In India, did you know that there are more places of worship than schools or hospitals? Did you know that religious pilgrimage accounts for a sizable percentage of the total tourism every year? Did you know that studies have shown that the more educated we get the more the fundamental aspects of religion appeal to us? You may not have been aware of all that but you do know that everyone from cricketers to celebrities to politicians give generously to temples and other places of worship in the hopes of successfully bribing God into assuring them a good sporting series, movie or term in office. Right? So, does religion matter to us Indians? I don’t think I even need to answer that question…
Moving to marriage now, it’s a big step. It’s one of the most important responsibilities that a good number of parents believe they are entrusted with – making sure that their offspring are well settled so that they always have companionship and love in their lives. Most parents believe that that love will come only if the other person shares the same religious beliefs as their child. Perhaps, in a way, they’re not wrong. Any married person (unless they are really lucky) will tell you that marriage requires some amount of hard work. Even if you have matching horoscopes or have said the same prayers to the same God all your life; you’ll still have days when you want to wring his or her neck because you just can’t seem to agree on anything. It’s normal (I think). But, when you add religious differences to the mix, things can get dangerous. Remember, wars have been fought in the name of religion.
Being in love is beautiful. Finding someone who can make you happy and is there for you when you need them is a surreal feeling. I doubt that until things get really serious, religion even plays on your mind. But, when it does, suddenly knowing that there will come a day when you won’t enjoy the freedom to go to the place of worship you’ve gone to all your life seems like a frightening reality to me. The idea of having to compulsorily take a bath and perform a small religious ceremony before entering the kitchen in the morning, or having to wear a burqa and never venturing outside without a male chaperon, or eating with people who have no qualms about what kind of meat they are consuming or how the animal has been slaughtered becomes a very real future and one, which if it was me, I don’t know if I could handle. But, that’s just me.
Perhaps, all of it can be overcome if the couple is strong enough to face whatever or whoever opposes their union. Liberal enough in the way they think to adopt a lifestyle which is perhaps more spiritual than religious, in the conventional terms, and accept that their children will by default be registered with the same faith as the husband. Be willing to make compromises of a degree that I don’t think other marriages normally require, especially in our pretend-secular-tolerant India. Finally, to be so in love that the idea of being without each other is unfathomable. Without all of that, to my mind, the outlook of inter-caste/faith/race/whatever marriages succeeding in a country of such high religious fervour is not that bright.
So, I don’t think the concept of inter-faith marriage is entirely taboo. But, I feel that for it to become accepted as routine or normal, we need to abandon being religious and become spiritual instead.