September 28, 2015

In the Name of the Lord

I remember as a kid, I once flicked a beautiful sharpener from a friend's house. On discovering my thievery, my mother made me throw away the sharpener and promise to God I would never repeat that act. Fear of the lord or my mother somehow kept me away from repeating my act ever.

Many 'God Promises' and 'Thank Gods' later, I realized that humankind has often resorted to using the name of this being(s) called 'God' in many ways. While some have been honourable and moving, many others have done nothing but wreck havoc in life. 

The concept of God is very vague; agnostics believe nothing can ever be found about it, atheists argue it to be a myth and every one else believes in one manifestation of this power or the other. While what I think is irrelevant in this context, what has been irksome to me is how in the name of this lord, people have even got away with murder!

Religion as a concept is a part of your belief system. No one can question it as long as it remains within you, as a faith. Do ghosts exist? Is there life in outer space? What happens after death? These are other questions as difficult to answer right now as the existence of God. While the future may hold revelations, current data only allows us to practice our faith in the privacy of our selves, without thrusting it on another without irrefutable facts.

But when the elephant lord has his birthday celebrations for over a week, I wonder why I need to suffer silently in traffic as a bunch of random people dance, as if possessed, to 'Selfie le le re' in a procession.

(Devotees carry idols of Lord Ganesha, the Hindu deity of prosperity, for immersion in the Arabian Sea in Mumbai. Photo: Reuters)

Crazy drum beats of decibel levels that would put the best of night clubs to shame, huge pandals that encroach on pedestrian paths and roads, masses of painted embellished idols dumped callously into the sea, and the entire time, my life and its movements at the mercy of these merry makers!

Mind you, I love celebrations and I love the Indian culture of breaking into song and dance at every instance. But at what cost? Would my belief of a UFO sighting anniversary (again a concept I could compare to religion as it can neither be proved nor disproved) allow me to take a crowd to the streets with dhols and dhamakas? Would I get a police permit to put up stalls, a huge space ship and disrupt traffic in the process? I am pretty sure I will be considered a loon.

How is it that when a mob of people believe in a single concept, the nation nods in agreement to any atrocity? And how is it that other minor beliefs get laughed at? Isn't this the same reason we all buried the Godhra incident behind us, although not satisfactorily solved? Isn't this religious obsession the root for why we do not value another's convenience and routine and pause not when we disrupt it?

Celebrate all you will, but do so in a way that another's life does not get affected. It is wonderful that people make sweets for one another, learn to dance in abandon, forget past differences and embrace in a 'Ganpati bappa moriya'. But please don't you dare block the road I travel by after long hours of work and with the prospect of cooking dinner looming ahead.

As my boyfriend said, any alien looking at Earth now will find us wacky, praying to a half-human half-elephant, randomly dancing in the roads and throwing colour. It isn't even Holi!

But please do this in a way that you respect my paganism, my neighbours agnosticism, my cousin's atheism. Else, the God you pray to, is not a tolerant one! 

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Maira Gall