Food for thought

The following thought-provoking quotations are from one person. Please try to identify the person without taking the help of Google or any other search engine. Who is (s)he? Please post your answer as a Comment on this post. I will start approving all Comments 24 hours from now.

• Are you unselfish? That is the question. If you are, you will be perfect without reading a single religious book, without going into a single church or temple.

• Astrology and all these mystical things are generally signs of a weak mind; therefore as soon as they are becoming prominent in our minds, we should see a physician, take good food, and rest.

• If a person who lives in God becomes miserable, what is the use of living in God? What is the use of such a God? Throw such a God overboard into the Pacific Ocean. We do not want such a God!

• Knowledge can only be got in one way, the way of experience; there is no other way to know.

• Please everyone without becoming a hypocrite or a coward.

• So long as millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every person a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them.

• Soft-brained people, weak-minded, chicken-hearted, cannot find the truth. One has to be free, and as broad as the sky.

• The great secret of true success, of true happiness, is this: the man or woman who asks for no return, the perfectly unselfish person, is the most successful.

• There cannot be friendship without equality.

• To believe blindly is to degenerate the human soul. Be an atheist if you want, but do not believe in anything unquestioningly.

• Watch people do their most common actions; these are indeed the things that will tell you the real character of a great person.

• Why are people so afraid? The answer is that they have made themselves helpless and dependent on others. We are so lazy, we do not want to do anything ourselves. We want a Personal God, a Savior or a Prophet to do everything for us.

Live and let live!

We have seen a great amount of religious intolerance in the last few weeks in India. In the midst of all this insanity, I thought it would be a good idea to share once again an episode that I had shared earlier on January 04, 2014 as ‘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!”

Inter-religion marriage still taboo among Indians?

“So, what will be Ramesh’s new name? John? Tom? William? Ha ha ha!” The elderly gentleman continued to laugh as he walked out of my friend Suresh’s office.

The elderly gentleman, Suresh’s distant relative, was an industrialist who was also involved in a lot of social work. Most people, including I, respected him immensely. I was shocked and pained by his words and his tone because he was referring to Suresh’s cousin Ramesh.

Ramesh’s marriage, which had been arranged by his parents about 8 years back, ran into trouble within a few months. Three years later, after many failed attempts at reconciliation, Ramesh and his wife decided to go in for a divorce. The bitter divorce proceedings were completed almost two years later.

About a week before the incident in Suresh’s office, Ramesh’s parents had announced to their close relatives that Ramesh’s marriage with his colleague Sheila would take place a month later. When somebody pointed out that Sheila was a Christian and asked them whether they approved of the marriage, Ramesh’s parents had replied that they had found Sheila to be a wonderful person and they were optimistic that Ramesh would be happy being married to her. They admitted that they would have been happier had Sheila been a Hindu, and even happier had she belonged to their own community, but their uppermost concern was Ramesh’s happiness.

Suresh told me that, while he and some others among Ramesh’s relatives had been very supportive and genuinely wished that Ramesh would have a happy married life with Sheila, many of the relatives were unhappy that Ramesh was marrying outside their religion. A few among these, like the elderly gentleman, had been making all kinds of snide remarks. Suresh was extremely upset with such people because their comments might have a negative impact on Ramesh’s parents’ attitude to Sheila.

I know quite a few people who have had inter-religious marriages. In many cases, these marriages have faced strong and bitter opposition from one or both sets of parents and the families. In some cases, the parents are inclined to enthusiastically or reluctantly accept their son’s/daughter’s decision, but pressure from relatives, friends and ‘well-wishers’ make them oppose the marriage.

In 20 % of the cases that I know of, one set of parents had given their enthusiastic approval on the conditions that their prospective son/daughter-in-law convert to their religion before the marriage, that the marriage be conducted according to their religion only and in their place of worship, that the prospective son/daughter-in-law should follow their religious practices after marriage, and that the children from the marriage be brought up in their religion only. If these conditions had not been agreed to, they would have completely opposed the marriage, and would have even disowned their daughter/son. Incidentally, this religion did not originate in India.

In 30 % of the cases that I know of, one set of parents had given their approval (some enthusiastically, some reluctantly), but the other set of parents had strongly and bitterly opposed the marriage, and immense pressure had been put on the son/daughter to back out of the marriage plans. In some of these cases, one set of parents had completely cut off ties with their son/daughter and reluctantly reconciled only after a few years.

