This Diwali has been an eye opener for me. On Diwali, we pray ‘tamaso maa jyotirgamaya’ – O Lord, lead me from darkness to light. And, by God, I have seen the light!
Within a week, I learned three great lessons that I had missed in 60 years of my ignorance as a proverbial ‘frog in the well’ of Hindu culture. First, I was told that crackers must be banned as they are harmful to my children, my society, nay, to the entire universe. Fireworks that destroy the environment with their smoke, crackers that hurt our ears and to top it all scare our pets for those dreadful 2-3 days. Though I stopped bursting crackers since long years, I carry the guilt.
Then, I was shaken from my apathy to be informed that children are prone to be sexually abused during Diwali because parents tend to keep them in the protection of some seniors with other children while we selfish elders, big boys, and girls play cracker-cracker. It seems modern age has converted all human beings into sexual predators. To top it all, ‘The Economic Times’ has really put me on the couch by telling me that ‘After air pollution, light pollution becomes dark spot on the celebration of Deepawali.
These three conscience awakening blows have told me that I have been a bigot dripping with crass religious thoughts of a culture that is not even a religion in the first place. It doesn’t matter anymore to me what other cultures do to the environment. How does it matter what global facts tell us? We, Hindus, the torch-bearers of civilization and compassion and ‘tolerance’ must do our duty. How does it matter that entire fireworks and crackers across India don’t even form 20% of US fireworks that dazzle us on 4th July on a single day or ‘New Year’ firework in Sydney!
I realized that Delhi may be worst affected by air and dust pollution throughout the year where odd-even super formula doesn’t work, where Metros don’t solve this problem, where PUC certificates are a big joke. We may not have a solution for year-round pollution, but we Hindus must do our little bit for our environment.
It is a different matter that citizens of our metros are turning deaf anyway due to heavy noise pollution with unrelenting horny(?) drivers and air pressure horns of trucks? Even if mosques blare 5 times a day from different directions, that is their duty to call the faithful. So, what if they didn’t have loudspeakers in the golden age of Islam when the Prophet’s followers called out their faithful, why do we need to burst crackers since there were no crackers when Lord Ram came to Ayodhya? I would go a step ahead and suggest that let us declare power shut down during Diwali. Enjoy earthen lamps as was done by Ayodhyawasis of yore. Wait, earthen lamps also pollute, let’s try cheap Chinese LED lamps till Modiji provides low-cost solar lamps. Or better still, start celebrating Diwali during day time.
But, is it enough? No Sir, it’s not as I realize. We are sinners of the worse kind. All our Hindu festivals are antediluvian, anti-world, anti-environment and what not. We waste so much of water in Holi! It’s a shame, our champagne swigging modern seculars and their rentier cronies tell us, floating in their 5-star private swimming pools or in somebody else’s pools. What about dry colors? OMG, they turn you blind, though I don’t remember any in my family turning blind or deaf, for that matter! Elite contemptuously point their spare fingers at you, as other fingers book their tickets to Spain to enjoy ‘la tomatino’ festival that wastes tons and tons of tomatoes! What a fun man, thanks, Zoya for giving us this idea.
Lighting up Holi with logs of wood or farm waste? Shame on you! But, our friends will have garden barbeque to raise a toast to friendly turkeys and chickens and lambs. Our spiritual guides will also enjoy a sacrificed goat somebody gifted on Bakrid. Yes, clearing Bakrid mess can waste more water than all Holis put together, but that’s poor Muslim’s question of faith. Hindus may have given up animal sacrifice because that was so ‘Pagan’ if not ‘pagal’ pan. But, sacrificing sheep that represent Jesus as the ‘Lamb of the God’ and eating that same God’s lamb it in millions of homes in the name of Easter spirit is fine. Oh sorry, I am being communal!
Why do you Hindus cry about holy cow, even if US citizens treat horse with respect? Why bring in religion when you talk about cow? No Sirs, it is not about religion. All environmentalists, dieticians and science tell us that beef is bad for our environment; meat is bad for our digestion and body etc. No, you cannot control what I eat, but I will not eat Pork in Islamic countries because it hurts their sentiments. My friends would’ve given up cow meat probably, but for Hindus attaching religion to it. As of now, let them enjoy their steak dripping with blood, as a famous has been journalist put it. But, my secular humanist friends also warn me not to frighten or hurt dogs, even street dogs biting people to death. Cow is a joke, man. I must listen to them in interest of peaceful tolerant society.
Will this much sacrifice end conflicts and make our society happy? I don’t think so. I must give up human pyramids on Janmashtami. Did Krishna do it? No, Sir, I don’t know. I don’t remember my previous births. But, let my westernised modern friends go to see human pyramids in Europe, those ghastly stone age societies can still do such crass things. It’s a pity, my friends don’t like desi bulls rampaging on roads for Jallikattu, nor enjoy our earthy bullock cart runs. They have money to visit Spain to enjoy bloody bull-fight where bull is gored to death. A small sacrifice to let poor dusty Indians be civilized.
Gosh! I just remembered. I must say sorry to my wife and stop her ‘Karwa Chauth’, though I too have been fasting for her on Karwa for 30 years. Now, I that I realize it is so patriarchal, I will also have to stop my son and his friends form doing Karwa fast for their wives. Who wants lifelong marriages, forget ‘7 janam’ weddings? So constricting, so against liberty of our bra burning feminists.
In the name of gender justice I will lecture women on Karwa Chauth but keep quiet about injustice to Muslim sisters as they must follow their religion that is unchanging with times. I will not ask why Pope says women will never be priests even if Jesus himself never said so. But, I must question Sabarimala. This is true way to nurture tolerance. I will no more talk of mutual respect, it is so Hindu.
I am trying to mend ways and avoid talking about religious practices all communities, except Hindu dharma like a true blue secular. Let other brethren live in their hellish conditions for sake of strengthening peaceful brotherhood. Of what use is brotherhood if you can’t bow your neck to allow your fellow brothers to cut it in the interest of peace?
Yes, I must stop worshipping Durga during Navratri and start worshipping Mahishasura. I must not burn Ravana but give lectures on his great scholarship and his love for sister, also condemn Lord Rama for injustice to Sita. Why try studying the scriptures to understand deeper meanings of our ‘Itihasa’? I am a bit confused though, that my friends treat these as historical stories to berate Hindus, at the same time call them myths to tell us how uncivilized we are to believe in them.
I will try my secular modern friends, I will try. I want to be like you. It’s so cool to say I am not religious but I am spiritual.
5000 years of ‘Brahminical’ conditioning of mind will take time. But, I will fall in line like other ‘educated’ Hindus. Rural illiterates will take more time. But, we must start somewhere. After all, all Hindu mantras end with ‘Shantih, Shantih, Shantih’ – let there be peace, peace, peace. Our Rishis didn’t say ‘peace at any cost’. But, thankfully, now our secular liberal friends have trained us to pay any price for peace even if it is peace of grave yard.