So, what’s your name?”, a seemingly innocent question and I shift a trifle disturbed. “Nivedita”, the slight quip isn’t enough. The lady is a born prodder. “As the disciple of Swami Vivekananda?” she lowers the bait. This is one fish that knows its waters well. “Hmmm…” is my answer. “Your parents are followers of the Swami?” she continues. The fish is now swimming in dangerous waters. “No, my mother had a great liking for Sister Nivedita”, I plaster my best smile. The persistent woman continues – “Is that all? Just Nivedita?”
Right, this is time for the fish to beat a hasty retreat. “The name is Louis”, this time over, I grind my teeth and bite out the words. “Oh!” is all she says. Her judgment is now delivered with her queer coolness, with which she waves a quick good bye!
What is in a name? If you think nothing, then you are in a utopia called “Achcha Bharat”! If you are sure your name has that catch, welcome to “Swachcha Bharat”. People don’t query about name for nothing. It is a ploy to get to know your religion. The feeling of being ‘alien’ to one’s own country makes one feel like getting into the next space ship out for Mars. Trust me, being judged for one’s religious identity is like standing on a scale where you are always found ‘obese’.
Social media and its bag of lies always interest me. Mark Zuckerberg would have never thought his Facebook would be used to ‘propagate’ religion. The post that ends with “Share this 50 times for true blessings” and “The person who didn’t share this vomited blood and is now critically ill” are reasons enough to make it viral. And oh, add to it the photo-shopped pictures that show ‘God’s face in the clouds’, ‘religious symbol on the moon’, ‘crying statue’, ‘God drinking milk’ types. The only picture of a symbol that I have seen on the moon is the ayah who fries vada-s, as shown to me by my grandmother!
To the common social media addict who is brainwashed with his religious radicalism, Christians are the ‘left over’ British who at the drop of a hat can fly out to England. A Muslim is one who belongs to Pakistan and is holding a passport to Karachi. A Hindu is the real ‘son of the soil’. Rest all, please leave the country, okay?
Those were the days when we celebrated all religious festivals with fervour. Diwali – we lit lamps, burst crackers, wore new dresses and exchanged sweets. Christmas – new dress, cakes and crackers. Eid – new dress, biryani and phirni. Festivals these days are confined to new dress and TV. So long as the lady of the house gets her new saree, any festival is fine with her. So long as the children get their sweets, any day is festive for them. It makes me mad when I don’t get my share of ‘Ramadan gruel’ during the holy month. I call the reluctant neighbour on Diwali day, asking, “Hehe…so, are the sweets ready? Shall I send my son over to collect, in case your son is busy?” Argh, but come Christmas and I hate it when someone calls up and asks, “Is the cake ready?”
Religion was meant to ‘discipline’ the savages. Unfortunately, it is now the savages who ‘discipline’ religion. Religious texts are being doctored for the convenience of the preachers and priests. Prophets and Saviours would now be wondering up above, “Holy, when did I say that?” Saints of all order would be turning in their graves if they hear what they had ‘purportedly told’! The priest who started with a bicycle ten years ago now owns a “Church”! Never have I heard more ‘doomsday’ conspiracies than on railway platforms. The pamphlet showing Hell and its fury was enough to give me cramps and fever eons ago. Someone wisely said, “Religion is like underwear, don’t wave it in my face”. This is one lesson we all must learn, if we are to keep the very fibre of religious tolerance alive in this country. Love your religion, fine with me. Love your agents, okay with me. Don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha of the average Indian’s ‘tolerance’ by your repeated posts on “God will gouge your eyes out”. He is no butcher. Thanks!