It is not my fault. I grew up in a home where my mum spent half her time trying to trace me in the neighbourhood, where I’d disappear to play in the evenings, and the other half trying to get me to study. She never told me to light an incense stick, though she said her morning prayers everyday.So it is her fault.
Papa was mostly found in the folds of newspaper when he was home. Sundays were spent playing the game of Boggle that came in the newspaper. He taught me how to change an electrical fuse, plugs, anything with wires, and to never come home crying. Yeah, he had a single rule – in case of a fight, never come home crying. I rarely did. Every Diwali, he fished out the forgotten aarti book, and tried to figure what prayer was to be sung. So it is his fault.
My grandfather once stood outside my grandmother’s temple where she’d sit and pray to a gazillion Gods, and remarked, ‘Look, the poor Gods must be elbowing each other for space and prasad.’ He also went for the Vaishno Devi trek with us since he wanted to walk the distance. He never entered the temple, despite his religion and belief in God. It is his fault.
These people miserably failed their task of moulding me into a devout Hindu – one who is intolerant of others, is forever insecure, wants every movie that dares to question the religion banned, never questions the rituals, and basically dreams of converting the world. Not only did they fail me, they failed my children, which makes their crime darker. The younger one refuses to fold hands during school prayers since he says he is an atheist. He also says he might believe, if he is given sufficient logic, in God, but he absolutely will not take coloured Gods. He has learnt to question. It is not his fault.
The older one today, during a heated debate with family about extremism and its link with religion, said after hearing everyone scream their two bits, ‘Mumma at the hospital today, I saw this man spread out his prayer mat and pray. He seemed pretty normal to me, and not someone who’d pull out a gun and kill people indiscriminately. So how does it make him different?’ He has learnt to see people independent of their religion. It is not his fault.
My fault has crossed to the next generation. My flawed children took me back to all the times when my folks could have easily swayed me into describing a whole caste or religion with one short-sighted sweeping statement. They didn’t, mostly because there was so much more to do. And now I suffer. I cringe each time I see self-appointed advocates of any religion spewing venom at others. I cringe because I can see the power games behind the divisive lines, I cringe because there is hatred splattered on each turn of the newspaper, but mostly, I cringe at being able to see all this. For a lot of them cannot see it. They see it as a bid to protect their religious identities. I see it as an attempt to stifle everything that is humane. They see the likes of me as hypocrites, traitors, blind sympathisers, and an embarrassment to our ‘own’ religion. I wish I could be as blind as you. But I am not, and it is not my fault.
I should have been taught better. I should have asked the guy who delivered the pizza yesterday if he was a Hindu. The painters should have been interviewed about their beliefs. The chap who used to drive the younger one’s school bus back when he started school was of questionable faith. I should have been more careful. A few winters ago, the woman who had rolled down her window to hurriedly give a blanket to a homeless man never bothered to ask his religion. What was she thinking? The blood donors should put in a clause about religion of the victim who uses their blood. The world is a dangerous place with so much trust, and goodness going around. Hell, we didn’t even bother to find the preferred God of the injured guy we helped. Blasphemy!But you can’t blame me. I was raised colour blind. It is not my fault.
You out there, on the other hand, are perfect. You have your answers straight. There is one God- yours. Fair enough. The other Gods need to be done away with, for they have their guns trained at your Gods. Hear, Hear. You work in favour of world peace. It is them who are intent on destroying it. So you propose that we take the lead, and do away with them instead. Brilliant. They, after all, have been killing for quite some time now. Your fervent dream of your picture perfect world is, however, made ugly by splotches of people like me. We can’t help it. We have been brain washed into coexistence, respecting life, and to never hide behind excuse such as, ‘I’ll kill for he is killing.’ Tch. What a waste! I could have been standing with you, never getting distressed at the lives that are lost for they belong to faiths other than mine. Here I am, shedding tears instead. I wasn’t taught blood-curdling hatred. It is not my fault.
But I promise. I promise to try, and undo the damage that my parents, grandparents, sibling, friends, the newspaper vendor, the guy who made the world’s best biryani at Eid back in hostel, and my students have inflicted on me. I’ll learn to hate them, treat them as murderers. It does seem blissful to be manically obsessed with hatred for others. Next time when you spew venom, I’ll deep breathe and nod in agreement. That would probably lessen my agony, heartache, and the tears that are lost at displays of naked, seething rage. Maybe, some day I’ll see the world as you see it – your white, the other grey, and the pool of red. Someday your rants will be epiphanic, and I’ll see the dark light. Till then, go on hating me for not hating others. So what if it is your fault. Flaw, after all, is mine.