Lessons in plurality and tradition from gentlemen
Lesson 1: (Today)
Was dropping off my daughter to the school bus today morning and ran into the grandfather of her “bus-friend”- an elderly Sikh gentleman. We know each other well, he sometimes does the duty when his son is traveling.
So, tomorrow is Gurpurv? I asked him and he said, yes. Guru-purnima it is. But, followed it up with, “The actual reason is that it is Kartik Purnima, one of the two main Purnimas we celebrate- Guru-purnima is just appeasement of Sikhs.”
I hemmed and hawed; told him, why, at least in North India, we think Guru-Purnima is a big thing. He cut me short, very firmly.
“The trouble”, he said, is that “in the rush to associate some holiday or the other to all communities, the government has actually diluted tradition”. Sharad Purnima and Kartik Purnima have been celebrated in our traditions for centuries and across all religions and cultures. Now, the government is calling Kartik Purnima, Guru-purnima.
For some reason, this old man with flowing white beard who my daughter calls Santa Claus uncle, made my morning.
Lesson 2 (some time back)
There is this Muslim doctor family we know; from Kashmir of all places. The doctor couple are family friends. The father of the lady is an old-time FRCP, still lives in Kashmir and periodically lands up in Delhi.
We have the most fascinating discussions.
I am an atheist, he is not. In fact, he has visited almost all the Hindu temples in the country, as he has the various Dargahs and Mosques and Gurdwaras.
I tell him God does not exist; why does he even bother?
He tells me, when I die, as someday surely I will, I will have no parachute! I shall surely go to hell! Whereas, from Vaishnodevi to Ajmer Sharif, from Notre-dame to Gurdwara Shish-Ganj, he will have so many parachutes- Gods willing to watch over him and escort him to the Pearly Gates!
You know what? I do not know many people who think like him and the “Santa Claus Uncle” above; in my generation and the next. More’s the pity.