What we suffer from

Walking alone has some advantages, especially if you are not glued to your phone.  Strangers wish you, ask for directions, offer you deals on ACs, water purifier and other things.  Among the ‘other things’ category, fall these two very respectable women who wanted to speak to me on the road.  About what?  How to end all suffering.  They handed me a pamphlet which said Jesus will end all suffering.  This in a posh Mumbai suburb, bang in front of a Ganpati temple (Who’s afraid of right wing activists?), not some remote rural area.

What was I suffering from?  They did not ask, but anyway I was okay with their assuming that everyone suffers from something and so must I.  Their Church had asked them to spread this message. And also invite people to a gathering later this month.  You know where all this leads to.

Many years ago, when I was working in a rural college in Maharashtra, a fellow teacher had handed me a similar pamphlet.  That was the homework given by his Church. I wonder what prompts these ‘do-gooders’, whatever be their faith, to seek followers to their flock.

What we suffer from

I have a good friend, Hindu, married to a Christian girl.  They go to both places of worship as do their children.  When the woman goes to the temple, she worships as all others do.  No one notices her.  But when they go for Sunday mass, the reverend father never fails to ask my friend if he is now ready to convert.

On a recent visit to my native village in Kanyakumari, the driver narrated, how some reverend brothers in his local church, kept persuading his family to convert.  Among the many ‘apples’ they offered was free education for his children, even if they wanted to go abroad.  But God has warned Man against temptation; the driver says that one day he and his neighbours physically drove away the brothers with a warning!

I have nothing against Christianity or Christians.  In fact, my entire schooling has been in an institution run by Jesuit priests and nuns.  I have lot of Christian friends of all sects and sub-sects.  I can recite the Angelus and Hail Mary and quite a few other prayers.    A beautiful Church stood on our grounds and I, like my friends, learned to walk across the pews, making sure to kneel at the aisle.  We enjoyed watching weddings, communions, even funerals in the Church.  I remember borrowing the Bible which my friends carried for Catechism classes, and have enjoyed the fascinating stories of Jesus and his miracles, just as I enjoyed reading myths and mythology of many faiths including my own.  Was there a desire to convert?  The initial glamour and style of the Church, faded as I grew and my outlook broadened and I know Christianity as one more religion of the world.

I have never felt compelled to display any outward symbols of my faith – ‘mala’, ring or colours on my forehead.  I hardly participate in ‘pujas’ or rituals.  No one in my family or friends’ circle have minded this.  Nor has God sent any messenger to call me or warn me.  “God’s in his heaven” and everything is alright with me.

Right from our primary Civics books to our Modern History books, we have been told, ‘India is a secular nation’.  One of my professors interpreted this in a very practical way.  He used to say – ‘secular’ does not mean ‘respect for all religion’ – it means ‘no religion matters’.  It appeals to me.  Why do we carry our faith to the roads, to our workplaces, to our social gatherings, everywhere? This indeed is our suffering – that our religions are the weakness used by manipulators of all kinds. Why  do Gods who are believed capable of saving humanity, need such saviours?

Once we leave our homes, we are students, workmen, professionals, traders.  When you want a good doctor, teacher, plumber or whatever, do you ask what religion he/she belongs to, or do you check how good they are at their work?  My most trusted optician is a Parsi, when I want materials or threads for embroidery I go to a Muslim locality, my regular carpenter is a Sikh.

Am I complaining about these missionaries and their persistent attempts to save my soul from my ‘heathen’ religion and uplift me?  No, I am very thankful to them.  Today I respect my faith even more; a faith that worships the elements even before all this talk about conservation ever began; a faith that is so inclusive and expansive that it includes practitioners and non-practitioners; a culture and tradition that is confident enough not want to convert others.  Truly, Hinduism is a way of life!

One thought on “What we suffer from”

  1. Dear Hema,
    Another one of my favorite pastimes – walking alone! My walking habit started almost 25 years back in the beautiful hillocks around Rishi Valley School. It has continued till date and helped me keep my sugar readings under control. I have found that walking alone helps me clarify a lot of issues, mostly on teaching & learning in general and specifically about primary mathematics. Some of my articles have been re-written more than 20 times and I do feel they read better now.
    Regarding religion, I have slowly turned into an agnostic by rational thinking & atheist emotionally. There is no logical way of proving or disproving the existence of God, hence by rational thinking I have to be an agnostic! But my gut feel tells me that there is no God. As Yuval Harari says, we create our dreams and myths and live in it.
    Unfortunately a majority of humans are more emotional than rational and hence the popularity of religion and politics! Most religions treat their followers as children and ensure that they are kept thinking that way. So they go out on the streets and use “temptation” to convert, while professing that we should not succumb to temptation!
    Fortunately Hinduism (or whatever we follow in its name) does not do so. SO I am thankful for it. So I am quite uncomfortable with the current trends of “Christianization of Islamization” of Hinduism. WHat little I have read about the Vedas & Upanishads have convinced me that they do not talk of a personal God. It is seers like Shankara who also created a framework for personal religion out of them. They may have done so out of compassion for the mass of emotional illiterates who need some beliefs to hold on to.
    But I am lucky. On my walks almost no one disturbs me!

    Sundaram

    Liked by 1 person

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