Saturday, February 07, 2015

A point of no-return: an athiest's thoughts on Ghar Vapasi

Whenever I come across news on Ghar Vapasi, my non-religious (or all-religions*, whichever way you put it!) self thinks about Ammachi**.
My most favourite idea of holidays was us, her grandkids and children that are our mothers, huddling around our chubby grandma on a large bed and generally having a blast with her wise cracks and snuggly hugs thrown in ample measures. One of us would ask her, a firebrand leader of the Communist party in its early days, whether she believed in god. She would smile her signature naughty smile and say: Whether I believe in him or not, he loves me for sure!' If Ammachi was here today, she would have laughed at the idea of a god who would love someone more since she chose to return 'home'! 
People have asked me where do I go, to a church or a temple, by virtue of my mother being a 'Christian' and father, a 'Hindu.' I have often been amazed at their inability to understand how someone can just be without 'going' anywhere.
God, and religion, were never part of my psyche when I grew up, but certainly were religious people and places. And I have never felt alien around them. I have never noticed a truly religious person harbouring some kind of hatred towards those in other religions. I like to imagine that, for them, religion is matter of the heart. And I understand matters of the heart. You don't have to pray to, or believe in, an almighty to understand matters of the heart. You only have to be human.
The lovely Celine in Richard Linklater's soulful movie Before Sunrise tells her partner, Jesse, as they visit a Vienna church, far away from both their homes: "I can't help but feeling for all those people that come here lost or in pain, guilt, looking for some kind of answers. It fascinates me..." It is fascinating. To think about huge masses of people united by a single entity, or many entities in certain faiths, and trying to find solace. I respect the human urge to do that. But arbitrarily terming a particular religion 'ghar' and pushing reconversion in such scales in our country, a crucible of so many faiths and ideas, simply feels absurd. It is equally absurd seeing people hurting each other to avenge perceived insult to their religions.
I can only say that if anyone referred to Ammachi "that old hag," I would definitely be outraged, but that feeling would soon turn into pity and I would just put the imaginary dagger back into its sheath, most heartily!


* Ammachi: my grandmother Koothattukulam Mary, she went through unspeakable police torture while building up the Communist movement in Kerala. A person of unbeatable spirit.

**All-religions: My father was born a Hindu, mother a Chrstian, both non-practising. My husband is Muslim, and says he is still searching...  

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