‘There are no accidents!’ said Master Oogway in the movie Kung Fu Panda. One of the finest movies ever created it is also one of my favorites. True to the phrase, I met three school friends over a period of past 3 months. I believe the meetings were to enhance my knowledge and interpretation of the current world that we live in. The discussion topics were more or less confined to Narendra Modi, BJP versus other parties, ISIS, Terrorism and Islamic refugees. Over a few drinks and good food, the would-be president of US was discussed with as much fervor as the rise of sports other than cricket in India.
As I reflect on those discussions, the mere fact that they are no longer confined to newspaper / television headlines or the privilege of limited few intellectuals or the media, made me aware of the conscious society we live in. The common man is no longer a silent spectator, he is talking about it. Even the smart generation kids who have their ears glued to the super informative environment are constantly picking up tidbits. Times will change and so will the environment. However, kids will build upon their tidbits of information and form strong views later in their lives.
As a parent in today’s troubled times, our role has just become more challenging. So, while we communicate and share our beliefs with our kids, reiterating our views may be critical especially during their teenage years. I therefore write this essay just like school times, so that my kids can refer to it at all times and what they take away from it is their choice. I also trust Facebook to allow me to share it later courtesy their “5/6/7 years ago” link.
My essay is titled ‘Religion over Nation’. As the name implies I am not referring to a particular religion. As you grow up, you will figure it out that there are many religions, each having its own set of rules, regulations, festivals and perceptions. Funnily enough, all have been man-made though even the most educated person at times may staunchly dispute the fact and label it as God’s creation. Talking of God, you will definitely figure it out that there are many versions of God. Some exist in idol form, some were of the species Homo sapiens just like us and then there are still some living Gods amongst us. All those talks that there is no shape, structure, colour or form of God is complete rubbish. We see, feel and listen to God as we have been conditioned over the years. I urge you to keep your senses OPEN at all times else you’ll end up fearing the ominous presence of God rather than being spiritually connected.
A question that may rake your mind at times, Is there a God? A religious person will answer you with his beliefs and the answers he has, an atheist will lead you into a different world and an Agnostic like me will always tell you that ‘There are no accidents’. But that’s me and not you. That’s them and not you. Over the years, you will realise, experience and be a part of the ‘group bias’ phenomenon. Your interests, role models, thinking will be aligned to certain groups who have the same interests and beliefs. However, at all times I urge to keep in mind that though you may consciously be a part of the Group, DO NOT let the group be you. Just like all of us you are a unique individual, so be one without losing your identity in this mad place that we call as world.
I’m proud to be a Hindu, as long as I ignore the primeval rituals connected with the religion that have no role to play in today’s evolving world. Hinduism is a way of life as quoted by many scholars, a fact that I agree with as long as I ignore the deep rooted malaise in the society in the form of caste, creed. Even today, as I observe across various households, a servant from the lower caste is given a special plate, spoon to have her meals so that she doesn’t dirty the utensils. The irony is that she is later entrusted with the cleaning of dirty utensils. Not surprisingly, these are the norms of all the religions. How do I know this? Well, just like I knew during childhood that my friends during school days were kids just like me and not a Muslim, Jain, Jew or a Christian and we all sang together the national anthem, the school anthem and our morning prayer. I urge you that NEVER let the child in you die. You will face challenges, issues in the adult dominated world but you listen to the Inner voice, the inner child in you to do what is right.
As we grow up, you will realise that the priorities change. We first sing our morning ‘religious’ prayer, followed by our office/business prayer and it is only when the time or rather the occasion demands that we sing our national anthem. We respect our religion but the respect that our nation deserves is taken for granted. At times we get so blinded by religion that we fail to integrate and align with the nation that we work for, reside in or even take refuge in. Maybe 6/7 years from today, Europe, Canada may not be the same. Either, the native residents and the refugees will collaborate and put the nation above respective religions or they may differ and put humanity to shame. Only time will tell. As an Indian, I can only assure you that irrespective of religion, we are the brand ambassadors of aligning ourselves with the culture, belief and practices of the different nations where we make a living. I urge you to ALWAYS keep in mind that ‘jaisa desh, waisa bhesh’.
It is time to do the same in our own country. Today, the country is going through a political and economic change. A country which hosts so many religions, languages, identities is probably going through its biggest transformation in its history of existence. There are challenges, problems and scenarios that are unprecedented. Unfortunately, there are and will always be individuals who use these scenarios for their own short term gains / importance. Politicians, Media, Government officials are some of the names that come to the mind immediately who make their presence felt during such times without contributing anything.
One name that never comes up is ME.
Millions of animals will be slaughtered today on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha. It takes 13,000 to 15,000 litres of water to produce one kg of beef (International Fund for Agricultural Development) compared to 2,000 litres for a kg of rice. Today when two states, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are fighting for water, we as individuals can take a stand. As the favourite elephant God takes a bow, the thousands of tones of wastage is rendering the environment fragile. However, the callous attitude towards noise pollution, wastage of electricity and taking public properties for granted is something that we can stand up against.
I urge you kids that at all times, irrespective of what people, relatives, priests, scholars advise you REMEMBER that the nation is always bigger than religion. I urge you to LISTEN to yourself and SPEAK your views amidst all the noise (including this letter). I wish that you have an interesting and fulfilling life with experiences that make you a better person every passing day of your life.