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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fusing my Religion

That's me in the corner; That's me in the spotlight; Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you; And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much; I haven't said enough!
By R.E.M.

Monday evening I went for Lalbaugcha Raja’s darshan. Something I had skipped last year. I’m not steadfastly religious, do not believe in object worship, don’t believe in the encyclopedia of names for the ‘Gods’ and I certainly do not appreciate when how, whom and why I should worship or pay homage to, is predefined for me. When I do feel like it (divine calling as many say), I go for it and do it my way. My prayer lasts anywhere between a mere 1min to probably an hour – most of which I spend in a quiet uninterrupted corner just pondering. The setting could be the corner seat of the Mumbai local to the corner pillar of Ram Mandir near my house. I have cried or remained mum. I have sincerely prayed and sometimes just looked for penance for 1 of many wrongs I may have committed but not admitted to.

To many, my practices may seem futile or because I do it ‘for the heck of it’. ‘Ignore’ is my mantra. Something I subject even mum too. From a balanced spiritual lady, somewhere along the years, I lost her to endless pujas, artis, darshans, teerth yartras and some unreasonable, inexplicable practices – a little on the extreme side. Ok a lot extreme if you ask me but what works for her is her choice. Here no one lets you be. What they do and consider the ethical, traditional norm is THE norm for you. I enter a temple and I would get eyes for donning jeans, missing a dupatta, not looking deep in trance enough or a list of do-nots that I may’ve unintentionally adhered to.

Fortunately, mums taken the cue and let me be. Of course, I had to climb the staircase of guilt, jump through a fire hoop of the looks, crawl through a dark tunnel of a long lecture (the worst) and fly across obstacles of ‘corrective actions’. Like a video game. It took many an evening of doubts, discussions of life path (still can’t figure how that’s related), being called an atheist, questions on my beliefs and virtual guilt trips of trying to drag me down. We have reached a mutually accepted truce. She asks. I agree or decline. If I agree, I stay for the last bit where I can have some prasad and leave. I honor her wishes and she mine. My logic, which finally got to her, was I would never do something to disrespect what is important to her – and forcefully going for incessant number of pujas with no intent, counted as disrespect from me to her. Peace!

Prof. Wikipedia defines religion, as “an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural, and to spirituality.” I’m fortunate that my family inculcated AND practice secularism. I lay emphasis on the ‘AND’ because we have many who feign belief and do not practice. My family does and I appreciate, love and bask under this fact and freedom. From my grandparents’ era, all married their love and sweethearts. There was never a question or interrogation of the caste, creed, sect or religion. There have been marital discords, disharmony, splits and reconciliations all on human grounds and errors. When mum found out about him, she asked about him and his family, what they did where they came from et al. Honestly, I assumed somewhere she would make a comment or ask me something as a part of all the changes she has gone through… you know religiously. She didn’t. Once even offering to drop me close to station so that I could meet Abeer sooner and not waste time as we were headed to Charni Rd. late evening. I appreciated her attempt to let me have the freedom to love and seek love as I pleased. A luxury in this country.

The 1st question I always get asked is “Did your parents agree?” followed by “Will you convert?/ Tattoo cannot be accepted so how will you?...” some ridiculous not-so-crucial questions I do not appreciate. I mean where did “what does he do?/ where did you’ll meet?/ How’s it going?... etc” slip down the ladder of queries 1 asks friends about their beau. You don’t meet or go on random dates and ask point blank the person’s religious background and decide if to proceed forward. To me it matters what he likes vs what upsets him. Where do his principles come from? What is he as a person, a human being, a friend, a brother, a son, a worker, a dreamer? I incessantly ask him questions about things I’m ignorant about. He answers them graciously, surprising me with knowledge and details I wouldn’t have expected to my ‘simple’ questions. THAT is what characterizes getting to know someone rather than the societal question bank, which comes with select check boxes. A rigidity I will never adhere to. Both he and I came from mixed, exotic backgrounds and that appealed to me more than anything J #epicwin

Forget love. Basic friendships are subjected to such gruesome menial mentality. Followed by a hypocritical thesis on the most recent communal riots. 1 should not comment unless 1 truly believes that the opposing community is not solely at fault. Crimes, malpractices, unreasonable communal laws, all run across society. Yet the audacity to classify continues. When I visited an agyari (Parsi Fire Temple) I was asked where my sadra-kasti was (custom inner garb post baptism-like ceremony) and then dismissed cuz I was young. When I was taken to a Roman Catholic church by my hostel matron they dismissed me but let me stay on learning of my recovery from a severe bout of the chicken pox. When I went to the dargah I felt like I was ‘blessed’ harder by the priest that anyone else. When I was just outside a mosque I was stared at (that was Nigeria and we were the only Indians). When I stood in front of the wailing wall in Jerusalem I felt like a tourist – I was 1. When I dated my 1st boyfriend, his mother tried hard to convert me to be a Born-again Christian. But maximum contradictions, questions, doubts, and ridiculousness came from my vast religion that I was born into – Hinduism. I cannot and will not go into the vastness of everything that’s followed and imposed; many times without understanding its purpose and history. Baseless practices like default settings. Robots at best.

I do not consider myself any less for not fitting into the standards. I pride myself in having my own religion – a potpourri if you will of all the good and spiritual I can pick up on. Lessons learnt and verses recited with deep meaning invoking something in me. An exotic relation with the guy upstairs… you know who hears me out when human ears are all too busy or reserved for other earthly purposes. I don’t disturb him much and he has been generally good to me with the occasional flutter. Or SHE has been good to me… We freely adjust you know. Fusing OUR religions

A link shared by an Ad-Exec buddy about a social experiment on racism goes well with this post: