That, I should be born in a Catholic household and in a coastal village of Mangalore – Well, was it in my plan or in my hands? So, with that single co-incidence – or call it accident – came in me my religious faith, the deity I worshiped, the Holy Book I read, the rituals and customs I followed and, above all, the food I ate… fish, meat, pulses and leaves. I had no choice when, as a little infant, I was fed with fish or meat, rice, dal or veggies… Beef was the cheapest of the meats and that was one reason why it was cooked in so many non-Hindu houses… Our immediate neighbors, on the right, were the most orthodox Brahmins… the elderly lady of that family loved all her neighbors,. She would come to the fence and call us, the kids, on every special occasion to offer food, fruits or sweets… But, what delights me still is this: she would drop them on our palms from at least one foot above… She would not allow us to touch her… But, we kids – even my parents and grandparents – never took offence… That’s how the faith was, in those days… Brahmins felt they were ‘special’… and, the rest of us simply said, ‘So be it’!
But, we kids and her grandchildren had great fun in our house. Those kids were our friends, and they spent a lot of time blissfully playing inside our house oblivious of the fact that they were ‘special’… On the left side of our house lived a staunch Muslim family… They shared with us lovely delicacies on Eid and other occasions and we shared with them ours on Christmas and other festivals… They ate mutton, beef and fish… We, Catholics, ate all of that plus pork. The Brahmins on the right side touched nothing of them… On the rear side of our house lived some Hindu families – non-Brahmins – and, they loved to eat beef and pork cooked at our place (though not all in their families).
Why I am saying all this, now, is to convey this: We never discriminated or hated each other based what we ate. It was a coastal area and we were all raised in families that followed certain religious and cultural habits… That’s how it was and we let that be.
Here, in Mumbai, some of my best friends and dearest students are Jains – Bipin, Dhiren, Amit, Jeet … all of them don’t touch even onion and garlic, leave alone flesh of a fish or an animal. Do they find me, a meat and fish eater, as some ‘Rakshash’?
I am a teacher… I have spent close to forty years doing nothing but teaching. And, if at all there is one lesson each and every child ‘has to’ learn and follow in life – I think, it is the spirit of tolerance and forbearance… the ability to accommodate others’ views, habits and preferences along with our own. Otherwise, our education is worth nothing… We are ‘misfits’ to inhabit his planet created by the same Almighty God…
Udipi is a stone-throw away from Mangalore, my birth place. We all grew up on the legends of the centuries-old Krishna temple in Udipi. On the eve of this Eid, the elderly seer of this famed temple had invited the Muslim brotheren for an Iftar ceremony in the dining area of the temple… The food offered to break the fast must’ve been ‘satvik’, made of pure cow-ghee and it must’ve been offered with purest of the purest hearts and hands… The Muslim brotheren offered their Namaz too inside the temple (dining) area… When I first heard about it, I got goose bumps all over my body… “What a pure soul this elderly Swamiji is?” was my only reaction.
What I heard next was the angry protest from Sri Ram Sena! “How could cow slaughterers be allowed to do all this inside a Holy Hindu temple?” Yes, they cornered the seer!
Some fifteen years ago, a 15-year-old boy, by the name Shrikant, had spoken in one of our P.D. sessions on the topic – ‘Should Ram Temple Be Built at Ayodhya?” Ever since then, our young-ones – irrespective of their faiths – have loved to present this speech during our sessions… I wish to present it here… with the hope, that it might help douse the flames of hostility… even if it means by only a drop of water…
I am that universal soul,
And you are the immortal reality
of the cosmic Universe.
Respected teachers and my dear friends –
GOD, the almighty, is omnipresent.
He resides in you and in me.
He reside in the trees and the rivers.
He resides in the mountains and the valleys.
He resides in a saint and a criminal…
He resides in a Hindu and a Muslim.
Then, why – yes, why this desire, this obsession in us
to enclose Him within a temple or a mosque…
within I church or a synagogue?
How can you house a God?
Do you have the strength? Do you have the guts? Do you have the means?
The fools and fanatics are always sure of themselves!
The Hindus think – they can hose God in a temple…
The Muslims think - they can house God in a Masjid.
FOOLS… FANATICS... FOOLS!
My dear friends, God doesn’t need our protection…
He doesn’t need our swords, our guns…
He is secure, very secure.
It is we – the buffoons, the cunning creations –
yes, it is we that need protection… We are insecure…
We run around with swords.
The question today is: Should Ram Mandir be built at Ayodhya?
Friends, my answer is:
Build… Build – if you CAN… If you CAN!
Pic.: Avinash Mantri