People say we should not discuss religion & politics during happy occasions like say a party, or a reunion. Because these topics have an uncanny way of making people want to beat each other up. What starts as a harmless personal remark soon ends up being a war of words. Opposing parties up in arms against each other in a desperate bid to prove themselves right.
When & how did religion, any religion, ever become so intolerant, so adamant, & so irrational? All religions speak of ego being a destructive force. Then how is it that the followers are so egoistic? A mere comment or opinion on their religion gets construed as a pagan attack & a blow to their ideology.
I am born Hindu, meaning both my parents were Hindus. My mother was a devout one at that, praying, doing poojas, aartis, vraths etc. She never stepped out of the house or started anything without folding her hands in devotion to Ganesha. ‘Devre kapadappa’ was said in complete faith & trust. My father posed like a religious person but cared two hoots for any God I know. He wasn’t an atheist. He had nothing for or against religion. He just didn’t care. Between these two extremes, I grew up under a predominantly Christian influence. I used to attend Sunday mass. I used to go to Bible Study classes. I even got baptized in a Roman Catholic Church (in Sasthan, Udupi). No one asked me to do any of these. I did it of my own volition. I’ve never regretted it. Today, when I close my eyes in prayer, I visualize & speak to Christ.
So what is my religion? The more important question is, does it matter?
What matters is what I’ve learnt & what I practice in my life. If it wasn’t for the Bible, I couldn’t have lived through life the way I‘ve. My belief in the goodness of people, my trust that if I persevere with honesty, victory will be mine in the end, my knowledge that “jiska koi nahin uska toh khuda hai yaro” is a thing experienced deeply, my faith that ultimately I’ll triumph over everything, my positivity, & enthusiasm is all because of my readings of the Bible. My relationship with the Bible happened in a very positive, structured, systematic fashion. Other religious texts also have the same power. If I had read the Quran, or the Bhagwad Gita, it would’ve influenced me equally & very similarly too. All religions are basically about kindness. They ask us to show compassion toward other men & animals. If only we’d be just a wee bit more considerate towards others. Wouldn’t many of the world’s wounds be healed by this balm?
If I were to describe my religion, I’d say its kindness. It’s a hand-me-down from my mother. Her first reaction to any situation or person was always of kindness. Whether it’s a relative, stranger, child, neighbor, I’ve seen her always responding with a kind word or smile. But I’ve also seen that people don’t appreciate it. They respect those who talk down to them, those who are haughty or those who’ve an air of superiority. And many a time, that has made me rethink if I was doing the right thing. Maybe I’d also treat people badly (especially edgy strangers & pushy salesgirls at posh lifestyle showrooms & condescending salon staff & too-smart-for-their shoes salesmen at footwear stores). But I can’t. It’s a lot more work than just being nice.
I wish all the festivals we celebrate, all the Gods we worship, all the pilgrimages we go on, all the temples/churches/mosques we visit, teach us but one thing: Be kind. That’s what the world needs. That’s what God wants.