A few days ago someone we met at a party, busy waxing aloud on politics and culture and what not, claimed ignorance of Iftar. I was rather shocked because she didn’t look like a sweet, sheltered, ghetto type. I put it up on FB and was supported by a wave of friends who agreed that the person probably lived under a rock – what? You get Iftar timings in the newspaper – you may not be interested in them, but surely you’ve flipped past them? What about the constant and rather annoying messages on twitter and FB and SMS about this or that politician’s Iftar party while Anna is fasting. Eh? What has one got to do with the other? Have we all stopped celebrating because Irom Sharmila has been fasting for TEN LONG YEARS? Then? What is your rather silly point? But there were also some who were equally blank. And I was shocked. How could I, you know, I, I the tolerant, secular person that I am, be friends with people who don’t know what Iftar is? I got over myself in 30 seconds flat, thank you, so you needn’t help with that.
I will not be making myself the benchmark because my family went for Diwali parties as well as Iftar with many families, we broke bread with them, we went shopping on Chand Raat and I have bangles in every size and colour that I have kept away for the Bean. Some of my favourite childhood memories are the sheer thrill of being allowed to stay up till late night and walk through the night bazaar, admiring the lights, stopping to eat, wear bangles, put mehendi and buy chadars. Not everyone needed to have attended it, but again – how can you miss such a huge mela in your city! You’d attend or hear of the other melas, then why not this one?
A calmer, wiser friend said, and I quote ” You and I grew up as minorities and even if our parents and we wanted to not know about others (majority of other minorities) we couldn’t not. But it is just easier for a member of a majority to not know about specifics about the minorities in their midst. It’s human nature I think. But now I feel guilty that I’ve burst your bubble ;-) That’s what comes of being an old born dyed-in-the-wool cynic. Listen to your daughter…she makes more sense than me :-)”
If you’re interested in what the Bean said, this is it: Mama, where is your phone with the games? (She means my touchscreen – I sold it and got a BB, yayy!)
Me: I sold it because I didn’t want it, baby. (And because I refused to let them sit there playing games on it).
Bean (stamping her foot in annoyance at the boring BB): Jesus gives us phones and if you sell them off he won’t bless us and give us new phones anymore. Now you have to make it right. See, pray like this. (Sits down, crosses legs and chants OOOOMMMMMM. And then starts to clap and sway and sing ‘Aha dekho nikla chaand…. idhar Eid, udhar Eid’ )
Yes, really. She did that and had me in splits.
A few days later I knew if I mentioned Paryushan, someone or the other would go blank and ask me what I was smoking. No, the excuse that you know nothing about your own religion doesn’t work. Ignorance is never an excuse. I am not a practising anything, but I still can’t claim ignorance as my excuse.
I know it’s a diverse country, I know there is so much to know, but there is always the newspaper and the internet. Maybe its time we put down page three and picked up something more worthwhile. That way we can stop bragging about how diverse our culture is and how we all live in harmony. The truth is we mostly live in ignorance. I plead guilty to it as much as anyone else.
So anyhow, Navroze Mubarak, Happy Rakshabandhan, Eid Mubarak and Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to you all. Now, please come out of hiding, all of you, and tell us something, anything that you’d like to contribute about your culture. Something people have asked you about in the past, something that is uncommon and you’d like to shed light on. We may as well use this platform for something useful!
Pssst: Here’s my sharing. The average Indian Christian doesn’t wear short skirts and stay out late at night imbibing alcohol. Even we are all required to be home by sunset unless there is something important – it is not gender specific, it is just the way it is!
Okay, okay, serious sharing – here’s one that I thought everyone knew, but clearly they don’t. Lent is a period of 40 days of mourning and fasting. It ends with Easter. And oh – you do not wish people Happy Good Friday. That is the day Jesus died and is a day of mourning.