Archive for September, 2008

Things change

Posted: September 20, 2008 in Life and Living
Tags: ,

There are times in one’s life when something changes in you forever. The last few days have been that for me. It’s also the reason why I have not blogged too much, and why my last few posts have reflected on some form of genocide.

There will also be a post from me sometime in the future on the controversial subject of conversion (just so that I can vent some spleen!)

But, this post is not about Orissa or Mangalore. It is about what Orissa, Mangalore and Madhya Pradesh did to me. I need to talk about this somewhere because deep inside there is still a part of me that is in a permanent state of shock.

I am not sure where it started. Perhaps it was that innocuous invitation to join a group called Bring Orissa Dignity and my investigation of how the online world was reporting the killings in Orissa.

Each morning, our group woke up to anywhere between 100 to 400 hate mails, most often with pornographic content. Each morning, our group admin responded to our alerts, deleted all the messages and left a blessing and a prayer for the people who had left those messages. (Incidentally, the between 2 am to 6 am timing also makes me believe that most of them come from fundamentalists overseas. )

While I am still not Christian in my beliefs, it’s true that these instances for the first time helped me to understand the power and strength of these words, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

But, even more disturbing, what I also experienced there and at all the forums that I visited was deep burning hate – the kind of hate that partitioned this country 60 years ago. And it was this that sent me tail spinning into this state of shock. How could anybody in this modern age hate with such intensity, completeness and complete ignorance?

A post that I saw on Rediff stands out in my mind, “If there was a war, and the Christians had to choose between Jeruslem and India, what would they choose?”

Jeruslem and India??????!!!!!!!!! Shouldn’t it be a ‘no contest’ for obvious historical and religious reasons?

It was interesting to see that the stance that most people took depended on the religion that they were born into. Situations did not exist in black and white. Instead, you were always aggressive or defensive, depending on your religion at birth – even if you did not believe in it 🙂 And this includes me as well.

Also, no one cares until the witch hunt happens to them. Till then, it’s just else someone over reacting 🙂

I also experienced why the police in India has lost credibility. People that I knew at the Mangalore protests related horrendous stories… Police damaging their own vehicles before they attacked the protestors, women and children dragged out of the church and beaten till they were black and blue, young college students arrested (the unofficial number is 100) and taken away with no contact with their families. Even as the Bajrang Dal leaders claimed responsibility on national television for the event and walked away scot-free.

This is also how a community is radicalized. Nothing justifies it. But this is how it happens, and it is frightening,

So the next day, I found myself watching an alleged terrorist encounter in Delhi. I couldn’t help wondering if it was a staged encounter. After all, if they’d fudged stuff in Mangalore, they could do it in Delhi too.

How is that Zeeshan, a Marketing Manager at a small firm in Delhi, chose to surrender before the TV cameras last night, declaring his innocence? Yet, after a night in police interrogation, the police releases a statement announcing that he has admitted to being a terrorist.

Perhaps that is the way it has always been this way in this country. It was just that I had not experienced it before in a personal way. Till now, I only made academic statements based on the same premise.

But, like I said before… “No one cares in a real way… Till it happens to them.”

I also wish so much at times that I did not get involved in things so deeply. That I could be comfortable in my knowledge that it is still not yet my house being burned (this time it’s just people I know)… But, for some reason, these things disturb me…

At least in the fight for independence, one could appeal to the stated (not practiced) British sense of fair play and commitment to human rights. Here, you can appeal to nothing. In a fascist state, there is no stated morality.

Five years ago, I chose to return to India from the UK after I completed my Master’s because Bangalore and India were home.

But, if I am to be a guest in India, can’t I be a guest in any country in the world? At least a country with a better infrastructure and law enforcement system 🙂

Also my hometown, Bangalore of the 80s and the early 90s, remains only in the mind’s eye. So, what do I have to cling on to? What holds me back?

Nothing…except perhaps that Bangalore still remains my husband’s home.

So, I watch as we systematically kill the diversity in that great phrase “unity in diversity”. There is place now for only one religion and one culture. Nothing else is tolerated.

In this scenario, I don’t think that I feel very Indian… And I don’t think I ever will be.

PS. Just for the record, I don’t owe my allegiance to Jeruslem either 😉 I belong to nowhere and everywhere. I’m just passing through.

And while doing that, I am still committed to touching every life that comes my way, and leaving the world around me a better place than I found it… That is my only truth.

Among the Christian institutions that received threats yesterday was the St Aloysius College. The threats state that cadres from different states are ready to attack them, besides 80 suicide bombers.

When I visited Mangalore for a wedding in the family a couple of months ago, one of the monuments that moved me with its haunting, ethereal, serene beauty was St Aloysius College. I remember thinking that the architectural style and scale was far superior to the monuments that I had seen in that great university town of Oxford.

It pains me that this 128 year old institution is under attack.

But, they say that a picture speaks more than a 1000 words. So, this one is for St Aloysius College, Mangalore.


And lest I seem alarmist, this one below was from Milagres Church, in the heart of town, and at the centre of the attack last Sunday. Not as striking as St Aloysius (it did not help that it was caught in the heat of the afternoon sun), but with a spiritual beauty of its own.

