For twenty years I lived in a city which was proportionately divided, half and half, into Hindus and Mohammedans. They were equally powerful, and almost every year riots happened. I used to know a professor in the university where I was teaching. I could never have dreamed that this man could put fire to a Hindu temple; he was such a gentleman – nice, well educated, well cultured. When there was a riot between the Hindus and the Mohammedans I was watching, standing by the roadside. Mohammedans were burning a Hindu temple, Hindus were burning a Mohammedan mosque.
I saw this professor engaged in burning the Hindu temple. I pulled him out and I asked, “Professor Farid, what are you doing?”.
He became very embarrassed. He said, “I’m sorry, I got lost in the crowd. Because everybody else was doing it, I forgot my own responsibility – everybody else was responsible. I felt for the first time a tremendous freedom from responsibility. Nobody can blame me. It was a Mohammedan crowd, and I was just part of it.”
On another occasion, a Mohammedan’s watch shop was being looted. It was the most precious collection of watches. An old Hindu priest…The people who were taking away those watches and destroying the shop – they had killed the shop owner – were all Hindus. An old priest I was acquainted with was standing on the steps and shouting very angrily at the people, “What are you doing? This is against our religion, against our morality, against our culture. This is not right.”
I was seeing the whole scene from a bookstore, on the first story in a building just in front of the shop on the other side of the road. The greatest surprise was yet to come. When people had taken every valuable article from the shop…there was only an old grandfather clock left – very big, very antique. Seeing that people were leaving, the old man took that clock on his shoulders. It was difficult for him to carry because it was too heavy. I could not believe my eyes! He had been preventing people, and this was the last item in the shop.
I had to come down from the bookstore and stop the priest. I said to him, “This is strange. The whole time you were shouting, ‘This is against our morality! This is against our religion, don’t do it!’ And now you are taking the biggest clock in the shop.”
He said, “I shouted enough, but nobody listened. And then finally the idea arose in me that I am simply shouting and wasting my time, and everybody else is getting something. So it is better to take this clock before somebody else gets it, because it was the only item left.”
I asked, “But what happened to religion, morality, culture?”