Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Belief beyond border - live and let live

I loved this title of an article about religions in The Times of India.

I felt very sad when I read this news and this one. Pakistan or Taliban, were using bombs in crowded places to terrorise our cities. Now, they have resorted to attack other religions directly, esp. the religions of India.

When our cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and lastly Pune) were attacked, we showed restraint in attacking Pakistan and are still inviting them for 'talks'! We are still keeping Kasab in 'custody' and looking after him, literally, even after the video evidence showing him clearly in the Mumbai terrorist attack.

As this article in TOI says, 'In a country like India so helplessly addicted to religion, the gods don't just abide. They migrate,mutate and fraternise. Different streams of faith meld and swirl like a dancing dervish into a melting pot of beliefs: a pot in which a heady plurality triumphs over hard ideas of purity.Benevolent,smiling gods regularly hop across religious lines to help those in need.'

When we went to Tirupati, must be some years back, before the terrorist threats, I saw two purdah clad muslim women standing in the queue to have a darshan of Balaji (I have seen the sign in most Hindu temples that 'non-hindus' are not allowed inside! Still I saw two muslim women and when I smiled at them asked them if they visit this temple often, they said 'nearly every year'!). And no one in the queue troubled them in any way.

When my first son was very small, whenever he cried without any visible reason, the maami (an old orthodox brahmin lady) who was staying with us to take care of him (I was working then), took him to a nearby dargah to have a black thread with a talismaan, tied around his neck by the moulvi! She believed that the baby would sleep if the black thread was around his neck! She never hesitated to go to a muslim shrine. It was a common practice in the nearby houses which were full of brahmins.

I had a muslim neighbour once and we were very close friends. Once when her Ramzaan kheer did not come out properly, I prepared it at home and gave it to her because she did not want her husband to know that the kheer got curdled while preparing, which is a bad omen! She had many guests also at home! Her children were very close to me and some of their Pakistani relatives who visited them used to like our vaththal kuzhambu and saambaar! They were wondering how vegetarian food tasted so well! I learnt some Urdu word pronunciation from that friend! Except non-veg. food, I did not have any problem in mingling with them.

I know many of our Christian friends who follow some of the Hindu rituals during wedding, child birth etc. Thaali (mangal sutra) also is worn in yellow thread. They don't behave like aliens to our culture. The Velankanni church here, in Besant Nagar (Chennai) is visited by many Hindus, even brahmins!

The TOI also writes:

Think, for instance, of the Zoroastrian woman who is a staunch Ganesha bhakt.Or the Muslim teacher who places his hand-written Urdu petitions before a statue of St Anthony. Or the pious Hindu with a caste mark who travels cross-country to pray for his child's health at the centuries-old dargah of Khwaja Garib Nawaz.

A shrine to the 12th-century Sufi saint,the dargah has long been a pilgrimage spot for Hindus and Muslims alike. It was bombed in a terror attack in 2007, a blast that was seen by many as an attack on the idea of religious unity. Of the 10,000 pilgrims who visit the dargah every day, more than forty per cent are non-Muslim.The dargah itself has long been an icon of secularism,even in divided Ahmedabad.The Mamajijiya Pirdada ni dargah here is maintained by an all-Hindu committee headed by a devout Jain,Jitendra Kankuwala,who shuns both onion and garlic and believes that "one force guides us".

"When all religions lead to the same god experience, why should we be closed to experiencing god through different paths? The very idea of god is absolute. So how can there be many absolutes?'' asks Fr Frazer Mascarenhas,a Jesuit priest and principal of the prestigious St Xavier's College in Mumbai.

I think the last paragraph says it all! We can only write and discuss about respecting each and every religion and say we should love all human beings. Most of the terrorists involved in the US and other huge bombings were well educated people, so we cannot just say 'education will help'...should we just say 'we have to live with it?'

We can try our best not to promote the politicians who disturb our religious harmony.

