Ricky Martin is gay. Duh. Next we’ll be cattle-prodded to express our surprise on learning that Naveen Patnaik’s bachelorhood stems from a reason different from Narendra Modi’s.
But the purpose of my dribbles this week is not to engage with people’s erotic orientations, but to take a cue from Ricky. When he had come out with his hit song, ‘Livin’ la Vida Loca’, I had known right away that Ricky was as gay as a goalkeeper with manicured nails. But my friends thought I was simply jealous — especially after I had made self-defeating comments like “What does he have that I don’t?” So I had promised that the day Ricky comes out of the closet, so would I.
Before you judge me according to my writing style and exclaim, “Told you!”, let me get this off my un-waxed chest Ricky-style: I’m proud to say I’m a fortunate atheist. I am very blessed to be who I am. There. I’ve said it.
Not believing in god in a spiritualised zone like India isn’t as hard as some pressure groups make it out to be. But there were some lip-biting questions I had when I kept my atheism to myself and they still remain unanswered. Article 15 of the Constitution is clear enough about the State not discriminating against any citizen on grounds of “religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth”. But what about a citizen who doesn’t subscribe to any religion? And to say that atheism is a belief system is like saying that not believing in flying saucers is a kind of belief system. Well, the Constitution, a liberal chap, should understand that I’m alright, so what if I’m godless. But will there be strange looks from real quarters? (“He’s such an attention-seeker!”) Will there be a glass ceiling? (“How can we have him in that position in this organisation?”) I don’t know.
The Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations describes itself as “not theistic” and doesn’t accept “supernatural views of reality”. But these guys are crusaders who go about fighting an unwinnable war against superstitions. My atheism — like Ricky’s homosexuality — has no intention of forcing itself on the world.
And in keeping with that intention, I’m not going to bore you about how I navigate in a godless world populated by an invention with great notional value. (Clue: I love Sherlock Holmes, but I don’t believe that he exists or ever existed.) All I’ll say is that I find the notion of believing in god silly but ‘cute’ — like the belief in some circles that becoming a martyr for your religion will get you a bevy of ‘companions’ in a 7-star heaven. And you don’t have to believe in the miracle of transubstantiation to applaud when the waiters magically change the water to wine. One of my favourite comic books is Dasha Avatar (The Ten Incarnations of Vishnu). I place it above The Communist Manifesto. Let’s just say I’m happy being a passive opium-smoker of the masses.
But like the way I never trust teetotallers, will the bulk of believers out there find me suspicious for my godlessness? Last year, when the central government expanded its cabinet, the satyam-sundaram media noted with arched brows that six new ministers took their oath not in the name of god (like the prime minister and 13 other ministers) but “solemnly affirmed” to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution.
Now, I’m absolutely sure that Manmohan Singh feels as confident of Pranab Mukherjee (who took his oath in the name of god) as he is of
P. Chidambaram (who took the “solemnly affirmed” route). But in these strange days of pouncing on omissions (“Why hasn’t Amitabh Bachchan denounced the 2002 Gujarat riots?” “Why hasn’t Indrajit Hazra ever written about Babar’s general Mir Baqi destroying the Ram temple in Ayodhya?”), you never know what can happen if you choose not to bring god on your side.
I’m waiting for the day when a prime minister of India can gracefully ‘come out’ and say that he doesn’t believe in god. I’ve even started counting the days. Un, dos, tres...