More often than not, I am an atheist because I cannot take the pressure of performing pujas and other rituals. Mostly because as soon as the word puja is said the elders start scolding constantly and I just don’t have the patience for the repetitive instructions.
However, since I am still a part of civilization, my name labels me as a Hindu and everyone is eager to brand me as one. Also, everyone I know is busy getting offended. I am yet to join the club but now the push of the constant nudge is becoming sharper.
‘The words pork or ham should not be used in the text.’
‘Never show Muslims offering namaz at a masjid—through photographs or illustrations.’
‘Be very careful when adding a photograph of any masjid. We don’t want protestors banging our doors.’
These sentences have been bombarded at me or around me several times over the last few years. I will confess that I have also mouthed them when instructing those who joined the ranks after me.
I have seen colleagues who relish pork, bacon, ham, and the likes, whisper any talk of these delicacies so as not to offend the sentiments of any Muslim colleague in the earshot. However, the same people have shouted out their love for beef without any heed for any Hindu sentiment that they might hurt. The Muslims have joined the conversation without any hesitation. The beef slabs have been kept in the common fridge where devout Muslims and Hindus, alike, keep their food.
There is a marked difference in the way Hindu sentiments and Muslim sentiments are handled.
A devout Muslim wears a prayer cap to work. He has shunned western clothes and wears a short pyjama with a kurta instead. He goes for namaz three times during office hours. Meetings that he is required to attend are arranged around his namaz timings. Hindu customs like fasting during Navratri, Mata ki Chowkis, and bhajans in temples are a butt of jokes all year round. Bosses have told Hindu colleagues that work should come first. Social commitments (pujas, mostly) should always take a back seat.
I am yet to come across a news article where a cartoon was drawn or a painting found a canvas depicting Hindu gods in the nude and the artists were gunned down. Protests have been organized, some might have turned violent but a planned terror attack? Naah! I have not heard about it.
In fact several Hindus have time and again fought in favour of the artists and have upheld the right to freedom overlooking the religion of the artist in question. But why is it that people who have rationalized the Charlie Hebdo attack on various social media platforms are the same ones who have been circulating nude art of Krishna and Radha and other Hindu gods to put across their point against ban on porn? Why is it that the sensibilities of one community should be protected and the others are open to ridicule?
Why does one god deserve more respect than the other?
Every time an argument or a discussion on the same lines occurs, I find myself in a minority. I don’t judge Muslims for being Muslims or Hindus for being Hindus. This doesn’t mean I am not judgmental. I judge people on the basis of their intelligence, stupidity, kindness or wickedness. Religion should be limited to holidays and celebrations with families as far as I am concerned. I am a minority I guess. There might be many friends who might get angry after reading my rant. Elders might think I am too naïve. Maybe they are correct. I was taught long ago that equality means equal opportunities for all. Minus the judgment. I always took it for truth. I always thought that secular means treating everyone with respect. And now, despite being respectful and nice always, I find people not even taking a fraction of a second before offending my sentiments.
I am judged for being a Hindu, constantly. If I agree with what Modi says one day, I am told I belong to the saffron brigade. If I don’t think that the hanging of a terrorist was a wrong move by the government, it is assumed that I support the Gujarat riots and the atrocities against the Muslims of the state. If I point out that karsevaks were burned alive in a well-planned attack while returning from a pilgrimage without any instigation, eyebrows are raised. Human lives were lost. Not in a natural calamity but well planned, organized ways. It was wrong. Whether it was a Hindu son who lost his parents in the Godhra train carnage or Muslim parents who lost their son in the ensuing riots, the loss was definite and permanent and ghastly.
Then why is it that I hear no sympathy for one and the other is an answer to all arguments?
I abstain from posting on these matters. I restrict my conversations to films, that too entertainers like SRK films. I live in this constant fear of being judged because I see all criminals as criminals. All crimes as crimes against humans rather than one religious community.
I am a Hindu by birth; a minority in these times of quick judgments.