Sounds odd, but when I say that we feel really proud of an accident which happened in our lives, it is perhaps as closest to the universal truth as it could be. We feel so proud that we become religiously wedded to it.
How religious do we become when it comes to adopting an accident. The accident of being born into a particular religion is what I mean.
I had been brought up in a very unorthodox and cosmopolitan atmosphere at home, and I was left free to choose the religion of my choice as per my understanding of the teachings of each once I grow up.
As a matter of fact, it was made sure that I read all the scriptures equally well, the Bhagwat Gita, the Bible or the Quran. Stories and fables from the chronicled lives of Jesus Christ, Ram, Krishna and Mohammed were read by me with equal interest.
My upbringing in a true cosmopolitan atmosphere of the tiny township where I was born perhaps has a big role to play in this belief of mine. I had seen our family friends come home and mingle as part of our family, whether it was the family of Uncle Krishnan, Uncle Simon or Uncle Ansari. I had always been as enthusiastic in celebrating Eid, as I was in celebrating Diwali or Christmas.
And when I gradually shifted base from my birthplace to other parts of our country, first in pursuit of higher education and then in pursuit of livelihood, the attitude of the people towards their religious beliefs came as a rude shock to me.
I suddenly saw friends being made on the basis of religion. Ramchander was encircled with Shivakumar, Raghuvendra, Ramlal, Krishnakumar and Devilal as friends. Samson made friends mostly with Johnson, Alison, John and Andrew. Srikumar finds himself odd man out being friends with Munir, Burhan, Abbas and Ehsaan.
Our business and professional tie-ups also get aligned and preferred on these lines. A Christian would prefer to look out for another Christian for a professional alliance. A Hindu would prefer not to partner with a Muslim. A Catholic believes that only another Catholic is trust worthy because he is god fearing and therefore assumed to be honest.
As friendships and relationships grew, I found that even falling in love was being conveniently “planned” on the basis of religion. A Christian boy would somehow try to be extremely careful to fall in love only with a Christian girl, probably scared that a girl of any other religion may not be acceptable to his family and the same goes with a Hindu or a Muslim too. This makes me wonder, is it really falling in love, or a relationship of convenience. Love is not perhaps that blind, as it is assumed to be.
Then I have seen some of my acquaintances, initially deciding to flow against the tide and joining in holy matrimony, throwing religion to the wind along with caution, but then suddenly things change when an issue is born. Peer pressure or allegiance to religion, not completely wiped out by the hitherto undying love; force them to decide that they need their child to get aligned one way or the other.
I want to ask a simple question to everyone. What do we do when we pray? Do we pray for different things? Does one of us pray for a Muslim thing, the other one pray for a Christian thing and the third one for a Hindu thing? I am sure our answers would be in the negative.
It’s because we all pray for the same thing. We all pray to God to protect our families, our friends, our neighbours, our country, peace on earth, an end to the pain and suffering of others, food to feed all those who are starving, that God may give us peace within ourselves. Do we not pray for all these? Finally we all do pray that God give us an understanding of exactly what kind of person He wants us to be.
When we all pray the same thing, can it not be the reason to unite us all? When we admit that our conversations with God is the same, is it not sufficient enough reason to unite us.
Isn’t our following a religion just an accident, an accident of our fortunate or unfortunate birth in a household over which we had no control? We just followed what our parents and peers thrust upon our innocent minds without even given the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons. And before we knew, we were already wedded to the religion of their choice, not ours.
When I say, the accident of choosing, I am of the conviction that we do not get a chance to actually choose our religion. The religion that we follow is chosen for us by the accident of having been born in a particular family. For us religion is not a choice, it is a birth right. It’s imperative that we should learn to exercise that right prudently.
Why should we be so religious when it comes to adopting an accident? Can we not be just humans? Do we really need to be a Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim? Is being human so difficult?
Even if it is really difficult, let us try it out, against all odds. And trust me it is not the least against all Gods.