That was the time-the same month but exactly one year before the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the ex-Prime Minister of India, occurred as a result of a suicide bombing, my mother made a changing decision of her life. Coming from an orthodox Hindu family, my mother made a decision to marry my father who hails from a Tamil Catholic background. That was an interfaith romance, a choice made by my parents.
However, both their families were unhappy to accommodate the practices of both the religion and expected the conversion of anyone of the life partners. My mother overwhelmingly took her decision. Hailing from the most poignant societies of Kolar Gold Fields-The little England, the Christian values from the colonies there had a great impact on her childhood and education. The attraction to the religion that started there could have influenced her choice of romantic relationship with my Father, who was then a strong believer of Christ.
However, when I was born, there wasn’t any choice, I was baptised without my permission, even before I realised that the light around me is new world I’m seeing after my mother’s womb. My Godparents of Christian faith took an oath to catechumenate me. Godparents should be faithful individuals who are ready to accept the responsibility of being a part of a godchild’s life for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, my Godparents made their best efforts to educate the godchild, which is me, in catholic philosophies. The truth is, even my Godparents’ own son now makes sure that the godchild’s faith is not distracted.
As I grew older, I was surrounded by polytheist pluralistic thoughts, thanks to my father and my teachers at the convent school. But apparently, my mother made her efforts for me to attend the Sunday school for catechism classes. I became one of the best students of the catechism school and as I grew up I even volunteered as a Sunday school teacher at a local protestant church run by Korean missionaries. I was even a worship leader and a worship musician there. Meanwhile, after my school at St. Joseph’s, where my favorite subjects were social science and general science, (which made me choose science as my core subject in pre-university course), I joined a professional course at Jain College in Bangalore. That was the place where I learnt not only engineering, but also mind management and yoga, which was a part of my first year syllabus. Inspired by the thoughts there, I plunged into the next level of my spiritual journey. I even had a complicated relationship with a girl, who had an orthodox Gounder Hindu background. When I graduated from that course, I not only graduated as a professional, but also as an agnostic.
If I grew up as a Christian & am now agnostic, will my love affair with The Church end?
Later in life I became a part of the church choir as a rhythmist. Anything is possible! Life’s a gamble. Being an agnostic and performing for the gospel songs at Church. That would be a gamble-the size of the gamble depending on the nature of the differences and the degree of commitment to the beliefs. But I can’t see where the beliefs between religions are really that great, so is it really a big deal? Maybe the gamble is no bigger than I want it to be.
Being an Indian is always perfect, the social education, the diverse society, understanding of the perspectives of people from different backgrounds and I learnt to function in a multicultural, multiethnic environment. India is probably the only country in the world where people belonging to different religions, castes and creeds, speaking different languages, having different cultures, different modes of living, different clothing, different feeding habits, worshiping different gods and deity live together in harmony and believe to be the children of one mother-MOTHER INDIA. They are one nation at large. They are governed by one central authority, have one Prime Minister, one president, one Supreme Court and one army chief. This is why we say we have unity in diversity. We have different religions in India. Apart from Hinduism we have the followers of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and Parsees. But Hindus form the greater majority. There are, no doubt, different factions, sections and sub-section but basically we all believe in the theory of Dharma and Karma. The theory of rebirth, purification of soul, salvation, Heaven and Hell holds good for each and every one. We untidily celebrate the festivals like Holi, Diwali, Christmas, Id, Budh Jayanti and Mahavir Jayanti. This provides unity in diversity.
Being a part of the small peaceful community forming just approx. 2% of the general Indian population, I feel threatened now by the ‘Ghar Wapsi’, the series of re-conversion exercises organised by the Indian Hindu organisations. ‘Ghar Wapsi’ may seem like a polite word, but has impolite, imposing cruel ambitions; terror of a sort. Ghar Wapsi is a old wine served in a new bottle, it is not a new movement in India. Remember the Shuddhi movement by Arya Samaj? What is the need for Ghar Wapsi now? Gahr wapsi might help Hindus if Hinduism came under threat or extinction. At the moment it makes up more than 85% of the total population, while Christianity’s statistical growth is negligible. So why are such events organised ? Christian communities have always made their deeds big-noticeably, supporting the larger Indian society in a quality way. Education, was their main effectiveness. Many schools, colleges, related establishments that teach skills for jobs have been set up and run by Christians. They are much in demand. Even the followers of the majority forming religion, have sought admission in such centers of learning and benefited from the commitment and sincerity of Christian teachers.Though many have absorbed the Christian values and turned secularists like me, no one seems to have converted to Christianity.
The question that has grown in my mind after such incidents against practicing the religion you like, as a member of the minority Christian community, is as to what shall we derive of these series of shameful incidents in India? Are we still a secular country, that respects and protects it’s citizens’ freedom of faith and expression? I felt disgraceful, when Obama said that his only reaction was to laugh at the ‘Ghar Wapsi’ event in welcoming the so called lost to the benign. We certainly do not need Obama to give us consciousness on the secular nature of our country.
It is very unfortunate that the Hindu groups like the RSS has risen with full force after the great victory of Modi in the last elections. If PM Modi doesn’t know his agenda well and if he does deliver on the development, nothing will stop the fury of Indians from turning onto him. He might be thrown out of power. It will never matter then if he is an Hindu and if India is predominantly a Hindu country. Weren’t we secular even before the constitution of India was framed? Let us continue to be so even if the Modi’s government uses the old ideologies to the constitution and the RSS gets themselves strong.