Religious fanatics?

Abdul, who owned a small readymade garments shop in a metropolitan city in India, lived with his wife and two sons in a small cottage on the same street as my friend. The incident described below was narrated to me by this friend.

Abdul’s was the only Muslim family on that street, while there were two Christian families and seven Hindu families. All the residents, including Abdul and his family, enjoyed cordial relations with one another, but most of the others were a bit uncomfortable about the fact that Abdul had a long beard and wore a skull cap, and sacrificed a goat in his compound every Bakri Id.

Ram, an officer in a nationalised bank, lived with his wife, daughter and mother two cottages away. While he had purchased his cottage 11 years earlier like all the others, Ram and his family had not lived there for 9 years since Ram had been posted in other cities. If Abdul was visibly Muslim, Ram and his family were visibly Hindu! They always wore huge ‘caste marks’ on their foreheads, visited temples very regularly and were very vocal, almost fanatical the others felt, about their religion. This caused some discomfort among the others in the neighbourhood.

As mentioned earlier, all the residents in the neighbourhood enjoyed cordial relations with one another. Ram’s elderly mother, as the oldest resident, was fondly addressed as Mausi (Aunty) by all the adults and as Daadi (Grandmother) by all the children.

One morning, when they happened to meet as they were both leaving home for work, Abdul asked Ram why Mausi had not been seen for the last few days. Ram replied that she was slightly unwell, nothing to worry about.

A week later, Abdul overheard Ram’s daughter telling another girl that Daadi was extremely upset about the goat sacrifice at Abdul’s house during Bakri Id. She had stayed at home from the day the goat had been brought to Abdul’s house and had started coming out only a couple of days after Bakri Id. In fact, she had shut the windows of her room since she could not bear the sound of the goat bleating.

Abdul was shocked! He rushed to Ram’s house and asked Mausi why she had not spoken to him about the matter. Mausi replied that, while the goat sacrifice upset her terribly, she thought it would not be right for her to comment on Abdul’s religious practices, especially since he was doing it in his own compound.

Abdul immediately replied, “Mausi, you are like my mother. I cannot see you upset. From now on, I will conduct the goat sacrifice during Bakri Id in some other place.”

A staunch Muslim and a staunch Hindu had shown that persons who are fiercely proud of their religion are not necessarily religious fanatics! They had shown respect for each other’s religious beliefs without compromising their own religious beliefs. They had resolved in no time a matter that could have caused a communal riot elsewhere!

Can’t we resolve our differences in a non-confrontational manner like Abdul and Mausi did? Of course, we can!

If we want to, it’s not so difficult to “Live and let live!”

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17 thoughts on “Religious fanatics?

  1. This was a story which resonated with me at so many levels. I have been living in the house where i am for the past 27 yrs now and the entire street is filled with Hindus, Christians and one single Muslim family. Now, this family makes it a point to include all of us for their festivals as well as participate actively in all our festivals as well. I could so relate to this story.

    • Many such people exist in our society. Unfortunately, they’re not spoken about.

      While it’s definitely easy to live and let live, it’s really unfortunate that communal clashes occur for the flimsiest of reasons.

  2. Very nice story! Hope people respect each others’ religion like this!

    A muslim family lived just opposite to our house. All the children were in good schools and studying well and often used to come to our house and eat whatever I prepared for my children. I remember one day I was making appam and aval pori for the evening festival of lamps, Kaarthigai deepam. We place all these snacks with other things in front of the god, light diyas and then eat. This girl just came in and started eating appam from the vessel I had kept in the kitchen. My sons started laughing because they knew that it should not be eaten before placing in front of the god. But the girl did not know that. I just signed the sons to keep quiet and gave appams to them too. Placed only the aval in front of the god that day!

    The girl is a paediatrician now! Still very good friends!

    • You handled the situation with maturity because your devotion was (and is!) in your heart, not in the appams!

      This incident also illustrates that the sky will not fall on our heads if there’s a slight deviation in rituals.

  3. Love the story. From generations, our family has been very “secular”, celebrating festivals and sharing life with our diverse neighbors. During festivals, my Grandmother would invite all the teachers from our school (where my Mom was also a teacher) to our house for lunch especially – they were Christians.And for Christmas, our home would be filled with cakes. Muslim festivals were no less. As a result, we always seemed to be celebrating something.

    Also, we had a very large house and each time there was a “function”, my Grandma insisted that our neighbors celebrated it at our place – the kitchen would be humming with activity all the time. I know my Grandfather financed quite a few educations, especially for the Muslim children whose parents were unable to afford it. I remember there was a family that was given a ground floor flat to live in, without rent. One of my fondest childhood memory is – sitting with a big group of other children in our living room and reciting slokas in the evening after play time. Yes, there were Christians, Muslims and Parsis. None of the parents minded.

    If anyone was ill, they’d always come running to my Grandma – I remember her sitting up nights looking after a sick neighbor – or delivering someone’s baby at home.

    Respect is a beautiful thing.

    • A friend recently wondered why some people were ultra-religious, superstitious and intolerant towards any belief/attitude other than their own; why couldn’t they be tolerant and open-minded like us?

      I replied that we are tolerant and open-minded not because we are intellectually superior or are intrinsically ‘better human beings’, but because we were lucky to have grown up in multi-religious, multi-cultural neighbourhoods and studied in schools where we had teachers and schoolmates of various religious, linguistic, economic backgrounds. The people who are intolerant probably did not have such exposure.

  4. Disrespect is kindled by political (power) motives. They instill the idea that “others” do not respect and hence they themselves must not respect.

      • bang on .. pray tell me why people with ‘buddhi’ fall for this gimmick ? I know why, it is just that they do not possess buddhi which we before thought they had..

        and PI – by the way, loved the story… loved it to the core..

      • What I love most about this incident is the fact that neither person was highly qualified. But they were the embodiment of secularism, even though they probably did not know the meaning of the word ‘secularism’.
        About people with ‘buddhi’ not really possessing ‘buddhi’: I call it the difference between ‘educated’ and ‘qualified’.

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