Sunday, 20 April 2014

On 'my' Hinduism

I have great faith in Hinduism. As much faith as a devout agnostic can have.

How could I not?

My family has moved several cities and a lot more houses over the years, and everywhere we lived, my parents' ethnicity and faith were always a very small minority. In Bombay, in my school, I was one of small handful of Anglo Indians, one of a small handful of Protestants, and the only one who was both. Everywhere we lived, as is only natural in a country where the majority profess some form of Hinduism, we were surrounded by Hindus.

But the Hinduism I grew up surrounded by, that I am still surrounded by, was warm, inclusive, embracing. It is a Hinduism that sends sweets over at Diwali, and asks us over to celebrate. It is a Hinduism that shared its firecrackers with me because I didn't have any, that yelled at my door for me to come join in the Holi fun (and didn't mind when I declined, because I didn't like the coloured powders, and that made me one of the team captains when I joined in the water pistols-and-pichkaris war games we played in the evenings). That invited us over to celebrate marriages and birthdays and holds us close when we offer hugs at bereavements. That calls or comes over for Christmas, that joins in our parties, that learnt 'western' dance steps at those parties. That checks with us what is appropriate to wear to our marriages and christenings and graciously welcomes us in to their special events even when we, clueless, wear colours that we later discover aren't quite proper. A Hinduism that, even when it practises vegetarianism, still comes over to eat at our home and serves themselves veggies from the platter next to the meat. That didn't and doesn't give a damn what we cooked in our kitchens, really, except to exchange recipes. That made 'national integration' jokes about me when, in succession, I dated a Muslim, a Parsi, a Hindu, and much later, a Christian (who wasn't Protestant, but then I wasn't either by then).

(I'll add here, though this is not the point I'm making—or maybe it is—that this inclusiveness was and is as just as prevalent with Muslim, Parsi, Jain and Buddhist pals.)

It was and is a religion secure in its beliefs, happy to acknowledge and respect that others' paths differ in few or many ways.

It was and is a very different Hinduism from the variety espoused by Mr Modi and his cohorts. This binary view of the world. This suspicion, this distrust, this scorn for difference.

It's not 'my' Hinduism.

It's not a Hinduism I have faith in at all.

1 comment:

?! said...

Mr Modi's idea of shiny progress isn't inclusive either. His brand of truth invests in aggressive sound bytes and derogates difference of opinion. Unfortunately,some clever branding, coupled with asinine opponents, has enabled him to appeal to the basest xenophobia of the middle class. He has succeeded in moving his bigotry from the embarrassing khaki knickers to Fabindia,thereby giving it the veneer of a political stance. I I remain convinced he lacks the vision and the capability to pull off a Thatcher, so perhaps we should be grateful for that.