Monday, October 26, 2009
'Amma...you know... M has a Gujarati family staying next door who are always disturbing everyone' said my daughter one day last week. I settled down to listen to her story. M is her classmate, busmate and close friend. She explained that the smoke from the diya they lit for Diwali caused the fire alarm to ring. I laughed and said such things happen. Then she says that according to M, even during Ramadan, they will do their morning prayers with bells ringing and disturb others.
I stopped laughing. I realised where this was coming from. Some stray comments M's parents have let fall about their neighbours and their religious practices have been picked up by the kid and is being passed around. It upset me.
Now, I am one of those people who lights the lamp in my makeshift puja corner only twice or thrice a year...for onam, vishu and navarathri. And the apple I kept for Puja for Navrathri is still there because I have not gone back there since. But I did not like this! I felt uncomfortable that there is so much intolerance in people and what upset me was that the children are repeating it and discussing it.
So whether it was warranted or not, I gave my daughter a long lecture about freedom of religion, secularism and tolerance. I told her that praying to God is good in whatever way it is done. Each person has a different way of praying to God. Some sing hymns, some do puja ringing bells, some go to temple/mosque/church and pray. I said that no one has the right to stop another person from having their own beliefs and their own way of prayer. I said if the ringing of bell can be called troublesome, so can the church bells and the prayer calls from the mosques. But in actual fact, they are just different ways of praying to the same God. If everyone just lets everyone else be, the world will be a much better place.
I hoped she would go and repeat what I said to her friend.
Probably I overreacted to a small incident but what bugged me was the fact that thoughts like this are being planted in the minds of small children. Parents do not realise that stray comments or opinions they pass can create a lasting impact in the mind of small children.
It just brought back to me all over again the tremendous responsibility of being a parent!