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Caste Aside

india Updated: Aug 24, 2009 21:00 IST

I’m going to offend some people today. I’m going to be talking about the unimportance of religion. More specifically, the unimportance of what your religion is. I mentioned once that I get a lot of emails from people talking about their relationships, their problems and so forth, and an issue that pops up more often than I’d like is that of caste or religion being a barrier between a couple.

It is not difficult, it is impossible for me to understand this state of affairs. But then I come from an extraordinarily privileged background. I have had the good fortune of growing up in the most secular and integrated household in the country. My nana, a Muslim, married a Christian. My dada was Bengali, and my dadi is British. I have often said it jokingly, but the fact is that no one in my family has married someone of the same religion as themselves. Our relatives stretch from UP to Kerala, Goa to Kashmir, Punjab to Scotland. Yes, I have Scottish relatives. By blood, not marriage. I am proud to tell people that my family consists of Hindus, Muslims and Christians, and we all live happily together under one roof. We make biryani on Eid, fill the house with diyas on Diwali, and put up a Christmas tree every December. Every festival, every holiday is celebrated together as a family, as one.

This is how I grew up, which is why it’s hard for me to understand when I hear that someone can’t marry the girl he wants to, because her religion is different. But I’m trying. I’m trying to understand. My gut reaction is to scream out loud, and reject anyone who says something like that as a bigot, but what good would that do? Hardly constructive. Love and understanding are common themes in my columns, because these are things I feel strongly about. These are things I understand, so let me take a moment and talk about them.

Some of you are thinking of marrying a person from another caste, some of you are dating someone of another religion; I don’t know what will come of these relationships. They may work, they may not. But it is my belief that the success or failure of a relationship depends on the two people who are in it. What you’re like, how you treat your partner; these are the things that will affect a relationship, not being from the same faith. I can only speak of what I know, of what I’ve seen; I know my grandparents couldn’t have loved each other more if they were both Muslim, or both Christian. I know that to date I couldn’t tell you anything about the religious beliefs of any of my friends, because I don’t care. I love them for the people they are, and I’ve never bothered to ask them.

Because what it all boils down to is this: If people care for one another, everything else becomes kind of insignificant. You make it work. But if that love just isn’t there, no amount of family backing will make up for it.