Let me confess at the outset, that I do not even know whether I am qualified or deep enough to write this piece. My defense is that there may be an equally large number of people out there who feel like me, and are also not completely well read in all matters history, religion or politics. And I also confess that being a mother, I tend to dwell a lot on the premise of what kind of a world is it that I am letting my children wander into?A world where you have to be scared of belonging to a faith? Or one where you wear it like a badge!I feel it needs to be neither.
This year has been all about a feeling of unease about religion. I have never big on either politics or religion, but this year has pushed me into thinking a lot about it for various reasons. A few to be mentioned are- the recent spate of killings by the ISIS, a few videos that I watched on whatsapp of a close up of beheading done in cold blood in some Arab country, “Aavarana”, a book by S.L. Bhyrappa that I read with mixed feelings, a few statements made by our seers which claimed that Hindu women needed to procreate with greater speed and intensity to save our religion and finally culminating with an experience that I had this afternoon- a ‘Pathasanchalana’- a march of thousands of RSS swayam sevaks held in my hometown.
Growing up, I was brought up in a family which held our country’s values of democracy and secularism in high stead. My home town, though rich in history was not too communal. And the street I lived in had people belonging to almost all religions and caste. Hence, the idea that something really deep could divide us only struck me during the Babri Masjid riots. I remember huddling in my school waiting for someone from home to come and pick me up. I also remember the fear on my Muslim friend’s face during the wait. It was a little more complicated for her. She was waiting to be taken home safely by someone hopefully arriving to pick her safely! After this, there was again a sense of peace which prevailed for the next so many years. Slowly, I pushed these disturbing memories to the remotest corner of my mind.
I have always felt that religion should be something very personal. Something which gives you a sense of peace, a feeling of security and belief that if something goes wrong,the Almighty(with a capital A) was there to protect you. And some place you send your prayers to. But why is it not so simple? Why do people then try to publicize it? Or propagate it? Probably because then you get the power of numbers? And then politics enter into it? And jumble it up further? And make you smile at people and want to stab them in the back at the same time? But still want to stick to the book and pretend to be a pious human being who does no wrong? And so many more questions that I have, which will fetch me more confused answers!
So I decided to read up (at least a little) about what drives these religions. And I came upon Aavarana, a book which sort of describes the history of Islam and the Mughal rule in detail. Lets say that it was not all complimentary to Islam, but the book does claim to have its research done from books written by Mughal rulers themselves. Which is the reason why, we can understand having a right wing which claims to set right these wrongs and protect the Hindus. And we have, in between all this, the British who tried to stay back and rule by dividing the already divided, further! And our politicians, who have tried to cash in on this divide, for votes. Now, how do we ever disentangle this mess?
Reading further and deeper into this topic is guaranteed to make you more and more depressed. There are so many avenues, nuances, dead ends and a general insensitivity which make the situation worse. Where do we start smoothing the creases? And revert back to the basic concept of getting comfort from your choice of faith? Because, now it scares!
Standing on the road today, watching the procession, I was eves dropping on the conversations going on around me. And generally observing everything going on around.Two women discussing the number of ‘holiges’( a sweet preparation) which were cooked for the swayam sevaks’ feast. A fully sozzled guy, trying to clearly voice out ‘vande mataram’. Two girls obviously tickled about his inebriated state and giggling away constantly every time he managed to get it right. A lady trying her best to edge into the front row, using her husband’s paralytic limb as an excuse. A policeman, trying his best to control an undisciplined crowd. Swayam sevaks in the march capturing images on their mobile phones. Two boys sitting on roof top, emptying Nandini milk packets on to a huge hoarding of Shivaji! Our grocery store, uncharacteristically being closed owing to the fact that it belonged to a muslim and there was a RSS march going on. Basically, life was going on as usual a midst all the hype about faith. This reassured me, that deep down, all that we want is food, a roof, some security and an opportunity to have some harmless fun.
Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, famously gave his pyramid of hierarchy of needs. The pyramid claims, that unless basic needs of food and security are met, you cannot move on to the next level , and later push yourself on to achieving self actualization- ‘nirvana’ in the end.
In this respect, we in India, at least vast majority of the population, are still grappling with stage one and two! Then why should we confuse issues, instead of providing for the first two levels?
Why should we inculcate religion like a discipline, rather than teach our children to grow into a faith of their own creation? Based on what is needed for the day, rather than what had happened many hundreds of thousands of years ago? Some place where the need of this day is discussed, rather than vengeance? Where we can discuss religion freely, rather than impose it upon others or worse, behead them?
History tells us about how different faiths have tried to come up each, by putting down the other. Why not make it better now rather than ruffle feathers?We have always been taught that all religions are good. lets now learn to accept the fact that there is some bad too. And move on.
I know that this post contains more questions than answers. It is because these questions have been there for a long while without finding answers that pacify me. And leaving me confused as to what I should be first- a mother who teaches secularism, a hindu (just because I happen to be born one), who upholds ideals dealt out by our seers, an Indian or just simply, plain old me????