Culture….when I think of the quintessential feature of Indian culture I think of tolerance and respect.
Having lived in the Middle East, and that too in one of the more liberal nations, I still know how fortunate we expats were to be able to go to a church or a temple when there were others across borders nearby who couldn’t for fear of persecution and prosecution. When I was taught that India is a secular nation, it warmed my heart. I mean, how beautiful is it that we are not defined by the majority religion, instead, we have the fundamental right…the freedom to profess the faith of our choice. How many people in the world have suffered for their beliefs? While here we are, a highly populous country where you can worship as you wish knowing that for the most part, it makes no difference to anyone.
When I watched PK, that controversial Aamir Khan movie, my favourite scene was the one where he looks for a stamp on a baby to see what determines the faith to which he would belong. As I see it, religion is something you inherit from your parents and whether you decide to openly profess those practices or ignore the rituals completely is a choice you’re allowed to make.
My closest friends belong to different faiths and I don’t care. Never have and never will. All I know is that I would trust them with my life and even the more precious life of my child. I know that they are good people. Isn’t that all that matters to most of us? That the people we call friends are good people? Does anyone truly care if they eat beef or pork or drink alcohol? Does it make a difference to anybody if they pray at a church or temple or mosque or not at all? I would like to think not. I would like to believe that it is only certain fringe elements of society that are trying to make popular a different tune… Sure, we have witnessed violent religious clashes in the past, but somehow until recently it seemed all for some political advantage or the other and common people; like you and I were just victims. Why does the case seem different today? In my eyes, being of a certain community could never make you more or less Indian.
India…glorious India where children grew up waiting for festivals of their neighbours to burst crackers, light diyas and devour delicious sweets or help decorate trees, sing Christmas carols and eat rich plum-cake or even poke their heads into kitchens waiting for a serving of delicious biriyani that’s got their tummies rumbling. That is my India….not this one we seem to be turning into. Not one where I am fearful my entire opening paragraph to this post needs to be converted to the past tense. Not one where we have forgotten how to live and let live. And most definitely not one where more and more of us seem to actually care whether the person sitting next to us on a bus is a Mary or Ahmed or Radha….
Photo credit: Here