Hejab is a topic that has been flogged to death in the blogosphere and elsewhere. But I cannot resist putting something up here on it.
A couple of weeks ago, just as I was getting ready to pray Maghrib, a non-Muslim friend dropped in (yeah, in India friends do arrive unannounced and this is something I missed when I lived abroad). She saw me in my prayer garb and said "I am a little scared of people dressed like this and I am just going to stand in the balcony until you finish". I told her she could sit comfortably indoors and she refused.
At least she was honest. But I cannot help wonder why she was scared. It is not as if she is from some place where there are no Muslims, in fact she is from a part of Kerala where there are more Muslims than where I am from. Living in neighbourhoods where there are Muslims does not really alleviate fears about them, unless there is interaction. In fact, this friend was very surprised when she found out I was Muslim, somehow, I didn't fit into her category of a Muslim.
Much has been said about multi-religious neighbourhoods in Kerala and its largely peaceful communal atmosphere. But, from this experience I think living together can be active and passive and probably what we are seeing is living together in the passive