Am I Proud To Be ……?

Recently a Facebook post asked with some derision
Are you Proud To Be Hindu ?…..
Proud To Be Muslim or for that matter…. Proud to be an Indian ?
The responses swung between embarrassing soppy-ness & belligerence. Between declarations of patriotism nationalism & sheer illogical bile….
If nothing else it set the cat among the pigeons ….

Shorn of any labels as an individual & as a human I was born into a family that lived in India who had the privilege of food on the table, a roof over their head and access to education.
I was told I was an Indian around the age of 4 when my father went to War. I remember hoping that the Indians on whose side I found myself to be on, were winning this War.

It was much later when I was in a school that I came home and asked – What was I ?
And the response was – Indian.

The question is deeper I thought & these people are just fobbing me off with Panchantara Tales & stories of this obedient man who had a horrible step mother but kept his fathers word & left with his wife & younger brother for the jungle.
The ten headed Ravan who was burnt down once a year which meant that cracker season & Diwali was on its way.
The story of a carpenter & his pregnant wife who sought shelter in a manger and…. the bald old man in a dhoti who without picking up a gun threw out the British & while in his youth he got thrown out of a train coach meant for white people.

A grandmother taught me to say the Gayatri Mantra at night before bed & patiently heard me recite the school prayer Our Father Who Art in Heaven thereafter.

Yes I was an Indian.
Till one day an uncle came visiting & showed us a handful of photographs of a beautiful home, a big red car, a pretty garden & a family with blonde hair.
Why, I asked my father, weren’t we Germans ?

So coming to the question am I proud to be an Indian ?
The response would be – Frankly I had no choice.
But true to the traditions I grew up with –
We make the best of what we have.
We love it. We enjoy it.
We learn & experience whatever we can about it.
We take pride in its progress & are saddened & angered at its missteps.
Because it belongs to us we want those who betray it & cause it harm to be punished.
But most important – We take Naam Namak Nishaan to heart.

Now to the identity that I discovered later.
Am I proud to be a Hindu ?
Hand on my heart – I had no choice in this matter too.

But as I have grown older & as I have seen & experienced the world around me.
As I have studied read & discovered –
I thank and I’m eternally grateful to That Being who was distributing babies all over the world on that given day that he chose to give me to a set of people who follow the Hindu faith.
So rather than- Am I proud to be a Hindu ?
I would say I’m grateful for being one.
It allows me to waver, falter, digress & return without fear. It allows me to question & to reject. And above all it allows me the Freedom To Be.

So with no hesitation I salute with great pride a land that made me who I am & gave me what I have – & a faith that holds me in good stead.

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