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How much religion is good?
A friend of mine stays awake till late night to finish all cooking such that she and her family can have stale food the next day. She unhesitatingly tells this to anybody who asks her why she looks tired. Fortunately my friend holds a junior post in office and has therefore not been held responsible for any mistake in the course of work. If we dwell into the tradition, it becomes clear that somebody started this tradition with a view to giving a little rest to women who otherwise slogged at the fire day in and day out. My second friend too is happy with her flow of life. She observes all fasts, rituals, traditions as told by the Guru. We exchange warm smiles when buying vegetables. And so one day when we were at the vegetable shop, she innocently asked me in Marathi, “ Shashthiche Jevan ( Meal for 6th Day?” Clearly I was taken by surprise. 'Shashthi' must have had some significance in the past but not now. " It's good, she is not working," was my reaction as I walked back home. It also made me wonder if she was getting adequate time for her school going children and husband with all the rituals and customs that she was following.
It was certainly not my intention to be cynical. But over the years I have come to believe that you need to be focused on the present to be successful in life- be it marriage, children's upbringing, investment, career or any such thing. And talking to her each time only confirms my worst fears that religion is taking a toll on her present.
Meaningful or meaningless
The so called 'Shashthi Food' must have kept my friend busy in the kitchen for a longer time! She could have well utilized this valuable time for something else.
But for some reasons my friend has opted for this religious style of life. It perhaps means less confrontation with the elders in the family as also less tension. Sadly, she is not visualizing that in years to come she is likely to get distanced her from her children who after being placed well will find it all meaningless.
Indore, religious customs and traditions
Since my husband belongs to Indore, it was natural for us to shift to this sleeping city after he took premature retirement in ’96. Soon we were to discover that the so-called peaceful city was riding high on obsolete religious beliefs and traditions which were sometimes quite irksome.
My husband was the first to encounter this problem in his factory. The female employees would at times fast at a stretch for more than 2-3 days. This happened when apart from their regular fasting day, some other festival would also crop up. And so a woman worker had to be rushed to the hospital after she fainted in the factory. Naturally, my husband paid for her low BP medicines and Drip.
In due course, it also became apparent that ‘Indore is a city of festivals and religious celebrations.’ Death in a family being no exception! On numerous occasions, my husband tried educating his workers not to take loan for Mrityu Bhoj (Feast after death). But no words of wisdom ever worked in the face of religious beliefs and fear of community boycott. The practice continues even today despite Government’s strict stand against it.
Death procession is also a very troubling factor which till today is prevalent in the weaker section of the society- particularly in Indore. It means carrying the dead on a stretcher right up to the crematorium. The stretcher is shouldered by male relatives and friends. This is accompanied by drum beats. It is certainly a frightful sight for small children, pregnant women, sick and weak spirited people walking on the streets at that time. Not to forget the traffic jam it creates! Thankfully, the educated people prefer to use Ambulance or Corporation Van these days to take the dead to the crematorium or burial place. It saves time as well as unnecessary exhaustion. Besides, it does not also interfere with the religious rites.
There have been funny instances too. During one college break, I decided to enroll my daughter for tailoring classes nearby. One day she returned home early. The reason being it was Amavasya (New moon day) and tailors did not do any cutting or stitching on this day. The practice must have been prevalent in olden times when there was no electricity. Slowly it acquired a touch of religion and thus the practice is being continued even today.
Converting Bus Stop into Temple
Some time ago, the local administration introduced City Bus service on our route. A bus stop was created for public convenience. But it did not work and the buses stopped coming in this area. Some 'creative minds' decided to make the best of it and converted the bus stop into Kaal Bhairav Temple. Local people quite often come and pray here.
This is just one of the examples. Some fanatic local leaders in Indore have even constructed temples in parks that are otherwise meant for recreation, children’s play and good time pass for general public. A small temple has cropped up on a footpath near an electricity transformer in our area. This behavior displays more of indiscipline and fanaticism than religion.
Too much religion hampers alertness
Intelligence is growing in human beings. And it is growing both ways- Good intelligence and Bad Intelligence. Good Intelligence is taking us to new inventions, better life, happiness and security. The Bad Intelligence is resulting in violence, crime against women, children, weak and the aged. It is also responsible for giving rise to intolerance, wickedness, corruption and everything that is causing disruption in the world. And so if we are going to be so immersed in religion, will we be able sense danger and act upon it before it destroys us?
We have to be God Loving
We recently lost a very valuable friend, well-wisher and an eminent doctor- Late Maj. Gen. Saksena. In the course of conversation he once remarked, “We need to be God loving and not God fearing.” Yes indeed! Being God loving will automatically bring forth in us love, empathy, cheerfulness and every thing positive. On the other hand being God fearing is going to constantly keep us edgy, nervous, uncertain and insecure thus driving us towards religious practices that are no longer relevant.
Too much religion needs to be checked
We are all human beings with our own set of fears and trepidation. Religion helps us as it offers hope in the face of adversity. In the form of festivals, religion offers us reasons to rejoice and meet people. We could then say- Religion is remembering God and His teachings. It also means accomplishing our duties well. In which case, anything that increases expenditure beyond limits, takes us away from responsibilities or gives rise to blind faith and morbid fear is excess religion which we need to check. For, such things defy the very concept of God who stands for justice and well-being. Here I also quote Swami Vivekananda who once said," Religion is the manifestation of the Divinity already in man. Religion is the idea which raises the brute unto man, and man unto God."
In all certainty, this is the role of religion and we should not stretch it beyond this.