My dad used to light the lamp every morning and evening at home. I used to hardly remember that act in the morning because I had to make sure I woke up, dragged myself out of bed, got dressed and again dragged myself to school. I remember it clearly in the evenings because he used to always ask me to stand and pray when he lit the lamp at 5.30pm sharp, every day.
I have never felt the need to adhere to a religion, and it has been the same since my childhood. While some would call it negligence and ignorance on the part of my parents (few of my relatives are pretty sure that those are the exact terms), I would call it independence and freedom. Freedom to choose, and also the freedom to ‘not choose’, even at that young age. But, I wonder what options I have to choose from? And whether I want to.
Brought up in India, I consider that everyone has at least once in his/her lifetime witnessed a communal riot. You might have been in the same city, in the middle of the violence, or in some other city, but you still felt the tremors. The time when school was closed for a day or two just to ensure that you were safe, the time when your sister told you to come back home early from college because she heard something happened in the city, and also the time when you read about a violent act somewhere in another city, and tried to understand what the hell was happening. It’s a part of our lives. Just like we are used to having so much diversity, we are also used to the occasional violence it brings with it.
I am not saying that we are not secular.
The preamble to ourÂ constitutionÂ clearly states “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into sovereign, socialist,Â secular, democratic, republic and to secure to all its citizens……”
Literally, we are!
We even have friends from different religions, we have colleagues whom we respect and we even have family members from other religions whom we love. But where does our secularism disappear when women are raped, men are beheaded, homes are burnt? Do they stop being our friends, neighbors and family members? Do they stop being men and women?
I can’t help but remember this one quote from Lajja, where Taslima Nasreen rightly points out our present situation (Yes, it is still present because even in this 21st century, Muzaffarnagar riots exists)
“Ironically, all religions point towards one goal – peace. Yet it is in the name of religion that there has been so much unrest and lack of peace. So much blood has been shed and so many people have suffered… Flying the flag of religion has always proved the easiest way to crush to nothingness human beings, as well as the spirit of humanity.”
So, on one side we have rituals which are sacred, festivals which we celebrate with such joy and happiness, prayers and worship we offer with honesty, and then we have all the riots which you have either read in history, in books, in magazines, or you have been personally a part of.
Am I still supposed to choose?
After 24 years of existence, and numerous questions asking my religiosity, I still don’t have an answer. And now, I wonder if I want one for myself. I feel at peace with myself – where I am, at the moment. Absorbing like a sponge from everywhere. I still believe that there is a higher energy, but I still haven’t had the courage (or may be inclination) to give it a name or an image or a category! And I still don’t want to choose one of the all.
Does it then distort my identity?
Well, it’s not just religion. When you are brought up in three different cities, it does get a little blurry and no strong religious inclination definitely contributes to the blurriness. But I think I can live with the blurriness.
The ‘Power of Youth‘ has been the song that everyone has been singing in the recent times – be it political, social, or even economical. But I hope for the power of youth, religiously.
We have seen children orphaned.
We have read about mother’s who have lost their sons and daughters.
We have read about women who are raped, because some men think that it’s the best way to settle certain disputes and forget everything else.
I hope for the power of youth where ‘secularism‘ is not just a word we practice when we are happy and stable, but also at the time of crisis, equality is not only for men and women but for people practising different religions, and for those who wish not to choose one and where the faith that binds us supersedes everything — Humanity!