Added this link now (24.2.10 - 9.45 pm) : Thank god, we have not stooped to Pakistani level and never will. I wanted to include this also in my post and forgot, as usual. For us, religion is not important. Every human being is created by God and no one disagrees with that thought ...why should we think that one religion is better than the other?

I remember reading a news about Narayana Hridayalaya, Bangalore, treating a Pakistani child who was a heart patient, a couple of years back. I agree that ordinary Pakistanis think just like us but they are not able to control the fanatics. Now, read this:


hitch writer said...

If only this world were an ideal place... ! wonder what these terrorists have on agenda.. and do they ever think that by killing these people they are going to find out a way ever ????


writerzblock said...

Loved your post, Sandhya. Glad you were not an anonymous comment-ator :-) and I could pay a visit to you, as this post was awesome and I am happy I got to read it. True, we as Indians, are way too passive and allow people to trample us. We show aggression in all the wrong places!! And like you said, on a one-to-one level, we are all the same, and have no problems interacting with each other, then why does religion suddenly come into play and make devils out of perfectly sane people?!

manjujoglekar said...

Sandhya, in Pakistan, religion is not just a faith.

The Taliban feel that their religion tells them to destroy all other faiths. That is why they gives people of other faiths a choice- 'convert or die'.

And that is why, with the Taliban so strong in Pakistan, there can never be 'aman ki asha'.

R. Ramesh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
R. Ramesh said...

sorry there was a mistake so i deleted the comment earlier: here it's;
very serious subject...lemme share my thoughts plz..i am repeating what prince charles said: protect faith, not the faith..if i believe in god, i should know that the same god created all. then where is the dispute..people who kill others in name of religion r killing their god spirit. they know not what they r doing. boss, i have been surrounded by people from pakistan at office..when india won the match pak colleagues told me, order tea for all..i did. one Pak friend while sipping joked: rammu, tea is good but it tastes like poision becz india won." very good joke said and taken in right spirit. Pak people r good ya.. (PLz dont brand entire people bad at least) i used to think of them as enemies once. what foolishness. it is the politics that destroys. v r socially, culturally united but politically divided..v have to win their hearts with lov ya..
lets pray for peace..i believe in global god, any one ready to join me can do so...take care sandhya

Deepa said...

Thought provoking. I believe that religion is man made whereas faith is all pervasive and transcends boundaries. In our day to day lives we manage to live together in relative harmony. Though, if you notice, the boundaries do exist where 'roti' and 'beti' is concerned. Note the honour killings that still take place in India when young people of different religions, castes or even 'gothra' marry.

Not wanting to sound pessimistic - change is happening. People are becoming more enlightened. But I think there is a long road ahead before we can say that we REALLY co-exist in harmony.

Take a look at this link to see how low we, as human beings, can sink, in the name of religion: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2010/02/23/world/AP-CB-Haiti-Earthquake.html?_r=1

radha said...

Very thought provoking. And sad that we have problems with almost all our neighbours. Religion is to instil faith and discipline in a person. And no religion is bad. It is how each one interprets it that can lead to problems. And politicians have a major role in having brought it to this stage where we are at each others throat. Like you said, till probably a few years ago, we celebrated all festivals irrespective of the religion. It was just a day all of us could mingle and enjoy.

kanagu said...

Wonderful post... :) with lot of examples from real life how religions co-exist...
Its not taliban which is strong... Pak administration is really weak...
And also i dont think every bomb blasts happening in india were done only by pak... I am sure there is involvement of some indians...
I dont think this talks will be fruitful unless both the nation really work towards nailing out those terrorist groups...

wordsndreamz said...

All the instances you quote, is true for so many of us, in so many different ways. I remember we had Muslim friends who were always there for us when we needed friends - and the fact that they are muslims were just not noticed by any of us. Same thing with Christians. We have celebrated Eid and Christmas with as much enthusiasm as any of our Hindu festivals. For most of us, religion is a way of life. If somebody else has a different way of life- we just accept it. How can meaningless killings be justified by any religion.

