Friday, April 21, 2006

Being religious--Who Me?

21st April 2006.

What is so bad about being religious?

I am wondering why are some people shy about being religious. This was triggered off by an interesting event last week. I happened to visit a temple on my way to work. This was a habit which evolved over the last one year. There is a small Ganesha temple outside Kurla station in Bombay. I have to change trains at this station and it was very nice experience going to this temple in the morning. At the peek hour traffic, commuters stop in the middle and spend a few seconds—and a few dedicated ones spend minutes—bowing before the idol, close the eyes and enjoy those ‘moments of peace’.

On my last visit, when I came out of the temple, I bumped into a student of mine. He looked very very uncomfortable and seemed to be unhappy that he met me in a temple. I was wondering what went wrong. In a tense and apologetic tone he requested me not to tell anyone in the institute that I met him in the temple! I promised him to keep this a ‘secret’ and walked off.

It rang a bell.

I realized many hindus, especially from the young generation, seem to be ashamed of being religious. I am wondering why! We feel shy to be seen in a temple, it is considered very “old fashioned’ and ‘orthodox’ to go to a temple, it is considered ‘out of sync’ if we listen to a bhajan, it is out of fashion to pray to God!

Why is it happening to us?

Look at other communities—Christians never feel shy to go to church, Muslims never feel shy to offer namaz. Why are hindus so shy of our own rituals?

I had this ring tone of the bhajan “Om Jai Jagdeesh Hare” in my mobile and many of my students used to laugh when they heard it! They found me old fashioned!

Remember the film ‘Kuch kuch hota hai’? When Tina finds out Rahul comes to the temple every Tuesday, she feels so nice about it—BUT Rahul pleads with her not to tell his college friends about this! I think it is a wonderful and truthful commentary about religion today. While a Christian and Muslim is proud to be what they are, Hindus have to feel shy about being a hindu!

I am not forgetting the fanatics and the rath yatra specialists and the moral policing hypocrites!

I am talking about the younger generation, the yuppies and the next gen—gen X!

It is worth an effort to look into the psychological aspect of this.

Rahul in ‘Kuch kuch hota hai’ and my student in front of the Ganesha temple believe that their ‘modern’ and ‘macho’ image will be destroyed by the tag of being religious—the very sight of them near a temple!

Did the british do this? Maybe, after they brainwashed us into believing that everything Indian is bad and everything western is great and God’s gift to mankind!