Michelle, I have a confession to make. When you mailed me last week asking me to write on why people fight in the name of religion, I called you an idiot, in my head. For two reasons. One, I felt that I was the most ill-suited columnist for picking on such a serious and so-called sensitive issue, considering my own reputation of being an idiot who finds it funny that a neighbour deflates her car tyres with alarming regularity. And two, because ‘why do people fight in the name of religion’ is a question that used to be the favourite topic for my school debates 20 years back. I thought it would have been answered by now. Why, doesn’t the smart generation of today have an answer for everything these days? It then struck me why a 16-year-old such as you, Michelle, still didn’t have clarity from your peers on this issue. Because they simply do.not.care. That’s it. And I love them for this attitude. You know why, because I feel that even God doesn’t want us to care so much about religion. At least not the way we human beings have come to interpret it.
Before I go on and tell you why I feel it’s okay to not stress too much about religion, I want to set two things straight. I’m not an atheist, or an agnostic or any other fancy term whose definition you’d need to check with Swami Google Baba. But not that I see anything wrong with anyone who is any of those. And second, this article is not about any particular religion, nor is it telling anyone to denounce any faith. If any fanatic is already toying with the idea of sending me a hate mail claiming ‘hurt sentiments’, let me humbly type out a big SORRY to them, using the middle finger.
Coming back to the point, my contention remains that even though a lot of us, especially the younger lot, identify themselves with one religion or the other, it’s done more as a passive habit, and not because we care about it. Even the older ones who may practice more religious habits than the gen-x does, do so mostly because they have more time, and they’ve reached a point where life’s tensions make them seek solace in spirituality of some kind. And the fact that we tend to equate spirituality with praying to the Lord via a religious route is absolutely fine, and fair. But even then, the focus is us, our problems and asking God to solve them, rather than our religion and its issues. And I feel that if there is God somewhere, that’s how He or She would have wanted it. And that it must upset Him a lot to see people scare or threaten or kill each other in the name of faith. Here’s how, I feel, we messed things up terribly for ourselves.1 We lost the plot: Have you ever seen a situation where the question asked of a classmate was something else and his answer went in a totally different direction because he didn’t understand it? Or when you see someone make a long, fancy corporate presentation but getting the brief all wrong? Dil karta hai thappad lagao, for not even paying attention to the question. Well, that’s how frustrated God must be feeling, seeing us confuse between beliefs — and behaviour. He may have, with all good intention, tried to break the monotony in our lives by giving us diversity in the form of different religions, names of Gods, places of worship, praying practices etc. But all that the poor thing wanted out of us was good behaviour. Hum se itna bhi nahi hua, because hum mandir masjid etc banana mein busy ho gaye. Tell me, if I were to ask you that when you go to a restaurant, what is it that you expect...would you say good service, polite staff, tasty and hygienic food, or would you say Hindu/Muslim/Sikh/Christian waiters, even if they spit in your coffee? Because what matters to ordinary people like you and me, my dear, is how well-behaved another human being is towards us and not whether he prays standing up or sitting down at his home. How the hell do I care? I don’t know the religion of the jerk who punctures my car tyres over parking, but I would still call him a jerk even if he belonged to my most favourite religion. We are no less critical of a Hindu or a Muslim politician when they turn out to be corrupt... and neither do we stop ourselves from ripping apart a brain-dead film whether the actor is Muslim or Hindu. Because what we should — and do care about, is how they touch our lives, not how they spell their name. And knowing this simple fact, we still let some loonies flare up our emotions and dictate our actions through hate speeches, in the name of religion. What kind of losers are we, yaar?
2 We commit to faith, not to behaviour: I wish people were as committed about treating others nicely, as they sometimes are to visiting gurudwaras or temples, mosques or churches. We have the will power to fast for days and the generosity to donate money for renovating places of worship, but not the kindness to give up our seat in the crowded Metro or bus to an elderly man or woman. While you are busy praying loudly every morning, God may be shouting His guts out and saying, ‘I don’t want fancy sacrifices. Just be nice,’ but then who’s listening. We are happily cruising along, generation after generation, with distorted knowledge of faiths and senseless thoughts about how we will die before letting our daughter marry into the ‘other’ religion. Theek hai. Maro.
3 God’s fed up: Here’s a theory, as silly as it may sound. I feel that even if there was God, He’s given up on us now, after seeing the way we are conveniently killing each other by placing the gun on His shoulder. He could very well be busy creating life from the scratch, on another planet. And this time putting a little more brain into them so that they get His brief right. We could be on our own, and that’s scary. If we want Him back, maybe we could try promising him to care a little less about religion and a little more about each other. That’s all He wanted.
Sonal Kalra just realised all the preaching she ended up giving above. She’s gone straight to the Himalayas. Galti ho gayi, jaan loge kya?
Mail your calmness tricks at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/sonalkalra13
Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra