Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fighting over Faith

I've been thinking quite a lot about faith these days. (Maybe because am doing a module called Introduction to World Religions?) I am once again amazed at how faith has, rather ironically, become such a divisive factor in our society today. The recent incidents of the Qu'ran burning plan at a church in Florida and the Australian lawyer who "smoked the scriptures"(to put it in my lecturer's words) are probably just reminders as to how intolerant and insensitive our world has grown to be.

Just yesterday I heard that the island of Bahrain had revoked the Bahraini citizenship of a top Shiite cleric. The media guesses that there have been subtle traces of unrest between the Shiites and the Sunnis in the region. Having lived in Bahrain for three years, it came as a surprise to me at first. The island is predominantly Shiite but the ruling family belongs to the Sunni sect. The country has always been open to religious freedom and I remember visiting quite a number of temples on Bahraini soil. Funnily, I understood more about my Hindu faith in an Islamic nation, thanks to the spiritual classes I attended every Friday (which wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for religious tolerance). Thus learning about strife between two faiths in a country whose main charm used to be interfaith harmony was rather disturbing.

Not that Bahrain has now become a center of unrest- I had to remind myself that we have seen it everywhere. Vaishnavites against the Saivites. The Catholics against the Protestants. The Sunnis against the Shiites. (It was interesting to learn that this rift has been in existence for the last 14 centuries). These are just examples of divisions within one religion. At a macro level, we have also seen battles among faiths- The crusades. The fight against "kafirs" which many misunderstand to be "jihad". Demolishing a mosque because it happened to be built on the birth place of one of Hinduism's most popular gods.

Such examples of fighting over faith make me question the very essence of it. Isn't faith supposed to strengthen humanity as a whole? Surely the purpose of faith was not to divide society right? Maybe in such a world being an atheist is less troublesome? As an atheist would say, "I'm an atheist. Thank God."

But looking at the scene from a rosier window, I am convinced that all's not lost. Right now, I'm reading a book titled, "A South Indian Journey" written by the English journalist Michael Wood. The book covers details of Wood's visits to numerous temples in Tamil Nadu. Writing about his trip to the shrine of the Lord Murugan at Palani, Wood describes his meeting with Selwyn, a Protestant Christian at the shrine. He writes, "Selwyn, in fact, goes happily between the Catholic shrine at Velankanni, Murugan of Palani and Muslim Nagore". If only we all had the foresight to accept that all faiths are the same! After all, the essence of each religion is the same. I for one am sure that God doesn't mind what name we call Him by. And it's just plain silly to fight over which name or form is the best. May we have the wisdom to realize that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Tribute to Cutlet


Being an absolute "quote hanger" can definitely trigger me to blog! One morning after a particularly grueling session with macroeconomics, I decided to google up quotes on dogs while drinking my first cup of tea for the day. (Yes, I do random stuff like that). I came across this quote: "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." The moment I read this, memories of Cutlet flashed across my mind.

My parents and I spent one year in the beautiful city of Dehra Dun, right at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. We stayed that year at the house of a senior colleague of my dad's. The only problem was that his dog also stayed in the same house. But we decided that it would be a very minor inconvenience. As time passed by, it became clear to me that Cutlet wasn't an inconvenience- she became a part and parcel of my life. In fact if someone mentioned the word "Cutlet", all that we could remember was her, not the snack! I would play with her before going to school, take her for long walks after homework and purposely irritate my mom by ordering her to jump on the bed (my dad was my co conspirator in this game). This became a part of our routine every Sunday. My dad would call for Cutlet the minute mom went to the kitchen. As soon as Cutlet would enter the room, dad would signal for her to jump on the bed. The minute she heard my mom's footsteps, she would just bounce back on the floor, knowing that mom would be angry about it. The day my dad got our first car we took her also for a ride in town. Sitting in a comic position in the rear seat along with me, as regal as a queen on her throne, she seemed to be looking down at the stray dogs on the street. It was as if she was almost human! Each moment spent with Cutlet remains etched in some distant corner of my mind.

However one incident remains crystal clear. I had a bad day at school (I don't remember why, but I guess it had something to do with being a non-Hindi speaking South Indian in a place where almost everybody spoke Hindi) and I came back home in a nasty mood. Instead of talking to Cutlet as I usually did I threw over my knapsack on the bed and started to cry. The tears soon gave way to rage and I refused to talk to anyone. I moved to the sofa and when Cutlet came towards me, I nudged her away. But a fifth grader cannot be angry for long. The anger turned to tears again... But this time, Cutlet came back to me and slowly placed her head on my lap, as if to say "All's going to be fine!" (She had never done this before to me.) Looking back I realize that apart from my mother, Cutlet was truly my first best friend.

One year passed by quickly, and we moved on from Dehra to the Kingdom of Bahrain and later to the United Arab Emirates, and now university in Singapore. It's been a total of nearly eight years so far! I don't know whether Cutlet's still there and if she is, will she be able to remember me. All I can say is that I feel blessed to have had her at some point in my life! I know she loved me unconditionally and thought the world of me, her human friend. I hope I live up to her vision. As someone erudite once said, "My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am!"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fighting over Faith

I've been thinking quite a lot about faith these days. (Maybe because am doing a module called Introduction to World Religions?) I am once again amazed at how faith has, rather ironically, become such a divisive factor in our society today. The recent incidents of the Qu'ran burning plan at a church in Florida and the Australian lawyer who "smoked the scriptures"(to put it in my lecturer's words) are probably just reminders as to how intolerant and insensitive our world has grown to be.

