Friday, June 24, 2005

Shades of Secularism


On my recent trip to India, I had an instance of how misunderstood the term "securalism" has become in India's politico today...
The Railways is a great leveler. For the period of the journey, you get to talk on par with people from all walks of life. I met an interesting, old Muslim gentleman on the Dadar (Mumbai-Chennai).
Old man to me: So, would you marry my nephew? He is smart and intelligent but he is a Muslim.
Me: (laughing) Well, if it was that easy!
Old man: You are Hindu? Ah, you don't like Muslims!
Me: No, it has nothing to do with it.
Old man: Then why are you averse to the idea?
Me: But...
Old man: (shaking his head) Ah, you are a Hindu fundamentalist; not secular.
Me (Totally confused at this tangent): ????????????????!!!!!!!?

(Who says that only women go on tangents?:))

And the old man didn't talk to me for the rest of the journey!So, these days, I gotta marry an unknown Muslim whose Uncle thinks it is a good match in order for me to be "secular". Sweet.

The Spectre of Jinnah

Jinnah must be turning in his grave. A half-century after the demise of the founding father of Pakistan, he still lingers fresh in people's memories; fresh enough to brew trouble, this time in the House of Saffron. India Today carries a series of articles on the soup that Advani has landed himself in with his comments on Jinnah.
Amidst the ruckus that Advani caused by calling Jinnah "secular", some say, "Why bother with issues surrounding a man who's been dead for a long time?". Some others, like the VHP and RSS, are adamant that Jinnah shouldn't be characterized as a secular figure.
I don't think you can ignore some things as being in the past. After all, the past is what defines the present. But neither can you say that the past is all black and white. Jinnah may have caused the bifurcation of the erstwhile British Raj but then he might have had his own ideas on secularism just as our netas have today (And most of what our honourable netas say are skewed, politically motivated and utter crap!). I prefer not to judge Jinnah. I think he must've been a complex man and perhaps, he had his own reasons....

[Larry Collins and Dominique LaPierre give a more unbiased (I thought it unbiased. My dad disagrees with me.), objective view of Jinnah's political motivations in their "Freedom at Midnight". Read it if you get a chance!]


Umesh said...

Many a time I have stood back and looked at what secularism really meant.Many a time I have heard my own friends use it to fulfill their heart's desire as far as matrimonial issues go..but then secularism is not about that. Secularism is about not being perceptive to differences brought about by religion and for that matter any such aspect which brings about divison amongst human beings.

Prabu Karthik said...

boy!. getting proposals in running train? good:-)
Look guys our subha is in demand.

nowadays i don't read the front page in the HINDU first. comedy is for later. sports, su do ku, business news.. and last this tamasha...

i would have been happy if you had given your take on what secularism means to you.

Umesh said...

A wide expanse of
White, blue, black and gray
In His brewing bowl
Weed, shells, you, me and many more.

Umesh said...

In silence I pray
For subdued colors
And tranquil faces.
A shiver escapes
Through parted lips
Deep from my shriveled soul.
I silence I pray.

Anonymous said...

First things first ... i dont think it is right to compare secularism and marriage. Secularism is an attitude expressed towards the community and marriage is a lot more personal. the venn diagrams of these two do not intersect in my world.

My definition of secularism would be
: Never hate or discriminate amongst people (this set however does not include my near and dear ones cos i aint no saint).

Bottomline: Although, I would want my daughter to marry an iyengar guy I consider myself to be 100% secular.

sb said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sb said...

interestingly, both Advani and Jinnah share the same thought process. Both of them do(did) not want Muslims in India(present). aint it?!?!?! ;-)
btw, "enakkuLLa thoongindu irundha mirugatha thatti ezhuppiteenga"
viraivil idhai otti oru blog ezhudha poren :-)

thennavan said...

SECULAR according to these people means:

Country (to)
Ultras (and)
Lunatics (and)


kamal said...

I think most of us misuse the word secular, when what we really want to say is liberal.

India is a secular country, because we do not follow the principles of one religion. Which does not automatically make India liberal. Maybe the founders of the constitution were liberal in their thinking.

Liberal is a completely different ball game.

Marriage: Subha marrying a muslim does not make her secular. Her not marrying a muslim does not make her a hindu fundamentalist.

Umesh said...

Somewhere between my mind and my mouth,I lost what i really wanted to say.I do completely agree with what Kamal has said.

