A friend shared a small story about a “dholki” where friends and family had gotten together to sing and dance and celebrate an upcoming wedding of a dear one. During the festivities, a member of the gathering, who was quite uncomfortable to begin with, got up and qualified the event as a “Hindu’ana Rasm” which obviously was followed by anything and everything starting from whispers to looks to outrage. It is said with a degree of certainty that almost all of us have heard this at some point in time in our lives. Some even qualify certain activities, demeanor, etc., as “not being our culture”.
We take the first argument where the qualification is that of “Hindu’ana Rasm”. The term itself is quite oxymoronic. “Hindu’ana” referring to religion, while “Rasm” relating to culture. The term itself reflects on the utter confusion that exists. “Religion” is a set of beliefs while “Rasm-o-Riwaj (Culture)” primarily reflect on a locality, a social set-up or an accepted norm. While it is agreed that quite often religious beliefs of a community may impact its culture or social norms, the latter, however, relates more to the historic lifestyles of a particular area. Hence, it can be safely interpreted from the argument that the way things are done relate more to the ways they have always been done rather than the same being dictated by religion. A “Rasm” can be Asian, American, etc., but cannot be Hindu, Muslim or Jewish. Hence we have Muslim brides in the South Asia wearing red while in Afirca, they wear white. Hopefully we won’t qualify wearing of a white dress by a bride as a “Christian Rasm”.
Coming to the second argument where certain ways of doing things are qualified as “not our culture”. This is relatively easier. Where exactly did we come from? Did we migrate like the Americans who never had their own culture, which resulted in them being very open and adaptive to all cultures of the world? Have we not always been a part of this soil? Indeed we have a very strong and deep-rooted history. Our culture is that of the Indian sub-continent or what eventually became of it when people from different parts of the world inhabited this area. How can we then simply sever ourselves and claim to have a different culture since there is now a border. The fact remains that the border has not always been there. People, indeed have always been here, doing things in a certain way. The ways have evolved as the time passed till they became socially acceptable norms.
It is also mentioned that over time, it has been learnt that “names” too have religions. Quite humorously, John is a “Christian” name, Ali a “Muslim” and Vijay a “Hindu”. Let us settle for English, Arabic and Hindi, instead of Christian, Muslim and Hindu. These are words of a language having meanings. Vijay means victorious so why can a Muslim not be named “Vijay”. Names may often have religious connotations, yet each name carries a meaning. To what extent will we go out of our ways to create differences?
The world has gone through much torment. Each community may have uniqueness while at some level, that community may be a part of a country, a continent and must co-exist in order to prosper and flourish. Let us enjoy our uniqueness, celebrate our similarities and enjoy our differences and move towards a higher level of peaceful co-existence.