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 and belligerence. Between declarations of patriotism, nationalism and sheer illogical bile that took the opportunity to fling pot shot at others….
If nothing else it set the cat among the pigeons ….
Shorn of any labels as an individual and as a human I was born into a family that lives in India, who had the privilege of food on the table, a roof over their head and access to education.
I think I first learnt I was Indian around the age of four when my father went to War. I remember hoping that the Indians on whose side I found myself to be on, were winning this thing.
It was much later when I was in a school that I came home one day and asked – What are we ?
And the response was – Indian. Hindustani.
Is it good to be one ? And the response without hesitation was – Yes!!
The question is deeper I thought at seven. These people are just fobbing me off with a kitchdi of Panchantara Tales; stories of this obedient man who had a horrible step mother but kept his father’s word and left with his wife and younger brother for the forests; the ten headed Ravan who was burnt down once a year which meant that cracker season and Diwali was on its way.
The carpenter with his pregnant wife who sought shelter in a manger and there was the bald, old man in a dhoti who, without picking up a gun threw out the British. Not to forget it all started with him getting thrown out of a train coach, as a young man, meant for white people.
My grandmother taught me to say the Gayatri Mantra at night before bed and patiently heard me recite the school prayer Our Father Who Art in Heaven thereafter.
Yes I was 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 and angered at its missteps.
Because it belongs to us we want those who betray it and cause it harm, to be punished.
But most important – We take Naam, Namak, Nishaan to heart.
The identity I discovered much later was -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 and as I have seen and experienced the world around me, as I have studied read and 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.
I have the liberty to think, waver, falter, digress and return without fear. It allows me to question and 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 and also a faith that holds me in good stead.