I remember, I was probably in class 5 when we were being taught about religions and their respective places of worship. I remember sitting through the entire lesson, wondering, what category did I fall into. The teacher droned on, “A Sikh goes to a Gurudwara, A Hindu goes to a Temple, a Muslim goes to a Mosque……. ” and I sat there clueless, patiently awaiting for an exception to all the above ‘groups’, a group of people who would go to all the so called ‘places of worship’; because Every year on Guru Nanak Jayanti, I would dress up in salwaar-kameez, the only pair that I possessed at that time with a small chunni that would hardly cover my arm now, and attend the langar and enjoy chholey-puri, celebrate Christmas with equal enthusiasm as Diwali, cover my head and go to a mosque during Eid-ul-fitr and even rock the cradle of the new-born Krishna during Janmashtami at the Temple. But that option never came. I wondered, I was probably a Sikh, I loved the little pink embroidered salwaar-kameez and would look forward to Guru Nanak jayanti the most so that I could just put it on, but then I thought, I could be a Hindu too because the mandir (Temple) program for Janmashtami used to go on till 1 am, the only day that I could stay up till way past my bed-time, so it had to be something serious!
The teacher started asking around on what we thought our place of worship was, and when it was my turn I stood up and said, ‘Sikh!’, loud and clear (I couldn’t let go of my special love for the salwar-kameez). The teacher, she smiled at me compassionately, and asked me to go home and ask my parents. I had frowned at her suggestion, very sure that my parents wouldn’t know either, else, why would they be dragging me around everywhere? But later, when I had asked mom and she had stated said that we were Hindus (and s0 I got to know how I could stay up till late on Janmashtami), I was upset, I wanted Langar too and gifts at Christmas, but then mom had reasoned, we had Diwali and Holi, the fun festivals. So, I decided, fair enough, I am a Hindu then.
As I grew up, I started questioning the concept of religion. Do we really need it? Why discriminate people on this basis when we already had so many parameters already. Why do countless people get ready to kill someone in the name of religion? On what basis do they put so much faith into an Idol or a book and follow it blindly to the verge of fanaticism? What is the proof that if I hurt or kill a person from another religion, I am guaranteed a place in heaven, even if it exists at all. Religion, I feel, should give you a sense of belonging, a feeling of peace, show you the path and the way of flowing along the stream of life, instead of sparking violent feelings towards others and groupism.
Why does Hinduism have so many Gods and Goddesses that you can hardly keep a track of, the only purpose that they serve, according to me, is that they make our mythology a very colorful read. Neither do I believe in vacuous idol worshiping, people pouring galleons of milk on an idol and causing unnecessary wastage. Like dumping galleons of milk and ghee on pieces of stone and metal would make you better person, instead of doing that these people could just give them to a needy person who hasn’t had to eat for days, and I guess, an act like this would increase their ledger balance more. The absolute cacophony of noises at a temple, priests trying to con you out of your money and strange men trying to feel you up in the crowd, how is it even remotely possible that God can be found at places like these. A visit to the temple only makes me squirm uncomfortably, and I breathe a sigh of relief when I get out of one safely.
Religion should be a choice, and not a compulsion. If being a Hindu, I feel more at peace in the Gurdwara, so be it. If I don’t want to follow the rituals of Hinduism, I shouldn’t be forced to do so. If I don’t get any meaning from folding my hands before an idol, I wouldn’t like to be compelled to do so. I will find my own place and definition of peace and righteousness, and whether that comes from Jesus or Allah or Krishna or Buddha or all four of them, please let me choose.
And well yeah, maybe…….