Just yesterday I heard that the island of Bahrain had revoked the Bahraini citizenship of a top Shiite cleric. The media guesses that there have been subtle traces of unrest between the Shiites and the Sunnis in the region. Having lived in Bahrain for three years, it came as a surprise to me at first. The island is predominantly Shiite but the ruling family belongs to the Sunni sect. The country has always been open to religious freedom and I remember visiting quite a number of temples on Bahraini soil. Funnily, I understood more about my Hindu faith in an Islamic nation, thanks to the spiritual classes I attended every Friday (which wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for religious tolerance). Thus learning about strife between two faiths in a country whose main charm used to be interfaith harmony was rather disturbing.

Not that Bahrain has now become a center of unrest- I had to remind myself that we have seen it everywhere. Vaishnavites against the Saivites. The Catholics against the Protestants. The Sunnis against the Shiites. (It was interesting to learn that this rift has been in existence for the last 14 centuries). These are just examples of divisions within one religion. At a macro level, we have also seen battles among faiths- The crusades. The fight against "kafirs" which many misunderstand to be "jihad". Demolishing a mosque because it happened to be built on the birth place of one of Hinduism's most popular gods.

Such examples of fighting over faith make me question the very essence of it. Isn't faith supposed to strengthen humanity as a whole? Surely the purpose of faith was not to divide society right? Maybe in such a world being an atheist is less troublesome? As an atheist would say, "I'm an atheist. Thank God."

But looking at the scene from a rosier window, I am convinced that all's not lost. Right now, I'm reading a book titled, "A South Indian Journey" written by the English journalist Michael Wood. The book covers details of Wood's visits to numerous temples in Tamil Nadu. Writing about his trip to the shrine of the Lord Murugan at Palani, Wood describes his meeting with Selwyn, a Protestant Christian at the shrine. He writes, "Selwyn, in fact, goes happily between the Catholic shrine at Velankanni, Murugan of Palani and Muslim Nagore". If only we all had the foresight to accept that all faiths are the same! After all, the essence of each religion is the same. I for one am sure that God doesn't mind what name we call Him by. And it's just plain silly to fight over which name or form is the best. May we have the wisdom to realize that.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Tribute to Cutlet


Being an absolute "quote hanger" can definitely trigger me to blog! One morning after a particularly grueling session with macroeconomics, I decided to google up quotes on dogs while drinking my first cup of tea for the day. (Yes, I do random stuff like that). I came across this quote: "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." The moment I read this, memories of Cutlet flashed across my mind.

My parents and I spent one year in the beautiful city of Dehra Dun, right at the foothills of the mighty Himalayas. We stayed that year at the house of a senior colleague of my dad's. The only problem was that his dog also stayed in the same house. But we decided that it would be a very minor inconvenience. As time passed by, it became clear to me that Cutlet wasn't an inconvenience- she became a part and parcel of my life. In fact if someone mentioned the word "Cutlet", all that we could remember was her, not the snack! I would play with her before going to school, take her for long walks after homework and purposely irritate my mom by ordering her to jump on the bed (my dad was my co conspirator in this game). This became a part of our routine every Sunday. My dad would call for Cutlet the minute mom went to the kitchen. As soon as Cutlet would enter the room, dad would signal for her to jump on the bed. The minute she heard my mom's footsteps, she would just bounce back on the floor, knowing that mom would be angry about it. The day my dad got our first car we took her also for a ride in town. Sitting in a comic position in the rear seat along with me, as regal as a queen on her throne, she seemed to be looking down at the stray dogs on the street. It was as if she was almost human! Each moment spent with Cutlet remains etched in some distant corner of my mind.

However one incident remains crystal clear. I had a bad day at school (I don't remember why, but I guess it had something to do with being a non-Hindi speaking South Indian in a place where almost everybody spoke Hindi) and I came back home in a nasty mood. Instead of talking to Cutlet as I usually did I threw over my knapsack on the bed and started to cry. The tears soon gave way to rage and I refused to talk to anyone. I moved to the sofa and when Cutlet came towards me, I nudged her away. But a fifth grader cannot be angry for long. The anger turned to tears again... But this time, Cutlet came back to me and slowly placed her head on my lap, as if to say "All's going to be fine!" (She had never done this before to me.) Looking back I realize that apart from my mother, Cutlet was truly my first best friend.

One year passed by quickly, and we moved on from Dehra to the Kingdom of Bahrain and later to the United Arab Emirates, and now university in Singapore. It's been a total of nearly eight years so far! I don't know whether Cutlet's still there and if she is, will she be able to remember me. All I can say is that I feel blessed to have had her at some point in my life! I know she loved me unconditionally and thought the world of me, her human friend. I hope I live up to her vision. As someone erudite once said, "My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am!"