I am but a free particle…
India’s silent revolution has taken a bit of a beating. The regionalised political system that mushroomed first in the south and then after the Mandal Commission in the north has disintegrated. The right-wing has soared above the left and the country is now tilted in flight. Identity politics of a different genre is now winning blockbuster elections. It’s in your face, it is religious nationalism, it is political patriotism, it is heavily opinionated, there is no space for moderates. Moral codes are splintered and humanity is crumbling.
The state of Karnataka held it’s fifteenth legislative assembly elections and the months leading up to the polls were acrimonious. The parties honoured and brought from the dead a number of legends, heroes, and kings. Some called upon the souls of rationalists whose ideas are only set in stone and the many concrete statues erected but never implemented. And some called upon the souls of kings who massacred for their strength and valour. Many new statues were commissioned. More holidays were declared.
Caste and identity politics has permeated deep into the fabric of the nation.
The fabric is now warped and biased.
The fabric is now dyed in hues not primary.
The fabric is now tattered, battered and frayed.
The fabric is now worn, worn unintentionally by so many.
As the elections got dirtier and louder, a little nerve twitched and I wanted to figure out my place in this cauldron.
Fact check: India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area and the most populous democracy in the world. The major religion practiced in India is Hinduism followed by Islam and Christianity. India has more than 438 living languages.
I am a Hindu by birth. But lately, I have realized that my version of religion is vastly different from the religious narrative running the country now.
We have never celebrated any of the festivals that the majority of the Hindus do. Diwali is as alien to me as Christmas or Ramzan. I never had a priest preside over my wedding. Alcohol and meat consumption are not sins. Being agriculturists and a race from an obscure corner of the nation, our biggest festival is “puthari” the harvest festival which also has become defunct now because all the fields are lying vacant because farming is just not profitable. All traditions are a bit dated – but, I’ll take this as it seems to be based simply on what sustains a community.
Given a choice, I would leave the religion column blank. But given no choice, I will tick Hindu because you can be an Athiest, a Rationalist or Agnostic and still be a Hindu. The great thing about Hinduism is (was) that it is all-inclusive and is (was) a way of life rather than a forceful assertion of rules.
I am but a free particle, not bound by any external force.
Why is it important to fill the religion column in Banks and in school admission forms? Are all citizens and children not equal in the eyes of these institutions?
How did ambiguous myths and equivocal concepts become more important than flesh and blood?
Fact check: Karnataka is a state in the southwestern region of India. It was formed on 1 November 1956, with the States Reorganisation Act. Originally known as the State of Mysore, it was renamed Karnataka in 1973.
The states were formed with language as criteria.
The official language of the state is Kannada.
I was filling up an application for my daughter’s school. The online form had a just a drop-down menu for the mother tongue. The menu had 6 or 7 ‘main’ languages. Since my daughter’s mother tongue wasn’t on the list I asked the school official – she said oh, don’t worry just put Kannada. But, my daughter doesn’t know or speak Kannada?!
I chose English as the mother tongue – because my child understands and speaks it.
Even though essentially by the lines drawn I am from Karnataka, I am not my birth a Kannadiga. I am from a very small district that is adjacent to the western ghats called Kodagu or Coorg.
Before 1956 it was an administratively separate Coorg State of 4,102 square kilometers, it was then merged into an enlarged Mysore State.
Kodava thakk is the spoken language, it is one without a script and only spoken by around 2,00,000 people. The people of Coorg essentially worship ancestors and are open to the interpretation of religion.
Kodava Sari’s are draped differently from the rest of the country and men wear Kupyas – a unique long black or white wrap-around tunic. The weddings are conducted without priests. The major festivals are:
Kailpodh: signifying the completion of the transplanting of the rice crop.
Puttari: rice harvest festival.
Very different from the ‘India’ that is known.
This is my core culturally. This core doesn’t feature anywhere near the large concept of India. Like this, I am sure that in the most populous democracy there are many little pockets of different cultures and values that all pushed and shoved under one umbrella.
In today’s world where lines are drawn in blood and blood is shed over what meat you eat, my identity is not important.
We are all a product of nature, nurture, time and travel.
We are all one species.
Keep religion away from politics.
Keep religion away from institutions.
Kill the idea of identity politics.
Shed the skin that is killing diversity.