacher that stood out. Some time ago, I found out that she was accused of being anti-national for disagreeing with a simple statement. By now, I have come to understand that this is in fact a green flag. However, they did not know the extent of her rebellion. Ms. Phalguni is the social science teacher at my school. However, she always taught beyond what was in our books. She was constantly trying to teach us to understand and learn from the society, culture and history around us. Not long ago, a few of my classmates and I found ourselves in her company after her class ended. The conversation with our teacher started with coursework but it soon led to a bigger conversation. Charminar, the identity of Hyderabad, is being demolished. Monuments with similar Islamic origins are being slowly destroyed and replaced with right-wing nationalistic symbols. It was the first time, however, that I heard an adult openly call the National Party Islamophobic. We were taught not to engage in such conversations but all I knew was that this was a classroom, and we were learning. She narrated to us the history of our city, our Charminar, our culture. She urged us to actively engage with the cultural aspects of our city before it is too late. She advised us to seek out this learning from around us before Hyderabad was erased of its identity.
On my way home that day, I took a detour to visit Charminar. Living close to the monument and seeing it every day has reduced it to a faded backdrop. However, with this new and charged perspective that I adopted for the day, Charminar looked almost alive and sentient. It felt like visiting a grandparent you’ve neglected for far too long. The tour never takes long, there isn’t much to see. At least that’s what I had always believed. I knew that Charminar stands as a symbol of victory, a symbol of triumph. Charminar means four pillars and it’s exactly that with four arches connecting the four pillars. Like I had once in my childhood, I climbed up the stairs. Once I reached the main landing, I noticed something I never knew existed. I thought Charminar was all about the outside architecture. I noticed that the walls had Dakhni Urdu words painted on. It was ancient paint, stripping off in places. I had no idea what these words said, Dakhni was a dying language, a language that was being slowly forced out of Hyderabad, a language that was too Islamic to exist. As I walked back home, I imagined a Hyderabad without Charminar, a Hyderabad whose history I neglected until now. I decided to find out what the text said. I was determined that that would be my great rebellion.
The Dakhni texts read – “Until you stand up and stand out, you will not realize just how many are standing out.”
“The mind learns and the soul blossoms.”
Diary Entry – 05/05/2037
This year started off quite differently. It began with me learning Dakhni and Hyderabad’s history. However, tensions in the city have been rising. My parents have been talking about moving to a different city. Neighbours I thought I knew closely have started micro monitoring us. I was casually told to end my friendships with my non-Hindu friends. To my surprise, my father, who always seemed to prioritize staying within the lines, has started voicing his anger at the present state of our country. This led to some very informative discussions with my parents. Last year, when I informed my teacher that I was planning to learn Dakhni, she steered me towards some books and online resources that could help. I began this way and before long I realized I needed a more interactive study. I spoke to my parents about learning Dakhni at the University if they offered language crash courses. Although my parents were supportive of my decision, the University did not have any curriculum for students of my age. The professors we met at university, however, personally reached out to my parents to see if I would like personal tutoring. This was immensely helpful. I also informed Phalguni about this, and she had the idea to introduce a Dakhni crash course at school. This idea unfortunately did not gain any support from the school board. During the process of petition, however, Phalguni and I found that I wasn’t the only student interested in learning Dakhni. This inspired us to think of other educational spaces where we could all come together to learn Dakhni. A city that sees regular riots cannot boast of having many safe spaces. Phalguni then had the wonderful idea to create space online. Not too long after that, our meta-app was ready to use. The professors from the university helped with organizing the literature and study models; the meta-app had community forums where we could converse with other users to foster discussion and knowledge. To our delight, the users were not just students but also included parents, some other teachers, students from the university, a couple of journalists, local adults. The intention behind our app was never to gain popularity. The more it stayed off the mainstream path, the longer we could continue to do this. Most importantly, it fostered a renewed sense of community. My parents also started learning Dakhni. On the discussion forums, the conversations went beyond just the language. We even organized informal group visits to some of the historic sites of Hyderabad. I never realized that language had such an interdisciplinary importance. This got us to realize that Dakhni could be the bridge to connecting with the culture. We discerned that it was important to promote our meta-app, at least on a small scale to bring in more people to foster cultural resurgence at large. Until now, this was dependent on word of mouth. Promoting on mainstream avenues was still not an option for us. On the forum, it was decided that the content should be made more inviting and interactive. After being so accustomed to the meta-verse, it was decided that we would create a new meta space with gamification that centered around Dakhni and Hyderabadi culture. It was made to be subtle so it could go mainstream. One of the games that was created was a treasure hunt of sorts, that took a player around the city of Hyderabad, using its monuments as milestones. Dakhni and other cultural aspects of the city of Hyderabad were blended in seamlessly but played a major role in facilitating the narrative of the game and induced players to interact with the language in a crucial but simple way. This was instantly popular in our immediate society. It became popular throughout our school, bringing more students to the study space as well. As our user base expands, the idea is to keep reinventing the structure of our interactive platforms across the meta space. Outside of the meta space, the next project was to publish a regular community magazine that would include creative expressions from the community in multiple genres and topics. The mission is to bring a diverse, secular, tolerant Hyderabad to life in the meta-verse, and to use that sense of community and sense of togetherness to foster real-life sentiments in people about Hyderabad. What started out as a small study and interactive space, has slowly taken shape into a city; a city that is brimming with creative ideas to save itself.
Diary Entry – 9/12/2037
Today, I took part in my first ever protest. More than 3 months ago, the government had declared that it was going to go ahead with the demolition of the Charminar. Immediately, this sparked a charged discussion on the app. We discussed how we could best protect our monument. One of the ideas that was proposed was to create a petition against this declaration and to promote said petition on social media. Our meta game, the four pillars, became gradually popular and has gained a significant audience that fostered conversations about it on mainstream media. The government and its watchful eye hadn’t quite involved itself with the metaverse yet. This gave us the confidence to start a petition, hoping that the numbers would show. Unfortunately, the petition was ignored by the mainstream media, journalists, and the government. However, it did not deter us. On the meta space, we launched a statement, similar to a public service announcement, calling everyone’s notice to the demolition news. The makers of our meta game quickly introduced a new game narrative. The new game’s mission was to emulate our real-life mission; Save Our Charminar. The game ends with an invitation to the protest that happened today. The turnout was astonishing. And readers, as of today, Our Charminar is safe.