Saturday, November 13, 2010

With Love and Without Prejudice Towards All

 We just finished Halloween, Thanksgiving, Diwali and now Eid is on in this part of the world. I think it is very 'neatly convenient' that so many important festivals fall right around the year ending and everybody can look forward to much  joy and celebrations. Forget about the not so nice parts of the year and just focus on having a big partayyyy! No? Been hopping around tons of blogs and am amazed at the sheer number of posts on the festivals gone by...although, I dont do Halloween, Thanksgiving (hubster's side of the family have their own Indian version of Thanksgiving, which we dont celebrate as a couple owing to it's Hindu roots) or Diwali. I think my sister in Canada does some stuff for Halloween etc but more for the kids rather than anything else. Our family focus has always been Easter and Christmas. Good Friday even more so, knowing and believing that our Lord lives!

Most families nowadays are open minded and percieve themelves as modern, secular and peace loving. 
I dont know about other 'Indian-Christian' families, but me and hubster do not feel the need to project that to anybody or indeed give much thought to it . So, no I dont really feel the need to light a few candles on Diwali no matter how pretty it looks or wish a friend who may be celebrating it. No, it does not even strike me to call up my Hindu friends and wish them. Will it bother me if they do not call me back for Christmas? No, not at all. I dont expect them to understand the significance of Christmas just as I dont consider their festival significant! Does that make me intolerant and unsecular? I dont think so, it is just not important, that is all. Had I been married to a non-Christian, maybe I would have been chilled out in my philisophy. It would have been like 'everything goes'. But since I am not, I need to be very clear and focussed on what I believe in and would like to pass on to my child.   Although in our constitution, India is deemed a secular country with all religions being accorded equal respect and tolerance, in reality it really isn't true. It is overwhelmingly a Hindu state followed closely by a sizeable population which professes faith in Islam. Christians, Buddhists, Jains , Sikhs etc are all a small minority. To their credit, I personally find most of my Hindu friends and acquiantances quite liberal and easy going. A large majority is non confrontational and go about doing their own thing. As are other folks too. But even so, India can get troubled at the slightest religious differences. In such circumstances it gets difficult to cling on to your personal faith and be counter-cultural. So again a large majority of families end up doing a little bit of everything. When I was blog hopping I was amazed to see so many non-hindu families actively celebrating Diwali !  Agreed, for some it was just the lights, for some a chance to indluge in good food, for some it was all about dressing up and partying and for some it was just bursting crackers! Nothing wrong with any of these activities per se but for me it gets worrying when a friends or family begins to have expectations from me. 

How so you ask? Let me explain. Come festival(s) season and some of my non-christian friends refuse to see why I do not join in the celebrations! For eg, we  have this particular couple here in Dubai who are our friends. Or rather used to be. This couple has over the years expressed open displeasure and shock that we do not wish to celebrate their festivals in any form whatsoever. They claim to be modern, educated and cosmopolitan. Unfortunately however, when it comes to practise, they are really short on tolerance themselves! They have been unable to understand or appreciate our refusal to join a 'Puja'- a Hindu religious ceremony/actof worshiping. They have got upset if we have refused 'prasad' i.e food offered to idols during religious ceremonies. These things are a pretty big deal to them and to us too! Why cant it be understood that just as offering and consuming 'prasad' is important to them, it is just as serious and important for me to refuse it. By doing so, I do not conspire to insult or hurt them. It happens to be a major part of my religious convictions and I dont see why should I be made to feel like a 'fundamentalist' in wanting to hold on to it! If you do not understand  why judge in the first place? I especially find my hindu friends struggling to accept this. The simple reason I feel is that Hinduism is esentially a pluralistic religion and hence it has place for every 'supernatural' power or phenomenon. Christianity, on the other hand is pretty clear that there is 'only one God' and that God actually tells us to worship no one but Him. Talk about precise instructions!

Which brings me to my next bit of the rant. So, if I tell my child not to bow in front of man-made idols and to believe in one true and living God, I am a mad parent teaching my child to be intolerant? A friend wanted to gift me something which had a picture of one of her God's on it (do you realise dear reader how sad this sounds?? My god, her god?). So anyway, I politely refused to accept it. And told her in great detail as to why I was unable to accept her gift. She was close enough so I did not think I would hurt her but I did not expect the anger either. She was really, really, really angry and hasn't spoken to me since then. I do grieve the loss of our friendship but not at the cost of what 'I' believe will bring grief to my God. WHich is why, I find it totally bewildering when the very same people who claim to be peace loving, non-interfering, secular etc turn around and condemn me for being religious. I dont claim to be open-minded or liberal or even secular. I am infact none of these things. I dont intend to be either. So what I practise and preach is in line with what I profess to be. Not so when it comes to some folks I would say. I dont do labels. I go about practising my faith knowing very clearly in my mind where I am headed. Living out my faith in everyday situations is vital to my testimony as a woman living for Christ. In doing so, I may end up ruffling feathers, so be it. I can be different and infact chose to be different but if I am doing it with love, I know I am doin fine. 