'We can try our best not to promote the politicians who disturb our religious harmony.' - That is all we can do - and try and educate our children about how important it is for us to learn to live together in harmony. About how every religion has the same goal and no path superior or inferior.. That's all we can do..

vimmuuu said...

Glad you put it at the end. Not all pakistanis are that way. Just like how we have idiots in our country, even they have ! I have had some real good Pakistani friends during my childhood; infact most of my friends were pakistanis !

SG said...

Very thought provoking post. Individuals in any country are the nicest people.

Having said this, I have to make the following observation. My opinion is we should never believe what we read in the newspapers. I think Indian Government is winning the Public Relations war with Pakistan. It is successfully projecting everything in Pakistan is bad and India is very restraint, nice and peace loving country, etc. etc.

Are we to believe that the Indian CIA which is named as RAW is doing nothing and simply keeping quiet? If no news comes about them in the papers, it means they are doing their jobs superbly.

Solilo said...

Sandhya, a beautiful post. Sadly, world is not an ideal place. There are people who could be cordial to you at the first or second go but as time goes you can see another side of the same person.

It hurts me when people say Army on both sides should be blamed and all civilians are innocent and loving. That's not the case. Those in the Army are poor Jawans who get killed every single day at the borders.

Till religion based countries exist, it is not easy to live peacefully.

People complain about scrutiny in USA based on religion. Well! others have felt similar and even worse in religion dominated countries. I wouldn't take any names but No! I don't want to be PC here.

To hell with Aman ki Asha.

Solilo said...

Sandhya, My outburst is due to some very hurtful recent happenings with some hypocrites.

It was not against your post. :)

manjujoglekar said...

Sandhya- I have to write the following so we do not think both the Indian and Pakistani Governments are good, but only extremist elements are bad.

The Pakistani State discriminates thus-

1.In a Pakistani court-, a non-Muslim may testify only if the victim also is non-Muslim.

2.The Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is entrusted with safeguarding religious freedom, has on its masthead a Koranic verse: "Islam is the only religion acceptable to God.

3.Non-Muslims are allowed to vote only in elections for specially designated seats. However, non-Muslims still are barred from voting for Muslim candidates who run for general seats.

Sandhya said...

hitchwriter: It is never going to be, Dhiren!

writerzblock: Welcome here!

Our history says it all...we are not aggressive people. Welcome everyone wholeheartedly to invade us and hurt us. Both ordinary Pakistanis and Indians wonder what is happening, but no one has the power to take action to curb it.

No one can stop the fanatics. They are prepared to lose their one eye to take off our two eyes. Are people in Pakistan happy? No and never will be.

Manju: What are they going to do after converting the whole world into an Islamic world. They are famous for hurting each other and the whole world will collapse, pulling them in too.


Even small children are poisoned there. Feel very sad.

Ramesh: 'one Pak friend while sipping joked: rammu, tea is good but it tastes like poision becz india won." These comments by normal people trigger hatred in the minds of Indians as well as Pakistanis. We Indians will take it as a joke but will they?

My husband and son are cricket addicts, but they admire many Pakistani players. I remember reading about how Dravid, Sachin were openly admired by Pakistanis, when they went there to play, some years back. Will there be another match between Pakistan and India over there? I doubt. The ordinary people from both countries will miss it equally.

Thank you Ramesh.

Deepa: Change is happening, Deepa. Now, love marriages have become very common. The youngsters have no time to follow the rituals of their religion, all religions are slowly getting diluted. People are getting aware of good education and this makes everyone think about the absurdity of fanaticism.

If it happens in Pakistan/muslim countries also, at least our next generation will live in peace.

Sandhya said...

Radha: We have muslim countries as our neighbours, Radha.

I am afraid unless the muslim minds change, we can never have peace, not only in our country, but in the whole world.

Kanagu: You are a dreamer, Kanagu. I don't see the Taliban mellowing down or Pakistan coming out for frank discussions to take steps for peaceful existence of both our countries.

