My secular country

Last month when we had gone for a Doctors visit, we met one of your Pappa’s colleague. He was curious to know about India, her culture and customs.

He had assumed that India means the land of Hindus. The country that talks “Hindu”(he meant Hindi, of course!). So when we explained that India had people of all religions and we all coexisted as one, he was a little surprised. We elaborated on how India was Secular country and how all religions were equal with respect to the state. He enquired further , “Do you have Muslims in your country? Why?”(mind you, he himself is a Muslim, so it was purely out of curiosity). We explicated that India is a melange of Muslims,Christians, Buddhists, Jains and almost all the religions in the world, who live together in ‘almost’ total harmony. I say almost because nowadays Amma sees that people are not so tolerant towards people of other religions. When Amma was growing up, my best friends in school were a Christian and a Hindu. While in college it was Muslims, Christians and Hindus. So I have had friends regardless of their religious beliefs and I have always felt that it has helped me to better understand the goodness in each religion. That has also helped me as a human being. As you grow up, I hope I can create an environment where you are able to see things without any filters like this. Everyone is brought up in their homes just like you are. No one is different from you because of their religion, race, colour or social status. Each person gets moulded into different types of adults based on the experiences life hands out to them.

In many social forums, when I see teenagers, adults denigrating Muslims just because they are Muslims,  I feel really bad. I mean just because a few people who call themselves Muslims have done some malefaction, it doesn’t mean all the Muslims in the world are wrong or bad. I would never tolerate such kind of behaviour from you. It is important for me to talk to you about this because the times when you are going to be an adult may be different from what I have and I want you to have this lesson. This knowledge that, human beings are all made the same. We have fanatics in all religions. And we have extremely philanthropic people too. It’s not their religion that decides who or what they are. For example, you are born a Hindu, you may choose to follow the customs or not. Being a Hindu, doesn’t or rather shouldn’t govern your activities or likings. Being a human is more important to me, any day than being a Hindu. I have always felt that our religion is very much flexible and it gives the freedom to pray as we want. And after coming to France, I realise, it’s the same in all religions. I am taking an effort slowly but in not a conscious manner to educate you about the different types of religions. Although when amma was small, it was not necessary at all. There was no hatred among people as I see now. And that hatred, is a real cause of concern for me.

I will tell you what religion means to me. It means that there is a power somewhere who looks after you. Whom you can speak to. With whom you can share your fears with. To whom you can express your gratitude. Your thanks for all the blessings given to you. You don’t have to fear it. It won’t punish you. When in doubt, it’s something you can turn to. Something that gives you peace of mind. Something you can put your trust in. It may or may not make sense to you ,Vi. But for amma, this is her relationship with religion or God or Allah or Jesus or any of the 30,000 gods that we have 😉 I hope you are also able to forge a strong loving relationship with your understanding of God!

I would like to share a funny story with you, of when I was young. I think I was in 1st standard or so. We were being taught about the different religions that are practiced in India as a part of the curriculum. So the teacher said about Muslims, Hindus and Christians. I was on my way home and trying to identify how each one could be identified and in my small brain I thought, people are divided into religions based on the language they speak. So people who spoke Malayalam (our mother tongue) were Muslims. People who spoke Hindi were all Hindus and people who spoke English were Christians. Don’t ask me the rationale behind the thoughts of a 6 year old(although I think I associated it with the starting letter of each language to that of the religion M=M , H=H).

My religion is very simple.
My religion is kindness.
~ Dalai Lama

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