The holy holdback of Navratra began this Friday. But what is its purpose? To detoxify mind, body and spirit, is it not? It’s not only about outward religious show, to wear a new red thread on the wrist, daub foreheads with a tilak, mark attendance at the nearest shivala and make a great show of taking a temporary break from meat, drink, eggs and ‘non-sattvik’ elements. Let us give our ancients a little more credit.
The physical detox is useful certainly if it suits the health of the doer. Diabetics, don’t give up on fibre, no matter what, God is surely too great to mind! Islam, which is as particular about rituals, is extremely considerate in this matter and says clearly that people with a health condition are on the list of exemptees during the Ramazan fast.
Which makes you think, “We are so alike in so many things, why must we only think of differences and feed each other’s paranoia?”
Left to ourselves, would we really fight? I remember two little heads peeping over neighbouring balconies from their respective apartments on Pedder Road, Bombay…a lifetime ago, it seems.
One was my younger brother, a three-year-old then. The other was ‘Babloo’, also three, the son of the Khans next door. The two would spend ages having their own conversation and playing.
Later in his first job in Patna, my brother became extremely fond of his colleague and friend, Jawaid Haidar, and would wax eloquent about the green chholiyaan halwa Jawaid’s mother would make at his home in Subzi Bagh. I don’t think he’s forgotten its taste yet.
Today five-year-old Advait, my brother’s son, has amongst his closest pals, Sadat, another five-year-old from school. Sadat and his very cute little sister, Baby Zara, have gone twice to my brother’s house to play Holi with Advait. One Dussehra, my brother and his family went to Sadat’s house to get a ringside view from their terrace of the putlas of Ravan and Co being set alight.
It seems a betrayal of friendship to me and to many people to describe friends by denomination as “Muslim”, “Christian” and “Hindu”. They’re our friends first. And last.
Something in our nature opened to something in theirs and our affections connected, leading to real attachment. If we had to follow a “love prescription” that we are permitted only to like people who are exactly like us, we would live in a strong comfort zone at one level, maybe. But would we not forefeit being truly human?
For a start, as the ‘majority’ community, let us Hindus take some emotional responsibility. Let us resolve in the next few days with the holy Navratra as witness, when good energy pervades the air, to work on our awareness.
Careless, unthinking remarks have the biggest power to hurt. When some of us make off-the-cuff references, uncaring that a Muslim may overhear us, or when we go stupidly asking a colleague or neighbour if he or she is elated by Pakistan’s cricket victories, we Hindus are guilty of extremely tacky, offensive manners. This Navratra, let’s resolve to mind our manners. Before we go to vote and redefine our country’s future, let’s use this beautiful opportunity to clean out our bad thoughts and help each other feel better.