I do not plan to upset folks, but they chose to be upset anyway. Just because I wont light a few candles on Diwali or eat 'prasad' or wont allow my child to attend a 'puja' or wish to eat a burger while a neighbour is fasting for Ramdaan? Heck, I dont get all worked up when you make a public announcement that 'hey, it's Christmas, let's get drunk' or say something as flippant as,  '' it's that dude,  Christ's b'day apparently-lets party!" Or when you walk up to your manager and demand a day off for 25th Dec just to sleep in and not because you really care that it is Christmas! You know, it always surprises me when somebody acts surprised that I not only like to talk about my religion but also talk to everybody (who will listen) about it. I mean, just because you are not Christian does not mean I should shut up when you are around right? You dont like to talk about it?  That's okay, I wont label you .  I on the other hand, like to talk about it-which should be also fine, please dont label me either.  Get it?? It was especially awkward when I lived in Europe. Boy, was it tough being religious! Naughty,dirty word! You are either supposed to kick out God or do yoga or reiki or other such nonny. It is no better in India. You should be okay about a loudspeaker blaring away middle of the night for some 'puja'  or your religious practises and convictions being dismissed as totally insignificant. Or be like a  modern- cosmopolitan -urban- city dweller. Everything goes. Else be labelled narrow minded, mean and confrontional. But then I should probably not get too worked up because currently in India, with the emergence of new money and increased purchasing power , religion and festivals are just another excuse to buy more! It has nothing to do with spirituality. At all.

You know, I really dont think religion is personal, at least for me . If  I am acting in a certain manner and do not wish to hurt others by my acts then I should be willing to come up with an explaination. Which is what I tried doing this Diwali. Ended up annoying some folks but then I have never claimed to be politically correct. It is really not my headache if my reasons are not good enough for you. It is also fine if you think I am mad and narrow minded and dont wanna be friends with me anymore. I love you anyway. :)


Kuttis said...

Hello Harshika,
I'm Hindu and I would be a little taken aback (too!) if someone refused "prasad" , but would not be upset/angry/etc and would definitely not hold it against that person.(And would hopefully remember not to offer it to that person again!)

Coming to what you wrote "Hinduism is esentially a pluralistic religion and hence it has place for every 'supernatural' power or phenomenon "- I have to firmly but politely disagree. Hinduism ALSO teaches that there is ONE God, but manifests Himself/Herself in many ways.That (to me) is the very essence of Hinduism, it does not stop a person from worshipping in which ever way he/she pleases. Its unfortunate that an all-encompassing religion has been twisted by men(&women) to suit their needs - you will find many Hindus who dont agree with/follow/support the loudspeaker-blaring variety of Hinduism.True Hindus remain true to their faith,either way.


Harshika said...

Hey thanks for dropping by and commenting here. Appreciate the fact that you actually read the post properly and then commented.

I was born a hindu by the way and kind of professed faith in it till about the age of 20 which is when I converted to christianity...when I write about the blaring loudspeakers, really that isnt the real issue no? I mean we have baraats, match commentries, horns honking-contributing to the general chaos in India. The kind of hindusim I saw being practised that many years ago was in no way upsetting/annoying to me. When I say that Hinduim is pluralistic in essence that is literally what I mean. So then,God to a hindu can be Shiva, can be an old neem tree, can be a cow, can be a monkey or even an elephant or a Tendulkar. Or a guru or a mata or self-proclaimed God man or own parents! A hindu might agree that there is only one God, but in practise, you cannot deny that most hindus are open to any 'force' if they feel that it can help them. This so called help could be of any nature ofcourse- right from a deep spiritual hunger to desperate poverty.It could be in the form of Yoga or astrology or numerology etc. In saying so I am not saying they are wrong and that religions which profess faith in one God only (in sometimes a rather millitant fashion, dare I say) are right. By its very inherent character, hinduism is all embracing and I can understand their perplexity when along comes a christian or say a muslim who will do anything to tell them otherwise!

That brings me to my original point, a person following hindusim wont get it and shouldnt be expected to either. No i am not being condescending here, just stating a fact. In your own words KA, you consider it an all-encompassing religion. Well then, I dont see where is the problem? That is what I have been saying all along too! :)

Angiw said...

Hey Harshika,
Kudos to you for so boldly being able to profess your stand in words! This is absolutely what I believe and profess too, and not too often are people bold enough to voice their views/thoughts/beliefs!

This post reminds me of the verses Matthew 10:32,33 - "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." And, needless to say, am sure the Father is proud of this post too!


Harshika said...

Thanks @Angiw. Suprised you fond me here, lolll. This blog is sadly so neglected, it seems whatever i have to say, I say it better on my fb status updates! LOL. Thank you for your kind words. I have akways been politically incorrect, but then I can truly say there is nobody I have intentionaly hurt or disliked- everything can be done in love. You will be surprised as to how closed minded most people are even though they pretend to be open and all embracing. Baah!