*****A couple of years ago*****
“What’s this?” dad asked, pointing towards a CD lying in my bag.
“Oh that’s some CD nani gave me. She wanted me to learn some of these keertans.” I replied.
“So learn then, what’s the harm? In fact, I’ll give you a book on Sikhism, read it, you should know about your religion.” dad replied.
“All of you will never stop trying, will you? You know I can’t stand that word religion. It’s the worst man-made creation. I mean, what’s the point in creating so many religions when they all speak the same thing? All religion does is to create fanatics who go around killing people in the name of the very god they pray to every morning. Please dad, let’s just call it off here, I really don’t want to have this conversation early in the morning and spoil my mood.” I replied angrily.
“You call them fanatics, aren’t you being one right now?” dad replied back calmly.
I haven’t forgotten this conversation till date. Dad’s last statement had hit me real hard. I had no answer to what he said. I just changed the topic without responding, but somewhere deep down within I knew that what he was saying was true.
How this hatred for religion started is a mystery to me – one that I hope to solve through this post today.
The above incident may give you a feeling that my folks are pretty religious, but the truth is they are not. Probably, that’s the reason why they always wanted me to be close to my religion. When I was a little kid, the trips to the Gurudwara were pretty frequent. But, for me it was nothing more than just a picnic, where I would get nice langar and kada Prasad to eat. My grandparents tried pretty hard to teach me the first few stanzas of the Gurugranth Sahib. They did succeed, but I never really understood any of it or perhaps, never really tried understanding any of it.
Because of my frequent surgeries I had to keep cutting my hair and at the age of six my parents decided to leave my hair permanently short. My uncle however, was never in favor of me keeping my hair short and kept pestering me to grow them back every time I paid him a visit. I used to ignore it at first, but, after a while that started irritating me. I never said anything to him, but, somewhere within me, I always wanted to ask him that by growing my hair and tying a turban, would the guy within me be any different? I know it for a fact that he would never have an answer to my question. But, I guess, sub-consciously after that I started detesting everybody who made religion such a big deal in their lives. Stories of the 84 riots and the partition only strengthened my hatred towards religion as a concept.
I was brought up in a multi-lingual and a multi-cultural society, studied in a school run by the Catholic church and completed my engineering from a college meant for the Muslim minority. Thanks to this, I was pretty well exposed to the huge diversity of our country. I loved celebrating festivals, be it Eid, Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi, Gurpurab, Lori or Divali, but, ask me to sit in a prayer session and I just wouldn’t. Many of my friends, who are aware of my views on religion, call me a hypocrite and to be honest, I won’t disagree with them. I have always been fascinated with the diversity of our country, but, have always stayed away from the essence of that very diversity.
In another lecture I was giving one of my friends on this subject, I said, “Remove customs and rituals from all religions and they are all one and the same thing. They all teach you how to live your life in the right way, that’s it! As for me, the stuff my parents have taught me since childhood is more than enough for me to judge what’s good and what’s not and if there is anything they haven’t taught me, I am sure life will, in the days to come. God sent us on this planet as a human and our only religion is humanity. Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism etc. are just names we have given to this religion in order to prove one’s supremacy over the other. “
I got a quick reply to this saying, “what the hell do you know about all these religions to say that?” Although I managed to stick to my ground, hearts in hearts I knew that my entire belief was based on assumptions.
My transition started three months ago. I was going through one of my weirdest phases in life. Nothing seemed to be going right. I decided to take a break and go visit my grandparents. When I was there, my grandmother took me to a Gurudwara and for the first time since I can remember, I had no problems with going there. When I looked around, I saw people of all age groups extending a hand in serving the devotees who came there, some helping out in washing the plates and utensils, some in organizing the shoes and others just helping out in whatever way they could. The best part was, they all did this with a smile and without even once bothering whom they were doing this for, and they just did it for the love of it. The only thing that crossed my head was, “there’s got to be something in their belief that makes them do all this so selflessly.”
The second phase of transition came last week when I was in Amritsar to visit the golden temple. While I was leaving, I saw a sight I am going to remember for a long time to come – A sardar, a muslim and a foreigner standing near the sarovar, praying in their own styles. The sight of a sardar standing there with his hands folded, a muslim offering namaz and the foreigner just closing her eyes and asking god for whatever she wished for, made me realize that this world is beautiful only because of this diversity. After all, the rainbow would never have been so beautiful had it had just one color. Thank god this world isn’t made of just one religion called humanity.
*****5 minutes ago*****
As I was giving this post my final touch dad walked in and asked me what I was writing about. I replied saying it’s a post titled ‘My tryst with faith’. I said, “Don’t look so shocked. By the way, once I am done, I need you to give it a proof reading.” His reply came in the form of another lecture on faith and I listened to that patiently for a change. But at the end of it, he said, “You should learn some keertans. In fact, I’ll give you a book on Sikhism, read it, you should know about your religion.” I just burst out laughing.
‘Life comes full circle’ – I had just heard this saying, but today, I witnessed it. I guess there couldn’t be a better way for me to sum up my tryst with faith.
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