Wednesday, November 26, 2014

827

Went to Crossword last evening. There, I happened to read the introduction of a book called 'Bol Bam' by Scharada Dubey. It's a compilation of essays on various pilgrims and pilgrimmages associated with Lord Shiva. There seemed to be a few pictures and I dipped into some pages in the middle of the book. Seemed insipid to me. But I was very curious about the author's life after reading the Introduction.

She had a quiet childhood, mingled with friends from other faiths, and was exposed to diverse ways of approaching religion through her parents' mindset. Her mother was fairly devout. Her father wasn't. Neither forced her to pray or follow any religious ceremonies. She picked up pieces of Hinduism as and when she could, mostly unknowingly. Then the scene in India changed - or actually, maybe it didn't change. It just got more vivid and there were the riots and the rise of Hindutva and the inexplicable shame of calling oneself a 'Hindu' - even though the rise of Hindutva itself came with a call, "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain." (Say it with pride that we are Hindus.)

Then her first marriage fell apart and she married again. Her second husband is an atheist and he always asked her how she could believe in a religion that is so stratified and unjust. If you take into account the way widows were treated (a situation the author was familiar with because she saw her father's widow sister live out most her life in white saris and no real life outside her brother's home) or the caste system, you see this religion as just plain exploitative and unfair. She seemed to grapple with those questions herself. She had seen that side of it but she couldn't explain away that sense of deep connect and nourishment that her faith provided her. She had shopped around the spiritual market - done Vipassana and chanted the Buddhist chants. But she felt comfortable with the notion of a God you can see and touch and imagine when the eyes are shut. Somehow, none of that seemed to be the thing one admitted to in polite, secular company.

This book is, I think, is her trying to find answers through pilgrims and their journeys.

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