The Honda Amaze that I was seated in managed to cope fairly well with the pothole ridden streets of Bangalore. I rested my head against the smooth window, tired from a long day of school and football, with the sweet temptation of sleep almost engulfing me completely. At that moment, the car jolted at a speed bump and I was momentarily wide-awake. In the said moment, the car, whose occupants were my driver and me, passed a grand temple which was devoted to Lord Ganesha. From a young age, I always saw my parents bow their heads or join their hands whilst passing temples as a way of acknowledging the God that the temple was devoted to, and I have largely followed that too. Before I could do the same, I noticed my driver bow his head and almost pray whilst looking in the general direction of the temple. Now I was taken aback, not because my driver displaying some religious sentiment was so strange but my driver is a Muslim and to see him acknowledge the presence of a Hindu god was very queer. Gingerly, I asked him about what he did, in the most diplomatic manner that I could as I didn’t want to hurt his sentiments and I still remember his reply very quickly. “Sir,” he said, “in my village, we don’t discriminate based on which god a person prays to. For us, all gods are equal and all religions are too”. My desire to sleep simply vanished.
It was very strange to see an uneducated man display such secularism whilst so many esteemed and learned people bear prejudices against people of other religions, snicker at people with other beliefs and consider them to be inferior. I believe the root cause of the problem is that as Indians, we take offense a little too quickly. Mere blasphemy is enough for some of us to take up arms, while others do the same when faced with a differing ideology. I know that a change is required and I know that a change as complex and deeply rooted as the required one will take a lot of time but we must strive towards it. We must strive to avoid another ‘Basirhat’, or another ‘Kandhamal’. We must strive for ourselves and others.
I have tried staying away from writing about religion on this blog but I feel that the need is far too great. As Indians, we must look into the past and remember and imbibe the words of Rabindranath Tagore who wrote, ‘Where the clear stream of reason does not lose its path in the dreary desert sand of dead habit’. Our actions must be rooted in logic and reason and not in dreary or baseless ideologies. This article will not spark too much. Maybe some people would try to change their thinking, but most would simply dismiss the very idea of any change. But to those who do attempt to make a change, it becomes our moral responsibility to help others draw inspiration from people such as my driver and help them truly change. Change for the sake of those people themselves, for their loved ones and neighbours but most importantly, for the future of this country.