Sigh...I know some Indian muslims are also involved in the terrorist activities along with Pakistanis, esp. the London blasts.

wordsndreamz: Yes, Smitha...we were just accepting the other religions like ours. We will follow ours and they will follow theirs. No criticisms. The muslim friend I referred to here used to distribute Ramzaan Kheer to all the neighbours (mostly brahmins) and she used to get Deepawali and Gokulashtami sweets from all our houses. I remember only one family giving the kheer to her servant maid. I used to tell her that if she can have food in the hotels, which is not clean and we don't know who prepared it, why can't she taste the kheer which is given with affection. Otherwise they were the best of friends!

Yes, we can do only that much, Smitha. But the Talibans/Pakistan won't allow us to do so, whole heartedly.

Vimmuuu: Yes, Pakistanis are like us in many ways, lookwise, thinking, everything. Our country was called a sub-continent which included Pakistan and Bangladesh. People with poison in their mind have changed everything, Vimmuuu.

SG: Hope all of us can think like you, SG. If the US plays a positive role, without any bias, then some hope is there. At present they are helping Pakistan to hoard military weapons which can be used against us. They encouraged Taliban, which is backfiring now.

Solilo: Did you see Moore's 'Farenheit 9/11'? They show how the soldiers are selected. My cousin who was in the Airforce told me that the lower level soldiers join the army just like normal people join a company. They are very simple people.

When we went to Amarnath, we saw on the way to Kashmir from Jammu, the jawans with rifles, standing like a statue, alone on the edge of the road. If they turn without being careful, they might fall down and get killed. And they get killed during crossfires also. It is not an easy life for them.

Religion is going to be here for a very long time. We can just hope it gets diluted and followed less seriously.

Yes, we feel scared at the negative developments which are not going to help in the long run, Solilo. Until it hurts us directly, we will be lethargic. Hope it should not be too late.

Manju: I did not know this till now. Actually, my muslim friend used to say that most of her relatives who opted for Pakistan instead of India during the partition, are not happy about their decision at all. They are trying to shift to India through marriages nowadays.

The points you have written show that non-muslims can never have a normal life over there. This is new to me. After reading the 3 points, I wonder how non-muslims are still surviving there.

Thank you, Manju.

Chandrika Shubham said...

I liked Tirupati incidence. Common people want to live peacefully and together with love but dirty politics divide them.

BK Chowla, said...

So much has been discussed and said about this subject.
The terror factory that has been set up by Pak is now creating trouble for them only.
We need to protect ourselves as terror seeems to be the state sponsored programme of Pakistan

Sandhya said...

Chandrika: You are so right, Chandrika. Welcome here!

BK Chowla: Yes, Chowlaji, Pakistan is facing, what they did to us.

Swaram said...

Very well written Sandhya. Esp. the day to day relationships we share with so many of our friends and neighbours who follow other religions. All of us cn relate to it. When we hv no probs staying together happily and peacefully, what probs do these terrorists hv :(
They just find joy in crime probably :(

R. Ramesh said...

nanri nanri nanri

Bikram said...

YEah a good article , touching a lot of issues.. IT is not a ideal world..

But i must say Not all muslims are the same .. its just one particulr set of people who are making it bad for everyone...

hopefully god willing GOOD SENSE will prevail on them SOMETIME ..

Indian Home Maker said...

Sandhya, I have had similar experiences... I also visited the dargah in Ajmer on a friends' advise once, and I noticed that people from all religions visit it.

Our Christian friends have celebrated both Diwali and Holi with us and we have celebrated Christmas and even painted Easter eggs with them.

During this Surajkund Crafts Mela the man dressed as Shiva (even the body was painted blue)- had KHAN as surname, written clearly on his I-card, and my sister in law joked about MNIK :) I will try to get this photograph from her, and post it on my blog.

