So, I open the papers today and I see this picture. The caption says:
RELIGION NO BAR: Hindu members of the Madhursang Ganpati-Muharram Mandal of Crawford Market observe Muharram. The mandal's members also celebrate the Ganpati festival.
Since I have been accused of cribbing about Times of India and generally the media’s attitude of showing images of minorities doing the majority thing, I thought I’d give the flip side as well now that the newspaper has finally given us a peek into it.
I only hope these Hindus are not beating themselves with chains.
Having said this, I reiterate that religion is a private matter and when it does spill out as celebration or mourning, it needs to be confined to a certain space. In the name of secularism let us not make a tamasha of it and disturb the peace.
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Those matkas (pots) of water that you see are placed in many localities; it is to symbolise, among other things, the denial of water to Imam Hussein. Anyone, and I mean anyone, can drink that water. Years ago, my mother was going somewhere and at a small store a woman was feeling faint and thirsty. In those days, bottled water was not available just about anywhere. But these pots were there, so my mother suggested she drink from it; the woman refused saying she would not drink Muslim water. It isn’t much different from how even within Muslim sects some would not touch water in the home of someone from another sect.
If one is not particularly religious, it also becomes difficult to explain some customs. I recall once being asked by a South Indian gentleman how Muslims celebrated Muharram. And because my memory was of those pots, I mentioned it. He looked surprised and asked, “Enough?” Obviously, festivals mean something more. So I told him it had a historical reason. “What?”
“Water problem,” I blurted out. Not the best answer, but he was a builder so it must have made some sense to him.
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kijiye aur koi zulm agar zidd hai yehi
lijiye, aur meri lab pe duaein aayi*
*My rough translation:
Torture me as much as you will
More prayers will spill forth from my lips
True sacrifice can be encapsulated in these sentiments, according to me.