“Thappa kahan laga hai bhai?”
Remember this hilarious scene from Aamir Khan starrer PK? He was aptly questioning how the religion of a new born child is determined. This scene tickled my funny bone a lot as I have an angst about children being labeled into a religion from the day they are born.
I remember as a child I would question our religious practices a lot and was often rebuked for them. Born to a Hindu family, I was taken to temples and priests, much against my will. I would point out the temple compound is dirty due to water in several places. The loud noises that are omnipresent in temples in guise of “aradhana” and the fat bellied priests who frowned and bullied people in giving “dakshina”., didnt help matters either. And all the adults around me would shake their head and admonish me in various degrees.
I have always maintained that religion is a matter of personal faith. The human interpretations of the religious teachings is at the heart of all warfare over religion.
Let me regale you with some interesting anecdotes on my tryst with religion. These aptly explain my frustrations with the adults as well as religion as practiced around me.
Mata ka bulawa
The year was 1987 when some of my cousins came down to go for mata ke darshan to Vaishno Devi. Not being religious, I would always skip out of this trip while my parents and younger sibling would accompany them. This time around I was cajoled into it and I gave into my curiosity. The trip on horseback was exhausting, not to mention fearsome as the horse would stray near the edge of the road all the time. Plus it rained all night, making us wet and cold and uber miserable.
Finally reached the Bhawan and crawled through a tiny hole in the mountain side into a stream of ice cold water. Walked on and came to a corner where a burly priest snatched the offerings out of our hands and then pushed us into the other direction. I walked on till I realized we were out of the cave.
“Where is the Devi?” I asked.
“Oh she was inside where the priest was standing.”
“But I didn’t get to see anything and that jerk just pushed me.”
“Now now, we mustn’t say things like this in a temple”
My parents then showed me the poster gracing the shops around to tell me what was inside the cave. My reply was why the hell couldn’t I just see the poster. What was the need to climb all the way up here if this is what it boils down to?
Needless to say I was hushed and told I should consider myself lucky that I came here for a darshan. Only people who get Mata Ka bulawa come here!
The Holy Guide
In 2013, on our way to Udaipur, my father wanted to visit Nathdwara temples. I objected as I wasn’t keen to take the detour for a temple. But he persisted as it was a childhood memory for him. As soon as we parked the car, a fat pandit came hurrying by and managed to assure my father of impeccable darshan. He quoted a fee and my father agreed. I protested that this was unnecessary but my mom quickly frowned at me to keep shut.
The Pandit hurried on in the teeming crowds and we paced to keep up with him. At the gate, we were asked to relieve ourselves of all our belongings like phone, camera, purse, etc. The locker room was a huge joke and I refused to part with my DSLR. So I stayed put at the gate while my parents went inside with him.
I watched the way the guards bullied people into submission while cleaning out some tobacco and proceeding to fill their mouths with it. When I asked them why were they dirtying the temple compound, they replied that they weren’t inside the temple! One big fat gentlemen sailed in, loudly talking on his phone while a huge wad of something was lodged inside his cheek. Appalled I turned to the guards who laughed at my horror and informed me that’s a temple priest.
My parents were inside for two hours and I was getting worried. When they finally came back, they were sweaty, tired and angry. The Pandit had taken his money and ditched them at a point in the temple. He told them now they can find their way once the main doors open for a darshan and he has to go on to find his next customer. OUCH!!
I gave my dad a “I told you so” look which was again shushed up by my mom. Dad ranted all the way to the car about how he will never come back here again.
The Milky Way
A couple of years back I was home and my dad was going to the temple, something he did daily. In his basket he had put in some flowers and then proceeded to add a 250 ml tetrapack of Amul Milk. Intrigued, I asked if this is for the beggars outside the temple. And he said no, this is for the Shiva-ling. I was gobsmacked and got into an argument with him over wasting milk when people are starving. In extremely curt tones I was told to stay out of his religious faith and mind my own business. And this is the man who applauded enthusiastically when this was questioned in the movie PK?????
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Growing up, I fell in love with the Church as I studied in a Convent school and loved the peace and cleanliness there. Next came the Gurudwara which again is amazingly clean and serene. I love how people of all ages and sects get down on their knees to perform “sewa” without any ego. Dargahs too find a lot of favor from me as a religious place. There is no one haranguing people to “pay-up” or else evil shall befall you – a common refrain at almost every Hindu religious place. Why is it that the Hindu gods need financial bribes to protect their devotees?
Nobody has an answer for me. The usual shake of head is accompanied by them moaning at my being so irreligious. I am surprised none have ventured to take me to an Ojha yet for my reformation 😉
What do you think of religion? How has it helped you in your life? What do you tell your child about religion?
Linking this post with Corinne for the #MondayMusings
My previous post for #MondayMusings was about the Hindu Muslim divide in our country which you can read here