Narayanan Venkitu said...

The next time you meet someone like this..ask them if they'll name their grandson/daughter as say LAKSHMI or GANESH...! People wear all kinds of masks around them.! and preach.!

About Jinnah - I feel that we should let the dead people out of the picture and take care of the Modern day business.

Who know what Jinnah and Gandhi thought about the future of India /Pak / Hindus/Muslims.

Prabu Karthik said...

actually subha,

summa oru pechukku seri nu
solirendhenu vachukko, first things first your name would have been changed from Subha to Saira Bhanu:-))

i am putting things subtly but i guess readers can comprehend what i come to. There are exceptions but generally that is the case.

the most tolerant, liberal, broadminded way-of-life religion is somehow construed as the most E na Vaa na. only time will tell..
(u talked about posterity in yr tamil blog didn't u?).

Freeyavedu said...

Kadaisiya enna solla vara nee ?
Hindu or non-Hindu ? Yara pudika pora ?

Subha said...

"Secularism is about not being perceptive to differences brought about by religion"
I disagree.
Secularism is being perceptive to the differences in religion but not acting on it. If one is not aware of differences, then one's actions cannot be construed as secular because they are born out of ignorance.

Subha said...

Prabhu Karthik,

My take on secularism is this; It is going to be a repeat of my reply to Umesh in the comment above. If one can be tolerant and adjusting despite knowing that other religions may have tenets contrary to one's own, that is secularism. And so long as crucial decisions of justice/social significance are made without the bias of religion coloring our judgement, one can be called secular.

Subha said...

you are absolutely right! Marriage doesn't determine one's secularist credentials. I wrote about this because it goes to show just how skewed a definition politicians have managed to portray in recent times.

Subha said...

Advani and Jinnah do carry similar opinions in many aspects. Mani Shankar Aiyar has written a rather perceptive guest column on that in India Today. Advani was born in Sindh (now in Pak.) and Jinnah was born in Mumbai (India)! Weird coincidence, eh? Maybe being in such a situation gives you other ideas about secularism...

Subha said...

bang on!

Kamal, you make a lot of sense! :)

Narayanan sir,
neenga ketka sonnadha ketta, naan oru bayangara vaadhi nu ennai ulla potturuvaanga...:)) Nilamai apdi irukku, ippo! But I got your point.

Subha said...

Prabhu Karthik,
w.r.f your second comment: very true! The more kind and tolerant something is, it is mistaken for Enna panna, kali kaalam!

Subha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Freeyavedu said...

Nan kaeta kelviku pathilae kanumae ?

thennavan said...

OT: Have blogrolled you :-)

Subha said...

apdi naan oru aal pudikkarache unakku theriyamaya irukka pogudhu? :)

Subha said...

Thennavan, thanks!

Venky said...

I have been thinking about this interesting discussion for a while and couldnt make up my mind between two different schools of thought I had...

I beleive secularism is about more than just being tolerant towards other religion and principles...I think it is also about having an attitude of equality i.e. a beleif that no religion is superior to other. I beleive in my religion and would'nt beleive in anything else for sure...but I also dont think that my religion is superior to any other religion...its just that Hinduism works for me like islam works for muslims and christianity for Christians. Since I beleive in this am I secular?
A lot of us (me including) in this modern world live a life which I beleive kinda runs parallel to our religion. I am a brahmin but I definitely am not what I would call a "textbook brahmin" Instead of fully following what our religion asks us to do we simply refer to God in times of crisis for moral support or regularly every morning (like me) asking for miracles to happen...
I am not saying this is a bad thing to do...I do the same thing and it makes feel heck of a lot better about myself. The point being does religion in the real sense of it even matter soo much anymore? If somebody were to replace all my Hindu Idols in my pooja room with some other Idols would it make a really big difference? Especially if I am any way going to be living my life only the way I have always been living it? So which makes wonder if I am really secular or I just dont care? Guess you can be non-secular or secular or "just not care"

I think Kamal made a good point about the difference between being liberal and secular...funny I had never thought of it that way before!

Sriram C S said...

You might find this poem of Tagore interesting - 'In birth the one becomes many, in death the many becomes one. Religion will be one when God is dead.' :-)

Subha said...

if you don't even care when the idols in your room are replaced, then you plain just don't care. That is not about being tolerant...:)But in some ways, yeah, I agree with you..

nice thought.