And then there are so many mixed marriages that I know of, where the couple have changed neither their names nor their religions, both respect each other's religions and are living happily.

I feel it's not religion but fanaticism and fundamentalism - mixed with politics that creates trouble.

Fundamentalists and fanatics have no religion except hate, whether they kill fellow citizens in India, or they call themselves Taliban (or any other name) in Pakistan, they can only hate and they even die for hate :(

Indian Home Maker said...

One big difference between a Democracy and a country ruled by religion is that a Democracy treats all it's citizens as equal and all have the right to justice, while a state that runs by religion might treat some of it's own citizens as outsiders :(

We should learn from Pakistan's mistakes, we can't follow their bad example and be in a mess like they are - their policies have not made them a better run nation.

Sandhya said...

Swaram: Yes, they enjoy hurting others, Swaram. All these acts of them are backfiring now.

Bikram: Welcome! We can just hope so, Bikram.

Haddock said...

well said.

Sandhya said...

IHM: I wanted to visit Ajmer dargah, when we went there. But the taxi driver said that some tension was there and it would be better if we, esp. Hindu ladies did not go there...this was around 4 years back. I have heard a lot about that and wanted to just have a look, was a bit upset because I was not able to do so.

We will wait to have a look at the photograph. So many good things are happening and we seldom come across them.

You are so right, IHM! A very minimal percentage of people spoil the whole country's attitude.

The Quran has never asked them to hate other religions. My nephew has got many Muslim friends and he has got a big bound book of Quran. He says, the writings are just like our Geetha! No negative language at all. It is not written anywhere that women are inferior or they should be treated as one. Nowhere 'Jihadi' word is found!

Did you read Manju's comment, the second one, where she has written it all. Yes, we have to learn from the mistakes of Pakistan, IHM.

Haddock: Thank you.

destinationinfinity said...

I find that interesting as well - people of one religion praying in the temples of other religions (frankly i thought it was an action of 'grass being green on the other side;!). But anyways, all of us have a certain admiration towards people following other religions, and it comes mainly due to their different practices, I guess. But I do believe that all religions has something good to preach, and that's why they have become so big. We could do an impartial analysis of the different philosophies... it could help in this war torn world!

Destination Infinity

kavita said...

Great post Sandhya !! No matter what others say or believe ..i think ours country is one of the best examples of unity in diversity.
Thank you Sandhya for dropping by,it felt very good .Family is keeping me very very busy these days...very soon my daughter's exams are going to be over...we will see more of each other.Very sweet of you to remember me...you are one of my most treasured friend.

Sandhya said...

Destination Infinity: Nice to see you here, Destination Infinity.

Yes, I admire Christians in some ways...very rarely the skip attending church on Sundays, when we think of getting up late in the morning!

All religions preach to be truthful to oneself. No religion asks its followers to abuse other religions.

Kavita: Yes, Kavita, with so many different types of problems, we celebrate our festivals, in many places together too, peacefully. In very rare places, disturbance is there. Media hypes some!

Family always comes first Kavita. Last time you said that you were ill for sometime. Because I didn't see you anywhere, just thought of enquiring. You too are one of my best friends here, Kavita, thank you. I miss you when I don't see you in words, often!

jyothi said...

my thread was fragile.so I have decide to make it with ordinary thread.
If i m taking a ordinary thread, how can i make a thread for magalsutra.and how many rings i have to make it and how much length.

Sandhya said...

Jyothi: I am not able to follow what you have asked here. Mangalsutra thread is available in South Indian temples, normally, in New Delhi also. I visited your blog and noticed that you are in New Delhi.

Ordinary thread is very thin, Jyothi. Try at the temples or ask the purohit there, he might help. If you don't get it, tell me, we can do something.

indianhomemaker said...

@Jyothi - Jyothi you sent me an email and asked me the same question.I hope you find a solution soon. All the best.

indianhomemaker said...

@Jyothi - Jyothi you sent me an email and asked me the same question.I hope you find a solution soon. All the best.

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