Finally, here is a glimpse from the wedding that took me to Mangalore in happier times. The next time I saw this church again was in a flash on television of hundreds of parishioners congregating to protect their churches.

I am not even Christian in my beliefs (though most fundamentalists wouldn’t know the difference – laugh!), and yet I find that looking at these pictures moves me to tears. For me, it is about the associations with those monuments and another way of being Indian that are destroyed when these monuments are attacked.

So, what about Manoj’s extended family and others who are Christian in their religious beliefs? How would these attacks that persist unchecked make them feel? I can’t even begin to imagine it.

On September 6, 2008, the Bartholomew Church in Ratlam was celebrating its 86th anniversary, all decorated for the purpose. But, the anniversary celebrations never happened as the church was burnt down on that day. The Bajrang Dal remains the prime suspect.

I came across a picture of the church on CNN IBN yesterday. I couldn’t help thinking that it was also an architecural loss. It is a beautiful building.

 

Also under attack two nights ago was the 150 year old St Peter and St Paul Cathedral in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.

There is something very disturbing about a destroyed image of Christ on a crucifix. This could be that the image itself is a mutilated one… So one is disturbed by the hate that would cause a mob to mutilate it further. (You know like breaking a man’s hands and legs while he’s still on the cross.) But still that’s what happened when goons from the VHP and Bajrang Dal came visiting peaceful Mangalore.

I’d like to put this up on my blog in protest for Mangalore and Orissa. India has seen it’s worst bout of communal violence against Christians since independence over the last month. Even as 20,000 Christian families emerge from the jungles of Orissa into relief camps, the BJP government in Karnataka is building a funeral pyre in Mangalore. And for the first time in the independent history of India, the Christians of Mangalore took to the streets in protest and hundreds were arrested. (Of course, the mainstream press is reporting none of this)

Congratulations Karnataka!!! You’ve arrived! Welcome to the Gujarat model of development…

As a child, a teenager and a young adult, I never thought too much about being Christian in India. I only thought about being Indian and very passionately about being Bangalorean. In fact, I thought so little about being Christian that my Orkut and Facebook religious profile told the world that I was “spiritual, not religious”.

But, in the recent past, I have wondered if I should change my religious profile to state “Christian”. If for nothing else, than to state my solidarity with those in Orissa forced to hide in the jungles for the only crime of being “Christian”.

Was I in some way turning my back on who I was when I said that I was “spiritual, not religious”?

But, when I thought more about, I began to feel that troubled times demand that we hold on more closely to the beliefs that matter. If my faith is that I am “spiritual, not religious”, then I should cling deeper to my faith. Anything less would be a denial of who I am.

After all, in the final analysis, it is not about how others see me. It is about how I see myself.

It’s true that values that I learnt as a child in church have set the foundation for who I am. Some things that come to mind off the cuff are…
1. Thou shall not kill
2. Faith, hope and love… Of these, the greatest is love
3. Forgiveness and letting go
4. Satisfaction with what is mine…
5. Do not lie (or bribe)
6. Be a good citizen
7. Marriage is a decision
8. Excellence as my gift to god
9. Your word is everything
10. Hard work pays in the end

No rocket science here. And many of these are universal religious values. But, in my case, I learnt these in church, and I will always be grateful for that.

So, why am I am “spiritual, not religious”? I am spiritual because I believe that the wonder that is planet Earth can only be a miracle, an act of a superior being …even if it be through a process of evolution over the ages. My life and those of others around me is guided by a force that is “greater than I”.

But, yet, I am not religious because I find that I cannot accept any religious book in totality. I question too much. I cannot accept any one book as being “the way”.

When I was younger, I could claim that being “spiritual, not religious” was a state that I had evolved to. In today’s world, it is a conscious choice and decision that I must make everyday.

So, help me God 🙂

Hitler: The Second Coming

Posted: September 7, 2008 in Life and Living
Tags: ,

You know that the world is ready for the second coming of Hitler when an 18 something and a 20 something, sitting somewhere across the world in comfortable educated upper middle class India say…

  • Hitler was actually not such a bad man. He only hated the Jews.
  • Did the holocaust actually happen? We have never heard what Hitler had to say. We only heard the American version.
  • How could he have have killed 6 million Jews. There weren’t 6 million Jews in Germany. (Without checking on the fact that there were 80 million Germans at that time… So, it’s quite plausible that there could have been 6 million Jews across Europe. After all, Hitler had occupied most of Europe by that time.)
  • How did he get the oil for the gas chambers? Hitler needed oil to run the gas chambers. (Without checking on the fact that the gas chambers were run on poisonous gas, not oil)

Yes, then it’s perhaps time for the second coming of Hitler.

But, it’s also a time for others to affirm that a holocaust did happen. And if you’ve never heard about it, please read more here

I am no fan of American propaganda. But, killing is not about the numbers. Whether the number of Jews killed because of their race and religion was 1, 10, 100, 1000, 10,000, 1,00,000, 100,00,000… it’s wrong and it should never happen again.

Also when one makes sweeping comments in support of genocide, those need to corroborated with facts.

Unfortunately, India like America, is increasingly turning into a nation that is characterized by extreme ignorance and arrogance.

The greatest danger does not lie without, it lies within.