In 20 % of the cases that I know of, as in the case of Ramesh’s second marriage, the parents had given their reluctant approval because certain circumstance led them into a sense of resignation. The heartening thing in such cases known to me is the first initiative to approve and accept the intended marriage came from a not very highly educated mother/aunt/female relative whose explanation was, “To parents, their son’s/daughter’s happiness is most important.”

In the remaining 30 % cases, the parents had given their approval and acceptance quite readily (some reluctantly, some enthusiastically), but I think the approval and acceptance came more readily than expected because the prospective son/daughter-in-law was a foreigner, and the Indian daughter/son would be living abroad (Europe/USA) after marriage.

In all the cases known to me, to the best of my knowledge, the wife and husband themselves have not really been affected by the fact that theirs is an inter-religious marriage.

I would say that, in general, inter-religion marriage is still taboo among Indians. However, let me end this post with 2 questions that each one of us must ask himself / herself:

1. How would I react if my daughter/son/sibling wanted to marry a person belonging to another religion?

2. How would I react if a relative wanted to marry a person belonging to another religion?

This post is in response to Indispire Edition 25.

Every day is Mother’s Day!

A few months after an industrialist’s death, his wife sent a letter to the head of their religious sect, stating that she wished to make a substantial donation in her husband’s memory, and requested the religious head to identify the cause to which she could make the donation.

A couple of weeks later, her son received a letter from the religious head, identifying the cause to which the donation could be made.

Extremely upset that the religious head had refrained from writing to their mother because she was a widow and hence considered ‘inauspicious’, the industrialist’s son and daughter told their mother, “Mom, if our religious sect will not give due respect to you, we strongly suggest that we should not make any donation; instead we suggest that you identify another organisation to donate to and to decide the amount to be donated!” The mother’s silence was her consent.

Such children don’t need to celebrate Mother’s Day because, for them, every day is Mother’s Day!

This post, based on a true incident, is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. (Prompt: Mother’s Day special! Your post must contain the word Mom and you have just 5 sentences to complete your story.)

Selective Discrimination

On International Women’s Day, there were many discussions about women who were/are a source of inspiration to other women. On the sidelines of one such discussion, a family friend described how her mother-in-law, who had passed away over 3 decades back, was very particular about caste segregation. For example, a certain domestic help, a young woman, was not allowed entry into the kitchen or the ‘Pooja Room’ (Prayer Room) in their house because she belonged to a lower caste. If, by chance, the same domestic help happened to touch any item of clothing on the clothes-line, that item of clothing would have to be washed again.

Strangely, however, whenever a large quantity of green chillies had to be chopped, the work was assigned to the same domestic help! The mother-in-law explained to her daughters-in-law that any person who chopped so many green chillies would have a severe burning sensation on the fingers. Hence, she assigned that task to the domestic help!

Our friend had never mustered the courage (understandable since this happened over 50 years back) to ask her super-orthodox mother-in-law why the domestic help’s touch made an item of clothing ‘impure’, and why the same domestic help’s touch did not make the chillies ‘impure’!!

My tongue-in-cheek response to my friend was that she should be thankful for the fact that her mother-in-law did not want her daughters-in-law to suffer by chopping large quantities of green chillies! Not many mothers-in-law would have been so considerate 50 years back!!

All around us, we see people who practise discrimination very religiously (pun intended) temporarily suspending their beliefs when it suits them.

In many religious institutions, widows are not permitted in the presence of the pontiff because it is considered inauspicious. Even wealthy widows are not exempted from this discrimination. However, many of these pontiffs are extremely enthusiastic about granting audiences to politically powerful widows! Obviously, political power carries more weight than ‘divine’ power! Unfortunately, these politically powerful widows apparently do not even try to put a complete end to the discrimination from which they are exempted.

On a private level, people impose discriminatory restrictions on their daughters-in-law, but do not impose the same restrictions on their daughters.

Why do a person’s beliefs/practices change depending on who is affected by these beliefs?

When a belief/practice can be suspended for a few persons, can’t that belief/practice be suspended, nay abolished, for all persons?

Isn’t it ridiculous to say that all other cars must stop when the traffic signal shows RED, but BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars need not stop?

Selective discrimination is even more ridiculous. It’s like saying that the maximum speed for all other cars is 10 kilometers/hour, but there is no speed restriction whatsoever for BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars!