Born in a culturally diverse country offering variety of religions, I often wonder why questioning religion is still a taboo in my country. After exploring my religious side I finally switched to the spiritual side for good. As per my personal experience, I can say, I feel more relieved and at peace when I trust my instincts. This has made me more confident and emotionally balanced. We Indians are raised like robots to follow blindly the religion we are born to. We never question what is taught to us. The Legend of Ramayana says Lord Ram was good, and Ravana was bad or evil, but the other side of story depicts Ravana (demon) as a genius with unmatched knowledge of Sanskrit, Vedas and medicine (at that time). I raise a question here- if I live with one side of the story and pass it on to generations who is going to change what is incorrect or rather lack of awareness that is being passed on to my generation or the next? There is no harm in being religious, but following your religion blindly and hating Ravana just because he fought with your Lord is wrong. We all have choices, but unawareness and fear are pushing us backwards. If we apply this to the modern business world and go sell Lord Ram’s statues in Sri Lanka (where Ravana is worshipped) nobody would buy them. On the other hand, on Dusshehra (the day on which Lord Ram killed Ravana) which is widely celebrated in India, statues of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, and Lord Ram’s bow arrow are in high demand. The same day is mourned in Sri Lanka. This leads to perfect dilemma for an Indian businessman operating in Sri Lanka. This is where religion takes back seat and business strategies, tactfulness, being practical, logical, money minded, and sharp business acumen all strike him at the same time, and this person who was born religious becomes spiritual or non-religious. The impetus may be his responsibility towards the family or to succeed in business for himself. Now comes the next question, Ravana was killed because he was an egoist, and who is the businessman now? Is he not egoist because he is thinking about himself or his family?
Moving on to a lighter note, I would like to bring to the table pure vegetarians, vegans and non-vegetarians. For some of the clans eating non-vegetarian food is a taboo. With no offense intended to the eating habits of people, I say, if I open a restaurant in my country I would be totally confused. During the time of Navratra (nine days when Goddess Durga is worshiped, twice a year) no raw meat is available easily in the market because in certain places the government has banned its sale to protect religious sentiments of the people. Now some clans during this time are strictly pure vegetarian, they do not even consume eggs or alcohol during this time, while some clans worship the Goddess in some parts of India by offering her meat and alcohol. It poses a tough challenge for a restaurant owner. It must also be noted that the customers she will serve to during this time may eat meat or drink alcohol during the rest of the year, except for these nine days twice a year; moreover, they may not accept food if it was cooked in the pan earlier used for non-vegetarian dish, some customers will be alright with the gravy of non-vegetarian curry but not the meat pieces, others may accept egg based dishes and the cool ones would not mind consuming non vegetarian food during this time. My question is that, is the Goddess not watching you from above for all those days when you ate non vegetarian food or is the food more important than your sentiments for the Supreme? By the way, serving beef is a taboo in my country again due to religious sentiment and KFC had to go through a long period of protest for serving the same. It later came up with a vegetarian menu. Burger King and McDonald’s do not serve beef in India, presumably because they had an efficient research team to study the culture before offering the product. They are working on the strategy to work on the religious factor and serve beef without hurting the religious sentiments by choosing the appropriate market.
Last but not the least being religious is not always bad. We have babas (guru’s/religious mentors) who are better off than most of the businessman. We have babas involved in crime, acting in movies and minting money at fa aster rate than any successful, educated, and strategic businessman. How do they do that? Well, the religious people of India are to be blamed. We seek refuge in these babas as soon as calamity or tragedy hits. We blindly use products manufactured by these babas without questioning the quality. We have versatile babas acting, producing, singing, writing lyrics of songs and script of his movie, and we make that movie a blockbuster only to open our eyes to crimes of the baba later. This takes even worse shape when women from our society are molested by these babas and his followers put allegations on women rather than questioning the baba. The influential baba promotes violence if questioned and has his followers from all sections of society threaten the government by refusing their votes. Do not underestimate the influence a baba can have on his followers; he could influence them so much that they can kill innocent people and turn public property to ashes if arrested by the police. They are so wealthy they can keep authorities in their pockets. Talk about the property of baba! He has much more than you could dream about all thanks to his followers who empty their pockets on his command.
A few common examples of problems for which we Indians rush to babas (we consider them volunteers of God) are not getting married, not having children, no job, problem with mother-in- law, and what do these psychics suggest? Marry a tree, and you will get married after that and your husband will have a long life; fast for days, and your husband will get a job or his business will be a success; offer certain amount of money, and the psychic will chant mantras for you and all your desires will be fulfilled. Are you joking? A psychic I met five minutes ago can change my life for good in the name of religion which I could not do for years of chanting God’s name. How about I take charge of my life and change my destiny to gold. A few Bollywood movies like Oh My God and PK tried to generate awareness about the issue, but we do not take home the message but leave it in the movie theater. For every problem baba gets his own product as a solution, and there he is minting money by fooling us. I am sure soon they will come up with baba or psychic purified air to combat pollution in Delhi.
I belong to a country where children read in their elementary school books, a poem by Nobel laureate for Literature, Mr Rabindranath Tagore “Where the Mind is Without Fear and the Head is held High….” I wonder, what happens when they grow up? Why do they forget to be fearless and follow religion and gurus blindly? Why don’t they become confident and fearless and sustain themselves? Why do they rush to babas for even the smallest problems and get trapped? To all the young women who go to babas and become their prey, why can’t you be fearless and confident like Rani Lakshmi Bai, Mother Teresa, Kalpana Chawla, Mary Kom, Priyanka Chopra and lead your own way? Gone are the days when not finishing the last morsel of a meal could lead you to a demon’s lap and make you pray to the Lord for life. Be your own savior, and write your own destiny. Follow religion or become spiritual, but not because of ignorance but because of genuine faith and awareness. I am glad I did overcome the fear of not doing something a certain way to please the Gods. I mean no offense to anybody’s religious sentiments, but maybe I got confused with 330 million Gods and Goddess in India and I could not remember who to call for my rescue or to get through high school with good grades. *wink*
Author: Dr. Neeti Mathur
Assistant Professor/ Assistant Registrar
National Law University, Jodhpur- India