This is a write up on how I feel about my India changing in the context of religion. This is just a representation of how I feel. If it makes sense to you then you can consider listening to it, else you can surely ignore it (not that I need to say this 😅).
My life & religion
I generally don't parade the fact that I am a Hindu. I am not ashamed of it, but I don't think it is relevant in most situations that I face. I love my gods - still find it difficult to decide who is the best between Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva. I love my epics and I do delve on the philosophies and ideas presented in them. The stories present in them have been a part & parcel of my life.
It is not just thoughts. There are also some actions I do in this regard. I pray everyday in the morning. I apply ash to my forehead everyday (even though I am supposedly an Iyengar). I observe some of the rituals like 'Tarpanam' regularly. I celebrate all the regular Hindu festivals with puja and eagerly consume all the goodies prepared at those times.
Does all this make me a staunch Hindu? Some might say yes and others might say no. I personally feel that while these aspects have a place but there is more to following hinduism. There is one thought that stands out. I have never felt the need to assert my religion anywhere in my life. I hope it stays that way always and that is another part of what I like about being a Hindu. There is no need to prove to anyone that I am a Hindu (I am not speaking of other religions because I don't know much about them).
That is all good. But for the past few days, things happening around me are disturbing. For me they are just disturbing, but for the people involved it, they are painful. There are a few of them I want to mention here.
The first issue that comes to my mind is the Hijab row. This has been discussed a lot in the media and elsewhere, so I am not going to be able to add any more information to the discussion. The only thing I would like to express here is a thought which came to me on this whole issue. Everyday when I used to go to my office, I would apply ash to my forehead. I attend meetings and discussions with all my team members wearing it. Nobody has asked anything about it. I wear it also when I visit malls or other areas. Again no issues. I have worn it when I visited my school or college in the earlier part of my life. This applying of ash is surely related to my faith. In my mind, I believe that it will protect me. Now the question in my mind is: If I am allowed to do that all the time, I am not sure why a girl can't wear a hijab to her school if she wants to, based on her faith. How is it different? Again, much more learned people and esteemed institutions might differ with me and I am no one to question to them - I am just expressing what I feel.
The next incident was about a student's namaz prayer video shared by another student and that causing an uproar. After this, the student's institution ruled that the student should no longer do the prayers in the premises. I have seen my friends performing their prayers in workplaces of different companies that I have worked in. No one has ever raised an issue about this. If workplaces can be accomodative, I am not sure why it is a problem in a college. Also in the context of this student, she has been performing the prayers for a long time before. And now this has changed. Why?
There is also the incident related to linking hindu festivals to vegetarianism and that leading to violence (while I am a vegetarian, Hindus in general are not - to me it is a choice). Recently I heard about attacks on religious processions and subsequent complaints about targetted demolitions. In both these cases, it is very difficult to know the full truth for a ordinary person like me. There are news reports claiming all sorts of things and it is difficult to know what the truth is.
But whatever the case is, these incidents don't give me any good feeling about the country I belong to and live in. It seems that suddenly hindu people need to assert themselves (or even force upon others) as being hindus. Why?
My way of being a Hindu
I am repeating myself but I have to say that all of these incidents don't give me a good feeling. I am not a very learned person (especially in the context of religion). But the persona I have seen to exist in "my world" - my country, is a loving one. That persona can accept people for what they are and respect their choices.
I care as much for all my friends whether they are named Amar, Akbar or Antony (not real names) and that is essential in my mind. I have learnt a lot from all my friends and I am grateful for it.
I can't speak for everyone in the world but I speak from my own roots and my own experience. Based on that I say this - I am part of a religion with 33 crore gods and a concept of ishta daivam (favorite diety). That religion does not need me to think that there has to be only one way. It seems counter-intuitive to me.
This life is precious. Every life is precious. Instead of propogating "the one idea" as the only idea, it is much better to have a confluence of many ideas and allow people to chose theirs and live their own lives with it.